How did handicappers bet on horse racing before past performance data was made available by the Daily Racing Form in 1894? According to America's Best Racing blogger David Hill, gamblers had to make those charts for themselves. One of the first to be extremely successful at it was known as Pittsburg Phil, or George Smith.
Born into a poor family in Pennsylvania in 1863, young Smith was forced to go to work in a cork factory when his father died suddenly. Not enchanted with factory life, Smith found his way to betting on cockfighting, then baseball, and eventually horse racing. He found that there was money to be made by keeping track of particular horses and using that information to bet on future races. Smith kept all his own notes on the races using information over the wire, and never saw a live race until the 1885 Kentucky Derby. By that point, he had won over $100,000.
By the time of his death in 1905, Pittsburg Phil had made forays into horse ownership and was worth just over $3 million. A book was published, posthumously, describing his handicapping methodology called “The Racing Maxims and Methods of Pittsburg Phil,” which is still popular today. Smith even won a Kentucky Derby, in a sense, when the horse “George Smith” won the event in 1916, so-named because Smith had owned his mother, race mare Cansuelo II.
Read more about Pittsburg Phil at David Hill's blog on America's Best Racing.
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