The Biggest Show in Racing

The foliage show begins in some parts of the country, hot summer winds trade places with a cool crisp breeze that means only one thing for horse racing fans. Breeders’ Cup has arrived. Since 1984, the world’s finest thoroughbreds have competed in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a place in history. But only the best of the best have found one. From triumphant comebacks to incredible photo finishes, each Breeders’ Cup race has produced a champion that has captured our imaginations, and earned our eternal respect. Here is your invitation to enjoy the finest of what our sport has to offer. The racing year has had up’s and down’s, but it wouldn’t be the biggest stage if it were easy to get there. One thing is for certain, the best-of-the-best will be there, and Winning Ponies will be locked and loaded.

When / Where

The 30th edition of the Breeders’ Cup World Championship will take place in Arcadia, California at Santa Anita. There will be a total of 13 races with purses totally over $26 million dollars. It begins on Friday, October 31, and November 1, 2014.

Up for grabs

If you are a punter that loves to make a wager on a swelled guaranteed pool, this is your day. According to the Breeders’ Cup menu of wagers, here is what awaits:

Guaranteed Pools

Friday:

Pick 5: $500,000 (races 1-5)

Pick 6: $750,000 (races 4-9)

Pick 4: $1,500,000 (races 6-9)

Saturday:

Pick 5: $750,000 (races 1-5)

Pick 4 $1,500,000 (races 4-7)

Pick 6: $2,500,000 (races 7-12)

Pick 4: $3,000,000 (races 9-12)

 

There will be a maximum of 14 horses per race, and exotic wagers will offer a 50-cent minimum bet value. There will be a special 14% takeout for the guaranteed pick-five wager. Some of the biggest pari-mutuel payoffs of the year take place over the course of these two days, and the best-of-the-best do battle to serve up a handicapper’s dream. The post position draw takes place Monday, October 27,2014 3:30 pm ET, /12:30 pm PT.

 

Now you have an idea of what awaits, and the only question is how will you prepare. This is where Winning Ponies has your back. You’ll need a data provider who brings you a comprehensive view of not only how the field shapes up, but a better concept of the outcome. Handicapping can be hard enough, but add in the task of deciding how you’ll apply your bankroll, and you have one tall task ahead of the weekend. Winning Ponies has over $9,346,857 in exotic payoffs. This should whet your appetite, and you’ll need to come prepared before you “reach in your jeans and pull out your greens.”

Winning Ponies will only send out the E-Z Win Forms have taken everything into account. I know, it is a big order to take everything into consideration. This is where you need to have faith in your data provider. Once the E-Z Win Forms are on-line for you to peruse, rest assured you’re not on your own. Some data is put out 72 hours in advance, and changes in the weather can be just a streak of bad luck. – But not at Winning Ponies. There is the “change of weather tab” which allows you to receive a brand new set of E-Z Forms if Mother Nature throws you a knuckle ball. Oh, and the best part… No charge… It is your day, and your opportunity.

People dislike traffic, waiting in the checkout line, and waiting for the mail. We can’t do much about the above mentioned, but Winning Ponies brings you everything in “real time.” Yep, right now, right away, and all in place to allow you to make more informed decisions. Your results, changes, updates, track conditions, and scratches as soon as they are announced.

I have seen about every data provider known to man. Not because I am a know-it-all, but I wanted to inquire about which service fits my needs. All are different, and all unique. Winning Ponies strives to bring you the best data in racing by taking away the long hours compiling the data and then deciding how we are going to use it. These tasks are prepared for you, and now your time can be better spent deciding how you’ll utilize the data to maximize your winning percentage. We’ll take care of the homework, and you can have more time to study for the test. This gives you more time to focus and enjoy your weekend.

Breeders’ Cup is a weekend event that brings handicappers joy, and a tear to the eye. We have watched as the races unfurled along the year, and they all culminate on the biggest stage in racing. Winning Ponies will offer you blogs, free selections, handicapping advice, and the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show to bring you up-to-the-second racing information. We have come a long way, and Friday will be here soon enough. So, what are you waiting for? It’s almost post time!

 

 

 

What a Beautiful Day For the Races

<b>Bad Luck Superstitions</b>Step on a crack break your mother’s back. Pick up a penny if it’s heads up. Don’t open an umbrella in the house. Friday the 13th. Don’t walk under an open ladder. Black cats, peacocks, and breaking a mirror will bring you seven years bad luck. I guess we’ve all heard these at one time or another, and especially during the Halloween season we’re on the lookout for bad mojo. I’ve never been one for making bad luck excuses, as my dad had a cousin who could make up an excuse for a sunny day.  That was until Sunday, and now I am a full-fledge-card-carrying believer.

It was the final day of our racing meet, and I was looking forward to making some bets at Keeneland. This keeps me grounded and ready to call the races with a little in-between racing action. I had gotten up so early,  I had time for a workout, steam, and lunch before heading to work. I had studied my races to call, and downloaded my Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms. I rolled down the windows, turned up the stereo, and let the sun shine on my face. This was a perfect fall day, and I don’t think I even hit a red-light on the way to work. I pulled in the lot, and found spot close to the door. I laughed a little about how perfect the day was beginning. I couldn’t have had a better start.

