Faces in the Crowd

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 17, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

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I stand up every race and look out the windows for a few minutes. I’m looking for the longtime faces that have been coming to the races as we both have gained a little age to our looks. – The fans are the best part of the game, and having my booth close enough to speak with players is always enjoyable. This past week was like many others over the years and I can’t say they are my best memories. When the familiar faces begin to fade and eventually disappear it is part of the process. – Not one of my favorites but one we all must deal with.

I’ve always kept names out of the blog as many would have not wanted to draw attention. They enjoyed the quiet down-low position. – Last year I was informed of a gent who had a form of cancer. I can remember over the years how he would park in the up-close areas and give us a tip. When you were a parking lot kid that was how you remembered patrons. – I thought he must have been a lucky patient as I still saw him at the races. He would sit in the same seat and I could hit him with a paper airplane with my eyes closed. Funny thing how players are creatures of habit.

He was sitting in the race book one day and had a dull look to his face. Oxygen attached and he raised a weak hand giving a wave as he saw me walk past. I never really gave him any thought until I was walking to my car. – The next day I heard he was back in the hospital and he drove himself right after the races. – I guess it’s a good thing to get to do what you love, and even as he was in a very weakened state he was still at the races. – It was a week prior that I heard he and his wife made the trip to Del Mar. He always wanted to see the house that “Bing Built” and even with his condition he made the trek. I heard he won over a $1,000 on the trip and his wife said he loved it. – It was just a few days later he passed away quietly with family and friends. – His face will be missed and the place will be a little more empty as I pass by the race book.

About two days later I saw an old pal. We are about the same age and he always greets with a hug and a handshake. – “How Ya’ doing, Eddie ? Been a long time and looks like Father Time knows just how to find us.’ – No truer words were ever spoken as my long brown hair has more salt than pepper and his thick black locks have retreated to the back of his noggin. – We talked about the races and work, and it was then I asked the question. – “How’s your dad doing? I haven’t seen him in quite awhile.”

His smile faded a bit and he told me he had been moved to a retirement community. – “He’s taken care of and doesn’t want for a thing. – He looks pretty much the same but can’t remember anyone. He has Alzheimer’s and it has been tough.” – I listened as he told me how the facility tends to his every need and how they eventually move into other wings when time dictates. It was a sense of sorrow filled with relief. – There wasn’t a time when I wouldn’t see them at the track together. They were “betting buddies” and the years rolled by with scenes of watching them root like crazy for a horse they both played. – The snapping fingers and whipping of the rolled program against their side will always remain. – I remember when his dad had a nice pick-four. He was so nervous and was cashing at the IRS window. – It may have been his first, or maybe he was nervous his betting buddy wasn’t there as he had to work. – The memories of watching them together and share the love of a sport will last a lifetime. – His son walked up and watched me call a race. We talked the entire time and we took a selfie together. – “Ed, I want to show this to dad. I always hope he might remember a face.”

 

Call that old friend, go the races, and enjoy. – Those are the words of wisdom for a life well lived as a racing fan….

This Week in Racing

Nothing like a cliff note version of what’s going on. Don’t think of it as a cheat sheet as there are many issues that deserve a fuller explanation. – But here are a few items that caught my eye and as usual, the opinions here are just that. Remember what your high school teacher used to tell you. 1. – Don’t take yourself too seriously. #2 – Take in all info before taking a stance. #3 – See rule #1….

 

Keeneland raises the takeout

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If you’ve been under a rock or incommunicado, the Brigadoon of the racing world has raised the takeout rate. The win-place-show will go from 16% – 17.5 % and some exotic wagers will jump from 19% – 22%. – Now before you start sweating and threaten to quit betting Keeneland. Here is a little excerpt from the Paulick Report: Racecourses in Kentucky are allowed to increase take out to the maximum percentages when daily on-track handle averages lower than $1.2 million, which has been the case at Keeneland for several years. Churchill Downs boosted its rates to the same thresholds in 2014, and records indicate that despite horseplayer backlash handle has continued to increase slightly over the past several years, from $501.3 million in 2014 to $511.8 million in 2015 and $516.9 million last year.

All this and a bottle of beer will make for some great talk. When the bottom line comes out. It won’t matter a hill of beans. That’s the reason they are raising the rates in the first place. – There will be threats a plenty from horse player groups, and many will start handicapping Ajax Downs instead. – Keeneland has given us full fields, incredible purses, and stakes that draw runners from around the world. – Yeah, I’m gonna’ quit betting that signal right now…..

