Joe Takach

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We live in a world of specialists.

No longer can you only go to your family doctor with a simple medical problem because he merely refers you to a “specialist”.

Go to any established old-time brokerage house and they have “specialists” for everything.  Look at your NFL football teams.  They even have squads called “special teams” for things like kickoffs and punt returns.

I’m sure this list goes on “ad nauseum”, so let me add yet another to this seemingly endless plethora of  “specialists”.  Many successful professional horseplayers are “specialists”.  They gravitate to one or at most two types of races in which they feel they have an edge.  Simplistic examples might be waiting for and isolating the lone frontrunners at sprint distances, or only wagering on turf routes.

The number of  “specialists” are many in horseracing.  I know professionals back East in my old stomping grounds (that stretched from New York to Maryland) who do nothing but bet the 2 year old babies until a crop of  brand new 2 year olds arrive on the scene the following spring.  One of my best friends only plays the turf.  One of his friends only plays 7 furlong races on the dirt for

3 year olds. 

I could go on and on, but you get the drift.  In horseracing, there are innumerable places to specialize.  This even includes wagering.    

Personally, I only bet to win with an occasional dalliance in a daily double if the return is solid, or if I think that I have an unusual “edge” in the 2nd or “blind” half of that double where you don’t get to visually inspect your horse before wagering.

If you’ve never considered “specializing”, let me show you the advantages and disadvantages, because as we all know, nothing is ever carved in stone when it comes to handicapping a race.  And whether you know it or not, you’re already a specialist if there are certain types of races you always play such as maiden races, or 2 year old events, or routes, or sprints------ or whatever.


1-----When you specialize in only 1 or at most 2 areas or types of races, you focus your energies rather than spraying them over innumerable scenarios.

2-----By specializing, you cut down your actual number of bets thus minimizing risk which, in most instances, forces your win % to rise.

3-----Specializing gives you more knowledge and more insights into our ever-changing and complex game in specific areas because you are always paying strict attention to detail.  This focused “attention to detail” could be expanded to other special scenarios. 

4-----Specializing acts as a “de-stresser” for your overall psyche.  Your emotions don’t rise and fall 9 times a day in varied scenarios bending you like a soft pretzel----regardless of whether or not you win or lose!  A relaxed player who “picks his spots” carefully simply makes better wagering decisions than an emotionally stressed punter.

5-----Specializing in certain races with specialized betting procedures usually offers maximum return on the wagered dollar.  All professionals and most “specialists” have a disciplined wagering system in place and any wager made on any given day is merely another selection in a long series of wagers that began some time ago and as yet, hasn’t completed itself.  Specialists don’t live in day-tight compartments, living and dying on what they did yesterday.  They have a much bigger picture and tend to think in terms of how they are doing for the entire meet or for this specific year, rather than just this afternoon or this week.


1-----You can miss “golden” betting opportunities in races where you don’t or aren’t allowed to dabble.

2-----Specializing requires intense focus which can often destroy your overall view of the game and how you got to be where you are, if in fact you are anywhere.

3-----Specializing often locks you into unchanging scenarios while wagering in a constantly changing game.  Somewhere down the line, your knowledge becomes “common tender” and winning mutuel prices plummet.  Put another way, if you live in a tunnel, ever-changing handicapping factors such as physicality, running profiles, running biases, trainer and jockey profiles, major negative equipment changes (barshoes, blowouts, stops etc.), advances in training methods, feed supplements, useful megavitamins, new-age treatments such as acupuncture, legal and illegal drugging and a host of other real but fleeting factors can easily escape your narrow focus. 

4-----Specializing can turn to laziness because it frees up your time, allowing you to lead a more “normal life” rather than working 16 hours a day to stay ahead of your betting competition.

5-----Specializing though very profitable if done exactly correctly, is very boring, very mundane, and very unpalatable for most who crave “action”.

As you can see, there is much merit to both specializing and not specializing, so let me offer a workable compromise that has served me well over my 40 year career.

Personally, I love turf racing and it’s the closest I come to being a true “specialist”.  I’ve been a student of turf breeding since I was a kid in the early 60’s.  I realized years ago that most punters know very little about turf breeding and are overly intimidated by the grass.  They handicap the turf the same way they do the dirt, which is one of the fastest ways to erode your bankroll in short order. 

Although I prefer the grass 11 out of 10 times, if I think that I have a good “spot” on the dirt, I won’t hesitate to unload with both hands! 

Is “specializing” for you? 

That’s your call! 



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