Made my way up to the booth, got ready, and looked up saw 45 minutes to post. If this were a movie I would be the guy who hit the lottery with his last dollar. I made my way to the windows to make a bet, and it was Race #2 at Keeneland. I was stepping up to bet when a man turned quickly away from the lines and he spilled coffee on my shirt. After getting it damped off, I looked up and saw the horses getting ready to hit the wire. The top E-Z Win selection Heaven’s Touch was crossing the line first, and the three runners I was going to use in a trifecta key ran 2,3,and 4th. I was going to wager $20 to win on WP top selection, and make a tri-key to get the day rolling. Now, I wouldn’t have gotten rich, but it would have been the right way to start the day. Oh, well. It happens to all of, as I made my way back to the booth.

I called the race and looked up to see there was 10 minutes to post. I had plenty of time to get my next bet down, and I loved a runner called Empress Maker in the 3rd race, and she was on the turf with young gun Joe Rocco Jr. She sported a sweet Last Race Rating of 60+, and she was going to get $20. As I made my way down, and a husband and wife were arguing loudly. Security came up and pulled them apart. They were arguing about who had the track program. The lines were getting long, and I jumped right up with my crisp $20 in hand. Well, the hullabaloo caused a little ruckus, and when my hand touched the window. The horses broke from the gate. Now, I wasn’t kicking the wall yet. When I looked up and saw her heading into the winner’s circle. I was getting a bit miffed…

I liked another runner but it was later in the card. Plenty of time to pout and get it out of my system. Still time to make the day a winner. It was Race #9, and I LOVED the top tier selection. Since I had been shut out twice due to crazy circumstances, I was going to bet $50 to win on #4 – Oceanwave. She was (2-1), and owned the top Last Race Rating and Composite Rating of 60. I couldn’t wait to get down and when I arrived at the windows, there was not a person in line. “Thank God, this was perfect.” When I stepped up, they told me there had been a tote problem and they were re-booting the system. It should be about 4-5 minutes. I looked up and saw 22 minutes to post, and knew it would be fine. I was first in line and would make it in plenty of time to call them on the track. Ten minute later, I had to get out of line and go up and get ready. When the horses were warming up at our track, I looked up and watched as Ocaeanwave was looked like a million bucks down the lane. Now, I wanted to pull out my hair and bite myself… I started turning red and was mad as hell in a matter of seconds. All day long I was getting held up, wet from hot coffee and watching a husband and wife act like idiots. This day cost me, and I couldn’t do anything but suck-it-up and put on my big boy pants.

I have never started out so easy and prepared in my life. The only thing missing was the dog bringing me the paper, and getting a massage. Oh, I got massage all right and it didn’t feel good. I had good info, a bankroll plan, and the bad luck that made me look like “Bad-Luck-Schleprock” from the Flintstones. I could feel that grey cloud hanging over my head, and the rain was pouring so hard I couldn’t see. After a bitch session with an old pal, and a couple of days to get in order. I am making my one trip to Keeneland tomorrow. I have my E-Z Win Forms, and filled up with gas, and I just layed out my clothes. On second thought, I am going to unplug, the alarm clock, not bathe or shave, and wear my old comfy sweat pants. What could happen? I’ll let you know how the day turns out, and the weather is suppose to be nice. The data was good, my bankroll in place, and plenty of time. I guess it’s that time of year, so make sure to allow enough time to get to the track, and bet early. I wouldn’t want you to find out that “Schleprock” is more than a character in a cartoon.

Seven Days Can Make One Week

hourglassSeven days can be a long time if you’re in jail, standing on your head, or listening to your better half tell you to stop watching racing and football. This past week is one of reflection, introspection, and getting ready to get my game on. So, sit back and clear your mind. “Time is not on our hands, it is slipping through our fingers.”

 

Has it been seven days already?

It feels like a golf ball is stuck in my throat. I was sitting in front of my computer last week when the news of the death of Juan Saez came across social media and every racing publication. I have watched the memorial services on You Tube, and how riders in the Breeders’ Cup are going to wear black patches for fallen riders. I hardly ever mention a name, but in this case I feel it is right. I was on Facebook, and was reading Miguel Mena’s timeline and he mentioned it has been one week since we heard the saddest news in racing. Mena is an up-and-coming rider, and I love to follow along with the world of racing. Just reading brought tears to the corners of my eyes.  Miguel’s timeline said it best: ” We will always miss him, and with time our pain will  turn to memories filled with ear-to-ear smiles.” I don’t think we’re there yet, and as my grandpa once told me as a young man. “Time cures all.” I don’t know if it will be cured, but someday we’ll be able to think back with fond memories as we travel on the road called life.

 

Super Sunday

I ended my summer of fun as Belterra Park ended its inaugural racing meet. I look back to where I first started, and where I turned the mic off for the season. For the people who toughed it out through my rough beginning, the wonderful folks who gave me encouraging words, the call from my friend and incredible race caller Jason Beem from Portland Meadows, and my compadre, John Englehardt who helped me get more comfortable in my own skin. Thank you more than you’ll ever know! This was one of the best summers in years.

 

Worth Every Penny

I was reading the article from Rich Eng of the Las Vegas Review Journal. If you haven’t read anything from his column, be sure to take a look and decide for yourself. Here is where you can find the talented, introspective, thought provoking, and ultra-informative Rich Eng – http://www.reviewjournal.com/. Rich posed a question on Facebook “What’s you’re opinion?” The Times Union.com reported that Tom Durkin was paid $440,000 for 100 days as track announcer and race caller. There was a bevy of responses, and it ranged from nice, cute, and a little bitchy. For the low-low-cost of free, here are my thoughts.