Before you have my noggin examined. Here are some feelings from a handicapper who enjoys being called a gambler. – Keeneland is raising rates to bolster the purses. They are not putting it in their pockets, and just because it’s not raining now isn’t a good reason not to buy an umbrella. – I’m not a big fan of raising or even lowering the rate. Leave them alone. – If you remember the lowering craze of Canterbury Park you’ll have another reason of why we should leave the rates alone. I must admit they swung for the fences and the management tried to please their greatest asset; the players. Here is an article from the Thoroughbred Daily News with an Op/Ed piece from 1/20/17 – http://bit.ly/2fFr4pD

I’m not crazy about the idea of having my win payoff drop from $9.80 – $9.20, but that’s just business. We’ve trusted in the leadership Keeneland has always provided. Don’t only be happy when it benefits you and poo-poo an idea if you lose a couple of pennies on the dollar. – If you’ve never been to Keeneland make the trip and see for yourself. If you’re on the side that is threatening to jump off the wagering wagon. Just sit back and have a nice Kentucky Bourbon. Sip slowly while you watch the thundering hooves round the turn for home. – Just think to yourself on Fall Stars Weekend how you’d rather be watching and wagering on Acme Downs in a state of confusion.

 

Throw the book at him

Athletes have been trying to gain an edge since the fig leaf was removed in the 1st Olympics for the sprinters. – We all have tricks used to give us that little extra something. But, sooner than later the sporting police catches up with you and exposes you to the light of truth.  Indiana Grand has suspended Didiel Osorio for being in possession of an illegal electrical device following the fifth race at Indiana Grand on Thursday. – According to the Paulick Report;  According to senior state steward Stan Bowker, Indiana Horse Racing Commission investigator Toni Sperle conducted a search that began in the winner’s circle while Osorio was weighing in after the fifth race and ended in the jockeys’ room. Electrical devices, made from small batteries, wires, and electrical tape, can be concealed in a jockey’s hand during a race and are used to shock or stimulate a horse. Commonly referred to as buzzers, batteries or machines, they are illegal in racing and can lead to lengthy suspensions.

This isn’t the first time a “machine” has been used to give that little extra umm-pff to a runner’s effort. They are homemade for the most part and look like they’re built at the kitchen table with grand dreams of beating the system. – The first time I saw one was at a farm where my horse was turned out. They had a small training track with an old starting gate. I would see old nags come flying out of the gate with their tail on fire.

Osorio was removed from his remaining mounts at Indiana Grand on Thursday and a summary suspension was issued Friday that will be reciprocated in other states. An initial hearing has been set for Aug. 22. The summary suspension, pending completion of an investigation, cites a violation of IHRC Rule #71 IAC 7.5-6-5 (d) (4), and states that “possession of an electrical device on the grounds of an association is conduct that is against the best interest of horse racing or compromises the integrity of racing.” Osorio, a 23-year-old native of Panama, has been riding at both Indiana Grand and Ellis Park in Kentucky, where he ranks third in the current jockey standings, with 13 wins from 80 mounts. Osorio was leading rider at Ellis Park in 2015, winning 25 races from 171 mounts. He began his U.S. riding career in 2013 and has 235 wins from 2,037 mounts. Bowker said the maximum penalty the stewards can assess for possession of an electrical device is a one-year license suspension and $5,000 fine, but the case may be referred to the commission, which has the authority to issue additional sanctions.

After reading the report I just shook my head. – Indiana Grand has great purses, exciting races and a future that looks bright ahead. They don’t need people like this in the sport and more importantly calling into question the integrity of the track. I hope the book is tossed at him and they build a room under the jail for this guy. – Sorry, Didiel. I enjoyed watching you ride. – You had some talent and a bright future, but now we’ll never know.

Going Back to the Basics

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There are good days, great days, and ones you would rather forget about. For me, the most painful losses used to be getting snapped right at the wire. You know the feeling where you have the lead and even start believing you may hang on as the wire is coming. Only after what seems a small eternity the photo sign goes down and your number is in 2nd. – The early gray hair started coming in quicker and before you know it you start looking like the longtime trackers who make it day-in-day-out. The photo pain takes a toll, but the one time you hang on in the shadow of the wire it makes you forget a hundred losses. Victory is such sweetness.

