Joe Takach

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Over the years many clients from my weekly SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH have asked me to devise my “system” for picking horses.

Most were shocked when I quickly stated that any kind of “system” is doomed to failure.

This is because you’re trying to put old static statistics and/or past performances into a dynamic situation where all contestants are interacting with each other from the time they arrive in the receiving barn until the last contestant crosses the finish line.  Yet day after day, horseplayers continue to try to devise some kind of “all-encompassing system” that will generate a flat bet profit in both the short and long run.  Most of these handicapping “inventors” look at their “system” as an ongoing project that will some day prove fruitful and supplement their monthly Social Security checks.  

It won’t!

So there is no misunderstanding as to the definition of the word “system” for this writing, I’ll define it as “any rote mechanical handicapping methodology that brings you to make specific wagers on specific horses without any user’s subjective input. A horse becomes the selection because they met or fulfilled all the essential requirements of the system itself”.

Here’s a perfect example of a simplistic rote mechanical system that doesn’t work nor will it ever work in the long run even if you fine-tune it:

1---Eliminate any horse that hasn’t won in over 6 months.

2---Eliminate any horse carrying 122 lbs. today unless he’s done it before.

3---Eliminate any horse with a switch to a lesser jockey.

4---Eliminate any horse who doesn’t show a win over the specific track you’re wagering at today.

5---Eliminate any horse dropping in class off a win last out.

6---Toss out any horse switching to the turf for the very first time in their career no matter how solid their turf pedigree nor how good their “dirt form” might be at the moment.

7---Eliminate any horse adding front wraps this afternoon.

8---Toss out any horses with “gaps” in their workout tab.

9---Toss out any horse changing distance from a route to a sprint.

10--Eliminate any horse coming off a layoff of 180 days or more.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my “clocked cleaned” more than once by horses who fit one or more of the elimination rules above.   

Granted, you could increase the scope and sophisticate your elimination rules to the umpteenth degree, but the end result will always be the same----you simply “can never say never” when it comes to horseracing, nor will you ever be correct 100% of the time at the mutuel windows. 

Handicappers who dabble in “systems” are wasting their time and squandering their available present moment handicapping activities with nothing more than “pipe” dreams.  If this game could be beaten by only “crunching” paper, IBM would have cornered the market in the 60’s!

A system player’s time would be much better spent fine-tuning their daily handicapping process and focusing on today’s card and how to get the most out of it.  Instead of looking for angles or circumstances in the past performances of any given race that will lead them to cashing a winning ticket, good handicappers have a handicapping process they go thru every single race in which they have an interest.. 

They too eliminate horses who don’t fit the above 10 rules, but wouldn’t hesitate to wager on them if the conditions were exactly correct!

That’s the major difference between a “process” and a “system”.

A “system” eliminates all your “thinking” and more or less forces you to wager on very specific animals---------a “process” is an ongoing handicapping routine that certainly incorporates the above 10 simplistic conditions as well as innumerable others for tossing horses out, but will always allow for on track physical observations (satellite viewing included), nuances, pre-race warm-ups etc. to strongly influence any final wagering decisions. 

Again, “process handicappers” never say never.  They might say “rarely” or “almost never”, but simply “never say never” like “system” handicappers.  “Process” players always have the ability to make changes while on track or at a satellite if need be.

“System” or “non-process” players have created their own version of THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD even though it has never produced a flat bet profit for a single racing meet.  For example, whenever today’s unsophisticated system handicapper finds the “lone F” (frontrunner) or thinks he has, he bets the horse “blind”, failing to complete the entire handicapping process for the balance of the field.  

These “system players” should be taking particular note of any peculiarities or situations that could compromise their “lone F” selection instead of rushing to the mutuel windows.   They should also be “working the paddock” to make sure there are NO physical negatives with their earlier selections.    

Other negatives might include things such as a compromising speed bias on a specific afternoon where ALL frontrunners were getting caught late. Or perhaps a change in the weather and running surface that would surely eliminate the “lone F” from the winner’s circle. (Drying out muddy surfaces always kills front speed if you need an example).  Perhaps the horse shows up for the first time in blowouts, stops, a martingale or barshoes!  Maybe the 4-5 “lone F” system horse fails to warm-up properly per trainer instructions. This would signal a “no-go” from a betting stable because the odds were way too low! 

I could go on and on with many more potential negatives that are encountered every single day by “system” players costing them tons of wasted bad bets, but that’s not the purpose or scope of this writing.

We all have elimination rules of some kind---even the “process” handicappers of which I’m certainly one.

But I’ve never allowed these rules to stop me from breaking them at exactly the precise moment when they don’t actually apply due to “special” circumstances. 

If you too can make the above statement, stop looking for THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD!

You’re already on it!


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