Tom Durkin called the races. He brought to life every movement of the athletes. His dulcet tones could make you feel the splashing of the muddy track with his final stretch call. He was paid a whopping $25,000 in yearly raises, and a $10,000 stipend for Saratoga. He was able to “rent out” his voice for the Breeders’ Cup, Triple Crown events, and any Saturday or Sunday holiday events as reported by the Times Union.

The article was great. Rich Eng put it out there to gauge our response, and we read it and formulated our opinions. Good for you Tom Durkin! Isn’t it great to hear about a guy who began calling fair circuit races in Wisconsin take it to the limit? Aren’t you tired of hearing how rock stars make so much money it has to be weighed?  For instance, how about Mike Nugent of the Cincinnati Bengals who averaged $59,090 per field goal in 2012, and he will earn in 12 days what it takes a high school teacher to make in 293 hours? I digress, and no disrespect to Mr. Nugent who does his job with the best. Being an announcer is something you can’t read in a book, or learn in night school. It is one the toughest job at the track, and if you doubt my words, venture into the chat rooms dedicated to “telephone tough guys” who bitch and moan about every race caller in the world. I once saw a well versed radio host take off the headset mid-way during a race he was calling on a day dedicated to special guests. His face covered in sweat, and his shirt was soaked. Tom Durkin was a story teller. If you were listening on radio, he could bring to the life the runner on hold and waiting, and could bring you right along the fence as a horse was threading the needle along the rail in bright golden silks. “All money is good, the only trouble is if you get enough of it.” His voice was racing, and his replacement is one of the best in the sport. There is no comparison between the two, as they differ in style. Tom Durkin was worth every penny, and he will be missed. I hope Larry Collmus makes double, and the comments of New York race caller Marshall Cassidy from 1971-1990 be stricken from our memories as he referred to his pay as “excessive.” I loved his calls thorough the years, but his stock value dropped in my heart like a rock in the river.

Seven days: 168 hours; or 604,800 seconds have passed and this handicapper/writer/horse player/father/son/brother/and friend has read, experienced, and felt many things during this time and these are a few that stick out in my mind. At the time of this entry, Breeders’ Cup is 10 days, 4 hours, and 15 minutes from post time. You’ll be reading about some of the major players, and what is happening in the days leading up to the big dance. Oh, and for the record. My group will be getting back together to make two block-buster pick four tickets from our $2,500 pool. We have been on hold as there are life events that have delayed our venture. But rest assured, we’ll be coming with guns a blazing! Best of luck, and be mindful of your time. It is all you’ll ever have…

 

 

Remembering the Fallen

Jockey Saez, 17, Dies From Head TraumaOver the years you have learned about my love of racing.  I made early treks with my dad, and we would talk all the way there. He would regale me with tales of the big ones that got away, and the runners that lay ahead in our visit to the track.  We saw close finishes, and I watched as he cashed big winners. The sport that gave this father and son a common bond that would eventually become my occupational choice. Over the years I have witnessed events that made me smile, and others that left me searching for answers. This morning, I sadly added another to my list.

The first mount I watched Juan Saez ride, I thought I had a golden secret. Well, it didn’t take long for the racing world to see his budding ability, and seasoned race-trackers knew it would be a matter of time before he would take his game to the next level. A native of Panama, and the top graduating student of the world-renowned Laffit Pincay Panamanian Jockey school. He made his way to the United States to join his older brother Luis Saez, looking to surpass his brother’s accomplishments. He registered 51 wins from 194 starts, and owned a promising 46% ITM clip. The future looked bright ahead, as he was splitting time between Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, and Keeneland. At 17-years of age, he grabbed the attention of the racing world with his immense gift for riding horses.

As we enjoy the beauty and pageantry of the sport, there is the another side of that is seldom spoken about. Riders talk, prepare, and get ready to ply their trade. They stretch, weigh in, and make the walk to the paddock.  They know the dangers of the sport. You’ll see prayers and meditation in the jock’s room, and the ever-present track chaplain is never far away. It’s the 2,000 pound elephant in the room, and the agile riders maneuver around the beast with faith and preparation. Riders know when you start thinking about the danger, its time to hang up your tack. According to statistics from the Jockey’s Guild, Juan Saez was the 153rd rider to be killed in a race since 1940 in North America.

It was a chilly afternoon in Chicago, and Sportsman’s Park was open for business. A blossoming young rider who had ridden that past summer at River Downs, had shifted his tack to the Chicago circuit for the winter. Sportsman’s Park was known a “bull ring” where the turns were tight and banked. Rodney Dickens was a gifted rider who had a promising future. When his mount Rough Pride stumbled over fallen runner Special Little Guy, Dickens was thrown head first and landed on his back. His mount regained his feet and took off in a panic run. – A shy, naïve, 20-year-old native of Owensboro, Kentucky, fell victim to the sport he loved. – When I made my first trip to Sportsman’s Park many years later, I spent a great portion of the day thinking about the young man who was taken away too soon.

