For many bettors, handicapping horse races is a science. Others consider it an art form. The newcomer, at first glance, might find it as complicated as translating ancient hieroglyphics. But patrons who understand each race is an entirely different proposition and don't wager beyond their means are assured of spending countless enjoyable afternoons at the track.
The result of any race hinges on a variety of factors: speed, class, surface, track condition, pace, running style, jockey skill and another couple of dozen or so we lack space to mention. But that is not meant to suggest the outcome is predicated more on chance than ability. Trainers attempt to spot, or enter, their horses "where they belong" -- ideally, against horses of similar or lesser quality. They also look for races on a surface and at a distance their horse has shown a liking for in the past, or a race with conditions they think will work in their favor based on their horse's breeding, running style and past performances. And every trainer at the track vies for the services of a top jockey.
Tampa Bay Downs fans are fortunate to receive educated insights before each race from "Paddock Preview" host Andrew "Shades" Demsky over the closed-circuit feed. Demsky has devoted the past two seasons to studying the nuances of both the Tampa Bay Downs dirt and turf surfaces, as well as following trainer patterns and determining which jockeys are most capable of guiding a long shot to victory.
Your mission, as a fellow handicapper and bettor, is to determine which horses will finish in the top flight. Unless, of course, one of the horses has the same name as a childhood chum, in which case a "hunch bet" is virtually mandatory.
The wide array of available wagers has increased fans' chances for a huge payday. But those don't come easy. So put on your thinking caps, sharpen your pencils and when all else fails, bet the gray on a rainy day.