Greetings from Horse Country - where the air is crisp, foaling season is officially under way, and we're following the Derby prep races with an eye toward the first Saturday in May.
Racing is an entity unto itself, and for many fans, the language and structure around handicapping can be opaque and overwhelming. Enter Phillip Shelton, resident handicapper at Taylor Made Farm and Manager of Medallion Racing.
Phillip's longtime love of racing is never more evident than when leading a group of guests through Daily Racing Form and explaining the ins and outs of the complexity of handicapping a race. Bonus? He has a degree in education, so he's a natural teacher and the class feels more like a visit with your very-cool-friend-who-does-horse-stuff than a formal How To Handicap session.
Phillip sat down with us for a brief Q&A about why, when, where, and how handicapping - and if this class is for you - yes, you!
1. What can Horse Country guests expect to learn in the Handicapping 101 class?
Guests can expect to learn the basics of reading Daily Racing Form, including understanding Beyer Speed Figures, trainer statistics, workout patterns, and an overview of how to determine the pace scenario of a given race.
2. I'm totally intimidated by handicapping but am interested to know more. Is this a good class for me?
Handicapping can be intimidating. There is a lot of information to digest. Our goal is to break down all of the data into an easy-to -understand format that can help you handicap on your own. The format of the class is also designed well for Q&A to make sure that everyone gets as much out of the class as possible.
3. Can you tell us your own story of becoming a handicapper?
I have a twin sister and a brother who is 18 months younger than me. Going to the races was something that didn't appeal to my siblings, so it was an experience that my dad and I bonded over. He taught me everything I know about handicapping, although he would probably say I'm the expert now. As a teenager handicapping was something fun I got to do during April and October at Keenland, and eventually grew into following the races year round, and now it is my career.
4. What is your favorite racing memory?
My favorite memory has to be the 2015 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. I brokered a deal for my dad to buy a very small interest in two horses running in the Breeders' Cup. As a lifelong Lexington resident, this was the thrill of a lifetime for myself and my family. One of the horses we bought, Swipe, ended up running a fast closing 2nd in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Watching him fly to the finish was something I will never forget.
5. Please share one piece of advice to a novice just starting out handicapping.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the information. Even professional handicappers use different methods and strategies, so try to focus on one or two key areas, and go from there.