Playing the Ponies for Pleasure and Profit . August 2011 . Vol 12 . No. 8

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Playing the Ponies for Pleasure and Profit

By T. Dana Smith (for Howard Schwartz) - Gambler's Book Shop Las Vegas.

The record attendance at the Kentucky Derby this year made dolts out of a few newscasters who reported that horseracing 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, two books just off the shelf show you how to make your pastime more pleasurable by coming home with profits in your pocket. 

First 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 that knowledge of the past performance of a horse, its jockey and its 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 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.

With a lighter stroke of the pen, Gamblers Book Club has thoroughly edited and redesigned the perennial standard, 150 Professional Horseracing Systems (112 pgs, $12.95) originally compiled by the founders of the 46-year-old GBC. The book is divided into major sections titled Progression and Unit Betting Systems, Two-Year-Old Systems, Serious Handicapping Systems, Speed Handicapping Systems, Weight Handicapping Systems, and International Handicapping Systems.

Each short ‘n simple system has a colorful moniker, such as Super Chalk, Edna’s Special, The Big Cigar, Blinkers, Slot Machine, and Chicago Repeater. But don’t let the catchy titles fool you: In more detailed versions, some of these systems sold for big bucks back in the day when respected handicappers sold their systems under the table to their goldbond clientele—and they’re still being used today by many professional horse handicappers.

This newly revised edition of a classic fulfills its promise to give readers “the bone and sinew” of profitable betting systems, with no fat for fillers. It’s a quick read, with plenty of charts, sidebars and “Words to the Wise” to put meat on the bones of its advice.

These books are available at Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas. You can order them at or phone the store at 1-800-522-1777 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific time. Opened in 1964, GBC is located at 5473 S. Eastern between Tropicana and Russell, just a short drive from the Strip. View the store's complete line of books, CDs, videos and software at the web site.