With me running around the East Coast and not at Saratoga today, the time seemed right for a guest blog. This comes from my friend Jonathan Silverman, writer, professor, publisher, and horseplayer. Take it away, Jonathan!
When I go to the racetrack, I handicap. I always have. But I know not everyone does. So I decided to see what it would be like to bet the races without handicapping but with a number of tried (if not true) methods in a method I call “anticapping.”
I never bet names, and so picking the names was more of a challenge than I would guess. There was one obvious choice: Mess in a Dress, the 3 horse. Funny, rhyming, etc. But it seemed a bit obvious. What about Gabrilicious or Glynisthemenace—both kind of clever. And then there was Concept—as a professor, I deal with concepts all the time. Still, I had to go with the obvious, and I played Mess in a Dress, a 6 to 1 shot. $2 to win.
The result: Mess in a Dress was last or close to last for most of the race—then it made a dramatic move and won in a photo finish! (It was really dramatic or I would have hesitated in using the exclamation point. Plus I think anyone who plays a name should use an exclamation point when he or she wins.) My two dollars had turned into $14.40 to win.
Sometimes when I’m in a racebook at a casino, I will put $2 on number six on a bunch of races at once, just as a way of concentrating the viewing experience. Plus when anyone asks me a rhetorical question that involves numbers (like “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?), I always answer 6. So $2 on number 6, Wee Freudian, the 5-1 shot, to win.
The result: Despite a late charge, Wee Freudian, came up just short in second. Still ahead $10.40 ($14.40 minus the two two-dollar bets) for the day.
I am not a big enough follower of horse racing to know enough trainers to know who is hot beyond the obvious. Todd Pletcher is the obvious—winner of almost 400 graded stakes races. But I have always liked Nick Zito, perhaps because I won money with him on Strike the Gold in the 1991 Kentucky Derby. Plus he’s from New York, and I have a soft spot for anything New York horse related. The play, $2 on Zito’s Dervish Prince, who dropped steadily from a morning line of 12 to 1 to 6 to 1 during the race.
The result: Dervish Prince ran steadily, but finished third. Still ahead $8.40 for the day.
I never play jockeys, but there is a school of thought that a good jockey essentially becomes a handicapper if he or she is successful—he or she can pick the best horses. In this meet, Ramon Dominguez had 11 wins—11—in the first five days of the meet, including one in today’s race 2. So I’m taking my $2 on putting it on his mount, Zero Yield (a type of anti-name if there ever was one).
The result: Zero Yield-ed second. Like all amateur handicappers, I’m now regretting not putting win-place show on my horses—I would be way ahead, since all four of the horses have run in the money. But now I’m down to $6.40 ahead for the day.
This is not a usual method of handicapping, but with unraced two-year-olds, handicapping is difficult anyway. I went with the most expensive horse, the $300,000 Gadget Girl, for my bet.
The result: Third!Down to $4.40.
I have never done this, but I often am curious about what the bettor in front of me is playing. I meant to undertake this method later in the race, but circumstances forced this on me when I was chatting with a friend in the paddock. As it happened, the guy three guys ahead was betting slowly, and so panicked, I actually employed the patented *two guys ahead* method. Which ended up being a 30-1 shot, Commitment Letter.
The result: Out of the money….down to $2.40 ahead for the day.
People often look at horses to try to figure out which one is going to win. But most times it’s a fool’s errand—some horses that look mellow in the paddock do well, as do ones that are too excited. To some degree, these are all beautiful horses. I went with the 14, Seminole County, largely because he was right in front of me, and because he was a beautiful horse. The 3 horse, Curve Ball, also looked good. But…Seminole County pooped right in front of me, so as the old saying goes, tie goes to the pooper. So $2 on the 5-1 shot, Seminole County.
The result: Curve Ball finished third, Seminole County finished fourth. Down to 40 cents ahead for the day.
Tip sheeters always approach you as you enter the track; I almost never buy. But given the experiment, I decided to buy two, Trackfacts and the Edge. Through race 7, the Edge was dull, 0 for 7 on winners. I trackfact checked Trackfacts, and it was 1 for 7. To be fair, the Edge would have had boxed exacta in race 7, and Trackfacts would have done the same in race 5. Race 8 they both agreed—the 6 horse, Cease, would win. So that was my bet.
The result: Cease wins! Long live the tip sheets! As the 6-5 favorite, it paid $5.60. Now up $4 for the day…and with two races to go, now guaranteed a non-losing day! Exclamation points all around!
In this method, I could play only horses that weren’t picked by anyone—tip sheet or racing form. So that knocked out the 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8. I chose the lowest odds left, which was the 4, Better Lucky, a 12-1 shot in early betting. There were much worse horses that could’ve been left—Lucky had won two in a row.
The result: Better Lucky did well—a well-earned second—but no money. Back to $2 ahead.
I was hanging out in the Paddock Bar, and for the last race, I was going to find a tip. I asked James the bartender if he knew anyone that would give a good tip. He pointed out one of the patrons. I approached him—he pointed out his friend at the table. That friend pointed out another friend. And that friend said he needed more time. So I hung out and watched the horses, approached my new friend, who gave me the 3 horse, Fisherman’s Wharf. I put $2 on and waited to see if I would end up a winner for the day or broke even.
The result: I watched this race from the finish line. The 3 horse started behind, but came on strong at the end to win a close one. It paid $8.50 to win, so I ended up winning $8.50 for the day—more than respectable for just guessing and betting only $2 a race.
If I learned anything from this day of anticapping, it was the lesson that almost everyone already knows—luck plays a big part in any gambling venture. But more than that, I learned contradictory lessons: I need to play fewer races, and yet playing races with random picks carries a type of joy that’s different from the one you get when you hit a winner you have chosen through handicapping. Anticapping was a winner.
Pete again. After that showing on Wednesday, I should make Jonathan pick. . .but I actually have one I like today in the Curlin.
Race 8: $50 win and place on #5 EASTER GIFT
Easter Gift looks very good from both a bias and flow perspective. In his impressive debut, he overcame a speed-favoring raceflow to win impressively in a race where the form has worked out. Then last time, he nearly won and ran a good fig attempting to close on speed favoring track. I think he looks ready to move forward again and should be a square price. By the way, if you’re not already a Racing Flow customer, what are you waiting for?