 

Lately, I have given myself a new nickname. – Ladies and gents, pleased to meet your acquaintance. “I’m Mr. 3 outta’ 4.” – This has been going on for a couple of weeks, and I’ve started to question everything I’ve been doing. – I was just about to give up and take a break when a buddy of mine gave me sage-like wisdom. – ” When you are in a slump or barely miss you play your way out.” – Now, this I have heard, learned, and have employed over the years. – But this time it was for big bucks every time and you find yourself being flinchy when the punches start to fly. This is normal and you can only take so many shots before you start doubting your own moves. – It’s not as bad as the old movie shown above, but that movie poster fits my mental state of mind as of late.

This time I decided to follow the old pee-wee football advice. “Don’t get too fancy, just stick to the basics.” – This is when I reached into my black bag of handicapping tricks and came out with an old friend that has helped me outta’ of the corner many times. – I started making small to medium size place bets. You won’t get rich but you’ll start paying a little closer attention to details you may have forgotten. – When you make a larger pick-four or pick-three ticket you have to have a sizeable bankroll and be ready to go all-in. When you start making the manageable place wagers your confidence begins to come back. – Think of it like a baseball player who is not doing well at the plate. He goes back to the basics and wants to make contact with the ball. Then you try and place the ball. After that, you go back to swinging away. Every once in awhile we all need to go back to the basics and find the groove.

The place bets started rolling and was going home with a $50 – $100 more on the day. I’m getting back in the groove and I think I’m going to keep this pace for awhile. I have been enjoying the races, and I’m feeling my groove again. – The marquee races fill the weekend and the big runners will be going to post soon. This capper will stick to his knitting and stay on course. – I’ll know when it’s time to pull the trigger. Nothing like looking for the big score in a $1 million dollar pick-four pool, but I’ll keep to task and be ready when the mood hits.

 

Best of luck, and may all your photos be winners….

 

 

 

The Happy Horseplayer / August 1, 2017

Another month in the books and “The Happy Horseplayer” enjoyed every minute. – The eternal optimist looks forward to more fun in the sun as racing is just starting to heat up. The past month left me with fond memories, nice scores, and a few bad beats. But all in all, I wouldn’t trade it for a pick-four on Derby Day. Well, let me think about that last part again.

 

Perry Ouzts

 

I watched Perry ride when I was a young man. How young? – My dad was driving, and getting a license was a dream in the distance. July 7th had Perry Ouzts turning 63-yrs-young, and there was a special day honoring him. His 43-yr career is far from over, and this is one of the most fierce competitors I have ever watched. He treats a $5,000 claiming race like it’s a stake. There is never a dull effort from “Scoot n Boot,” and I love the way he jogs his horse back slowly to the winner’s circle. I have the best seat in the house watching, and the look on his face savors every second like it’s his first win. – I’ve watched racing all of my life and never has there been a rider who loves winning as Perry Wayne Ouzts.

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The month continued to heat up and on July 22, 2017, he became the 10th all-time winningest rider in Thoroughbred racing as Perry passed Hall Of Fame retired rider, Jorge Velasquez. – The day started early as Perry was walking the track about 90 minutes to post looking over the course and thinking about his day. When he won the first race and needed three more I called down to let them know to get the sign ready as Perry rolls them off in bunches. – When he won the 3rd race and was two away, I started thinking about his journey in the saddle. He had a couple more mounts for owner Maggi Moss and trainer Tom Amoss. It was almost too good to be true as they were dropping in class and looked to fit Ouzts like a glove. He won on a first timer by Kettle Corn who had his 1st starter on the track as a winner. As he readied to ride the next one, I would have bet dollars to donuts this was the magic win. The photo below shows Silverdollardreams striding away giving Perry Wayne Ouzts his next milestone. Photo credit: Coady Photography

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Congratulations, Perry Ouzts! – Long may you ride…..

 

When you think of match races you’ll conjure up images of War Admiral and Seabiscuit. – The race was taken off the turf, and officially it wasn’t a match race but it was down to two horses. It had the seasoned veteran Perry Ouzts versus the up and coming Cory Orm. – They didn’t get more than a half a length apart the entire race, and Ouzts was in front only one time during the race. It was about five feet before the wire.

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I won’t cry too much on my bad beat of the month. – It was the Haskell Invitational and I came back to McCraken for a $700 pick-four payoff. – I had the gamut of emotions that only racing can provide, and boy did it deliver chills down the arm. After the race, I mumbled to myself for about two minutes before I started working on a pick-four for Del Mar. – I finally cashed a nice ticket for $1600 for a 50-cent version. But just relive a moment in time as you watch the Haskell one more time.

