By the book series: The Complete Handicapper



The next book I will be writing about in this series is James Quinn’s The Complete Handicapper. This was written in 2012 so it’s a little more modern compared to Mitchell’s book. A lot of the fundamentals on class, speed and form are similar, but Quinn uses some of his experience to make this an enticing read. The book breaks down the fundamentals, situational factors, applications, and then dives into other topics like pari-mutuel wagering. There’s a lot of meat in here that would be impossible to cover in a review, but I’ll pick out a couple of my favorite sections to show how it reads. 

  • The Fundamentals- Identifying contenders and making a line 

The fundamentals are a must read to really understand the basics of handicapping.    Once you start to develop these skills of class, speed, and form handicapping you can move on to the situational factors. There is a role for each in handicapping and Quinn walks us through them. He then gets into pace handicapping and how they all tie together. Another key fundamental part of handicapping is making a handicapping line. This is really important because once you make this fair value line you can then see which horses are giving you good odds and which are not. Quinn walks the reader nicely through how to do that. 

  • Situational Factors- Trips and biases

I think trips and biases are a really important factor and I talked about it in Mitchell’s book too. It has helped me score some double digit winners just by looking for troubled trips. Quinn warns that bad trips in bad races are meaningless and to rely first on speed, class, form, and pace. Nonetheless, watching replays is a good way to see things you won’t be able to find on the form. Quinn also encourages keeping a track profile to detect any biases. 

  • Applications- Angles and patterns, Shippers

Quinn lays out a couple of different patterns and angles to look out for with regards to peaking form, patterns, and figures. Over time handicappers begin to build a better sense of what these angles look like and also find some of their own. One of those angles involves shippers. An angle I had noticed quite frequently at Saratoga was when horses would run decently in the claiming ranks, then ship over to Finger Lakes to dominate in the allowance level there. I would keep an eye on Finger Lakes just to try and catch that happening.

If you read my review on Mitchell’s book you can start to see some of the similarities and differences. Quinn’s book is a bit newer so he has things like the DRF speed variant and how to factor that into your handicapping. I think there’s value in reading both older and newer handicapping books to see which ideas are time tested while also adapting to your handicapping to an ever changing game. If you are new to handicapping and are looking for somewhere to start, pick up these two books and give them a read. From there you’ll be on your way to finding winners.


I am a regular contributor to The Daily Gallop, mostly writing about the NYRA circuit. You can find me on Twitter @Cjfelts87.


Leave a Reply

Further reading