Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Chalking" One Up To Experience....

I have finally started learning (or trying to learn), the art of the "pick" when it comes to wagering on horses.  I have been reading a blog called Pull The Pocket for quite a while now, and though many times I feel a little bashful when it comes to commenting, or even adding my two cents, (the blogger is extremely intelligent when it comes to wagering et al), I decided to pull off my proverbial blinkers and really delve deep into the betting world.  Past experiences of trying to pick the winning horse in a specific race was really me just looking at a name and somehow, remembering that name in the winner's circle recently.  Call it having a photographic memory, I don't know, but all in all, I really wasn't wagering, just remembering.  Some bettors would rather be lucky than be good, but I think it's possible to be both.   Remember, these horses are living, breathing creatures, who, like you and I, have good days and bad.  So why is it that some horses race spectacular one night, then a week later race like one of my "off-the-track-too-slow-for-the-starting-gate-standardbred-rescue-horses"?  Is it an undisclosed injury; poor equipment choices; improper shoeing (or losing a shoe during the race); bad post position; unfavorable drive?  The list is probably endless as to why the poor performance.  I recently posed this question to my friend at Pull The Pocket, and without a doubt, he said that all these variables could factor in as to why this particular horse, on this particular night, performed less than desirable.  I call it racing like a "blind turtle", and for the most part, I tend to come up with other racing terms that probably the industry has not heard of yet (more on those terms later).  So what can a "newbie" like myself do to sharpen their skills at picking the big winner, and hopefully down the road, pick the trifectas and superfectas?  What would I look at?  Here's my two cents, or as I like to call it, "Handicapping For Dummies":

1.  Speed - Let's say a horse goes in 1:54.4 last time out; you look at the race program for the evening and he's now up against horses that went in 1:56 and higher their last time out, so what do you do?  Bet him, right?  Well, no, not really, the fastest horse coming into the race doesn't necessarily win this time out.  Again, we have to go back to a few variables, like post position, driver changes, equipment changes, track conditions, etc.  Don't get me wrong, the overall times will certainly aid in separating the contenders from the pretenders, but we should still look over other factors in this particular race.

2.  Driver - They say that Walter Case Jr. could make a bad horse look good, well, then we need to keep this in mind when we see a particular driver on a horse.  I tend to like when I see a driver on the same horse each time out.  This tells me that he has some type of working relationship with the owner/trainer and more importantly, with the horse itself.  I have a friend that put a new driver on his pretty decent horse, only to have the driver come back and tell him, "Wow, I didn't expect your horse to do that!  Sorry about placing dead last!"  This can be quite discouraging when you're betting on your friend's horse and end up losing based on a driver's varying amount of knowledge of that horse.  Their just isn't enough time in between races for a trainer to try and give tips about his/her horse to the new driver.  On the opposite end of the spectrum,  drivers that do well get their pick of the better horses and people often bet based on the driver alone.  Not something I would do, but definitely something to take note of.  If he's in the winner's circle alot, can thread the eye of a needle safely and accurately during a race, and can get his/her horse to give it their all, then focus on this entry.

3.  Win-Place-Show - Consistency is definitely something we should look at with regards to picking our horses for the evening.  Look for horses that have proven themselves each time out; they don't necessarily had to have won each race, but being in the money is a horse worth leaning on.  Watch out for horses that continuously "break stride" in a race, they could be a high-risk pick, and don't for one minute think that this time they'll prove everyone wrong and win the race with flying colors and pay out on long-shot odds.  The odds are huge for a reason.  If they're breaking all the time, something else is wrong, and we're not at the track to figure out just what that problem is.  Could be trainer, equipment, injury...the list is endless.

4.  Post Position - I think I remember seeing somewhere that more races were won out of the 2 hole than any other post position.  Well, that may be so, but I've also seen the 7 hole win many a race, even though it apparently is the "taboo" post on some racetracks.  I've seen trainers actually scratch a horse just because they pulled the 7 post, ahem, you didn't hear that from me, the horse was apparently sick!  Obviously posts 1-5 are decent lines coming off the gate, but some horses can drive off the gate quite well regardless of where they're placed, and if they're in posts 6 and up, you better take note of that.  Also, as we spoke about drivers earlier, experienced ones can make a horse perform magic tricks, so keep a mental note of that as well.

5.  The Odds Board - It's ten minutes before the race is about to start, you've done your wagering homework, and to your surprise, you look at your pick, then up at the odds board, and damn it all, everyone else is going for a completely different horse.  What gives?  Well, several things.  Did the board favorite have an influential equipment change, thereby enticing the bettors to favor them?  Did the horse have a race day driver change to a more prominent driver?  Did the horse switch shoes, going from steel to aluminum or vice versa in order to accomodate a track condition and promote speed and handling?  Were there any scratches in the race that would eliminate a "road block" contender and put the favorite in a better striking position?  Look at anything and everything, even the post parade.  I remember watching Shackleford in the post parade at this year's Preakness Stakes, and man, was he ever sweating up a storm, but it was a clear sweat, not a foamy sweat.  He went on to win the race, (with a hard-charging Animal Kingdom on his tail), but the sweat on Shackleford did not mean he was in poor shape.  Sure, he may have been excited, but to me it was a clear indication that he was ready to race and going to give it everything he had.  So, post parades are important when determining your picks.

Well, for now, this is what I'm going to use to get me started in the wagering game, and while I'm sure there are many other factors to look at, this is a good start for me, considering the only factor I used when determining whether or not Curlin would win the Preakness in 2007, was that he "dumped out" in the post parade.....See, post parades are important to look at!

If anyone would like to add or subtract from this, please feel free to do so, and please go easy on me as I am new to the game but would still like to win a $16,000 $1 Superfecta some day!

Here are my picks for this weekend's race card at Mohawk, where Big Jim and Phil Hudon will be!

Race 1.  6-Soulful Delight
Race 2.  10-Mystical Haze
Race 3.  3-Prodigal Seelster/Up The Credit/Big Jim
Race 4.  2-First Rate Shark
Race 5.  6-OK Boromir
Race 6.  3-Lil Bit Lil Bit
Race 7.  2-On The Radar
Race 8.  6-Parkhill Fantasia
Race 9.  4-Shadyshark Hanover
Race 10.  6-Ideal Race
Race 11.  9-Martha Maxine

Good Luck To All!!!


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