 

 

Until next month, this is “The Happy Horseplayer” signing off and hoping all of your photos are winning ones!

 

 

A Day for the History Books

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments >>

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The day started like any other as I made my way to work. I like to get there early to beat the traffic, prepare for the day and look over the track as the tractors put finishing touches on the surface. The sun was hot and the air was filled with thick humidity you could cut with a knife. The walk from the car would put a gleam of sweat across your brow, and when you walked into the cool building it was a welcome relief from the brutal heat. As I settled in and started unpacking my bag. I noticed a small rider dressed in his pants and boots and a white shirt. He was walking through the winner’s circle on his way to the edges of the track.

He was walking back and forth digging the toe of his shiny black boot into the surface. A bounce here and there and looking at the rail for depth. – It had the look of a boxer readying for the big match.  – I grabbed my binoculars and took a closer look at the rider. As I focused in on the short blond man coming into focus. He had a look of study and a steely gaze in his eyes. – As I was watching from afar the phone rang. – The voice on the other end was one of the marketing managers. ” Ed, do you think Perry Ouzts will get the record today?” – As I watched with binoculars and listening to my call only a few words came to mind. – ” Yes, this is the day. He has the look of a prize fighter waiting to get in the ring. If he wins the first, get everyone together for the winner’s circle celebration. He’ll roll them off quickly today. He’s ready.” 

The first race was with Huginn (Hu-Gin) and he scored by five lengths for his main man Larry Smith – They are winning (28%) together as a team and in a typical Ouzts fashion he went wire-to-wire. – The phone rang again and I gave them the same message as earlier. “Just get ready. He’ll get the other three wins today in quick order. His win record stood at 6,792 when he rode his black Harley Davidson into the parking area. He was 11th behind Hall of Fame rider Jorge Velasquez. – Pretty strong company to be compared, and notching your wins on the small oval can be a bit more tricky. No huge graded winners that cruise home easily, as he did his winning on cheap claimers and allowance runners. His biggest win was in 2007 aboard Old Man Buck in the $200,000 Miller Lite Cradle Stakes at River Downs.

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Perry Wayne Ouzts hails from Rivervale, Arkansas being raised with cousins Jackie and Earlie Fires. – Jackie’s career was cut short due to an injury that left him paralyzed in 1977, and Earlie Fires was a longtime speed demon rider on the Chicago circuit. Perry never wanted to be the best rider in the world. He once said; “I just wanted to be the best rider in Rivervale.” – That statement was larger than life as Earlie Fires is 12th on the all-time winning list for Thoroughbred racing.

Perry couldn’t win the 2nd race as he didn’t have a mount. - Race #3 had him drawing away by 5 with Sweet Angel Rose for another long time trainer he rode, Ron Kahles. This left two more for history for the 63-yr-old who looked more like 25 when he drives for home with a wicked left-hand stick reminding his mount to go to work.

Race #4 had Perry aboard Funnel Cake for trainer Thomas Amoss and owner Maggi Moss. – His runner dropped him in the post parade and ran around in circles as outriders tried to corral him back when Perry Ouzts stepped up and raised his hand when Funnel Cake just walked up gently and Perry got a leg back up. When they broke from the gate Perry went right to the front and didn’t look back. – This race tied him with Jorge Velasquez and was the first  winner for sire Kettle Corn who may be one to watch for future progeny. 

One win away from history for the gentleman rider who was cool as a cucumber trotting back slowly to the winner’s circle as if he was savoring every second like he always does. He just takes his time relishing the victory like it was his first. – He was a long way from Beulah Park in 1973 when he rode his first winner Rablu for trainer W.J. Danner. – This small man with the heart of a lion was one away from history. When you make the top ten in anything, you’re in rarefied air.

Race #5 – had him aboard a gray named SilverDollarDreams for trainer Thomas Amoss and Maggi Moss. – This would two-in-a-row for the connections if Perry could guide him home. – He broke 4th and was up close in the two path staying out of trouble. As they started into the far turn I could see his mount accelerate and Perry looked to be loaded. He snatched the lead at the top of the lane and my heart started beating fiercely. I could feel the sweat run down my back when I said at the 1/8th pole that “history stands in the balance.” – A couple of strides later Perry went to his patented left-hand stick and began to draw off when I said the first thing that came to mind; ” Ladies and gentlemen you are seeing history in the making as Perry Ouzts cruises for home becoming the 10th all-time leading rider.”

