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DVD Review

cover Trip Handicapping: Watching Thoroughbred Race Replays
by Dan Illman
DRF Press, October 2008, 105 minute DVD

Unlike in the past, horseplayers today have all sorts of data at their disposal to use in the handicapping and betting process. In print publications and on the Internet, bettors can access such things as Beyer speed figures, fractional times, Timeform ratings, Sheet figures and form cycles, workout times, Tomlinson ratings, Dosage index, and all sorts of trainer and jockey angles reduced down to winning percentages and ROI's. All these methods have something in common, that is, they can all be quantified down to a number, numbers which are easily downloadable into a spreadsheet or proprietary software package to be "crunched" down to come up with a selection. However, with so many players using these same numerical methods powered by bigger and better computers and software, how can someone get an edge? The answer is not more technology, but a throwback to the past.

In this DVD, the first video component of DRF Press' Elements of Handicapping series, Daily Racing Form handicapper Dan Illman instructs the horseplayer on the fine art of trip handicapping. This is purely an analytical method which does not make use of number-crunching. It involves carefully studying race replays and noting the race chart, giving the player more information to work with than the chart, "Sheet" figure, or the past performance line is supplying to everybody else. Illman particularly likes to show where horses may have artificially high or low speed figures, final times, or winning margins, with no reason given by the trackman comments. Depending on the trip, these horses may be overbet or underbet next time out by the unsuspecting public, and the objective of the trip handicapper is to exploit such situations.

This skill cannot be accurately conveyed in print, so Illman compiled 74 race replays from major tracks across North America, using them to demonstrate good and bad trips, the true meaning of bad or impeded running lines, the body language of horse and jockey, and what to look for in the gallop-out. He takes more time showing the viewer how to spot a horse changing leads, an often misunderstood concept, and how to recognize if the horse is on the right or wrong lead at various points in the race. Each race replay reviews and explains the particular trip scenario, along with the corresponding running line in the DRF past performances. Illman then scrolls up the past performances to show how the good or bad trip affected the horse's future races and odds. Put simply, a good trip leads to inflated figures and being overbet next time, while a bad trip leads to poor figures and being underbet (overlay) next time. One horse that was featured prominently was multiple graded stakes winner Einstein, who frequently had bad trips but had the class to overcome these.

Any veteran horseplayer, looking for an extra edge or some variety after playing the numbers game for awhile, or even a new horseplayer or racing fan who wants to learn more about what to look for in a race would enjoy this DVD. Illman keeps the video entertaining to watch with his casual yet informative narration style, and makes it very clear that this may be the "new" frontier in Thoroughbred race handicapping.

Trip Handicapping can be ordered for $39.95 Daily Racing Form or Horse Information Center

Rating:     4.5/5

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