There was a rider who I chose to ride our cheap claimer. He was sound, hard-headed, and mean…. There was only one rider in the room who I wanted to ride State Budget. Mike Rowland a native of Saratoga Springs, New York was known for his strength and courageous ability in the saddle. He was gentle with speed, and could come from the clouds with closers. Needless to say, having Mike agree to take the mount was a great feeling. Two day later when he circle the field and got up by a nose. You could say I was hooked on Mike’s abilities.  I went out for a few races one evening, and I was late. I knew I would catch the last four, and that was just fine. When I arrived, I could see multiple cars driving to the half mile pole going very fast. The ambulance hadn’t even arrived, and I found out from my old boss that Mike Rowland had gone down in a spill. He went down in the 7th race aboard a horse called World Trade. He was leading at the time when his horse broke down and the two horses tracking could stop change their course. He was 41-years-old, and two wins away from 4,000 career victories.

These personal stories bring me full circle. When a rider is injured or worse, I feel it in my heart. – I love everything about Thoroughbred racing. To me, the stars of the sport are the people involved. When I started meeting the riders years ago, it brought me closer to the game. I love when one has three wins on the card, or a small time rider wins a big race. Jockeys are pound-for-pound the best athletes in the world. Strong, agile, and have the reflexes of lighting in a bottle. I love to see these small athletes make big things happen. When I first saw Juan Saez ride it was at Ellis Park. I got off work and stopped by the race book. I liked to watch a race or two before heading home. I saw he had a mount, and bet $4 in the blind on my new rider to watch. He didn’t disappoint, and he didn’t let me down the next race either. He was on my radar screen, and I started looking wherever he had a mount. That’s what racing fans do. They love to follow the new and upcoming riders, as players loves to tell the tale they were watching him ride when he was just a kid. On Tuesday night at Indiana Grand, that is what racing fans were doing.

I enjoyed watching the young man ply his trade, and I would have loved to have rooted for Luis and Juan to battle it out to the wire. But, sadly we’ll never know what could have been, and be thankful for the time we had with Juan Saez. Winning Ponies would like to extend our deepest condolences, and wish the family  peace during this tragic time. Racing has lost one of its own, and we all hurt. Juan, you will be missed, and you were taken away too soon. We are thankful for the time we were blessed with having you. May you rest in peace.

Talking Dirty

There is nothing like a little “dirty talk” to get your blood pumping. But if you’re expecting a wild tale of college girls on spring break, you may want to adjust your settings. In Lexington, Kentucky there are three things on the topic of discussion list: 1) The Kentucky Wildcats, 2) Keeneland Race Course, and 3) The Kentucky Wildcats.

It all began on October 15, 1936, when Keeneland hosted its first day of live Thoroughbred racing. Their goal was to create a race track unique in structure. It would be a community project, a nonprofit venture in which proceeds would be returned to the racing purse money for horsemen and improvements to the facility, with any remaining profits to be donated to local charities. Most importantly, they wanted to create a race track that would carry on Kentucky’s Thoroughbred tradition for future generations. You can find more about the glorious history of Keeneland on their incredible website. But, it seemed like the world would came to an end when Poly Track was installed at the track which was known for speed. It was a learning curve for handicappers, and the track continued to flourish as the new surface was in place for the safety of the sport. There aren’t many who can squabble with that decision, but it sure made my spring and fall trips cut back a few times. When it was announced that a “state-of-the-art” dirt surface would be installed. The smile on my face could be seen from the moon.

With any changes, handicappers are a cautious sort. It takes time to gain the trust and belief of a Thoroughbred handicapper. There is no other form of gambling like the pari-mutuel playground, and the players are loyal and true. But there was going to be a “waiting period” where we examine every nuance of the surface. How would it play wet? Would it be a speed favoring oval as in the past? Or, would there be a five year learning experiment as with poly? Winning Ponies hit the ground running, and it appears to be a seamless transition. Here are a few items of notice from the E-Z Win Forms that need to used when handicapping Keeneland:

Saturday

10/11/14   -    Race #5

If you go back and examine in the “results” area, you will see the E-Z Win selections, and how they fared. Now, not beating my drum, but very few services show how they did. This race is a perfect example of how to use the data to make your day a winner.

#7 – Attain (54 /54) – (4-1) closing odds. The first 54 is the Last Race Rating, and this gives you a solid insight into where the runner fits in the race as far as competition. This was a rating was the highest in the field, and the second 54 is the Composite Rating showing how your runner has been doing the last three efforts. This was also the highest in the field. With both of the highest figures, you would assume this was the morning line chalk. This was not the case, as he was installed (7-2) by the morning line odds-maker. He actually went up in value, and all you had to do is follow the predictions.

Now, you’ll want to see if your runner has a solid work over the track. He had four shown over the Keeneland oval, and his last was a bullet work to show readiness. You can find this in his E-Z Win prediction, and all you have to do is expand the data to see full past performances, equipment changes, rider and trainer stats, and up-to-date workout patterns.

Go back and check daily to see how Winning Ponies is doing. You may be getting a late start, and you notice the E-Z Win selections are sizzling hot. You download the rest of the card, and you’re only charged for the races used. How sweet is that? I have never been allowed to jump on board when the winning team is on top.  That is until I started using the E-Z Win Forms.

On this day, the speed looked good going longer distances, and stalkers and closers held sway in shorter distances. The turf has always been kind to closers, and this season is no different. All in all, the track has been playing fair all meet long. As far as the human connections, John Velasquez is winning (39%), Julien Leparoux is ITM (64%), and Joe Rocco Jr. is smoking as a new comer with a (42%) ITM clip. The trainers you need to keep your eyes peeled for: Mike Maker, Dale Romans, Bill Mott, and Mark Casse. When you see any of the above connections team up together, it may be time to dig into your E-Z Win Forms and make your way to the windows. What are you waiting for? It’s almost post time!!

