Any book that has been published and then revised three times over a thirty-two year period must be providing a lot of value, or else people would not continue buying it. Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century by Steve Davidowitz was initially published in 1977 with revised editions brought out in 1983, 1995, and 2009. During this period of time, Mr. Davidowitz has updated his work to reflect the many changes that have occurred in wagering on Thoroughbred horse racing, such as speed and pace figures, exotic bets, synthetic surfaces, and permissible medications.
Mr. Davidowitz is well qualified to do the analyses and provide the advice contained in his book. He is a former editor of the American Racing Manual, the author of The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing, and a columnist for DRF Simulcast Weekly and trackmaster.com. His career has included stints covering horse racing for several major newspapers.
Mr. Davidowitz’s 2009 edition encompasses 25 chapters and four appendices. Most of the chapter titles and appendix titles give a sense of what they are about.
Through the Looking Glasses
My B. A. in Handicapping
The Horseplayer’s Bible…Old and New Testaments
Bias Profiles of a Dozen American Racetracks
The Money Tree
The Trainer’s Window
What’s He Doing in Today’s Race?
The New Supertrainers
The Key-Race Method Revisited
An Edge in Class
The Mystery of Allowance Races
E = MC2
The Race is to the Swift
Pace handicapping: The New-Old Frontier
Pace and the Single-Race Bias
Theory versus Experience
Working with Workouts
The Power of Pedigree Handicapping
Drugs in Horse Racing
To Bet or Not to Bet, and How Much
The Best Handicapping Tools Ever Invented
The Winning Horseplayer
Guide to Daily Racing Form Past Performances
Mr. Davidowitz’s book is written in clear and easily understandable syntax. He has generously used illustrations, such as Daily Racing Form past performances and drawings of track layouts, to enrich and reinforce his points. The book’s nearly 400-page length is somewhat deceiving because the publisher has used large font and left space between lines of text. This increases the book’s size but makes for easy reading. The publishers bow to aging bifocal users like Yours Truly is gratifying. While not a major drawback, the book does not have a subject and name index. The reader must consult the table of contents or sift back through the text to find specific information.
The two chapters that are likely to be of particular interest to handicappers in this day and age are the ones on drug use and synthetic surfaces. On the former, Mr. Davidowitz concludes: “The widespread use of Lasix, Bute, and other drugs, detectable and undetectable, continues to undermine the essence of handicapping… I have to wonder how racehorses in Europe, Australia, South Africa, Japan, and Dubai can manage to run in all their races without Bute and Lasix—until they come here [the USA].” Mr. Davidowitz says about synthetic surfaces: “The synthetic era in North American racing has raised new challenges for even the most experienced horseplayers…” He provides insights and advice for dealing with the challenges.
For people who have the basics of handicapping down, Mr. Davidowitz also covers more arcane matters, like how to evaluate trainers and racehorse pedigrees. He does not limit his discussion of trainers to the well-known like Todd Pletcher or to the first-line racetracks like Belmont Park. He also looks at the tendencies of top trainers at smaller racetracks, such as Mountaineer Park in West Virginia. Mr. Davidowitz’s pedigree chapter deals with factoring in a horse’s breeding on off-tracks, grass, and synthetic surfaces. He identifies speed sires, stamina sires, and potential artifical-surface sires by name.
The dust jacket of Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century has several glowing recommendations from well-known handicappers. From my reading of the book, the kudos are well deserved. Mr. Davidowitz, the person that expert handicapper Andrew Beyer once referred to as “my mentor,” offers insights and useful counsel for the neophyte or casual horse player and nuances for even the most experienced.
Randy Moss, the ESPN/ABC horse-racing analyst, cogently stated the merits of the book: “The original Betting Thoroughbreds made a generation of bettors more horse-savvy. Now this 21st century version includes ways to understand and play the new synthetic surfaces and exotic wagers. Rather than caving in to the frustrations of a changing game, Steve Davidowitz’s new book is keeping up with the hot pace.”
Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21st Century
DRF Press, New York, 2009
List price $24.95
(Disclosure: Bill Shanklin has never met Steve Davidowitz and has no financial interest in his book.)
Copyright © 2009 Horse Racing Business