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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Jockeys do make a difference in winning horse races

Bill Peterson
Winning isn't a random event in a horse race. While there is something called racing luck and sometimes things happen that seem random, in the long run, skill and preparation are the two biggest factors in getting to the finish line first. That skill may be a trainer's skill, a groom's skill, or a rider's skill. It may also be the skill of the horse. Some horses are smarter than others and will make good moves on their own in a race.

But the most important combination, of course, is the jockey and trainer. You can't win if the horse isn't in good physical shape and prepared to win and you also can't win if the rider makes stupid mistakes. No one is perfect and any rider can have a bad trip or an off day, but the top riders are the ones who learn to sit chilly and wait for the right moment.

Sometimes, what the one in the saddle doesn't do is just as important as what he or she does do. Many people spend a lot of time handicapping a horse race by looking over the horses and trying to find the one with the best chance of winning. Looking at the reins man is an after thought. In almost any horse race, however, the difference between the top few horses is very little.

The favorite may have a 25% better chance of winning than the second favorite and the second favorite may only have a 10% edge on the third favorite. That means that for every 4 races the favorite would win, the second favorite might win 3 times. That isn't much of a difference, is it?

When you are comparing the odds and trying to find the best value bet, knowing that one fact may help you to choose between them, but here is another factor you should consider. Look at the jockeys and ask yourself, if this horse has a rider with a 9% win average and the other horse has a rider with a 20% win average, how does that affect the chances of each runner and how do I factor that into my choice?

While the actual horses only have a slight edge, the riders are markedly different. One rider is more than twice as likely to win. In a situation where you are comparing horses that are closely matched, and those are really the best betting opportunities, the rider becomes extremely important in your final decision.

By Bill Peterson