Faded Pictures Hold Beautiful Memories

by Ed Meyer

posted on June 20, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

The sun beats down on your sweat stained cap. – Not a seat to be found as the place was packed. You had to get there an hour early to nail down a chair. – We used to park in the horsemen’s lot a 1/4 mile away and jog to the gates. – Gamblers are funny. They don’t mind making a $5 bet, but don’t ask them to pay $2 to park. As we jogged to the gate our eyes searched in between cars for a thrown-away program or better yet a Daily Racing Form. Catching the last three or four races was an art. You had to time the traffic,  jog in, and make the admission gates opening for free. As you read you probably think this was a sorry way to spend your time. – What if I told you these were some of the best days of my life ?

Learning to be a handicapper was a long apprenticeship. I started off learning from my dad, grandpa, and my dad’s friend Fox. There were always a bevy of folks with an angle or approach, but these were my professors who taught me the art. I say art because you can’t get it from a book, and won’t learn it from going to night school. – You spent countless hours listening to races on the radio, and waiting with baited breath when a big race would be televised. – Yeah its fair to say these were some of the best days of my life.

My dad taught me that speed was king. He loves to jump out on the hook and play a little game called “catch me if you can.” I attribute this to his athletic prowess on the many fields of game. Once a competitor, always a competitor. He still looks for the early speed and likes to play low percentage riders. They don’t win often but when they did, your could bet your bottom dollar we’d be having a pizza from Burke’s that night. – My grandpa was a longshot player. His skills came from many a weekend at old Latonia as a young man. Plumber by trade, and weekend gambler by heart. He loved to bet the daily-double. Not many gimmicks back then, and if you hit the double you were on your way to a good day. – Fox was a professional man who dabbled in a little bookmaking. Don’t laugh, he put his sons through college matching off our bets for the 10% juice. Fox was a player who loved the sprinter going long, and would make two or three bets from the entire card. He had the patience of a stone, and would wait all day to make one bet. – Patience doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from making that long walk to the car broke a million times. You either learn the art, or just keep getting clobbered. – He gave be the best advice for betting. ” Don’t bet over your head. You’ll want to come tomorrow and if you go tapped you’re out.” – He was right then and right today. Thanks, Fox.

I played with two old bookmakers my dad and grandpa bet with. I was put on a $20 a week limit while in high school, and could call up and make a bet on the radio from Keeneland or Churchill. – This was better than anything you would have imagined. I was one of the guys now. – This went on until I graduated high school and went to work. From then on, it was all on me. – My apprenticeship was about to end and it was time to get in the game or head to the car. – I came up with a novel idea of trying to get a job at night working in the parking lot. – Sounded like a way to make a few bucks and be near the action I loved. – This was the start of a love affair that still holds my heart.

I worked through college, and slowly crept up the ladder. – The ladder is long and the perch is high when you have no real “in’s” to help you along. You either get in by family, or take the road less traveled. – I had the latter, but it was the road that taught me everything I needed to know. – I worked about every job at the track except selling tickets. I guess that may have been a lesson I didn’t want as it would have been too easy to bet. – I stopped looking for teaching job when I was offered a position inside. I ran the parking lot, worked in admissions, became race book mananger, and went on to be player development manager. This took me to on-air handicapping and radio shows in the Cincinnati market. – Long way from my $28 a day parking job, but I never forgot where I came from.

My thinking was if you wanted to bet you had to be there. Watch, wager, and learn. – There was no horse racing channel and simulcast had just taken off. Being at the track offered me a paycheck and evetually a position. – I started by watching others make mistakes. It didn’t help me to win, it just showed me the sure-fire way to lose. I saw gamblers play small, over their head, and everything in between. Gambling is for visitors who came on a bus trip, but making bets was like wearing a tie on Wall Street. In some countries they are called “punters.” I liked being a handicapper. A cerebral dance that wouldn’t interest folks sitting at the 25-cent slot machine.

This all started by looking at one picture. A picture of my dad, brother Don and myself. The three that jogged in together, and had more fun than the law allows. One picture took me on a journey that has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. – I could see the sweat stained Derby Lane cap on my head and look of youth in our eyes. I guess you just had to be there to really understand. – These were some of the best days of my life.

The Happy Handicapper / The 149th Belmont Stakes

Bob Summers would’ve been writing about his weekend at the Belmont Stakes. – He passed away on September 10, 2010 and his voice and racing insights left us wanting more. – I wanted to carry on his love of the sport and had the opportunity to meet him. I was very lucky to have him as a special guest on the Winning Ponies Internet Show on June 3,2010, and this would be the last opportunity I had to enjoy his stories. Once a month I will wear the “Happy Handicapper” cap and pass along my insights about the Sport of Kings.

