Horse racing handicapping factors, which are the most important?

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Currently, we have over 40 handicapping factors available in Betmix and the obvious question most people have when they first start is "What is the most important handicapping factor?"

Unfortunately there is not an answer that applies to every race, surface, track or condition. But we will talk about a few of them here to help you understand how you might want to weigh them in your mixes.

First of all, a handicapping factor is a data element that is used to describe how a horse ran in previous races. A list of the handicapping factors used in Betmix can be found here. The factors are numeric, and as an example consider BEST LIFETIME SPEED NUMBER. That factor is easy to understand, it is the best speed number that a horse earned during his career. If he has run 20 times, and the best number he ever earned was 88, then that is his best lifetime number. It is an overall number and does not take into consideration the track or surface where the number was earned.

To handicap a race with accuracy, you have to consider several factors and then determine how important each of those factors should be in your overall decision.

We will take a look at a few of them here and show you how important they are when looking at a large sample of races. These numbers are accurate, and based on several thousand races. However, they are not specific to any race, track or surface type.

Let's start with odds. Post Time odds are a factor, and although we do not include that in Betmix, it is something that you will certainly be aware of when betting a race. This is an obvious factor to many people and you would certainly expect that the horse with the lowest odds wins the most races.

How often does the favorite win a horse race?

Favorite 36%
2nd Choice 22%
3rd Choice 15%

What we all know, and the data proves, is that favorites win more often than 2nd choices, and that 2nd choices win more often than 3rd choices, etc. Overall - averaging thousands of races - the public generally gets the order right. A little more than one third of the time the post time favorite wins the race. More than 70% of the time, the winner of the race is going to come from one of the top 3 choices.

Now lets consider earnings as a factor. There are several earnings factors, but we will take a look at Average Lifetime Earnings which is the simply taking the total earnings for the horse and dividing by the number of races it has run. If a horse has earned $100,000 in his career and run in 10 races then the AVG Lifetime earnings would be $10,000. In Betmix you can refine that by looking at Avg earnings at today's distance, surface, track, etc.

Average Lifetime Earnings handicapping factor

Highest AVG 22%
2nd Highest AVG 18%
3rd Highest AVG 15%

You can see from the data above that in an average race, the horse with the highest average earnings per start wins approximately 22% of the time. On average, 55% of the time, a horse that ranks in the top 3 for average earnings per start will win the race.

Speed handicapping factors are among the most predictive because (and this will shock nobody) fast horses win races. But what factor is the most predictive? We have found that taking the best 2 speed figures from a horse's last 3 races and averaging those 2 numbers is the best indication of speed. It throws out a dud which may have been earned over a bad surface or when a horse was trying a new distance or race class for the first time.

Average best 2 of Last 3 speed handicapping factor

Fastest 26%
2nd Fastest 19%
3rd Fastest 15%

The data shows that in about 60% of all races, the winner is going to be among the top 3 speed horses based on averaging the best 2 out of the last 3 speed figures. Compared to average earnings, speed seems to be a stronger factor in determining the eventual winner.

How important is having the best jockey or trainer when betting on a horse?

Jockey win % handicapping factor

Best jockey 17%
2nd best jockey 14%
3rd best jockey 12%

Trainer win % handicapping factor

Best trainer 18%
2nd best trainer 14%
3rd best trainer 11%

The trainer/jockey factors are about equal. Having the best trainer seems to be moderately more important than having the best jockey. But, both the trainer and jockey factors are much less important than the speed or earnings factors.

The challenge for you and those you are betting against is to determine which factors you are going to use when handicapping each race, and how much importance you are going to assign to each of those factors?

If you were going to create a simple mix using Avg Lifetime Earnings, Avg Best 2 of last 3 speed, Trainer current meet and jockey current meet how would you set your mix levels?

Based on the data we have shown above, you would want to assign more importance to speed and earnings than you would give to jockey and trainer. Play around with the settings in Betmix and save a few to your mixes assigning different weights to each factor. Pull up some historical races and see how accurate each mix was. Then, you can start adding in other factors along the way based on race type, distance, surface, etc.

You will find that with a little work and experimentation, you will start to find races where there is a horse that separates himself from the rest of the field and is an outstanding bet. Using Betmix and saved mixes in conjunction with the All Races Report will allow you to handicap a race card in minutes and know that you are making a very educated wager!