Track shipments

SWOT Your way to profits on the trail

By Ray Wallin

If you are involved in any business or business strategy, you have probably been part of or heard of SWOT analysis. For those of you unfamiliar with a SWOT analysis, it is an assessment of an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Still, we can look at SWOT from a horse racing perspective to help you improve your handicap.

Companies use SWOT analysis to evaluate new products, services, and markets when looking for the best way to achieve growth. It is a useful tool to understand the current situation of your organization. By applying these simple concepts to your handicap, you’ll maximize the value of every dollar wagered by avoiding riskier and ill-advised bets. betting opportunities while focusing on what you know will yield a profit.


The first thing to do in a SWOT analysis is to identify your skills and abilities and ask yourself “what are you particularly good at?”

If you hang around the track long enough, you’ll hear the regulars talking about the types of races they excel at betting on. When I spent my weeknights on the second floor of the old Meadowlands Stand, a regular had a real niche. While he bet on most tracks and races, Tommy Turns had one race that was his bread and butter. Most of us continued to play the races at Charles Town, but Tommy Turns salivated at the one and sixteenth mile races offered at this arena.

What is unique about the 8½ furlong races at Charles Town is that due to the small nature of the track, these races are run around three corners instead of the typical two corners for routes at this distance on most other routes. There were many nights when no race was carded over 7 furlongs, a distance of two corners, but when there was a three-mile race and a sixteenth lap, Tommy was everywhere.

While Tommy played his handicap factors close to the vest, we saw him win more often than not in these three troubling courses. Most of us would pull off those races, but Tommy could decipher and win those races consistently.

Maybe you’re good at grass racing and understand the pedigree better than most or you can model the pace scenarios of races or claiming routes better than sprints. The key is that you know where your strengths lie, whether it’s race conditions, distance, surface or the type of bets you place.


The next thing to do is look at what you’re doing wrong and ask yourself “what processes can you improve?” »

During my formative years on the Monmouth Park grandstand apron with my late Uncle Dutch in the 1990s, I had an account to give. I found it difficult to rate the horses shipped from Suffolk Downs. I couldn’t understand them. I could analyze horses shipped from Philadelphia Park (now Parx) or Delaware Park and understand the riders in those competitions, but I couldn’t do the same for horses shipped from Suffolk Downs.

To better assess Suffolk shippers and stop losing to them I started tracking trainers, jockeys, class levels, and eventually also established a track-to-track adjustment factor to help understand the rhythm. This approach would turn my Achilles heel into an eventual strength until Suffolk stops running its full meets and being a factor in the New Jersey circuit.


When considering opportunities, you need to think about where you can apply your strengths and ask yourself “are there new markets for my strengths?” »

Horse racing betting slip.

When I set out to revamp my approach to handicapping in the late 1990s, I knew that part of my game had always been consistent. I was good at laying out the likely pace scenarios of a race. I had managed to pick a high percentage of winners and get by with limited exactas and trifectas.

Based on my ability to consistently pick winners, I saw that there was an opportunity for me to start focusing more on horizontal betting or multi-race betting such as doubles, pick three or choice four. As I started to track my performance on these multi-race bets, I discovered that I outperformed the exactas and trifectas by a wide margin. It opened up a whole new way for me to bet. While I would always play my top contenders to win, I could use the results of my likely pace scenarios to cover multiple outcomes in the same race. By using more contenders per race, I could string together winners in more consecutive races than I could find horses that finished in second place.

By taking your strengths and applying them to a new market or type of bet, you can maximize your handicap performance.


The last part of the analysis you need to consider is what could be causing you to lose your edge or prevent you from performing at a high level.

My late Uncle Dutch was ahead of his time when he spent his days at Monmouth Park. The race form did not include trainer and jockey stats or the pedigree information they do now. Dutch kept a black-and-white marble notebook with him that included his own travel notes and statistics on everything you now see in print. It tracked the performance of jockeys at different distances, on different surfaces and for different trainers. It tracked the coach’s performance by class, distance and various conditions, such as the number of departures following a layoff or protest. He would find the predictable methods of riders that helped them get a horse back into shape.

As past performance evolved to start showing more information, Dutch lost his edge. The information he had accumulated was now made public. It was a threat to his success that he never considered. While still valuable information, horses were bet and his profit margin shrunk.

The key to threats is to evolve your approach and try to stay ahead of the crowd.

When you step back and look at the SWOT analysis, you can see how powerful it is for such a simple strategy. By leveraging your handicapping strengths, improving your weaknesses, minimizing threats, and taking advantage of opportunities, you’ll quickly be on your way to realizing your dream of earning a living by gambling.