The Belmont card was chock full of betting opportunites, and many races overshadowed the 149th running of ‘The Test of the Champion.” But the August Belmont Memorial trophy awaited the winner, and the race went to post at 6:37 pm. – It was a great day to get your gamble on with a card that offered 13 races, a million dollar pick-six pool, and a $1.5 million guaranteed pool for the all-stakes pick-four. – If there was some better racing I surely didn’t find it on this day, and all eyes would be glued to the field as they entered the starting gate for the big race.

My first score came in the 4th race with the (G-1) Acorn Stakes. – The Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman was back in and had Mike Smith aboard. The Oaks had a sloppy sealed track and she came off a bit awkwardly. When she hit her high cruising speed she circled the field in a “Silky Sullivan” style that gave the world goosebumps. – At Belmont there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the track was blistering fast. – Every good horse player should return with a “bet back” off a sweet win. Think of it as an homage to the Racing Gods. – When Mike Smith started rounding the far turn it looked like it was to be between Abel and Salty who both came in from Louisville. – Smith gave one of his best rides of the day diving to the rail saving precious ground as Salty tipped off four wide. Down the lane the masterful move by Smith proved to be the best decision. One that would notch him five victories in the day. When she paid $6.30, this was real value for such a talented gal.

The 5th race was one to watch and have a beer and a hot dog as Songbird sang her sweet tunes down the lane and just played with the field in the (G-1) Ogden Phipps. – She is more than special, and it won’t be long until the comparison talks begin among the last remaining scribes and handicappers. – Another masterful ride by Mike Smith.

Race #7 – The (G-2) Woody Stephens named for the HOF trainer who wrote the book on how to win the Belmont Stakes. – American Anthem proved to be the best and dispelled any rumors that Bob Baffert doesn’t do well when he travels to the east. – I got hooked on trouble runner #11 Petrov who saw every bit of the track this day going wide and wider. He still managed a solid 4th being 7 wide at the 1/8th pole. – Another reason why Mike “Money Man” Smith may be the best rider in the nation.

Race #10The (G-1) Manhattan was one of my best plays of the day. #4 – Time Test came in for the Chad Brown barn and was making his second start for the trainer. There are a bevy of stats that made me dig depper in my pockets this race:

  • Brown wins 21% 2nd off the layoff
  • 2nd time lasix yields a 17% win clip
  • Javier Castellano and Chad Brown have been winning (46%) the past two months
  • A trip over the track as a beaten favorite sealed the deal for me

Ascend grabbed the lead at the one mile mark going 1 1/4 and repelled the attack of everyone including Time Test who ran a beautiful second place effort.

Race #11 – The 149th Belmont Stakes – 1 1/2

I was sold on the Japanese invader Epicharis and he was to be even better than the previous runner Lani from the year prior. But he came up with some soreness and was scratched as lame in his right front foot. I thought all was lost until I dug a little deeper. - #2 Tapwrit caught my eye early in the year, and I bet with both hands as he won the Tampa Bay Derby. He was so impressive that I feared he may have peaked a little too soon, and that worry came true tossing in two clunkers in the Bluegrass and Derby. Time cures most everything, and this proved to be the answer winning the Belmont under the guidance of ultra-talented Jose Ortiz of the famed Ortiz brothers.

I also thought the one-eyed Patch would show up and he looked the part for awhile. Lookin At Lee just looked tired down the lane as he fought the good fight taking on all comers at multiple tracks. He may return later in the year with some well deserved rest. - Irish War Cry came back off the Derby, and showed once again that Graham Motion knows his horses and brought him back ready to score. He fought on bravely and we’ll hear more from him later in the year. – The horse to watch from race was Senior Investment. He came is as an outsider and took good money at the windows. He was bumped around and still managed a solid 5th place effort in this tough test. He’ll come back for Kenny McPeek and give us plenty to watch with a little luck from the Racing Gods.

That’s a wrap from the “Happy Handicapper.” – I’m sure Bob enjoyed the race watching over and rooting with some of the best scribes handicappers, and riders sitting by his side. Until next month, the Happy Handicapper takes off his cap and waits with baited breath for the next big event.






Sounds From the Past / The Happy Handicapper

I was taking a walk down memory lane. – Well, it started as a dream and evolved into a conversation with John Engelhardt. John used to suggest, help, and point me in the direction of some interesting guests when I was the host of the Winning Ponies Internet Show. It was on June 10, 2010 that I had the opportunity to have a special a one-of-a-kind guest that captured my heart and grabbed my interest. I had met this gentleman in our office at River Downs many moons ago, and I always looked forward to his yearly visit. His stories were thick with horse sense as his deep voice would take me on a trip back in time.

