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 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.

The Chapters:

Through the Looking Glasses
My B. A. in Handicapping
The Horseplayer’s Bible…Old and New Testaments
Track Bias
Bias Profiles of a Dozen American Racetracks
Synthetic-Track Handicapping
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
Exotic Wagering
The Best Handicapping Tools Ever Invented
The Winning Horseplayer

The Appendices:

Guide to Daily Racing Form Past Performances
Speed Figures
Pace Figures
Exotic-Wagering Strategies

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.”

Steve Davidowitz
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


  1. I’ve read the book and it is insightful.The disappointment was the lack of persdpective relating to money mangement for the majority bettors($250 or less when they go to track).

    I would’ve expected a full Chapter on how the explosion of exotic wagers since early 60’s has challenged the majority fan to leave the track with some money without a disciplined money management strategy.

    The “seniors’ that have supported our industry for over 4-5 decades and remained faithful were introduced to the sport of just win/place/show wagering with the only exotic in the first 2 races with the Daily Double.

    The Carryover P-6 and Carryover High 5 are designed primarily for big bettors and syndicates.The majority fan (limited funds) mathematically has little chance of success yet the industry on one hand wonders why their grandstands are sparse and why they haven’t been able to get continued support from young fans as thet get older like the “seniors” decades aearlier.The answer is clear….they ultimately realize they are at a great disadvantage.

    The only solution to bridge this gap is to introduce new wagers like HIT-64 that limits each P-6 ticket to a maximum of $64 with no Carryover and 3 payout options when 6 or 5 winners are tops and 2 payouts when 4 winners are tops.This “levels’ the playing field for the P-6 for ALL customers and each fan leaving the track knows whomever scored in the Hit-64 did so with a ticket that didn’t exceed $64 which gives hope the next time they attend races regardless how many $64 tickets a ciustomer or syndicate puts in.

    The lure of a “life changing score” in the P-6 is quite frankly fool’s gold for customers with limited budget and a bad message to send new customersn because they will eventually realize the odds are stacked against them and they get discouraged and leave our sport for poker or some other forms of gambling.

    The Southern California tracks and NY tracks have the biggest daily P-6 pools and I have no problem with that .I just wish they would add HIT-64 to their betting menu beginning in the 2nd race and ending in the 7th race.Tracks like Gulfstream Park,Keeneland and Churchill Downs have paltry P-6 pools so the HIT -64 would have more broad appeal especially when so many customers are getting paid back on the 3 payout system.I recommend a 55% payout to tickets with top winners for 6 or 5 then 30% for next top winners then 15% for 3rd most winners.
    The payouts when 4 winners are tops has a 2 payout format….4 winners 70% and 3 winners 30%.

  2. I like your hot 64 concept for all of the reasons stated. I also belive Steve is an outstanding and dedicated author.

  3. Brian Russell says

    The HIT-64 is not only a ridiculous idea, it is impossible to implement. How are you going to keep someone from playing multiple tickets, stamp their hand? Also, only 55% of the pool to the winners? Maybe you can sell this idea in socialist Sweden for their stadardbred races.

  4. Brian:

    Simple to implement….software technology that limits Hit-64 to maximum ticket of $64 just like the minimum restriction on some bets like $1 or $2.

    regarding the payouts….if someone gets top winners at 55% the ticket obviously is cashing combos for 2nd tier payouts and 3rd tier payouts too.

    The stamp your hand comment…please….as I previosly stated, people can play multiple $64 tickets but at least everyone knows the top winners had tickets that didn’t exceed $64.If this doesn’t appeal to you…fine keep playing the P-6 but let other customers have a CHOICE what appeals to them.

    HIT-64 is targeted for majority customers with limited budgets so you can still have your original P-6 but if there was another 6 race multi exotic like HIT-64 starting in race 2 then you offer something for everyone unless your real concern is the $2 -$24 P-6 players opt for HIT-64 and stay away from the current P-6 then the big bettors/syndicates would be playing amongst themselves without feeding off the small players with little or no chance.

    Betting menus today have several P-4’s carded so having two 6 race muti exotics isn’t far feteched especially when they are structured so different.

  5. Steve Davidowitz says

    Steve Davidowitz // Nov 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Apparently Mr. Newell failed to notice a major section devoted to wagering strategies that include cost saving and efficient methods to wager modest amounts. He also must have missed numerous cautions in the book aimed at those players with modest bankrolls to stay away from the Pick Six. The wagering strategies and related advice is hinted at in the body text, but explicitly covered in considerable detail in the 22 page Appendix D (pgs. 327-358) devoted strictly to Daily Doubles, Exactas, Trifectas, Pick Threes, Pick Fours, Trifectas, the 10 Cent Superfecta and yes, the Pick Six too.

    Frankly, Mr. Shanklin’s comprehensive Review of Betting Thoroughbreds for the 21ST Century was the best organized and among the clearest reviews of any book I have written. He too cites the so called missing material Mr. Newell’s wishes were there, and well, is there. . .Steve Davidowitz

  6. dan paradiso says

    I need to tell a quick story. My professional handicapping career started on January 22nd, 2010 (although, I will certainly keep my day job). On that day I found a copy of “Secrets of Professional Turf Betting” circa 1956 by Robert L Bacon for $1.06 at a local thrift shop. I am three-quarters through the book (I am studying monthly strategies now) and have just purchased Mr. Davidowitz’s book. It can’t come soon enough. Thank you for the table of contents.

    Handicapping has been called “the poor man’s opportunity” and that draws my interest to this sport. I am in my winter work-outs (paper bets) phase. I may not be a Pittsburgh Phil – maybe not yet.

  7. Experience Pays says

    I know that the idea of a Hit-64 may Sound like a good idea but I think it is not needed. I started betting on the horses in April 2008 not knowing a thing. Asked alot of questions , am on my fifth book. Two years later , Feb 07,2010 paid $24 on a pick 6 for ten hores and scored $16,000. I believe that you can win on $2 ticket just as much as $5000 ticket you have less choices and need to be good.