Read All About It

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 15, 2014 in Blogroll, Breeders Cup, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

If you pick up any newspaper, magazine, or dial up the web and have the universe at your finger tips. There is always a story behind the story. For this handicapper, it has been one helluva’ year! I sure hope as we close in on Breeders’ Cup, we start getting the busy butterflies in our stomach, and count the seconds until post time.  As with every great story, there are others that can be filed under personal introspections, or the brighter side of being sad.

 

Good, Great, and Incredible!

This year I was asked to be a part of the Belterra Park team by John Englehardt. To say I was happy would be an understatement. Getting to be around racing and old friends was surely a very good thing. I filled in as track announcer at River Downs when Jason Beem left for other racing opportunities, and the search for Pete Aiello was under way. I had the one-of-a-kind opportunity to fill-in for Mike Battaglia when his grandchild was born. To have the chance to strap on the headset and call the races at the new Belterra Park was more than great. I had no high powered goals, and all I wanted was to improve a little bit each day. Being around supportive friends, getting to see longtime racing friends and making new ones could only be described with one word.  – INCREDIBLE!!

 

Wise Man

Upon hearing about Wise Dan’s defection from the Breeders’ Cup was a sad moment. Then I got to thinking about the one-of-a-kind warrior I had the opportunity to watch and wager. He was preparing to defend his title when he sustained a fetlock injury. Owner Morton Fink put in a way that me see the other side of the coin in the Vegas Insider article.

“Wise Dan had been preparing to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. Fink said trainer Charlie LoPresti checked Wise Dan ahead of a scheduled breeze this week and noticed swelling in the horse’s ankle. The fracture was confirmed in an X-ray. ”This is not a fracture that can be helped with surgery; he has to heal it on his own,” said Fink, adding that he has been advised to wait 30 days to see if the horse heals. ”We won’t decide if he will return to training until we see if he heals perfectly because he has nothing left to prove,” Fink said in a statement. ”Wise Dan has accomplished a lot in his career so far, and given us endless joy. We would never want to race him unless he is 100 percent.”

How can we be sad? We had the pleasure of watching one of the tough guys ply his trade with grace and agility. If you saw his last race in the Shadwell Turf Mile, you would have probably questioned his chances to win shortly before the quarter pole. If you watched closely, you had the rare opportunity to watch a horse dig in and find that hidden gear to propel him to the winner’s circle. I drew a deep breath, and thanked the Racing Gods. If he were a boxer, he would be Mohammed Ali with swift punches that appeared out of thin air, until they knocked off your block. If he played baseball;  Curt Shilling with his bloody stained sock on the mound or Kirk Gibson limping to the batter’s box as he sent the ball sailing over the wall in the 1988 World Series. – There could be a million comparisons, but there was only one Wise Dan. I’m sure glad we got to see his brilliance.

Keeneland is Racing for the First Time Since 2006

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 30, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, News, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Well, the headline may be a little deceiving. Keeneland has been serving up the best in Thoroughbred racing since 1936. There was a speedy track that was one of the target races for the Kentucky Derby long before they served up the first bowl of burgoo. The Bluegrass Stakes was a 1 1/8th test that gave the racing world more than it’s fair share of Derby winners. – That being said, Keeneland has been an innovator in the world of racing. They pulled up the poly track, and PRESTO! – Lexington, Kentucky will play host to the Breeders’ Cup in 2015. Dirt racing is preferred in the states, but there are some tracks that benefit greatly from the poly track located in harsh winter climates. Keeneland races 15 days in October and April, and this may be the best slice of weather in the country. I have never been a real fan of synthetic surfaces, but I learned to overcome many obstacles because my favorite track sported the rubber coated wonder. Did I mention they pulled up the poly and dirt racing is returning? Yep, real racing is returning to Keeneland, and there are handicappers who have been dreaming about this for years.

 

Martin “Mad-Genius” Collins felt  racing surfaces in England were less than satisfactory. That led to deeper research, and he invented a surface made of wax-coated sand, rubber, and synthetic fibers. Translation A racing surface that would be forgiving to Thoroughbred athletes, and would allow for racing on a safe draining fast track. The times were not going to break any records for the most part, and there were barns who targeted Keeneland, Woodbine, Presque Isle, and Turfway Park. Everything appeared as if the new answer had arrived, and industry leaders heralded this as the new savoir. They spared no expense, and the tracks had visions of record-breaking handles dancing in their heads. But there was only one item that was left off the table. “How would the handicapper/bettor take to the track?” Well, after a period of time and plenty of complaining. Handicappers are a resilient source. They started playing, and some did well following the well-laid plans of successful trainers who excelled on the synthetic ovals. But, there was always a hesitation among real horseplayers, and bigger players selectively chose races, and they fell deeper in love with the lush greensward of Keeneland.

