Handicapping contests are quickly becoming a huge part of thoroughbred horse racing and its future. I like to refer to them as the game within the game. A way to turn smaller amounts of money into larger sums and creating “action” throughout an entire racing day. A unique compliment and alternative to straight day-to-day pari-mutuel wagering. The internet has allowed for this growth to occur at such a rapid and seemingly ever expanding rate. The amounts of money, fame and prestige these handicapping contests bring attract the best of the best, daily fantasy sports players, old timers, and the younger generation as well as anyone else that sees the earning potential and fun involved. After discussing the broad over view of how handicapping contests are situated within the landscape of thoroughbred horse racing, it’s now time to get into the basics.


It is often stated that every skyscraper is built on a strong foundation. The same can be said when learning about and playing handicapping contests. Establishing a thorough understanding of contests, from its simplest form, and building upon that knowledge can really impact one’s approach and success while playing these contests. Which initially begs the question. What is a handicapping contest?? I am asked that same question by a full spectrum of seasoned horseplayers all the way to those going to the track for the 1st time. In its simplest form, a handicapping contest is a competition between fellow handicappers under a controlled set of rules, over a specific number of races, to which the competitor that amasses the most points from picking winning horses is determined the winner. The very end of that particular explanation is what the focus will be.


Staying with the theme of keeping things simple and building a foundation, scoring the most points in the handicapping contest is the ultimate goal. Comparatively, like in football the team with the highest score at the end of the game wins. In baseball, the team that scores the most runs wins. Same as with basketball, score more points than your opponent and you are determined to be the winner. Picking winners will get you to where you need to be, out in front of the competition and to the top of the leaderboard.


Scoring more points than your opponents should be the ABSOLUTE focus for most handicapping contests. This concept has to stay in the back and the front of the minds of the competitors. It will ultimately determine your success and/or failure in any given handicapping contest on any given day. Building upon that concept and reinforcing the foundation of scoring more points will lead to more complex strategy and situational decision making within contests that will separate you from the pack and become a successful handicapping contest player.