“The Happy Handicapper” was a weekly column in the Buffalo News. Mr. Bob Summers wrote and detailed his trips and mega-track ventures where he and Bob Engelhardt would jump in the “Bet Mobile” and hit as many tracks in 24-hours as possible. The only rule was to make at least one bet at every track and watch the race. – I had plenty of trips of the same, but none as interesting as Bob’s. – As he would finally make his visit to the Kentucky Derby and hopefully cash. The best part was when he would stop up to River Downs and visit with his friend John. I was like a little kid in the room and soaked up every word like a sponge. When Bob’s deep voice would speak the other sounds in the room would just disappear.

His stories were rich in detail and worth their weight in gold. I was like the younger brother in the room allowed to be a part of the conversation. Talk about a seat at the grown-ups’ table. – Bob Summers had a way of telling a story, and his rich voice made it that much better. The Derby, Belmont, Fort Erie, Scioto Harness, Wheeling Greyhound racing, and stops at tracks that are a footnote in the history of horse racing. – The “Bet Mobile” was his version of Batman’s car that would save the world from villains as Bob’s would make the trek to every track as humanly possible. Both noble pursuits and both had purpose. The only difference was that Bob’s was much more fun than Batman’s adventures. Bob didn’t save the day from the Joker, but he had one helluva’ time with his side-kick Bob Engelhardt as his partner in handicapping.

“Bob was a solid, well-rounded newsman with diverse skills, as was evident by his transition from the business desk to sports copy desk and columnist. He was an old-style journalist who could do it all,” said Margaret Sullivan, editor of The News.” – Bob loved covering horse racing, whether it be at Buffalo Raceway, Batavia Downs, Fort Erie or the Triple Crown races,” said Steve Jones, sports editor of The News. “He made friends on the rail and in the lines at the betting windows. As the Happy Handicapper, he relished the chance to be Everyman in the sport of kings.” – For me there couldn’t be a more noble profession. It is a rare gift to take your readers on a journey in the Bet Mobile and his stories had you a back seat ticket for the best advetures in the business.

I began my handicapping venture with Bob Engelhardt’s little brother John almost eleven years ago. – It was a few days before Labor Day, when he asked me to join him as a guest handicapper on the taped Regular Guy Show. We would tape the show in the morning as John was busy doing P.R. work throughout the busy day. He was a photographer, writer, PR man and ambassador for River Downs. – My pay for this labor of love was two tickets to the V.I.P tent which I would take my dad as my guest. It was on this day I met my longtime gal, which to this very day I still blame John.

As he was about to complete his Saturday night shift on the sports copy desk of The Buffalo News, Robert J. “Bob” Summers announced that he would treat the staff to pizza next Saturday. What’s the occasion, he was asked. “I’m going to celebrate receiving my first Social Security check,” he said.  – A few hours later, Summers died of an apparent heart attack after he was stricken at the Seneca Niagara Casino and taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital. He was 66.

After going back and listening to the podcast with Bob Summers as my special guest, it gave me an idea. – I called John Engelhardt and asked if it would be a good idea to carry on with writing a special once a month article under the name of “The Happy Horseplayer.” – An homage to Mr. Summers and his love of racing. One that could never be duplicated, but only appreciated by the inner-race fan in all of us. – John agreed, and once a month I will do a blog as The Happy Horse Player. – Bob loved the Belmont Stakes and this will be my first article.

In 2003, he won a handicapping competition at Fort Erie and advanced to the national finals in Las Vegas. Just last week, he attended Fort Erie’s Legends Day at the track. “He was a great supporter of racing and Fort Erie Race Track,” said Darryl Wells, former director of communications and track announcer at the Ontario track. “He was always joking and smiling and had a story to share.” – In the photo accompanying his column, Summers’ face was obscured by a pair of binoculars. “He always watched races live with binoculars, never watching TV,” Wells said.

Bob Summers lives on with the annual edition of the Bob Summers Memorial held at Fort Erie. – I won’t try to speak in Mr. Summers voice as my words would be a poor attempt at such an accomplished writer, handicapper, and one heckeuva’ guy. – I’ll just pass along  the same love of the game and I’ll start with the Belmont Stakes this year. – The Happy Handicapper lives on, and I hope that Bob will be in my corner when it comes time to making a wager. – You can visit the Winning Ponies archives, or just click here and take a trip in the Bet Mobile back to a fond memory. – https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/46604/winning-ponies-welcomes-bob-summers

The Test of the Handicapper

As we close in on the third jewel of the Triple Crown take stock. Just as we examine the horses who go to post, step back and take a look at yourself. Are you making the strides you wanted as we kicked off the year ? How is your overall handicapping ? Are you watching more and betting less ? How is your resolve to be a better handicapper overall ? – What got me thinking about the process was the incredible card at Belmont this weekend. As we plan on watching and wagering the Belmont Stakes, I ask if you’re wagering on the best race of the day ? – I began the past few weeks counting the days, but as we can count the hours to post time, there are plenty of better races to watch and wager for our bankrolls.