I’m not going to slam the idea of safety, but Keeneland had resources to create the best dirt surface on the planet. They could ship in dirt, sand, and silt from the moon if needed. No person in their right mind could ever question they were leaders in every facet of the game. From a track that tolerated racing and focused on world class horse sales, hooked to the outside and passed up every track in the nation. They used to have eight races and one daily-double. If you look at the wagering menu, you will see some of the most attractive ideas in the sport. Just to think, this all started with the “Omni” wager long ago. Would you have ever thought the “gem” of Thoroughbred racing would be the leader of the pack in every aspect of the sport? I surely did, and it takes me back long ago during my interview. “Ed, what do you think of poly track racing?” After a long pause and sweat starting to roll down my brow, they kindly interrupted with, “we feel the same.” They were all about safety and doing the right thing for racing.

In 2001, Lingfield Race Course in England became the first track to install Polytrack. Trainers and owners there gave it good reviews. Few horses broke down, the track held up to the English winter, and because Polytrack particles are coated in wax and there was a good drainage system, the track always dried out so quickly that there was never a muddy or sloppy surface according to a New York Times article in 2006, written by Bill Finley. Noticing Polytrack’s impact in England, the management at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky became convinced there would be benefits to making the switch. Keeneland converted its training-track surface to Polytrack in the fall of 2004 and became partners with Collins in an effort to market the new track in the United States. The next step came when Turfway Park in northern Kentucky, which is owned by Keeneland in partnership with Harrah’s Entertainment, was converted to Polytrack. The first American race on a Polytrack surface took place Sept. 7 when Turfway opened its fall meet.

Bob Baffert, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer and one of artificial surfaces’ top critics, was quoted in an ESPN article, saying he believes many owners and trainers with large stables have moved horses east strictly because of the synthetic mandate. Many trainers have publicly admitted to refusing to run at tracks that install an artificial surface, and a few include Keeneland in their blacklist. Keeneland installed a Polytrack surface in 2006. But if you contact top Canadian trainer Mark Casse, he may feel a little differently. He bounced along with change and became a major player on every synthetic surface. We can close the poly-history books, and look forward to the future of a state-of-the-art surface, as we know the Lexington track does things one way. Sparing no expense, and putting the safety of the horses first and foremost.

This weekend is a holiday, my birthday, and every celebration during the year. I loved the dirt racing, and can’t recall too many losing days. I know it won’t be the “golden conveyor belt of speed” as it was known for years. Or, will it return to the old days? This is where time will tell, and handicappers will have eyes peeled as the first race goes to post. I will be in my booth watching the action between live races at Belterra Park, and plan a couple of dark day trips to see the new track. For this handicapper, I can’t wait to see dirt racing return. I have always believed in the Keeneland motto: “Racing as it was meant to be.”

A Moment with Mildred

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 26, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | 1 Comment >>

I was on my way into the track and stopped to chat a few times. This is the best part of the day  seeing old friends and catching up. Then there is a different kind of’ person you see on your way in the doors, and you scamper to the men’s room, or just keep your head down and pick up the pace. But not on this day, as Mildred was back in full effect and she had plenty on her mind. I just happened to the target on this bright sunny day.

“Hey, Ed. Don’t try to pretend like you don’t see me.” Hello, how are you doing? I was just going up stairs to get to work. “Oh, bull s#*!, you were trying to duck me.” Mildred is a sprite 85-years-old, and she looks every part of it. I think she was a bare knuckle boxer in her day. There are some days when she’ll just wave and read her form, and other times when she’ll point at you and say get over here, I need to talk to you. Today was one of those special moments.

Now before I go any farther, allow me to tell you how long I have known Mildred. I was a parking collector at 18-yrs-old, and she used to try and run past the gate without paying. She would take the best spot in the house reservered for our “tipping customers” and she would get out of the car, flip us off, and walk to the gates. She was a bright ray of sunshine, and over the years we got a kick out of Mildred.

Every time she pulls me aside, I get to hear how “so-and-so just cheated, and she was beat at the wire.” All in good fun, and just another colorful character at the track. – Mildred came up the hard way. I found this out some 25 years ago when she had too many beers in the track and grabbed my arm to sit down. Upon sitting, she asked if I was going to buy us a beer… I made my way up and brought back two, and it was at this moment that my opinion of Mildred began to soften.

“Ed, I’ve had one helluva’ life. Some good, some bad, and most I want to forget. But I’m glad you decided to sit down. I wanted to chew the fat and let you know a little about the old lady who flips you boys off when I pull into the track.” – Mildred’s mother died in childbirth with her younger brother, and she was raised by her father who was a railroad worker. A large man with a handlebar mustache, and smoked all the day long. He was on his way to Louisville, and slipped off the edge of the train. He was taken under, and he had no chance to survive. “We were parceled off to relatives, and I haven’t seen two of my three siblings in over 30 years. I lived with my aunt who was a nurse, and she helped me along with my schooling. I eventually became a nurse and worked in the trauma recovery unit when soldiers were coming home from Vietnam.” Now these were some brave men, and most could never be put back together again. I spent my time working with patients, and even came in my off days as I got attached to many. I loved my job, and I hate to hear when many people bitch about what is ailing them. I saw plenty of pain, and I know the difference. – She sat back and lifted the bottle, and sucked down about half in one drink. ” I never married, and didn’t have any time for that. I loved my job, and my auntie and I would go the races a few times a month. That is where I picked up my love of gambling. When auntie passed away, I have kept up my track visits ever since. “You gonna buy us another round?” “Sure, I’ll be back in a minute.”

