Handicapper Bob Ike was the subject of our most recent interview. His keen eye for evaluating trip and pace scenarios sets him apart from other handicappers and has given him staying power even as the industry changed around him.
Case the Race: Describe your process of evaluating video coverage.
Bob Ike: Ninety percent of the time, I’m at the track live. I have a nice set up in the press box – TV, VCR... I keep my charts; I have notebooks I can paste information into, I’ve got my programs with notes in them. I watch the race live and I’m recording. Immediately after, I’ll go back and watch the tape, putting my notes in my program, keeping the charts.
When these horses run back, I can look at my notes.
As I do this, I’m looking to try to figure out what kind of trip the horse has…
I also refer to workout information. I use the Handicapper’s Report. It’s a subscription product. It has a numerical report for each race. I use those.
I do my newspaper handicapping two days in advance…. It takes a couple of hours for me to handicap. I do it a minimum of 48 hours in advance, sometimes more.
I will go through and try to figure out how the trip will unfold. If there is only one speed horse, that can be deadly. If there is more than one, I try to figure out how the race will look.
Case the Race: Are there specific things you look for when you are evaluating a horse?
Bob Ike: I’ll keep a “horses to watch” list. Either horses that ran very well or the horses with some sort of problem that compromised their races…. I look for horses that had trouble… or I look to see if there was a track bias.
Case the Race: Does your orientation toward pace and trip handicapping influence what kinds of bets you prefer?
Bob Ike: No. I’m just looking for races where I can get a lot of value. I want fields with at least nine horses in them. I like to play turf races because they are more challenging. I usually like the pick four. When I’m betting one race, I’m probably going to play a trifecta. I don’t play any other circuits. I concentrate on Southern California. Usually, I play three to four individual races a day. Then, the pick four is a separate bet. My strategy for the pick four?… Maybe I’m keying in on one horse, then for the others I may be spreading it out. There might be some days I don’t have a key horse.
The money management part is more difficult than the handicapping part…. Knowing how to bet separates the men from the boys.
Case the Race: How did you first become interested in horse racing?
Bob Ike: I grew up going to the track. My grandmother used to drag me to the track.
Case the Race: How did you become a professional handicapper?
Bob Ike: I got my first job at the paper when I was a sophomore in college. In 1985, when I got out of school, I started full time with the paper. I started with a small paper in Oceanside: the Oceanside Blade-Tribune. Within a couple of years, I got into the San Diego Tribune and the Los Angeles Daily News. Without those, I would have had to do something else.
I worked at the San Diego Tribune full time as a newspaper handicapper until 2006 when the paper decided not to cover the track any more except seven weeks of Del Mar.
That’s when I started my own Web site. I got that going within a couple of months, and that’s going very well, actually. I also currently contribute to newspapers through a chain called Los Angeles Newspaper Group and write for the San Diego Union Tribune during the Del Mar season.
Case the Race: What is the scope of the different things you do as a horse racing professional?
Bob Ike: Handicapping is the main the main part. I do graded handicapping selections. There are two things people can purchase from my site – graded selections and premium selections for weekends. In the premium report, I go more in depth on betting strategies, have a pick ticket, a $72 pick 4 ticket etc.
I was also blogging, but I’ve had to cut back on that. Not enough hours in the day.
I’m part of a radio show, Thoroughbred Los Angeles, on Saturday mornings with Jay Privman. Sometimes I’ll co-host and sometimes I’ll fill in for him when he’s out of town. Recently, with a partner, I started a racing syndicate, an ownership syndicate, called Summit Racing. Our site should be up and running soon. We are in the early stages. We have two horses currently.
Case the Race: What were some of the obstacles you overcame to become a professional handicapper.
Bob Ike: I was fortunate. I talked my way into my first job and I really got some breaks at a key time. My story was kind of a fairy tale. I started in the 80’s. Back then, we would get crowds of 60,000-70,000 at Santa Anita. It’s probably more of a struggle now than it was when I first started in the mid-80’s…
Being a horseplayer requires a lot of work. You have to beat a 20% takeout. People might think that you just go to the track and do it. It’s tough, and you have to be lucky. When you look at the tapes of horses you realize how often luck comes into play. The best horse doesn’t always win.
Case the Race: What was your biggest score?
Bob Ike: The biggest I was involved in was a pick nine. A group of us in the press box got together on it – about five or six of us. It was over $200,000. Of course, only part of it was mine.
I’m not a huge bettor. My per capita betting is in the $300-$500 range on a daily basis. What I try to focus on is the pick four. I probably put in about $200 a day as an average ticket. I play a main ticket and some backup tickets.
The biggest pick four I hit was at Del Mar a few years ago; it was about $12,000.
The pick four, on average, might pay $1000, maybe slightly more. I try to structure my tickets so that I’m going for at least a $1000 return.
Case the Race: Do you have a top derby horse yet?
Bob Ike: Not really. It’s early. I guess I like Old Fashioned, but a lot is going to happen before the first Saturday in May. I’m going to wait to see who is in the starting gate. I don’t get caught up in picking in February and March. It’s challenging to bet. There is usually a full field. I’ll be formulating my betting strategy on the Wednesday before the race when the race is drawn. That’s when I’ll really focus on it. Horses get injured one week before the Derby.
Case the Race: Is there a particular prep race you view as most important for Derby hopefuls?
Bob Ike: All the prep races are important to watch, but especially the Santa Anita Derby, the Arkansas Derby, the Florida Derby, and the horses coming out of New York… the Wood Memorial….But the Derby winner might not be a horse that won those races… they are still prep races.
Case the Race: Do you have any advice for players who are getting into the game?
Bob Ike: If you are new to the game, try to learn as much about the handicapping part as possible. As you are leaning, you’re making small wagers along the way. I enjoy the whole process.
Bob Ike has covered the Southern California racing circuit for more than 20 years, where he has been the leading public handicapper at countless meetings. Ike’s graded handicap selections have appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register and South Bay Daily Breeze. Ike also co-hosts the “Thoroughbred Los Angeles” radio show (Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. on 830 AM) and serves as a handicapping host for the Del Mar satellite television show.
Ike runs his own website called www.BobIkePicks.com
, which features Premium Plays, Graded Handicap Selections, “Notes on a Program” blog, a free pick of the day and much more. Ike is also one of the managing partners in Summit Racing LLC, a newly-formed ownership syndicate based in Southern California.