The Short Form
Liability Handicapping

by Mark Cramer

Is there such a thing as a computer handicapping program that makes selections and returns a flat-bet profit?
Handicapping expert Mark Cramer says there just might be...

Foreword by George Kaywood

In late March of 2011, I received a note from David Powers of RPM Information Systems, a distributor of handicapping software, books, systems, and other handicapping-related products. David and I had done some business awhile back. He was writing to tell me about a new computer program developed by Mark Cramer, the Short Form Paradigm Program. He enclosed a note from Mark which detailed the development of this software. I received a copy of the program to look over, and I was intrigued.

Two aspects stuck out: the notation that the program is likely to work better at smaller, cheap tracks than at larger, major ones, and the number of races designated as non-playable due to either too few horses that qualified at all, or too many that qualified!

There are plenty of "pick-a-winner" programs out there but this one struck me as something quite different. Mark had done a lot of testing (which is ongoing) and managed to show a flat-bet profit. I wrote to him and he offered to write this article to explain the concept and actually reveal some of the nuts and bolts of it.

I have been corresponding with Mark and he has provided even more information, which will be the basis of a follow-up article with more insight and details about the program, including theory, more nuts and bolts, and real-life testing by a third party and players already using it. For now, here's your chance to learn more about the Short Form.


Remember supply-side economics? There’s the demand side and the supply side, and economists argue about which one to lean on.

Among the handicapping experts, there never was any debate. It was always asset-side handicapping stealing the show from liability-side handicapping. On the asset side you emphasize the contenders’ assets. On the liability side, you concentrate mainly on eliminating horses that have little or no chance of showing up in the winning combination.

The advantage of liability-side handicapping is that it forces the player to retain horses that might not have been accepted by an asset-side handicapper. In exotic results, even though asset-side contenders are more frequently among the winners, there is often a “maybe” horse, a horse that you could not embrace but could not eliminate either, that ends up in the winning combination, spicing up the payoff.

Consider how my Short Form method works, both by pen-and-pencil and with its software version. The two rules blend in the exquisite synchronicity between two underplayed factors: trainer and class. First, eliminate all horses whose trainer’s overall win rate is less than 12%. Second, eliminate all horses that have lost at least twice at today’s level, with no intervening win. A “quality elimination” emerges when a horse that does not make the cut has failed under both parameters. In maiden races, a first-time starter is considered a contender if the trainer shows at least 16% wins with debut horses, with a flat-bet profit and with at least 4 wins in the stat.

A typical “maybe” horse: You might end up with, for example, a 13% trainer whose horse has just been defeated at today’s level, but only once. This will probably look like a “maybe horse” but the odds might be right.  In a context of more horses easily eliminated, the maybe-horse’s chances are enhanced.

A recent example was sent to me by a user of the Short Form. Please note that I did not play this race but confirmation from my readers proves that it can be learned and applied. Lately I have been playing strictly win bets from the Short Form software, testing with real money to see if I have found my Holy Grail: the automatic bet. Until now, with 55 horses bet, I have a return of plus 6 cents on the dollar. I am testing the infrastructure of the software. There are enhancement-filter-stats that improve ROI but I want to make sure that the filters function as interior designers for a solid structure rather than repairmen for a faulty structure. So far, I am quite pleased.

The race my reader scored on was a maiden claimer at Santa Anita, Race 8, March 11, an 11-horse field. By Short Form standards, the favorite, Benicia Beauty, was a quality elimination, since the trainer had only 9% wins and the horse had lost twice at the same class level of the race.

The Short Form qualifiers were:

The 3 horse, Whoopsie, 26% trainer, lost one race, but at a higher class. Today’s odds: 18-1.

The 9 horse, Dramatic Reward, 25% trainer, lost only one race at today’s level, now 12-1.

The 10 horse, Line One, lost only once at today’s level with a 16% trainer, now at 12-1.

Boxing the three, the $1 exacta paid $212.70. Not bad for an automatic bet. Note that the eventual winner, Line One, if you were handicapping by assets rather than liabilities, might not have made your cut with a 16% trainer win stat, compared to the other higher stats. But he was included because he did not have the liabilities for elimination. Finishing second was Whoopsie.

My reader who played this race added one more contender, based on the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. He added the first-time starter, Judy’s My Angel, because the trainer showed a $6.70 return on investment (per dollar) with first time starters. I say spirit rather than letter of the law, because the trainer had only two wins in the specialty and his 15% stat was one point below the letter-of-the-law 16% requirement. Judy’s My Angel finished 3rd in the tri, which paid $1,510 for a buck.

The fourth finisher in the superfecta was none other than Dramatic Reward. The super, derived from the Short Form, paid $11,635 for a dollar.

My reader had to make a very minor judgment, so the Short Form was 100% mechanical for the exacta and 98% mechanical for the tri and the super. In an e-mail he sent me, he wrote:  “Don’t need many of these to show a profit.”

The Short Form is just one way to do liability-side handicapping. My point is that asset-side handicapping contains the intrinsic risk of excluding the “maybe horse” and also assures a lower average mutuel than liability-side handicapping. The Short Form can be done either on paper or with a time-saving software program. Either way, in the age of that Big Monster, INFORMATION OVERLOAD, the Short Form provides a structure within which to operate with greater agility. Even when the Short Form is not automatic, which is often the case, by having eliminated the enormous nuts-and-bolts handicapping process from each race, and by readily excluding races that can be passed, it liberates handicapping time for what really counts: inspired analysis.

Please note that my flat-bet, real-money research has been limited to claiming routes, since the original large sample research by the programmers showed that these two categories “all non-maiden claimers” and “all routes” had both earned a flat bet profit. So my first task was to confirm that the program’s infrastructure by combining those two factors and doing straight flat win bets.

In order to avoid any subconscious fudging, I have had a colleague use the software and put in the bets. I sent him the bankroll. Since he has to pay me for my winnings, I doubt seriously if he would inflate the statistical profit. So this is as pure as research can get. Since he is a program user himself, I am also testing how well the user can relate to the program. I get feedback from him and then relay it back to the programmer who can thus add enhancements or correct occasional anomalies. If the user misunderstands the program and messes up a race, I’m the one who has to pay. So I am putting my money where my mouth is. 

I was extremely reluctant about letting any company market my method. I had had a bad experience previously when my stuff was used the wrong way by a different company.  But in this case I was also interested in getting a large independent research sample, so in exchange for RPM’s research, I told the guys there that I would give them my okay for marketing only if I saw profits in the research. Otherwise, no go. Since the profits came up in the two categories I mentioned above, I gave them the go-ahead.

Since then, they have added many statistical features to the program, allowing users to apply it as flexibly as they wish, in their own inspired way. The program is advertised as a time-saver and convenient handicapping enhancer, rather than an automatic bet. But my personal goal is to find a method whereby I can close my eyes and bet automatically. Prior to RPM’s research, I had used the Short Form in a way that was 90% mechanical but 10% interpretive. With the current real-money research sample, I can say: “so far, so good.”

Click Here to visit the RPM website, and to read much more about the Short Form program.  Click on "Software" and scroll down to see screenshots and detailed explanations about the program's features.