The only way you can make a profit betting on horses is to find the occasional runner that is under valued by the other bettors. It isn’t easy and doesn’t happen often. While they, the other people who wager on the races, that is, may let one go a little higher in the odds than it should be, the vigorish, the amount taken out by the track, will take up the slack and it still won’t be a profitable bet.
The only way to overcome the ability of the crowd and the takeout from the track is to find the best way to pick winners that works for you. There is no one best way but they all amount to the same thing. You have to learn how to make a morning line and then watch for horses that are at higher odds than you think they should be at and bet them.
That’s how sports books and race books do it. They have pros who can accurately judge each runner’s chances of winning and they set slightly lower odds on them so they’ll make a profit. For instance, if they think a horse has a one in four chance of winning, they’ll give you 5-2 odds. That means, if they’re right, you can’t even break even on the horse. In other words, they’re always going to win.
The wagering public does about the same thing, though they may be swayed by the public handicappers who tout a certain horse in a race. That’s good news for you. One of the best ways to find an overlay when you’re picking winners is to read the horse racing news and find a horse that the public handicappers and writers are touting. Look the race over closely and see if they’ve got it right.
All the press the horse gets will drive the odds down and you may be able to find another runner in the race that is an overlay. This usually happens in the big races if its going to happen. The problem, of course, is that the sharp bettors often look in these races for that very reason. Races like the Kentucky Derby, for instance offer good opportunities for finding overlays and the pools are so large that the big players can wager large amounts of money without changing the odds much.
That’s why they play those races the most and wait for those opportunities. When I see a horse touted in one of those races I usually look for another runner in the race that can beat it and watch the odds closely. When it’s two minutes to post, if I think the horse is an overlay, I pounce and make my bet. I only do this, however, after carefully handicapping the race using all the factors and information available to me.