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Track Tracts

Predatory Handicapping: Part 6
More Non-Physical Predatory Situations

by Joe Takach

As promised earlier in this series, I�m going to offer you some predatory situations that have nothing to do with �conventional handicapping�.

And by �conventional handicapping�, I mean any traditional methodology that incorporates speed, pace, trip, class, weight, post position, trainer and jockey stats, breeding, etc., to arrive at specific conclusions.

Or in other words, the way that nearly every one of us handicap every day.

In my 2nd book �Winning in the 90�s� first released in late 1989, I wrote an entire chapter about the fine art of �Nuance Handicapping� that was taught to me by Walt Karpinski.

Back in the 70�s I spent some of my winters at Keystone Park (later renamed Philadelphia Park), enlightening myself as to the negativity of betting multi-problematic, bottom-of-the-barrel $3,500 conditioned claimers who hadn�t won a race in 180 days.

Talk about an education! If you really want to learn how to spot good-looking or �ready� horses, study the bottom first!

It was during this formative period of my career that I had the good fortune, and I do mean good fortune, to come under the tutelage of �Mr. Nuance� himself. He added another dimension to my game that to this very day continues to pay dividends that I never envisioned.

Since I �live� in the paddock and have done so all my horseplaying life, it came as no shock to me that Mr. Nuance and I would cross paths in the immediate future because Keystone�s paddock wasn�t all that large.

Though some 20 years my senior, Walt was one of a small handful of players (along with yours truly) that braved the elements in the paddock every single race during those unbelievably cold and extremely windy winters at Keystone in search of an �edge�. The �wind chill factor� frequently placed the �apparent� temperature at the Big �K� well below zero! It wasn�t much fun and I froze my ass off, but it was quite informative!

After noticing Mr. Nuance perusing the paddock for a couple of weeks during a wintry January that to this day is the coldest I can ever remember, a bleak and weekday afternoon found us the only 2 handicappers �working� the paddock.

He was armed with nothing more than a track program. I carried my �standard issue� consisting of binoculars and a clipboard holding my Racing Form and the track program on which I took my copious physicality and pre-race warm-up notes.

I walked past him as I was moving closer to a specific horse I wanted to examine and said something like �glad we�re both not out of our minds standing out here freezing and being laughed at by those inside enjoying warmth�! He smiled and said he couldn�t always see what he wanted to see in the paddock unless he was standing outside moving to and fro.

Thinking he was one of me (a handicapper with a slant towards physicality), we began talking.

It wasn�t long until I realized that he didn�t know anything about a horse�s anatomy, nor did he care!

He �worked� the paddock for reasons entirely different than my own.

While he too was looking for visual edges, he wasn�t looking at horses! He was watching certain trainers, owners, jockeys, jockey agents and grooms for �nuances� that translated into winning tickets.

When first hearing this, I thought he was not only a brick short of a load, but I seriously doubted that there was any load to begin with!

However, after a couple of winters working the paddock with him while simultaneously taking my own physicality notes, yet another world within the �handicapping universe� graciously opened its doors to me.

Not only did he convince me of the immense value of �nuance handicapping�, but suddenly and on more than one occasion, I found myself wagering on a horse in what I had initially believed to be an unplayable race the night before.

I know what that must sound like coming from me-----of all people!

But after watching him consistently cash (and the operative word here is �consistently�) $10, $20, $30, $40 and $50 dollar win tickets year in and year out, what was I to say to him-----his horse�s �numbers� weren�t good enough to win or that his $30 winner walked a bit short before visiting the winner�s circle?

If Mr. Nuance uttered �it�s a go today� visual signals were hitting him square in the face and hitting him very hard. I know the feeling quite well myself whenever I see a horse that �towers� over his field �physically�, while at the same time having a �number� to back up his splendid appearance.

These nuances took many forms, but he had each one of them down to an exact science. I know, I saw him cash countless times using every single one of them.

He didn�t have any past performances, he didn�t make speed or pace �figs�, He didn�t have �trip� notes, he didn�t collect past �physicality� information, he didn�t have running profiles and he didn�t use trainer/jockey statistics like the ones we use to this very day. He used nothing but his track program!

The person that labeled handicapping horses an �inexact science� sure hit that nail dead on the head, no?

What does �nuance handicapping� have to do with �predatory situations�?

Plenty----as you will soon see!

We�ll examine the best that he offered me. These nuances worked 30 years ago and they still work today. They work on the East coast and they work on the West coast. They work on the dirt and they work over the turf.  They work on weekdays and they work on weekends.  They worked at minor league Philly Park and they surely work at Del Mar.

Point is, they do work!

PART 7----Nuance Handicapping continued.


Copyright �2003 by Joe Takach.  All rights reserved.  Joe Takach Productions

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