After hearing her story that day, I had a better insight into who she was. I still laugh as I can see her cream color car with the window at half mast, and a middle finger sticking out for the world to see. Mildred was a tough old lady, and she would be the first to tell you. But, after a few beers and the story of her life. I had a little different picture of her. But, I digress. It was on this day she called me over and wanted a piece of my ear, if not the whole thing. “Ed, I have been following you for years. I have asked about you from the many people along the way and kept up on your work progress.”  ”Not too bad for a silly punk from the parking lot!” As I thanked her, she told me she wasn’t through, and don’t be in such a hurry. – When I heard you announce your first race, I thought I was going deaf. I told a few complainers to shut their traps your first few days. But, things have quieted down, and you are getting much better. I like when you toss in the names of the jockeys and how they are “going to the right handed stick.” People are starting to like you, and they have pretty much forgotten who was here last in that job. It is the hardest thing in the world to be new and fill-in for a person who was better. But, you stuck with it, and I just wanted to tell you how I felt.

I didn’t know what to say, and reached over to this hardened old lady and gave her a hug. She hugged back with the love and care that I know many of wounded souls received along the way in the hospital. Mildred acted rough, and this was her wall to block out the pain she had seen in her years of life. ” Now, get your ass to work. That’s enough goofing around for today.” Stop back if you get some time. I heeded the advice, and stopped over to the bartender, and bought her the next beer to be served. As I walked up stairs, I can still hear her words and they made me smile. Through a life of tough times and pain, she did what she loved, and to this very day she continues. “Mildred, this one’s for you. Keep telling it like it is, or at least how you see it.”

The Gambler’s Journey

Handicappers from all walks have a differing story on how it all began, but there are plenty of the same elements involved. As we sit at our computer monitor, we are sipping coffee in our slippers and playing the card at sunny Gulfstream Park. But we are missing the journey. There was nothing like getting bundled up and leaving early to make the double. Long before the glitzy climate controlled casino, there was a large mammoth building where the parking lot was full, and the seating would go faster than a summer break as a kid. Think of missing the early days like arriving to the movie half way into your flick. It’s still is pretty interesting, but you have missed some of the best parts.

Parking

You had to get to the track early enough to walk 10 minutes to the door. If you found yourself there for the feature race, you started thinking about beating the traffic by leaving 15-20 minutes early. For the many road trips filled with handicappers arguing their points. We have replaced this with screens of “talking heads,” and our twice a year visit to the track. The sights and smells were like the United Nations melting pot. The swirl of cheap cigars, and the mutuel lines where handicappers would be jammed tight studying. There was something about the track. You could travel the galaxy and never see another place like this. For all of the complaining over the years, I look back on my early trips with fond memories. There was nine races, one daily-double, and a few exactas. Simulcast was a far off idea, and the closest thing was the OTB system in New York. Well, something like that…

Food

When we went to the track, we always made sure we ate first. Long before sports bar fare and one-of-a-kind buffets. There was the ultra expensive hamburger that had been sitting there two hours before post. It was cheaper to make a $5 quinella than get a hot dog and a soda, and punters have their rules… If we hit a nice score, there could be a stop at White Castles for a couple of sliders for dad and myself for the ride home.  It wasn’t just about the greasy burgers that made it great, it was sharing the stories and the time spent together.

Is All Change For the Good?

There are no more lines, and with the exception of a few marquee days. The track is barren. With the latest news of Suffolk getting ready to close the doors forever. I stand in awe that another viable business that created jobs, provided a tax base, and gave the state a gaming identity is being forced out. I know, I had Econ 101, and there is no other business in the world which would have to fund the lacking partner. But, long before there was talk of a lottery in most states, you could always go to the track. Betting was legal, and you could rub shoulders with kings and paupers on the way to the windows. The experience was one-of-a kind, and now it is going the way of the dinosaur. Why didn’t the state protect a revenue producer and employer? How do we reward the many years of hard work and entertainment? We allow them to die on the vine, and face extinction as its quicker to pull the lever. Could racing have survived long enough to expand in the gaming arena? For every non-track that sought a gaming license, there should be a 20% tax paid to tracks for five years. This would allow them to lobby for alternative gaming, or restructure their product. The state would monitor the subsidy program, and the tracks would still generate tax revenue and create jobs. After five years, if the track was unable to compete. The casinos would open their arms to a crop of new employees who would be seeking employment. If change is good, how come this one tastes a little bitter?

Take a Hard Look at the Sport

I began my journey down memory lane with stories of long lines and cramped accommodations. Gamblers just won’t have that anymore. I am one of them, and I find myself playing more from home. Racing has been slow to change, and lip service has been disguised as customer service. Racing can learn a great deal from the casino approach, and vice-versa. Yep, you heard it right here. Casino’s can learn from the tracks that have been a fixture in the gaming environment for decades. I am lucky enough to be a part of the “racino” invention, and I feel there is not enough cross-promotion. Remember, it may have been a tough row to hoe without having gambling in many states. What’s better than to create new racing fans from slot players, and the flip side for the handicappers? Handicappers like to gamble, they know to bring money, and all they are lacking is education and lucrative bounce-back offers. I was sitting in the “bad-ass sports bar” enjoying some wings after work. My server asked if he could get me anything else, and I said ” yeah, they could have roving clerks as I would have caught the last winner at Belmont.”  ”Sir, we don’t want to turn this place into a “bookie” joint and have gambling where people are drinking, dining, and watching the big games on TV.” I know he was young, uninformed, and gaming wasn’t his area; but that is just the environment we want to create.