Perry doesn’t celebrate, and when I watched him crank his arm in a winners motion I knew this was a weight off his shoulders as he had finally done it. – Perry Wayne Ouzts was a long way from Rivervale, Arkansas and he was the 10th winningest rider in Thoroughbred history. – As he came back to the winner’s circle he raised both arms like he was taking flight. – He had made it and was celebrating like a young boy savoring the moment. As he popped off his horse he immediately went over to his wife Toni and gave her the biggest hug. – I called down to the jock’s room and congratulated Perry. His humble thank you was exactly what I was expecting, and told him what a pleasure it has been watching him ply his trade these many years. – Perry chuckled and thanked me once again. It was his next words that gave me a glimpse of the competitor Perry Wayne Ouzts has always been. – “Ed, I’m going after Mario Pino next. He’s my next target. ” – That summed it up for the man from Rivervale, Arkansas. He enjoyed the moment but was ready to go back to work. – Congratulations, Perry Ouzts. Job well done my friend, long may you ride!

 

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Learning at the Foot of the Master

What a weekend for showing the ups and downs of Thoroughbred racing. Arrogate has the racing world scratching their head and the bridges around the country had standing room only as he tossed in a clunker. – Fast forward to the next day at the Spa. Bob Baffert still hurting from Arrogates lack of interest sent Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman to Saratoga for the Coaching Club Oaks. – Abel won this day by a slim margin and survived an inquiry and objection. Jose Ortiz had claimed a foul against the “Money Man” Mike Smith. I drew a breath at the thought and then came to my senses. Jose Ortiz is the next up and coming bad boy on the scene and wins more races than the law allows everywhere he goes. – Before we get into any type of guessing, take another look at the race that had gamblers talking.

 

 

This YouTube clip showed the Arrogate race prior and the commentary at Saratoga. – Fast forward to 2:17 and then again to 2:21. This will show the race and an up-close down the stretch view. You may want to stop and go back and watch a few times. – After I watched 8 times it took me back to a retired rider who had some sage-like advice. His name is Homero Hidalgo and he rode on the Ohio circuit and about every other in the country. He was a masterful tactician back in the day and knew the little tricks of the trade. – Homero would tell stories of locking horns with the biggest names of the era. There was little to no video coverage then, and riders knew where the cameras could not see them for a few seconds.

Mr. Hidalgo was a plethora of knowledge. He would tell you how riders would reach down gently and pull your boot out of the stirrup. Keeping your runners head pointed toward the rail not allowing the chaser to skim the rail and nail you at the wire.- Using the whip to sting another rider’s hand and having just enough to get up at the wire. – The stories were incredible of how the game allowed riders to intimidate and use anything possible to win.

After hearing about every story, claim, and wisdom. It took me back to one of Homer’s stories. – He was a stalwart rider who won every meet in the area while staying close to home. – “Riders would get close down the lane and get close enough to where their boot was in front of the other rider.” – Sounds simple, and when the boot was in front of the other rider he couldn’t pass unless he pulled his boot out of the irons losing ground and getting beat, or trying to fight back where he would be taken down. – Mike Smith is the best money rider bar none. Jose Ortiz is going to be the next name shooting up the list of the all-time greats in time. – At the break, Elate stumbled to his knees and Ortiz gathered her up and made a perfect rail skimming ride. Smith had Abel Tasman moving early sensing he was going to face dawdling fractions. – Go back to 2:21 and watch his left boot stick out a few inches.  If you’re still not sold, remember how Elate was rolling and when things got tight neither moved an inch further than the other the last 70 yards. Just watch the boot, the head of the horses not making ground and remember it was Homer Hidalgo who mentioned this to me in his many years of stories of real race riding.

I am sorry for Ortiz, but he’ll surpass many in his years to come. But Smith gave a clinic on race riding and doing what it takes to get the money. – Afterall, you didn’t think he was going to get beat on two favorites on both coasts, did you ?

 

 

 

Ironman – Perry Ouzts

I was going to River Downs for years before I started working in the parking lot as a kid. Beulah Park was a once or twice a year trek. – Years later, I returned to RD as the director of marketing. I was 1A of “The Regular Guys” and fun in the sun was the order of the day. – More years passed and I returned as track announcer at Belterra Park and Gaming. – If there was one thing that stayed the same for this racing fan could you name it? – Probably not, because you had to be my shadow to really see. But if you’re an Ohio racing fan this will be an easy answer. – These many years and different jobs one thing has remained a constant. – Perry Ouzts was riding like the wind.

