I Have the (Horse) Book Right Here
By Mike Valiante
I have been reading handicapping books since I began betting in the 1970’s and I am often asked by individuals that would consider themselves at a beginner or intermediate level of handicapping which books they should read. For me the following four books would be considered “must reads” for handicappers at these two levels.
How to Win Money at the Races by Nate Perlmutter- (Out of Print)
Because this book is out of print the easiest way to get it is to buy a used copy on Amazon. You could also try your local library or any bookstore that specializes in rare books.
It is written in a Damon Runyon style and some of the information does not translate to the modern game. It is a fun and easy read and I would recommend it to any bettor who is just beginning to play the horses. I would treat it as a high school book as opposed to a college text. The best chapter is a list of maxim’s that are still useful today. Even experienced players can get something out of this chapter if they periodically want to remind themselves of some basic tenants.
Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing by Tom Ainsle – Simon and Schuster
Spoiler alert, there is no Tom Ainsle. That is just a pen name that Richard Carter used. This is his best known book and it is considered the Bible of handicapping books. Like the Bible the writing is a bit ponderous and because it was originally written in 1968 once again much of the info is dated. I would say that over 50% of it is still instructional. My favorite chapter is the one in which he summarizes 60 systems. Even if you are not a system player each one is based on a handicapping principal and those new to the game will improve their skills just by reading and critiquing the systems. The chapter on 58 plus factors is also a very good one for beginners. Other chapters deal with pace, class, speed, conditioning, appearance and breeding. In short, everything you wanted to know about handicapping.
Betting Thoroughbreds by Steven Davidowitz – Penguin Books
I like to think of this as a more modern variation on Ainslie’s work and it has been updated numerous times since it was originally published in 1977. Keep in mind that none of the books I am recommending are going to cover the newer exotic bets or tournament strategies because they were written before these things came into existence. If you are at a beginner or intermediate level you should not be playing rainbow pick sixes or serious tournaments. You need to walk before you can run and because this book covers every basic handicapping principle you will be jogging in no time.
Beyer on Speed by Andrew Beyer – Houghton Mifflin
Andrew is not everyone’s cup of tea and there are many handicappers who do not believe in the validity of the Beyer Speed Figures. If you are a fan you will get more out of this book. If you are not a fan, read the chapter on Speed Figures with an open mind and Andrew may be able to convert you. He is also an excellent and entertaining writer and the chapter on his attempts to conquer handicapping in Australia read like a good novel.
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