I got into a conversation a couple of days ago about handicapping yesteryear, versus handicapping today. What a difference a couple of decades makes in our game.
Back in the pre-internet day you would head to the corner store for a program (usually out 48 hours to the minute to post time) and pick it up for $2. You would then head home and study. If you saw what you thought was a trainer change you would dig through all your other programs (in my handicapping roommates case - all over his floor with the 'throw it up and see where it lands' filing system he had) to see if it was or not. Was the three horse boxed last time? You would check your notes. But, you did not see that race because you had to write an exam that night - time to make a phone call to ask a buddy if he saw that race and remembered. Did this horse race here last year as a shipper and win? Does his trainer ever do this move and win? Back through the old programs I go.
Using techniques like going through old programs and using your memory was a staple. The sharpest folks I knew were those who could remember facts about races, facts about trainers and were able to read and recognize quickly. Your memory was your greatest ally.
Fast forward to now. That same exercise is very, very different.
You download your program 48 hours out and save it to the hard drive. You can print it out if you'd like but it is really not that necessary. Trainer changes are listed in the program, so no need to try and get an edge there. Was a horse boxed last time in the Mohawk 5th? Don't call a friend, go to Youtube to watch the Woodbine Entertainment replay channel, or use your ADW to sift through them on that replay platform. Trip notes sheets? They are done virtually through the Trackmaster stable alert, or via computer. Did this trainer make this move last year? Just go to Trackit, or Pathway and go through last years lines - yes, he did and he won in a higher class than he is in this week - green light. Am I missing something? Go to a chat board like Harnessdriver.com and ask a question. You will probably have an answer. What about figures of some sort to see what others think? Woodbine through HPI has compubet figs up for free. Click your mouse and away we go.
I kind of miss the old days because if you were sharp, you could find some horses that others could not. There was dumb money in the pools because working at it was too damn hard to do. Nowadays it is easier to work less and find a winner. This has hurt a lot of price horses that we used to play. For evidence of that look for a horse that was boxed at 5-2 last week with a ton. He will open at 3-5 the next time.
But what happens in response to that is interesting to me - we have to step outside the box and search for value to play the game, just like we did before, but with a different set of factors. Some factors that were underbet before are overbet now. Some factors that are currently overlooked are still there for us and tend to yield fruit - warmups, physical handicapping, proper odds lines and so on.
The handicapping game has changed, no doubt about that. But the fundamentals are the same. We need to find a horse who has a greater chance to win than his odds indicate and it does not matter if we use a PC, or a pen and paper.