Race #4 – The G-1 Acorn Stakes – 1 mile

#3 – Abel Tasman = Mike Smith and Baffert come to New York. Baffert usually has better luck everywhere in the world, and now he brings the Oaks winner to the “Big Apple.” – She is a maturing gal who deserves respect. Churchill Downs had a sloppy / sealed track and she came from the clouds after a comprimsed beginning. She is much more than a deep closer and look for Smith to utilize her ability to keep her a bit closer. You’re going to have to dig deep to find value and there is plenty of ladies in here that will fit perfectly underneath in the gimmicks.

Race #5 – The G-1 Ogden Phipps – 1 1/16

This may be a free spot in multi-race wagers and a great race to watch.

#5 – Songbird = Mike Smith in the irons and this gal is a head short of being a perfect 12/12 with wins. Her works are sparkling and the trainer wins (26%) off a beaten favorite effort. The cutback in distance may be what the doctor ordered and the rider finds a way to get his picture taken frequently when the money is on the line.

Race #7 – The G-2 Woody Stephens – 7f

#7 – Wild Shot = Corey Lanerie in the saddle and exits a strong win in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill. He cuts back in distance and has some honest works coming into the race. – He has faced some of the big guns: Classic Empire, McCrackin, Tapwrit, Practical Joke and Lookin At Lee. – With a resume of doing battle with the big names all season long is enough to seal the deal. Add in he is (4-1) and you may have a solid price to build your wagers.

Race #8 – The G-1 Just A Game – 1 mile on the turf

#1 – Dickinson = Paco Lopez aboard for Kiaran McLaughlin and the rider is a good player on the turf winning (17%) and (46%) in the money. 1/1 at Belmont and owns some nice works at Greentree Training Center. – The rail is winning (28%) and exits a super effort in the G-1 Jenny Wiley beating Lady Eli. She has been away from the races for 56 days and looks to be one of the tough gals in the field.

Race #10 – The G-1 Manhattan – 1 1/4

#4 – Time Test = This is my best bet of the day – He shipped over from York for the Chad Brown barn and they ran a great race in the G-3 Fort Marcy over a yielding turf course. He closed stoutly and was beat in the shadow of the wire. – Now they go from a 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 and he is 4/4 ITM with three wins at the distance. He fits the perfect Chad Brown angle of 2nd off a layoff (22%), 2nd time lasix (17%) and the rider / trainer angle is white hot winning (40%) over the past few months.

Guaranteed Wagers (June 10) $500,000 Guaranteed Pick 5 on Race 1, $250,000 Guaranteed Pick 3 begins on Race 3, $1 Million Guaranteed Pick 6, $1.5 Million Guaranteed Pick 4 begins on Race 8 – This is enough to get any racing fan chomping at the bit !

As far as the Belmont Stakes. I could go a hundred different ways. – For my handicapping bankroll I’ll rely on the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms. This race can be a guessing game, and how many times will these runners go a 1 1/2 after a grueling year of knocking heads and battling to keep in tip top shape. I’ll defer to a handicapping tool that fits the bill and has proven to be effective in the long run. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies, and be sure to tune in to the Winning Ponies Internet Show as we’ll be talking all things Belmont with John Engelhardt.


Looking Back on the Belmont Stakes

If there’s a bad day at the races, or you nailed the big winner. They stay inside your heart forever if you’re a true horse player. You can recount the bad beats with the utmost accuracy, and it seems like it happened just minutes ago. As we are five days away from the third leg of the Triple Crown here are some of my favorites and some that stick out like a bad dream. – Either way, I still love each and every one, and the stories they’ve given me will last a lifetime.

Every once in awhile even the best horse players fall in love with a horse. We try to keep these feelings away as they cloud our gambling vision. In 1989, I had a crush on a runner that I would have bet everyday. I never gave up no matter how tough, and he finally had a chance to strut his stuff on the big stage.


It seems like yesterday when this three-year-old ran. – I first had my first opportunity to see him at Turfway Park as a two-year-old and he was schooling in the early morning. We were doing the “Turfway Track Talk” radio show and I saw this monster. At the break, I went over and asked if he was running in the Kentucky Cup Classic. ” No sir. He’s only a baby. He’s in the Juvenile today.” – I bet him with both hands and he didn’t dissapoint. – He lost the Derby this year as Gary Stevens said he moved too soon on him costing him the race. – I got over the hard loss and never lost faith in this guy. Here is the 133rd Belmont Stakes to showcase one of my all-time favorite runners.


