Joe Takach

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When I was a young boy, a wise racetrack sage once remarked to me that I would “have to learn how to lose” before I could ever learn how to win.

At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant and when I did, he was long gone and playing at the “Racetrack in the Sky”.

When you give his statement some rational thought, it really makes a lot of sense.

What the sage was trying to relate to me was to learn why people lost and then NOT DO the same exact things.  Easy enough said, but not always so easy to implement, especially for those inclined to bet every race.  Because if you bet every race, you’re already a loser as we all know.  You have to “pick your spots” very carefully where you feel you have an edge of some kind and can turn a profit.

But why do people actually lose and lose continually?

First off, let me say that no matter how much valid information or inside information you might have, as soon as those gates fly open, the race is out of your hands as a handicapper.  Horses stumble, get bumped, miss the break, get blocked, steadied, pocketed, etc., and there isn’t a thing that you can do about it.  You don’t actually “ride” your bets!

Ok, what are some of the main reasons why people repeatedly lose?


As mentioned above, there aren’t  9 golden betting opportunities on a 9 race card.  If you are playing every single race, you are slowly strangling your bankroll no matter how good your money management system might be.


The next time you go to the track itself or to any simulcast outlet, stand at the entrance 30 minutes before the first race and take note of how many people enter the track and buy their Racing Form on track.  You only have to stand there for 5 minutes.  They’ve done NO serious handicapping and are sure to pay the price for trying to do their homework in the classroom itself.  Even more likely to fail for the day, are those “punters” who are armed with nothing more than a track program.  Picking “cutsie names”, silk colors, jockeys, or trainers is a very quick path to financial ruination.


We are all guilty of this at one time or another in our horse playing careers, but not every single day we go to the track.  Some of the cheaper races on anyone’s daily card are simply indecipherable.  If you wager in Southern California, you’d need tomorrow’s result charts to pick contenders in our bottom-feeding 10K affairs, let alone the winners!  Trying to find the “least slow” horse is a much tougher chore than finding the “fastest” animal!


If you go to the track on a daily basis, you see things that simply defy belief.  I’m sure you’ve heard the axiom “there’s a thousand ways to lose a race and only one way to win”.  Let me offer #1001.  Recently I had a healthy wager on a horse ridden by Kent Desormeaux who was ahead by nearly 3 lengths nearing the finish line when he swerved from the whip and threw his rider one jump before the wire costing him the victory.  I couldn’t feel my knees until about 2 hours after the race.  We all fall victim to bad racing luck, but if we let it upset us, it can force us to make a bad wager in the very next race(s) trying to immediately recoup lost monies instead of waiting for our next good “spot”.


Sooner or later we’re all guilty of this to some degree because something takes time from our every day handicapping routine, giving us little solitude to make a solid battle plan for the day.  If you’re seriously guilty of this, it can contribute to not only a losing day, but a bad attitude for the next day and another losing afternoon.

You should know EXACTLY what races you might bet if your horse looks physically OK and warms up well, but as far as the rest of the card goes, it should be a pass!   Simply going to the track and “winging it” thru a 9 or 10 race card is a sure path to financial ruination and/or the fueling of a losing streak if done on a continuing basis!


        How reliable is the info you use everyday?   If using Equibase or a derivative thereof such as the Racing Form, ITS data, or BRISNET etc. to generate your past performances, you have the most valid “pps” that you can buy and are at no distinct disadvantage.  However, if you use private services (to include my own SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH), you better be dead sure” that the “alleged” inside information is not only valid, but available solely thru the source from which you make your purchase. 

For example, my SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH is the only complete source for Southern California racing for barshoes, covered frogs, blowouts, stops, martingales, and run-out bits!   Again, we are THE ONLY SOURCE, as it is not printed in any other publication!  As far as it being valid, I and my associates collect it ourselves---there is no second-hand information in our entire report as WE ARE the only primary source for what we offer to the wagering public each and every week.


I’m as guilty of this as anyone although over the years it occurs with much less frequency that it did 30 years ago when I was still a bit unsure of myself.  It happens when you quickly lose your first 2 bets and it could be thru no fault of your own----such as running trouble of your selection like getting blocked, steadied etc.  Feeling distraught and knowing that your handicapping is solid, you plow thru the rest of the card that you initially had no intention of betting when you walked into the track.  Over 99 % of the time, you only “compound the felony” and further deplete your betting bankroll before day’s end. You’re playing “their game” where you have no decided edge as you felt you did with your first 2 wagers.

        If you lose your “designated” races for the day, that’s it!!!  There is always tomorrow.  Your head will be much clearer and you’ll have accepted yesterday’s losses as part of the game and hopefully some kind of a learning experience.  To keep on pressing on losing days invites self-destruction!


       There is nothing wrong with changing your mind on track from the night before.  I do it occasionally, but there is ALWAYS a very valid reason for it.  For example, if a horse shows up in barshoes for the first time indicating splitting hooves, I’ll pass him if he was my selection the night before.  There’s no compromise here.  Barshoes are always a big time no-no!  If I had a second choice in that field and my first choice becomes unplayable, I MIGHT bet him if everything is very correct to include his total race day physicality and pre-race warm-up.

        But if you change your mind on a daily basis, you’re courting a long losing streak!   Making new on-track betting decisions while engulfed in noise, people, simulcasting, food aromas and a constantly changing tote board while trying to watch warm-ups is a tall, tall, very tall task!  You need to be totally focused and block out all of those distractions.  Even after wagering for 40 years, I find this very hard to do, because decisions made under stress are usually wrong ones----at least for me!  So if my last night selection fails to pass muster, I’ll pass the race 98% of the time unless another horse is so compelling visually, that he literally takes my breath away!


Once in a great while I’ll ask a horse to run too far, or too short, or over the wrong surface, but I’ll have a damn good reason for doing so.  If I’m handicapping a turf race at a mile and a quarter and the pedigree says only a mile, I’M ASKING FOR IT ON THE CHIN wishing for that extra 2 furlongs of stamina to suddenly materialize!  However, if the race is only 1 1/16th and the turf course is strongly favoring frontrunners and I like a “lone F” (lone frontrunner), I’ll certainly “get down”!  

But when you ask for more from any horse than he’s offered before, he MUST have a     “decided edge” over his competition.  For example, to expect a dirt horse with dirt pedigree to win on the dirt is normal.  To expect him to transfer that dirt ability to the grass WITHOUT a solid turf pedigree is usually nothing more than wishful thinking!   


The best way to learn about yourself along with your strengths and weaknesses is by     keeping track of each and every bet for at least a year or a series of 300 bets.  Over this time period, you’ll discover things that you never knew existed in your daily play.

For example, as a teenager in the 60’s, I won 3 times as many turf races as I did dirt races.  It prompted me to become a lifetime student of turf pedigree. To this very day,

I feel much more at home on the grass than I do on the dirt. 

If you take the time for self-examination, you’ll not only break the losing habit, you’ll be well on your way to REALLY LEARNING how to win and win consistently!



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