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Book Review

cover Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century
By Steve Davidowitz
DRF Press, August 2009, 400 pages hardcover

Handicapper, editor, and columnist Steve Davidowitz wrote Betting Thoroughbreds in 1977, a landmark publication which has ranked as one of the best-selling Thoroughbred handicapping books of all time. In 1995, the second edition was unveiled with some new chapters added to take into account changes in the sport since the original. Readers who have copies of the first two editions will find that lessons learned from them can still be applied today such as speed handicapping, key race method, track biases, and exotic bet construction. Like everything else, the racing game has changed a lot in the 14 years since the second revision, so Davidowitz, who is now based in Las Vegas and writes regularly for the Daily Racing Form, has again updated his work for this new 400-page edition.

For the most part, the original information from the first two editions has been retained with modern content added to it, which shows that the more things change the more they stay the same. However, today horseplayers face challenges that were not seen 14 and 32 years ago. Synthetic surfaces have replaced conventional dirt in some racing venues and several new tracks have opened, the Breeders' Cup, which did not exist until 1984, has since expanded to 14 races, horses ship in from foreign countries more frequently, bettors have a deeper menu of exotic wagers at their disposal, the Internet offers up more intense, wide-ranging handicapping data including race replay videos and enhanced past performances, "supertrainers" have emerged, and slot machines have boosted purses at locations which were once considered minor league.

Unlike any other mainstream sport horse racing is ever-changing at a fast rate, and those who wish to profit from wagering on Thoroughbred racing need to keep up or be left behind. Davidowitz, whose original ideas are still valid today has updated them and provided fresh approaches and concepts for today's environment. He included track bias profiles with diagrams for 21 North American racetracks, and added a greater focus on the synthetics where the biases can be consistent or unpredictable. He shows how to spot hidden class angles at every level of competition, when to use speed and pace figures and when they are a trap, and how to skillfully read race conditions to identify standout plays. He also focuses on the untapped power of pedigree handicapping, a skill that some players may have placed on the back burner as handicapping has increasingly been reduced to number-crunching.

The first two editions of Betting Thoroughbreds were must-reads for their generations of horseplayers and the third "21st Century" edition is no exception. This is not just a cosmetic revision, as Davidowitz took dead aim on modern challenges to the handicapper, building on his timeless approaches from 4 decades of involvement in racing with accessible new techniques. Newcomers to the game of Thoroughbred handicapping will be fascinated by the many different ways a horse race can be successfully bet on, and will find themselves referring to this book for years, possibly using other books to research some of the concepts in more detail.

Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century has a cover price of $24.95 and can be ordered Amazon.com for $16.47.

Rating:     5/5

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