It was the 136th Belmont Stakes and I was rolling all day long at the windows. We all have days like this if we play long enough, and on this day I had plunked down all of my winnings closing out pick-fours, pick-threes and every gimmick under the sun. The payoff stood to be a bit of a lifechanger, but “Big Sandy” had other plans. -Just watching still brings back the pain as Smarty Jones turned for home and Stewart Elliott found out the stretch at Belmont can be a heart-breaker.


It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t include a little touch of history. Horse players have ice water in their veins and feelings buried behind the Racing Form. If you didn’t have chills as the roar of the crowd welcomed home this winner. You might want to check your pulse. – The 37 year wait made it that much sweeter, and all bets were off for this gambler as history stood in the balance.








Horses to Watch – 6/5/17 – Winning Ponies

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch ? – Well, you surely can’t dine on these runners but if they come back off a troubled effort you may find yourself buying for the whole gang.

With only five days to the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown the Belmont Stakes, we can always use a winner or two that will get our bankroll back in fine fashion. – Just keep your eyes peeled and get ready to double-down the next time they hit the track. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !




Race #2 – Blenheim Pass = came five wide and had a dead heat for the win. Next out he’ll be a solo act in the winner’s circle

Race #3 – Monster Mash = Knocked heads with the eventual winner and tired out after the duel. Heavily backed at the windows and he’ll be ready for a wire-to-wire effort next out.

Race #6 – Lido = She came flying late going 5 wide at the top of the lane running third.

Race #7 – Lucky Town = Knocked around at the half and forced to steady sharply.

Race #8 – Kissin Cassie = She swung out 6 wide at the top of the stretch and came flying late to be second.


Churchill Downs


Race #1 – Sky Alert = Stumbled badly at the start ending all chances to recover

Race #2 – Mia Bella Rossa = She was caught in tight at the 1/2 and forced to take off heels. She rallied to be second after the bad racing luck.

Race #4 – Miss Cobblestone = Saved ground and split horses down the lane closing sharply to be 3rd.

Race #5 – Thunderon the Nile = Heavily backed at the windows and circled 7 wide making a strong late gain.

Race #8 – How’s My Bud = Bumped hard twice down the stretch and weakened a bit after the beat down.


Gulfstream Park


Race #3 – Nutty Boy = He swung five wide into the stretch and made a strong late move.

Race #8 – Axtell = Steadied at the 3/8th’s pole and still managed a big run down the lane.

Race #10 – Escapist = He was far back in the field and came rolling late in the lane

Race #4 – Bumped hard at the start forcing to take up – Still managed to stalk and grab the lead finally gave way to the winner who had a cleaner trip.





Santa, the Easter Bunny and Hot Tips

We listen to the people who hang at the bar and talk about the real hot horse in the feature. The groom betting his weekly check at the windows with a halter hanging over his shoulder as we crane our neck to hear the inside scoop. – If you had to choose one of the above which has the best chance at being real ? – Go ahead, give it your best shot !


There is no way one man can fly around the world with a sled full of toys. We stopped believing right about the time we didn’t get our Red Ryder BB gun as we would have “shot our eye out.” – Santa lives in the North Pole dressed in a full coat; how could he stand the heat of India, Africa and Saudi Arabia ? – And the capper that seals the deal. How many fat men can slide down a chimney ? – The end result there can be no Santa.

Easter Bunny

First off this guy gives me the creeps ! – How many bunnies are 9 feet tall and hop around the world delivering our favorite candy without a large bag ? Did you ever see a picture of him with one over his shoulder ? Me neither. – There can be no such animal.

Hot Tips

If you had a secret that could make you a great deal of money would you share it with many others to drop the price you stand to gain ? – No way ! – Why would others hanging at the bar putting in long hours tell you for the low-low price of free ? How many people in your life have shared a lifetime of hard work give you a hot tip just for the asking ? – The answer is none. It only makes sense.

