Remember Where You Came From

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 27, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

I guess it’s easy to arm chair quarterback the business plans of major racing operations, but I’m not alone when I say many have bitter opinions. This morning, I awoke reading todays, and some of yesterday’s news. No matter when you get to enjoy the musings of the high and mighty, we recall what Mom used to tell their daughters as they readied for the Prom. “Dance with who brought you.”

My first trip to Churchill Downs was mixed. It wasn’t the beauty of Keeneland, and early on it looked like an old make-shift prison. It was the not the gem of south-east Ohio in River Downs with the rolling hills of Kentucky over looking the majestic Ohio. Hell, it wasn’t even Louisville Downs where Harness racing was conducted for years. Over the years I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with some high ranking folks from the Twin Spires. They had a new vision. One where Thoroughbred racing was revered about 5 days a year with Derby weekend, Stephen Foster/Clark Handicap card, and the Breeders’ Cup. The rest was a pain in the ass, and that was a kind estimation.

Powered by the acquisitions of Big Fish Games and Oxford Casino, along with a strong Kentucky Oaks and Derby week, Churchill Downs Inc. reported an increase of $33.6 million in net revenues for 2014. The company also reported an additional $8.8 million of EBITDA generated during the KY Oaks – KY Derby week of 2014, compared with 2013 according to the Paulick Report. “Racing outside of the Kentucky Derby remains very challenging and we don’t see anything in the trends that suggests this is going to change in the near future,” Carstanjen said. “Our focus has been on our cost structure and managing  our racing operations efficiently” according to the Blood Horse. Churchill Downs Inc. officials said Feb. 26, during a conference call with  analysts and investors, that they aim to build on last year’s highly profitable  Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) week, but acknowledged they see  little opportunity for racing growth outside of that week. Does that sound promising? Go back 20 years, and tell the truth. Would you have thought CD would be “managing” (cutting back to the bare bones) Thoroughbred racing? I guess they forgot about the hard work and history of racing that allowed them to partner, buyout, and position themselves for the next 20 years. I was hoping to see myself sitting in the sun enjoying the races in my golden years. But, not only is that a long shot, but the focus on the racing product is as afterthought. Who cares about the Kentucky Derby? They’ll probably lease it off to other tracks as the Breeders’ Cup selects locations.

Also from the files of WTF, the state of West Virginia may be tipping it’s hand of things to come for all racing operations. I was reading Tom Lamarra’s “At Large” piece in the Blood Horse. He has been an guest on the Winning Ponies Internet Show many times, and is one of the good guys for the sport. After I read about West Virginia’s plan for the Greyhound industry. I started thinking this was just the tip of the iceberg, and how it would create a sparkling cocktail of change. Here is the complete article to read at your leisure, but you may want to bring a cold beverage to wash down the nasty taste http://bit.ly/1Gz3U6R.

You don’t have to enjoy dog racing, or even attend. But think about how they are stripping the industry of purse and breed development. Now, you probably say how does this effect anything but the small declining Greyhound industry? Easy. It’s the beginning of the Domino effect. The Greyhound tracks closed down apron areas for fans to enjoy the action up close.  There is little to no marketing of the sport, and advertising is non-existent. Over 95% of the purse structure came from VLT revenue. If you love horse racing, this new model is being watched. Remember the promises and plans of VLT revenue rejuvenating the racing game? I guess they forgot there would be no VLT’s, racino growth, or plans for a glitzy future without this piece of the puzzle. If you ever thought there would be a day when the promises and planners would forget their word. That time has come as we watch our date mosey to the other side of the dance floor with a new partner.

 

Working For A Living

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 25, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

People influence you everyday. Some teach you what not to do or say, and others that leave that indelible mark on your life. They live life to the fullest, and enjoy life in the moment. Some carry grudges, others talk gossip, and a rare few lift you to a better place. They know when you’re happy, and have the antidote for bringing you out of a funk. For some this will have no meaning, and for some others they immediately know what I’m feeling.

When I graduated high school I wasn’t ready to go to college. Hell, it couldn’t be farther away than the moon. My Dad had arranged for me to work construction, and the money was very good. I kind of’ thought it would be my life’s calling until I figured out quickly I hated this type of work. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this work, and it’s the backbone of the country. You work outside when it’s -10 below, and find yourself inside when it is 95 degrees with no ventilation. Dirty, hard, and demanding. It’s the perfect job for many, but it wasn’t for me. I was 18-yrs-old and every older worker used to give me sage-like advice to go to school and skip this work. Their words fell on deaf ears for awhile. I found myself working on a new job site. Most of the older men had worked with my Dad or knew of him. I was introduced to the guys in an empty trailer, and it was at this time I met a man who would stick around in my life for awhile.

