How's your handicapping technique?

Horse race handicapping technique is like a golf swing. Every so often, you need to take your game apart and put it back together.

Here are some things you might think a little differently about.

1. Look again at horses that don't fit your eye -- 1-for-25 animals in non-winners-of-two in cheap claiming races at truly horrific tracks, for example.

Anything that has been around for 25 trips is at least reasonably sound, which is more than you can say for some of the mummies that reappear at the lowest levels.

My last $100 horse was 1-for-25 and closed through a lake, last to first.

2. Odds-on first-time starters at the best tracks frequently make decent singles on Pick 3's, 4's and 6's.

The tote board is where secrets are shared.

3. Don't play bad trainers.

Sometimes decent horses have the misfortune to wind up with sorry trainers. Forget them all. Having somebody branded in black and white as being officially bad is a valuable handicapping aid.

4. Competent women jockeys are frequently avoided by male pinhead handicappers, which comprise approximately 80 percent of the wagering public in certain locations.

A woman jockey with good skills can pay half as much again as a less competent male.

It's like a Redneck Tax, a bonus to the fair-minded handicapper.

5. Forget most of what you think about layoffs.

No works means no works to speak of.

6. Fit horses from the sticks frequently put up big numbers at the beginning of meets at much better race tracks.

Many handicappers enjoy looking down their noses at discarded losing tickets as runners from smaller tracks pay $70 on the win.

7. If you're just missing on exotic bets, bet more.

Losing a little extra money is easier to live with than missing ten grand by a foot because you didn't have a ten-dollar bill.

8. Play more Pick 3's, 4's and 6's.

Unless you're not into horse racing for the money.

9. Don't get your hopes up on a turf race.

Most turf runners seem sound physically, which hardly seems fair.

10. Think twice about paying a tout for picks.

If people selling their picks knew so much, they wouldn't have to sell them, would they.

11. Avoid L1 after a horse runs a decent race.

How much can the horse improve, at even money?

12. Pay attention to good jockeys on borderline horses, particularly in the bushes.

The good ones won't risk their health on something that is dangerous and has little or no chance of winning.

13. Drop-downs don't seem to be as hurt as often as was once the case.

Time was, a horse moving down a level was considered infirm. Anymore, you find owners willing to part with a solid horse for a reasonable claiming price and a win pot. This axiom rules the business end of horse racing: If somebody wants to buy, sell.

14. Watch TV.

Even if you're at the live races, or at a simulcast venue, get the expert selections off the television, because many of them vapor lock. There's one expert handicapper on TV who provides you with about a 20 percent edge, as automatically as those picks can be tossed.

15. Pass on a race you don't love.

Breaking even will have never felt so much like winning.