But there is an answer that will give you an edge. It’s not a secret, and available for all to use. – You’re right here and don’t need to go any further. Winning Ponies does this for a living and the rewards are strong. We are in the business of helping you break down the race and use the Winning Ponies data to make your day a winner. – There is no such thing as a hot tip and I have worked at five different tracks. How many people have you known think they have no chance and are out to lose ? You can’t pay the bills with running poorly and you won’t be in the game for long. We have eliminated Santa, the Easter Bunny and now Hot Tips. – They aren’t real and can’t be trusted. – But one thing you can trust is Winning Ponies:

  • Easy to use color coded tiers that show how the race will take shape
  • The E-Z Win Forms can be used by seasoned gamblers and new players at first glance
  • Handy Icons that draw your attention to details that sometimes elude our handicapping
  • Full past performaces with rider / trainer details and winning percentage numbers
  • Tier levels that show how the runners match up with the rest of the field
  • All info is in real time and you’ll get results, scratches, changes in track conditions as they happen
  • The change of weather tab allows you to adapt to the weather to get a brand new set of E-Z Win Forms for FREE if the track comes up muddy, sloppy, or off the turf for NO additional cost !
  • You are only charged for what you use versus many others who charge one price no matter how many races used
  • There are stories, blogs, free selections, the Winning Ponies Internet Show bringing you the best names in racing to keep you up to speed with what is happening
  • Free handicapping contests, free race replays, and results posted as soon as the race is official to see how the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms are doing on the day


You might as well bet with the most reliable system for horse racing. – Winning Ponies wants to prepare you for your day at the races. With over $3,751,025 in exotic payouts to date, why would you look anywhere else ? – Winning at the races takes preparation, and let Winning Ponies do the homework while you decide how you’ll use the data. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !


Word on the Street

Nothing like the ramblings of the word on the street. You can’t learn the word from night school, and it doesn’t come in a book. So we have to rely on the whispers and rants from the folks on the scene. – Just remember you heard it right here as we make our way down the back alleys to find the best info. Or, just cruise the grandstand or Race Book and you’re sure to hear the truth.

Hit it with your purse next time

Now this may be a little too much at times; but it may be the rare occurrence when it fits like a glove. – Julien Leparoux was riding the second choice Classic Empire in the 142nd running of the Preakness. He was sent off at (2-1) and broke from the gate with gusto. He was on the outside shoulder of Derby winner Always Dreaming and never let him have a breath. – As they hit the 3/8th’s pole he ranged up and put a head in front. This is when the wagering world took a big gulp and swallowed their wagers as the writing was on the wall. Classic Empire, the two-year-old champion was back and it was going to be good to see him score. – They hit the top of the lane and he drew off by a couple and looked good as gold. Well, except for the fresh-leg runner Cloud Computing who was being ridden like he broke out of jail. – Leparoux sat chilly and gave some swats to keep his mount running. Most of the time this would have been good enough to get the job done but the colt chasing was being ridden by top-money rider Javier Castellano. Julien rode with soft hands and simple strokes of the crop as Javier looked like his tail was on fire and he was in hurry to get to the wire.

I’m not one to go on about a rider’s skill set, but this was a weak ride in my opinion. – Put Jerry Bailey on and he would’ve won by three; Irad Ortiz would have drifted out a bit and swung the stick like Jack Nicholas. Gary Stevens would’ve been heard chirping from the next town and going to the whip. Calvin Borel would have dropped to the rail and stayed low like a “lizard on a log.” – You get the idea. There were a 1,000 others who would’ve gotten the job done. When a horse is beat by three or better he may have been facing a  better runner. But when it comes down to a head-bob it falls in the hands of the rider nine outta’ ten times.  He may have taken too much gas out of the tank staying close to Always Dreaming, the track may have been too fast, or the sun was starting to shine. Whatever excuse you choose it comes down to the “Flying Frenchman” not being aggressive when the real running began.


Betting the smaller tracks

I love to bet New York racing plain and simple. The only track I don’t play is Finger Lakes ( no offense please). – I enjoy wagering on Gulfstream and Fair Grounds in the winter, and Santa Anita or Del Mar anytime they run. The big purses, the rider colony and some of the best trainers in the country. You get the message. –  But I’m here to tell you first hand there is some real value to be had wagering on the small tracks.

The smaller ovals offer runners on the way up, on the way out, or looking for easier company. Most of the colony is made up of riders who fit the same as well as the trainers. – They usually have full fields of cheaper company but who cares ? That means better payoffs for you and me ! – I love to see the full fields, and the small six horse affairs. Both offer good value. – I’ve caught more (5-2) shots in short fields, and many races that can be used a “free-spot” for pick-fours. – The pools won’t set a national record but some of the small tracks are showing solid gains in handle. – I enjoy a full field of cheap condition claimers, and what would normally be (2-1) is now (7-2) and higher. I call that value everyday. – If you saw $7.20 laying on the ground wouldn’t you pick it up ? Yeah, me too.

