03/17/2016 4:53PM

Goldfeder: What was I thinking - Regaining good habits


After the Breeders Cup, I took my foot off the pedal and coasted to the end of the year. The long campaign left me somewhat burned out so I dialed down my intensity while keeping my head in the game. I pulled back on preparation as I tried to regenerate my eyes, my mind, and body. In order to remain productive and try to keep the endless scale of learning active, I played with a small bankroll using percentage of bankroll to avoid busting. I also maintained a disciplined approach so I would be ready when the time came to dive back in.

In addition to working with a small bankroll I experimented with different types of bets, such as using keys in multiple positions and searching out lone speeds. I performed these tests while looking at multiple tracks. Testing various methods is not a bad idea but when I began to review my results I found I was losing more than I should. The approach of fighting on multiple fronts began to chip away at my bankroll and after one bad weekend I said “Enough! What was I thinking?” I caught myself in time before digging a hole early on in 2016.

I was ready to press the accelerator again but I was going to make sure that I was prepared.

My goals were simple. Get back to the good habits that build confidence and make sure I had clarity and a better connection to the races I was playing.

Step 1: One track.

Back home to the New York Racing Association circuit, which means Aqueduct at this time of year. To get into a good rhythm I needed to make it simple so I focused on the circuit that I know best. This is not to say that I will not play other tracks. My goal is to make sure I am prepared and by simplifying my routine to one track I can more easily outline the steps of my preparation.

Step 2: Watch replays

Watch replays of each day’s races and add trip notes to Formulator. When I eased up after the Breeders’ Cup I stopped my regular habit of reviewing races at the end of each day. This is once again on the schedule. Building the database in Formulator is key so that when future races come up I have an idea of who might be ready to run well.

In addition when a card is drawn I will go over each race and look at the replays of horses entered who look like contenders and enter more notes.

Step 3: Note pedigree information in maiden races

Review the breeding info and enter in horse notes in Formulator. The two most important factors in most maiden races are trainer and breeding. I will also make sure to watch the replays of any horses who have run, as experience must never be underestimated.

Step 4: First look at printed past performances

Print the PP’s and handicap, jotting down notes and observations. With my notes and breeding info entered in Formulator I am looking at a more complete picture.

Step 5: Defining key class factors

When handicapping the card I like to look at multiple factors but try to focus on specifics for each race. I choose the categories I feel are most relevant, such as pace, distance, track, what kind of Beyer it will take to win the race, pedigree (if relevant), and many other variables depending upon the class and condition of the race.

Step 6: Add stats

I will manually look up trainer stats and add as factors if I feel they are relevant, especially when the trainer is making changes.

Step 7: Decision making

Go over all data and review the PP’s again. At this point I have enough info to form some opinions. I have lived with the PP’s long enough to develop a relationship. I look for potential plays as I go over the card again and then make the final adjustments after the scratches are announced on race day.

These are some of the disciplines I am incorporating to get centered and to make sure I am prepared to be at the top of my game. However, there is more.

Step 8: Physical fitness and body awareness

Having a handicapping routine can be demanding. Add the stress of the race day on top of that and it makes sense to be physically able to handle tense situations. This quote is from an article published in the DailyPrincetonian.com on 10/14/14:

“…Before and during [the world championship chess match], [Bobby] Fischer paid special attention to his physical training and fitness, which was a relatively novel approach for top chess players at that time. He had developed his tennis skills to a good level and played frequently during off-days in Reykjavík. He also had arranged for exclusive use of his hotel’s swimming pool during specified hours, and swam for extended periods, usually late at night. According to Soviet grandmaster Nikolai Krogius, Fischer ‘was paying great attention to sport, and he was swimming and even boxing.’ ”

This quote from Wikipedia describes the training regimen employed by former world chess champion Bobby Fischer. Amid a culture of chain-smoking and heavy drinking (bear in mind, most of Fischer’s toughest competition came from the USSR), Fischer stood out not only in his high level of play but in his careful maintenance of his body, with both regular exercise and keen attention to diet before his toughest games…”

The parallel between chess and handicapping races makes sense because they both require a keen mental approach. I’m not saying I need to dedicate myself like Bobby Fischer but I do try to get to the gym three to four times per week, meditate and stretch daily, and keep to a diet that will keep me relatively healthy. A day at the races can be very demanding and the better you are able to handle it physically the better able you will be to get a late-round knockout if you have been getting pounded all day.

Physically prepare to whatever will help you be sharp. In some cases it may just be walking 30 minutes per day. When John O’Neill won the National Handicapping Championship last year it was common knowledge that he went to the gym each morning. He had some physical issues but he did what he felt was best to prepare himself and that preparation went beyond the images on the page.

This type of preparation is not for everyone but in my case it’s about getting centered and developing good habits. My goal is not only to win but to win consistently and to be ready to win big when the opportunity presents itself. The only way to make sure I am on the right path to reaching my goal is to make sure that I am traveling the path that works best for me. The process can change over time with new innovations to handicapping springing up but the fundamentals remain the same.