Short in stature but big in heart, and one of the most fearless riders I’ve ever watched. – Perry doesn’t claim a foul, and if others claim against him he tells 100% the truth. – Long ago for a Beulah Park trip, the guys from Turfway loved a horse Perry was aboard. We had him in exactas, trifectas, pick-3’s and pick-4’s. Perry was (5-1) and drew off for fun.  – When he was summoned to the phone by the clerk of scales, he picked up the phone. ” Yep, I cut him off. Nope, I came over on him. Nope, it was my fault.” – I stood in shock as they took down our blockbuster payday with a gaping mouth along with the others. – But some things are just more important than money. You can’t put a price on integrity and honesty.

 

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I’ve seen many of the best speed riders in the game. – Perry was given the nickname “Scoot n Boot” for his ability to get a horse to break on top. When you see him on horseback he has a look like he is sitting in a chair not moving a muscle. – Some riders have to push and whip to get to the lead and others just have a communication with the horse. I think when Perry asks the horse they just respond. He knows many claimers have only so much “juice” to give and he does his on the front end a majority of the time. – He still looks like he’s sitting comfy in that chair, and I can always see where he is just by his motionless action and the small pom-pom on the top of his cap. – Oh, and the other speed rider who was my favorite in Chicago, Churchill or Keeneland was a man by the name of Earlie Fires. – Earlie is Perry’s Hall of Fame cousin whom he grew up with in Rivervale, Arkansas.

 

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Perry Wayne Ouzts

 

49,413 mounts

6,792 – wins

6,178 – 2nd place

6,107 – 3rd place finishes

17% win average and 39% in the money with his mounts

 

He is just 4 wins away from Hall of Fame retired rider Jorge Velasquez. – It is just a matter of time before he ascends the next rung on the ladder. Being the 10th leading rider in the history of Thoroughbred racing is being inducted into the rarefied air of the very best. The names we read about, and some we had the pleasure of watching. – For me, in my own backyard, it has been a pleasure to watch Perry Ouzts ply his trade. A man of few words who would rather do his talking on the back of a horse. – In the last four years, I have had the best seat in the house calling the races at Belterra Park. I have noticed that every once in a while Perry takes his horse far away from the others way behind the starting gate in the 6 1/2 furlongs chute. – Just walking slowly and talking to his mount with a hushed quiet tone only they can share. Just a magical zen-like moment where he gets his horse to relax and trust his touch. – In a matter of moments, you can bet dollars to donuts Perry Ouzts will zip to the front and play a game of catch me if you can.

 

 

 

Video Killed the Radio Call

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 13, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | 2 Comments >>

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We sat around the small transistor radio waiting for the call-to-the-post bugle on WNOP 740 am. We were transported to the track magically as Leo Underhill would take us right to the rail with his smokey voice. – This would be the follow-up to finding a newspaper and gleaning the entries and guessing who you wanted to bet a couple of bucks. A call was made to the local small-time bookmaker and away we went. – As the field assembled and loaded into the starting gate the “Jazz Ark” would bring the action right to our ears. – These were the best times as we sat on the back patio or taking a break when my dad was painting a house. This was the highlight of the day for a horse player and those few minutes of action.

When Keeneland was in session it was the call-to-the post sound from WLAP 630 am. – Mike Battaglia would call the feature race of the day from Keeneland as there was no track announcer at the time. During the day you would get a tape replay of the stretch call at 20 after and 20 til’ the hour. – Magical moments that grabbed me away from a college class to make the short jog to the car. A few times I had won a pretty good amount and my car would make the 45 minutes drive to Lexington, Kentucky.

Churchill Downs was the best as WHAS 840 am would bring you the live call of the feature race and give the rundown of results from the dulcet tones of Paul Rogers. Later to become the deep voice of John Asher. – This was racing coverage when you couldn’t make it to the track and open simulcast was 2,000 miles away in Las Vegas. – You had to have a “man” to call to get your bet down or a friend would carry your wager. As a kid falling in love with the game I didn’t think things could get any better.