Nothing like going to Keeneland, or watching historic Saratoga. But the bang for my buck has been playing the small tracks. – This past weekend I was watching Pimlico like most horse players and how many times do we play that oval ? – The smaller tracks have solid meets and runners looking to score. I don’t know many smaller trainers who are giving their horse a race to target a purse in two months. – I was getting smacked around early betting Old Hilltop, and the little track kept me in action with a few winners. – Why not hunker down and stick to my knitting ? – I fell into the trap of being a “One Day Pro” wagering on Pimlico. I won’t make another bet no matter how many days they run, but I’ll be on hand when a field of 12 goes to post going a 1 1/6 on the turf at the smaller oval. Give it a think and see how you feel. Are you going to bet the track you never play because they have the Preakness, or play the oval you follow ? – I have a friend who is a great track announcer. He would pass on the G-1’s and jump right into the mule races at Ferndale. Stick to the races you have a good winning percentage, and shy away from drinking the cool-aid for one day. – You’ll thank me later.



Four Ways to Make More Money at the Races

If it sounds like a pitch from Better Call Saul, relax it’s not. – No fast gimmicks, magic mojo or secret handshake required. This is about you and what you’re doing when making a bet. Some feel they have it all together, and right about now you can stop reading. There’s no pitch, just a checklist on what’s going on with your betting patterns. – A long time race tracker asked me a question the other day as I was walking into work. – “Hey, who do you like today ? ” Simple question that has anything but an easy answer. It’s not quantum math and doesn’t involve going to night school. Just a little restraint, patience and focus. – Who do you like today ?


1. – I never pick up my racing data without learning something new everyday

My Dad used to tell me the defintion of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting a new result. Well, that is about as close as it gets to nailing it on the head. – Try something new as we are heading toward the second jewel in the Triple Crown. – Look at whatever data you choose and decide if you have enough information, the right type of information, and does it serve your needs. Before you tell me that it has numbers and running lines, that is not the question.  -Does your program, pp’s or data allow you to filter out the pretenders from the contenders ? Does it alert you to the little things that may elude you in handicapping ? – And most importantly does it give you an overview of the race and how it takes shape ?


2. – Time to go on a racing diet

Just like the doc tells us when we weigh in at the office, it’s time to cut back. – You don’t need to have ten tracks to follow. There is no way you can keep up with ten tracks and know all about the bias, the top riders and trainers, and who targets the oval. – By cutting back this allows you to focus on a few tracks. I would use no more than three. From the 3 tracks, you’ll need to cut out the races which drain your bankroll. – Don’t like maidens ? No turf races ? No condition claimers for you ? – No problem. If you have 30 races to examine, cut back to ten races to potentially play. – From the ten races you select make 5-6 your best bets and go from there. Trust me, the “tap dancing” method doesn’t work. You win $30 on a race and give back $42 the next you didn’t even like. – Stop the madness and cut back a bit. – You’ll thank yourself later.


3. – A  ladder will help you climb to greater heights

No worries about climbing a 40 foot ladder. – This is about making your bets count. If you make a $5 win bet, make a $10 place wager. I know, it sounds steep. By cutting back on the number of races you play you’ll be able to play within your means. Simply double your wager in the place end. If you are a show player make sure the runner is 10-1 or higher and has at least 7-8 horses in the race before you apply the ladder technique. – If you’re a $2 player it is $2 win and $4 to place; $10 to win, $20 to place. – Remember, you are cutting back on your total number of races and you’ll have the bankroll to cover your day. – Now as you grasp the idea we’ll allow for a small bet or two off the chart. – Diets don’t work and if you keep yourself on too strict of a program you’ll lose interest. – If you are up 20% on your bankroll for the day, have two races chosen ahead of time you would like to make a small wager. Think of it like having a “cheat item” on your diet and you’ll have a little more action. These two races will be your two smallest bets of the day. If you have a built in reward you’ll find yourself having a complete day at the races. – The ladder bet will allow you to cover your wallet. How many times have you bet $10 to win and nothing to place on the runner who pays $4.80 to place ? If you used the ladder it would have been $10 to win and $20 to place. That runner who ran second now has you up $18 on the race and ready to move forward with a profit.


4. – Cut out the distractions

Leave the beer in the bar, the entourage outside, and get ready to focus. You can meet the boys for a brew later. Who knows ? You may even pick up the tab. – Over the many years I’ve worked in racing I’ve watched many try and bring it all together while wagering. It may work every now and then, but it is a losing propostion in the long run. – The commercials and billboards where you see well-dressed pretty people jumping and cheering is a mirage. – The hard truth it’s all about winning unless you’re out for a day with Aunt Sadie. In that case, just enjoy your day and write off your loss as the price of entertainment. But if you want to win, you’ll need to cut out white noise static that absorbs your ability to focus. – Trust me, this has been the iceberg that sinks very good gamblers.

Primetime Derby

I’ve always enjoyed Derby day. – The entire undercard is chock full of value and the day culminates with the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”  Most would say don’t fix something if it ain’t broke, and far be it from me to do anything as such. But there is the inner-horse player that speaks to me. – After reading the Downey Profile and Paulick Report, the racing voice in my heart has to wonder if it could grow beyond our wildest dreams.