His Dad was the job superintendent and we were paired to work together. Now, if you read between the lines you’ll be able to tell we always drew the easier tasks. While many of the men were carrying the heavy loads, we were washing down stairs or sweeping floors. We ended work at 4:00pm, and by 4:15 we would have our first cold beer. This went on for about a year, and his Dad was called away to Pittsburgh for a meeting. He left his number two in charge of dolling out the work, and you can bet your boots we drew the short straw that week.  Our jobs were a bit tougher to put it kindly, and my job instructions were given to me by an old man who didn’t care much for my Dad back in the day. I guess you know by now who was going to pay the interest for my old man giving him three shades of hell. That was construction. There were no suits, no dress codes except a hard hat, and every once in a awhile you would run into a jerk.

We were sent to a finished part of the building. There was an air duct that ran under the entire building, and hadn’t been cleaned for four years. A round tunnel where you had to crouch all day as it winded through the pitch dark like a maze. It went in about 30 feet and it was filled with a sludge of filth and nastiness words could not describe. As the other men were laughing, they sent us down with enough cleaning supplies for a week. It wasn’t because they cared about the job, it was so they didn’t have to see the boss’ son and his partner. As we shoveled and wore giant masks, a large fan was put above the hole to draw out any gas, smell, etc. It looked like hell and we were only 30 feet inside. My partner yelled for me to come up to him, and I was afraid to see what was in store for us. The duct was as clean as a freshly diapered baby, and we looked at each other and started laughing.

It was to punish the both of us, but sometimes in the slime and grime you find a silver lining. We walked the entire duct shaft, and it was clean all the way through. It was about this time my compadre had a brilliant idea. At lunch we would come out bitching and moaning and take an empty bucket that was suppose to be filled with dirty gloves and tools. It was actually empty, but the other men wouldn’t get near it as they thought the worst. He would take it to the dumpster where his car was parked, and he would fill it full of ice and beer for the day. We had lanterns for light, and the boss even let us take down a radio to make our living hell a little better. We talked about everything under the sun, and got to know each other better than ever. Thursday came around and we took down two buckets for our case of beer, and it was on this day our conversation took a turn.

“Hey, Ed. Why are you doing this crap. You’re always talking about the racetrack and how much you love the ponies. Why don’t you try to get on and go back to school?” For the light conversation that had filled the tunnel, my older partner was telling me to do what I loved. “Quit wasting time and get on with my life.” I was young, and had the ability to take it farther than hating what I do eight hours a day. “If you hate what you’re doing, they’re only paying you a handful of nickels to waste away your life.” It wasn’t long after that I found myself on another job, and now I was working with my brother. We didn’t have it too bad, but we sure didn’t have a love for the work. It was a sunny morning when I went down on break and called Northern Kentucky University for an admissions packet. I was lucky enough to be hired in the parking lot at Turfway Park, and my life was beginning to change. I liked it so much that I took my brother along with me.  I wasn’t making all the money in the world, but life had taken on a different view. I was doing what I enjoyed being at the track, and going to school was to prepare me for another field of work. Truth be told, I wanted to graduate and find full time employment in racing. As luck would have it, it has turned out to be a pretty interesting ride.

I saw my friend off and on for years, and as life goes you lose contact after awhile. I ran into him at the track a few times, and he was always glad to see me doing something I enjoyed. Over the years, stories replaced our visits and he became a fond memory that made me smile from time to time. Today my Dad gave me a call, and informed me an old friend of mine had passed away. As the old man talked, I drifted back to a tunnel drinking beer with a friend who came along at the right time in my life. We can hear the same advice from parents, friends, and co-coworkers. But when you hear from the right person at the right time, it can be like hearing it for the first time. My compadre spoke few words, and I wanted to change my life’s direction. I’m glad my Dad showed me what hard work looked like, and I’m grateful for my week in the hole with a man who gave me some of the best advice. “Mark, words will not do justice thanking you for changing the conversation that day. You were right, I’ve never regretted a moment working in racing, and being happy outweighs having extra money.” Rest in peace my friend.

If It Were Easy…

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 20, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

If it were easy, then everybody would do it. – These words harken back to a time when racing was starting to get into my blood. I loved everything about the game. Harness, Thoroughbred, and everything in between. I couldn’t get enough of the thrill of walking the shed row, seeing my horse workout, and bringing friends to share the moment. I wanted to be a part of the game, or was I mistaken?

When I was young, my Mom called a local Harness track and asked if they had a program for drivers. It was pretty easy to see I wouldn’t make weight as a jockey, and I loved being around the giant beauties. They said there was “some type of provisional program,” but couldn’t give her the details. At the time I was pretty distraught. I could see myself laying back in the sulky, and holding the rail until the first glimpse of the “lightning lane.”  My colors would be neon orange with a black cap,and a black $ on my back. I can remember back to my younger years and recall in precise detail the silk colors of every barn and driver. That time has come and gone, and every once in awhile I venture down to the Red Mile and watch the big time names roll into town for the Grand Circuit.

