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Book Review

The Authoritative Guide to Betting Thoroughbreds
by Blood-Horse staff and correspondents
Eclipse Press, June 2005, 112 pages, softcover

Last year, Blood-Horse magazine's book-publishing division Eclipse Press, launched a new series of books titled the Authoritative Guides. Starting off with the guide on Auctions, this series is intended for novice to intermediate followers of racing, giving an insider's look at the sport to increase fans' enjoyment and understanding of racing. The second book in the series tackles the pari-mutuel game, the process by which a bettor selects his or her contenders in a race, determine which bets to place, and ultimately, backs those selections with money in hopes of turning a profit.

In the book, six of Blood-Horse's editors take turns writing about their particular area of expertise, each spending a chapter on a key topic in the wagering process. The chapters follow a logical procession, starting off with the basics. The reader learns how to read the past performances using Smarty Jones as the example, how to read the information on the tote board, how odds are calculated including the often misunderstood factors of takeout and breakage, and the types of wagers available at the racetrack. In the chapter on bet types, John Lindley takes the time to explain how to box and wheel horses and how to calculate the number of combinations used, a very important skill that most first-timers will not have right away but one that is crucial when wagering in the exotic pools. Many black and white photographs and example charts (including photographs of betting tickets demonstrating boxes and wheel combinations) are included, which supplement the text and further simplify the concepts for the reader.

Now that the reader understands the basics of the wagering game, the book smoothly transitions over to the handicapping side. Post position and medications are tackled first, since they are the easiest factors to look for in a program and their effects on the result of a horse race are easily understood. More advanced handicapping factors including pedigrees, speed figures, bounce theory, and trip handicapping are discussed next. The writers do not bombard the reader with confusing jargon or endless charts, instead following the mantra of "keeping it simple" which serves to keep the reader's attention and gives the reader an opportunity to research the theories further in more advanced works, some of which are listed in a Resource Guide at the end of the book. The lessons on handicapping are followed by an example race for practice. The Equibase past performance of a race at Turfway Park is given, followed by its result chart, so the reader can see if his or her selections would have turned a profit.

The book closes out with a chapter on betting myths, a list of frequently asked questions, and a glossary. The first of these is crucial reading for any newcomer to the game who may have some misconceptions about how the sport is run and the likelihood of cashing at the windows. Myths such as "You can beat a race but can't beat the races" are quickly refuted, giving the newcomer confidence that this is a game that can be fun to play and profitable as well.

This book is an excellent introduction to racing for anybody who wants to involve themselves in the pari-mutuel pools. The simple to understand lessons within can be quickly implemented so that a newcomer can have some success right away and make a return trip to the track very soon. The Authoritative Guide to Betting Thoroughbreds would be an excellent gift for a racing fan to give to someone they are bringing to the track for the first time, and is strongly recommended for both newcomers and intermediate bettors.

The Authoritative Guide to Betting Thoroughbreds has a list price of $16.95 and is available from both Exclusively Equine for $10.95 and Amazon.com for $11.53. A sample chapter is also available from Exclusively Equine.

Rating:     4.5/5

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