What’s Next ?

Add in Suffolk, Beulah Park, and Hollywood Park. The names are starting to stack up, and we just act as if nothing is wrong. I know the game is hurting, and it can use a major facelift. With states having more gaming licenses granted, and you’re within driving distance from 24-hour gaming. When I hear any track crumbling at the base, I know it is only a matter of time before we address an oval closer to home. The game has short fields, purse reductions, and shorter racing seasons. Take Governor Chris Christie’s directive to allow casinos and tracks to allow sports betting. According to the American Gaming Association, there was $3.5 billion wagered in Nevada’s legal sports books in 2012. There is no such thing as a sure bet, but this one looks pretty darn close. If you’re going to open the doors, allow all entities the same opportunity to attract wagers. Let’s have a heavily regulated state gaming board that oversees the wave of cash that will come rolling into the state’s coffers. I see education getting the biggest chunk, and universities in every state offer a degree in Gaming Management. If its going to take place, let the state have their cut, create jobs, and attract tourism. I don’t see a downside yet, and if any gaming business is unable to hold their own. They will only have themselves to blame as this will level the field. My grandpa would have loved the simulcast explosion, and the 100 tracks per day to bet. But, if he would have stumbled into a racino with the neon lights and slot machine jackpot sounds. I think he would have spent more time fishing. But, this isn’t your grandpa’s game anymore, and if we’re going to open the flood gates. Let it roll, baby. Let it roll…

 

Read All About It

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 19, 2014 in General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

The bevy of racing data can be daunting. Over the years, I have seen some things come and go, but the data keeps on coming. As far as handicappers, you get some folks who love the game and eat-sleep-and-drink the races. Then you get the “Weekend Warriors” who read the past performances while having ten beers at home. Either way, you get an idea of who is running and what is up for grabs. Now, how serious are you ? Do you just want some ideas about what to look for, or do you seek comprehensive data that will allow you to spend your time applying money management? Many gamblers feel if they burn the midnight oil reading every article and workout that they will have an edge. But, there are two facets of wagering that players must devote equal time. There is the handicapping portion, and then you look at your bankroll and decide how you are going to out your money in play. Many good handicappers spend all of their time on the first, and play the wagering by ear. This usually yields a minor win for the day, or leaves you losing on the day and wondering how this happened. What if I could tell you that you could spend 100% of your time on your money management and deciding on how to bet?

 

Over the years I have seen the (800) numbers, and how “Uncle Ted” magically would impart his racing knowledge at 99-cents a minute. Then you get the impulsive gambler who works in the industry and fires off to play. It can be great at times and then there you can’t find their selections with a  search warrant. – Something I learned the hard way is no matter how good you are with your ever-changing handicapping methods, once you put them into print. The results are never as good. Why is this? We do so well everyday and now we get our name on the marquee we drop the ball. The idea is to find a service that day-in-and day-out uses the same methods. They have a program in place that is trusted, and they put their results out there everyday. Good or bad, they want to keep the player informed. This is where you should put your trust, and utilize this handicapping tool and spend the rest of the time deciding on how you will put the information to use.

You don’t have to look too far… You are right here with Winning Ponies. The Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms have offered out some of the best wagering information over the years. I found them in 2008, and have been writing, handicapping, and winning with their information. Here are some of the methods that the E-Z Win Forms employ to make your handicapping profitable.

* The E-Z Win Forms have real time information. You get scratches, changes, and up-to-the-second track changes as they happen. Many handicappers put out their info and didn’t bother looking at the weather. Winning Ponies has their information on deck as soon as all factors have been taken into play. Others pop theirs out 72 hours in advance, and hope for the best.

* Mother Nature can be an evil force. Winning Ponies offers up a complete weather forecast for the entire day, and allows you to see if there can be any changes in the future. If the track changes, all you have to do is “click” the change of weather tab for a brand new set of E-Z Win Forms at no charge.

* They offer up a detailed rating system, and unlike many other services. They want you to understand what the Race Rating, Composite Ratings, and Turf Class Ratings mean to handicappers. Most services treat their ratings like the secret sauce at a fast food restaurant. Keep it transparent, and players trust in the what they are using. If you keep it locked in safe, they have to take your word that “Uncle Ted” and his mojo bag have the answers. But, they can’t tell you or they’ll have to charge you twice…

* If you look on the front page, there are the results of their selections. As said before, no smoke or mirrors, and there is no magic curtain to pull back. Keep it up front if you want players to know what is going on. Most data sheets charge one price, and no matter if you use one race or the entire card, you pay the full price. Winning Ponies only charges for the races that are used. Yep, you have it right. If you believe in your product and put it out there. You want players to use it to make their day a winner instead of being a one-shot “Uncle Ted” service that can be shuffling papers when you call the 1-800-number. You must have faith in any service you choose.

There are results, replays, free contests, and special offers for members. You don’t have to play everyday, and you can use the E-Z Win Forms when you are ready. If it sounds too good to be true, go ahead and give it a close look. There is a testimonial section where your voice will be heard. Winning Ponies, offers up racing stories, blogs, free selections an the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show each and every Thursday. The biggest manes in racing are on deck as guests, and special handicappers from around the nation are special guests to bring to light the behind the scenes facts. It’s up to you. You have to believe in your data, and the time saved will allow you to decide how you are going to put the selections into play.