 

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Fast forward to the future when the simulcast explosion took over. You were able to bet any track in the country at your local oval, and then came the advent of the ADW such as TwinSpires, Xpressbet, and TVG to name a few. You had to load in your cash and watch and wager from the comfort of your home or office anytime you wanted.  No more parking, fighting traffic and battling the elements. It was just a  click away and it was all yours. – This is great when the weather is sweltering or you don’t want to battle the Derby crowd at Churchill Downs. The ease of wagering was user-friendly and most ADWs were pretty much the same minus the rewards programs.

 

One of the best parts of the simulcast / ADW explosion was the ability to go back and watch race replays. If you are a trip handicapper this was eye-candy that would give you a visual reminder of who did what where. If you had a bad trip horse, you could go back and watch as many times as you liked or could log the name onto one of the many “Horses to Watch” lists that notify when your horse works, enters, or 48 hours before they run. – Times had changed and the track became more of a once in an awhile visit. You could get your bet down in a click of a mouse and save yourself time. – Video gave us a visual tool that made up more of a “trip” handicapper.

With the benefits of video and ease of wagering the radio call became a thing of the past. It was a fond time and you were transported magically to hear the race call from the late-great Kevin Goemmer. Oh, the days sitting on the patio with dad listening in to some of the local greats that would capture my heart and create a love affair that lasts to this day.

Three Winning Moves Before You Start Handicapping

If there was a copy of the secret sauce for your favorite burger, wouldn’t you go home and give it a try ? – There’s no reason we shouldn’t be constantly looking to improve our handicapping tool box. The idea hit me when I watched two long time race trackers holding a track betting guide alongside a program. Just because you see someone at the races all the time doesn’t make them a good handicapper. How many people do you see at the gym standing near the water cooler talking ?

Being a good handicapper isn’t picking every winner every race. That would be nice, but it just isn’t the truth. – We need to have a process where we identify possible winners and those who don’t fit the criteria. This allows players to slim down the field and focus on a couple runners. – Then after we have identified the possible winner we have to spend as much time trying to figure out how we are going to use it in wagers. – While it sounds like a bit of work, rest assured it is. But the reward can be well worth the homework.

 

1. – Simplicity = First have all of the scratches, rider changes, turf rail settings and track conditions. This will allow you to know that speed may do better on a turf set at 18 ft or better, or even though the track condition reads muddy. You see the sun shining bright in the sky and the weather report calls for warm temps and no rain. That drying track may be a good indicator of horses having the ability to “grab” down and push off the saturated track underneath even though it looks fast on top. When a track is dry it can be loose or cuppy where the ground breaks away from the feet of the horses not allowing for good traction. Get acquainted with how the track plays after a rain, and watch how many times the water trucks go around sprinkling plenty of water on dry hot days. It allows for the dry fast track to have some moisture for horses to push off and grab instead of spinning their wheels.

 

2. – Use a ladder – No, not the one in the garage, but a ladder betting system. – If you bet $5 to win, make a $10 place bet. If the odds are over 12-1 and there are 8-9 runners. Maybe a show wager is in order. Play close attention to the pools. You can’t do this much for small tracks unless they have full fields. – If you are going to make a bet to win, double your place bet to cover your wager if not win a few bucks if your horse doesn’t win. – Sounds goofy I’m sure, but it will keep you in the game more times than not.

 

3. – Slim down = Not your diet, it’s the number of tracks you play. – No more than a maximum of three. I would rather be familiar with a few tracks and know about the biases, rider and trainer colony, and who does well with certain conditions. – By narrowing your focus, this allows you to have a better handle on how you’re going to use your bankroll. Notice I didn’t say “spend your bankroll.” It is to be used as a tool to make more money. How you go about your day will effect your bottom line every single visit.

 

Using Winning Ponies will have every change, condition, and scratch as they happen in real time. – If the weather changes, no problem. You can download a brand new set of EZ Win Forms for FREE if there is a change in the weather. – The ladder wager is a long used tool to back-up your play. If you could break even by covering your costs, you’ll stay in the game longer. – By cutting back on the number of tracks you follow this keeps your focus narrowed on the races that really matter. Winning Ponies comes in handy here as well as they cover all tracks with a time tested system that may allow you to make wagers with full confidence by following their wagering guidance.

Playing the races is easy. Winning at the track is a whole new game. By keeping in mind these three basic plans you’ll start seeing your game move to the next level. -You always have Winning Ponies to have your back as they are tried and true over the test of time. - As a good friend used to tell me. – “You can’t win unless you get in.”-  So what are ya’ waiting for ? Get in the game ! 

