Playing the Ponies for pleasure and profit

Jun 7, 2011 3:00 AM

The record attendance at the Kentucky Derby this year made dolts out of a few newscasters who reported horse racing was a dying sport.

Then when Animal Kingdom, whose victory at the Derby many reporters thought was a fluke, finished second to Shackleford at the Preakness Stakes, another forecast was riddled by reality.

Truth is, the Sport of Kings is still one of the kings of sport! Whether you play the ponies every day of the season or travel to the track just for a day’s entertainment and a few Bloody Marys, this book just off the shelf shows you how to make your pastime more pleasurable by coming home with profits in your pocket.

Right out of the gate is The Art and Science of Picking Winning Horses (112 pgs., $12.95) by handicapping guru James Hillis. Endorsing the veracity of the old saying, "He who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it," Hillis contends knowledge of the past performance of a horse, its jockey and trainer is indispensable in forecasting the likely winner of any race.

"Nothing in the racing profession can long remain an enigma," he says. "All the important information is at your fingertips."

Hillis thoroughly explains how to use the information handed to you on a black-and-white platter by The Daily Racing Form to make intelligent wagers at the track. In 15 how-to chapters, he gives bettors a "12-Point Method" for choosing winners, along with "How to Analyze Significant Races, Class and Speed." As an occasional player of the ponies, I also found his two chapters on detecting the signs of a winning horse and the signs against a horse quite helpful.

A scholar of the sport, Hillis delivers on his promise to give you solid, time-tested advice on how to analyze over 50 key factors in the science of handicapping, while managing your bankroll wisely and minimizing your losses – all designed to send you to the pay window.