Why the ‘All’ Button Can Be a Valuable Tool

If you are like me, you made a New Year’s resolution. Some are personal like beginning a new diet. One that we will stick to this time … at least until February.

Or maybe we got a fitness center subscription for Christmas. This starts out fine for the first couple of weeks. But then that energy turns into inertia and the visits drop off to zero.

Let me admit to one resolution I made quite a few years ago, one that I revisit time and again each season: Don’t be afraid to use the “All” button when making horizontal bets.

For years, I lived by the principle that it was cowardice on my part to hit the “All” button. Even if a race looked like so many Chinese characters to me. My mindset was even in an 11- or 12-horse field of evenly matched runners I should be able to handicap the most probable winner from among my top four or five picks.

Horseplayers like to call fields like this “chaos” races. It starts out with a weak morning-line favorite. A horse that might be a 7-2 chalk only because someone has to be favored.

In my reality now, there are two ways to attack a race like this. The first is obvious: Pass the race. We should always remember that betting is a voluntary activity. So if no one is forcing us to play and you can’t form a good opinion then move on. There are lots of other races in our sea of simulcast races.

The other way is to adopt the “All” button and root for a chaotic result. A huge longshot. Now I know some fellow players who claim every time they play all horses then the favorite comes in. Well, that’s always a possibility. But the chances are if a big longshot horse has a similar chance to win as a 5-1 odds horse then you might get a fortunate finish.

The first thing I do in handicapping a race is try and identify the race shape. If you don’t use or have access to pace figures, which can clue us in to how a horse likes to run, you can still grade them out.

For example, the Daily Racing Form now lists “early” and “late” pace figures. You may not always agree with it. But the figures are more reliable than you think.

Late-closing favorites can always be compromised by traffic in larger fields. Favorites who are speed horses can be softened up by other speed horses in the race. And if there is no discernible race shape then you may have found a good chaos race.

Use the “all” and then as they say in New Orleans, “laissez les bon temps rouler.”


Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies,” an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.