 

The Happy Handicapper / Summer Racing

Is there anything better than jumping in the “Bet Mobile” and heading to your favorite oval ? – After meeting Bob Summers, I can say that may be one of the top three reasons for getting out of bed in the morning. We all have that big building we loved to visit with program in hand ready to do battle. Was it a large monster of an old track, or a little hidden jewel you had to leave bread crumbs to find your way back home ? Either way, they are worth the trip. – My favorite was summer track  – River Downs.

River Downs was the best summer oval that handicappers loved, or missed an opportunity to visit. – It opened in 1925, and was once called Coney Island race track. Quoting my mother who was a visitor to the races every once in awhile. ” It felt like a race track. The beauty, and the sights and smells only horse racing can bring.” – I doubt if she would have been the advertising director, but it did convey a thought from the heart. – You could hear the horses in the paddock, and the smell of freshly grilled hot dogs wafting through the air. Cigar smoke hung heavy in the air, and the banter of chatter had the feel of the trading floor on Wall Street.

The little gem along the banks of the Ohio river had some of the greats back in the day. Black Gold, Seabiscuit, and a host of others. Riders were either on their way up like Steve Cauthen who rode his first winner there, or the multitude of others who were on their declining days but could still compete with gusto at the little track. – You could say a day at the races was a little taste of something special. If you didn’t read the entries in the newspaper anything could be going on that day. Kinda’ like a little surprise worth the wait.

I made my early treks with family and eventually ventured out to play the races by myself. – I can remember the summer sun blazing down on my face as young man. When a turf race was carded this was a real treat as River Downs had a super turf course. But don’t take my word, those come from the great Laffit Pincay who rode in a stakes race. – The sounds of the late-great Kevin Goemmer brought Derby-like energy to every race. His booming voice could bring chills to your neck as he painted the action with a fine brush. – I can still remember walking to the car and that deep booming voice announced; ” If you had the 1 – 7 – 4, PLEASSSSSSE SIT DOWN !” The $64,000 payoff for the trifecta was a record and many of us stopped on the way to the car hearing the exciting news.

Tracks didn’t even think of fan education. They still had old thoughts of “build it and they will come” as racing was the only game in town at one point. – River Downs was a first that I remember bringing a fun and light way to entertain, educate and examine the game with a lighthearted view. – It was called The Regular Guy Show and was a favorite of many. This was a creation of visionary Cary Charlson who owned all of the video and graphics. – The RGS show was hosted by John Engelhardt, and he loved every second of sitting at a set built to look like a bar, and sometimes it was as the day wore on. He would have a host join him and they would handicap the card as a team. There was no individual accomplishment as if there was a winner or an exacta. It was a Regular Guy winner. – The “Miller Man” play of the day was an old time picture of a man holding a beer keg above his head and a cutout from the video truck that would insert John’s mouth and he would talk in a high pitched-tone of the Miller Man giving out his longshot of the day. – Quite a hoot a first glance, but if you looked a little closer it was the beginning of fan education. People would move around and yak and talk between races until you heard the bumper music playing over the speakers leading up to the next segment. – Fans would stop and watch on every TV in the building and pay attention to the show. – Lighthearted and fun, and true handicapping knowledge from a plethora of guests. – I made my first trip in July, 2003. – It was a couple years later that I became the 1A of the Regular Guy. – John took me under his wing and shared his 30 plus years as a race track public relations man.

As the Regular Guy show evolved into radio shows in the Cincinnati market with John and myself talking horses. The same fun and lighthearted approach was always in play. We would have call-in guests and handicap the big races and the daily card at RD. – These were some of the best years of my early life in racing.  – We always thought of it as a day camp for adults, as this was way too much fun to call it a job.

Last night I was dusting off my cabinet of racing memories. One shelf for every track I have worked. – Turfway Park for 17 years, Keeneland for a year, and River Downs for six years as director of marketing. There has even been a new shelf added as Belterra Park has become the newest additon complete with gaming and top shelf dining. – That little track which ran during the summer months and a brief fall meet was my intro to the races. There are so many people to thank and the fans I have met along the way have made the memories sweeter.

This has been the “Happy Handicapper” talking about what his heart holds dear. Summer racing is magical time where the sun beats down, and tan faced fans walk around the paddock area watching the races. There is nothing better, and if you haven’t made the trip you’ll need to venture out to Belterra Park which stands in the place of old RD. – Enjoy the summer and I’ll be checking back next month to talk about Saratoga, Del Mar, and the run to the Breeders’ Cup.