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Book Review

Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies
by Richard Eng
from John Wiley & Sons Inc., May 2005, 362 pages

For the uninitiated, horse racing is a mystery sport mostly ignored by the mainstream media, and a gambling endeavor supposedly impossible to beat. Is it any surprise that gamblers generally start at the lowly slot machine, a way to bet in an anonymous setting without any intelligence necessary? In his new book, Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist, handicapper, and radio show host Richard Eng sets out to reverse this trend, giving some winning strategies that an occasional racegoer can use to build bankroll and more importantly, confidence in the game and in his or her play.

Most people are familiar with Wiley Publishing's "Dummies" series, and this book follows that successful formula to educate and entertain the reader. Eng assumes that the reader has little or no knowledge of horse racing, taking the time to explain any newly introduced jargon quickly and clearly. Extra information is highlighted as "Technical Stuff" which can be referred to later but is not crucial to understanding the game and placing a winning bet. He starts off explaining the basics of the parimutuel system and how to place a bet with a teller, the layout of a racetrack, and horse anatomy. An entire chapter is dedicated to physicality handicapping, explaining what to look for in the paddock and post parade. By placing this chapter before discussing past performances, Eng found a way to encourage people who like horses to make the transition to betting, by strategically shifting the focus away from numbers game and towards the human and animal side.

Unlike handicapping books meant for a more advanced audience, Eng does not fill his book with lengthy chapters of mathematical calculations or endless past performance and result charts to demonstrate angles. He instead points at more easily observed data, handicapping a race by jockey, trainer, equipment changes, and medications. Having helped the reader eliminate or focus on horses using this information, he then introduces the Daily Racing Form and how to use the past performances to finalize one's selections. Techniques such as morning line odds, speed figure analysis, form cycles, race class, and pace scenarios are quickly touched on. He then works on more advanced handicapping methods, but continues the theme of keeping the explanations and examples short and sweet. The reader learns about exotic bets, key races, class drops, trip handicapping, and how to read "the sheets". To demonstrate the similarities and differences, he includes the DRF past performances, Thoro-Graph sheet, Ragozin sheet, Equiform Xtras sheet, and Brisnet Ultimate past performances for 2004 champion 3-year-old Smarty Jones.

Although Eng's area of expertise is Thoroughbred racing, he also introduces the reader to the two other popular breeds of racehorse in North America, the Quarter Horse and the Standardbred. The skills learned in Thoroughbred handicapping are invaluable no matter which breed is being bet on, and Eng points out the differences to look out for in order to make a successful transition. In particular, the break from the gate is crucial in Quarter Horse racing while getting a perfect trip is key in the harness game.

This is an excellent book for any newcomer to the game of horse race wagering. Richard Eng does an admirable job introducing what can be an intimidating game to potential new fans, showing them that watching and wagering on horse racing can be an enjoyable, relaxing, stimulating, and profitable experience compared to wasting mindless hours in front of a slot machine.

Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies has a list price of $19.99 and is available from for $13.59.

Rating:     5/5

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