Maybe a small tweak here and there could make a significant difference. – We’re not going to change the distance or bring in the hurdles. Just a few small tweaks that may move the bottom line in a big way.

According to the wagering and handle reports it was a pretty good day in Louisville. Here is a glimpse from the Downey Profile:

Kentucky Derby fans weathered rainstorms and unseasonal cold. Announced attendance was 158,070, the seventh highest attendance figure in track history. Wagering from all-sources was the highest all-time on both the Kentucky Derby Day program and on the Kentucky Derby race. Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby Day program totaled $209.2 million, a 9% increase over the 2016 total of $192.6 million, and an increase of 8% over the previous record set in 2015 of $194.3 millionWagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby race increased 12% to $139.2 million from 2016’s $124.7 million and a 1% increase over the previous record set in 2015 of $137.9 million.

Not bad shooting for a sport that has been given a standing eight-count many times over the years. – I work at a daytime track and there are a bevy of others that run during the day as well. – How about sitting down and taking a deep breath ? – What would you think of having EST tracks start at 10:00 am and build into the Derby card ? – You conduct live racing and keep the action building all day long. You have your 8-9 race program and finish in a couple of hours. – Now you’ve probably started wondering how in the heck can all this work as Churchill Downs has always started early. – How about having the Kentucky Derby card in Louisville begin at 2:00 pm ?

All EST tracks must be finshed by the first post time of Churchill Downs. – If the entire country worked around the Chruchill schedule maybe a lower rate could be negotited with CDI. – They will have center stage and most of the country would watch and wager on their product. – OK, if all tracks won’t buy into the process, keep the EST tracks on this schedule. If you take a little glimpse into the top metered markets, you’ll see many fit right into the EST region.



1. Louisville 39.0/65
2. Ft. Myers 21.3/39
3. Cincinnati 18.8/37
4. Buffalo 17.9/31
5. Knoxville 17.0/28
6. Dayton 16.2/29
7. Pittsburgh 15.5/30
8. Cleveland 15.1/29
9. Richmond 15.0/29
10. West Palm Beach 14.8/27
11. Columbus 14.6/28
12. Indianapolis 14.0/27
13. Baltimore 13.5/28
14. Greenville 13.2/21
15. Philadelphia 13.0/24
16. Orlando 12.7/25
T17. Milwaukee 12.5/28
T17. Nashville 12.5/21
19. Washington, DC 12.4/26
20. Detroit 12.2/24



By having early post times at your track and others. You would be finished with racing, and this would cut down on traffic that stiffles the betting lines. When I saw the Derby crowd this year, I knew it could be a nightmare getting your bet down. – The time change would alleviate the traffic in the betting lines and allow your location to focus on making changes for the Churchill card. – I like the idea of building into the big show.

Churchill Downs would have daylight for the greatest part of the day and they installed lighting to illuminate the track. – Is it starting to sound like it could work ? – How about Twinspires ? Here is how they did on the big day: “TwinSpires, the country’s leading online and mobile betting platform and the official betting partner of the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, recorded $32.8 million in handle on Churchill Downs races for the Kentucky Derby Day program, an increase of 22% over the prior year. TwinSpires’ handle on the Kentucky Derby alone race was $20.1 million, up 22% over 2016.” – I wonder if they would do even better if there was one track, and the big race would go off in primetime ? – Maybe we’ll get to find out if we all sit down and work out a schedule.

No more running on top of each other spreading the wagering dollar thin. – The idea of a prime time Derby would allow many to enjoy the races later in the day. No more pre-wagering just to get your bet down if you’re working, and by having lesser competition there may be a grand opportunity to showcase the day even more. – All ideas as I read positive signs. It’s not a “don’t fix it if ain’t broke” scenario. It’s a focus on the big show and allow your facility to maximze wagering and attendance. By having the later time, racing would dominate the day as a massive celebration. Tracks and OTB’s could offer action from early to close. The ADW’s wouldn’t get bogged down with early track traffic, and the main focus could be on the Derby.

Wagering was up, the weather was nasty and the track still did great numbers. I wonder what it would be like to catch your local oval early and stay for the day ? – Music, contests, and promtions could build during the day and by the time the Derby took to the track there would be a bigger concentration of wagering on the show. – We need to keep an open mind when it comes to changing what we’ve always done. With the track drying out during the day and one of the best track crews in the nation. I have to wonder what would Derby day have looked like with hours more to work the track. – We may have had a fast Kentucky Derby that would have basked in the glow of illuminated Churchill, and allowed many more households to enjoy the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”