I started my horse ownership with two friends. If there is ever a way to get rid of friends, just have some money involved. We all started off just wanting to pay the barn bills  and have some fun. That’s all said and good during the high times, but try making that house payment  monthly bill and you’ll soon find out why they call it the Sport of Kings. I used to go out in the morning before my college classes and watch him work. There couldn’t be a better job in the world than a horse trainer. You got to be around the horses, get them to the races, and make pretty good money if you balance your operation. Man, if there was ever a job, this one was meant for me!

As I sit in front of my computer, my region has a set an all-time record low. The wind chill reading was – 21, and only a crazy person would be out in this weather. That’s what got me thinking about that training gig again. The trainers are probably eating donuts and sipping hot coffee in the track kitchen, talking about the big horse and when he was going to run. But wait, who is going to feed the horses, or walk them in the ice-cold shed row as the track is closed for training? How about breaking up the water frozen in their tubs?  Wow, the kitchen seems a long way from barn 1009, and I don’t see myself getting that hot coffee anytime before lunch if I’m lucky. OK, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

I abandoned my dreams of working directly with the horses long ago. It sounded good, and the pictures in the brochure looked neat standing in the winner’s circle. But there’s a little more to the game. Ask any trainer when the last time they went on vacation? When is the last time they haven’t seen a 7 day work week? Or, who does the work if your help gets sick or can’t make it? Now before you toss out Todd Pletcher, D. Wayne Lukas, Chad Brown, or Shug McGaughey. You do it. Then you get to feed, bathe, rub down, and bed them down. Then you start ordering supplies, talking to owners, speaking to vets, and looking over the condition book for races. Sounding like that brochure yet ? It’s a 24 / 7 / 365  job that’s not for the faint of heart.

Ranting, Raging, and Shoveling Snow

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of winter. Take it all back. I don’t want to go sled riding, take part in a snow ball fight, or even make snow cream. I want this crap to melt, or be sent off somewhere there’s a drought. OK, I think I’m done for a little while. If I never see another shovel in my hand it will be just fine by me.

But with the rant comes that little time I enjoy during the winter months. If you’ve been wanting to catch up on cleaning out your desk, read the book you picked up at the fall book sale, or just binge-watching Breaking Bad. Now is the time. For me, I get into little tasks and try to make use of my time. I watch the entire Mad Men series when everyone is in bed.

I awoke to find that Betfair (TVG) has purchased HRTV. Now that’s fine and dandy if you couldn’t give a hoot about quality coverage, but this horseplayer does. I started off with wide-eyes and a big grin when TVG first kicked off. But after silly gags, filler talk, and the dismissal of quality people. I moved over to HRTV. Not as much talk, but when there was, it was about racing. The pretty people weren’t telling us about what kind of wine they liked, or where the best bar in Saratoga Springs was located. HRTV was right down the lane for strike! I know how to handicap, and wanted to hear from the industry best. When Scott Hazelton, Peter Lurie, or Becky Witzman did it well with “Across the Board.” – I loved hearing from the best in the game. “Against the Odds” with Aaron Vercruysse, Jeff Siegel, and Gary Mandela gave me more than just topical stats I could find, and the same goes for “First Call” which gave me weather, updates, interviews, up-to-the-minute info to get my day started. Inside Information, The Player, The National Racing Report, Pursuit of the Cup, HRTV Rewind, and the many other programs I have on DVR in the waste heap? How about Laffitt Pincay’s smooth handling of the entire ship? When Brad Free started talking, I started taking notes. Now you tell me this may go the way of the dinosaur, or will there be TVG, TVG II, and TVG III? I have watched TVG kick good handicappers, trainers, and horse people to the curb. I once met a TVG host at a Las Vegas handicapping contest. All he cared about was where to get his hair done and where was the party later. – I sure hope they use some common sense with this new racing tool. If not, I can always watch on-line and tune out the yack-yack.

Thinking about summer months gets me to thinking about the pool. No, you won’t have to see my new Speedo just yet, I’m talking about the Player’s Pool. For new racinos, OTB’s, and tracks looking to grab the dollar beer crowd. Think this one over before you get another 10 oz. draft. Let’s appeal to the newbie, or the small-time player. The big bettors weren’t born that way, and most started small. Here’s a golden nugget that could be a blast! We’ll call them “shares” for the Player Pool. For every $20 share, you’ll receive a couple of drink tickets or a special pricing arm band where you can purchase your favorite brew. You’ll use the 5th – 8th races at your track. Let’s say you’ll be knocking down the house on $1 beer night, and 200 people buy a share into the pool. The pot starts at $4,000, and now comes the fun part. The designated track handicapper steps up and makes a $1,000 of wagers in the fifth race. If there is any luck, it ALL carries over to the next race. Sound like fun? All you need is a microphone, dry erase board to shows the wagers for that race, and what the payouts are when the race becomes official. If you doubt how this can be done, take a look at Horseplayernow.com, and see how handicapper, writer, and all around gambler Brian Nadeau took a $500 “Happy Hour Bankroll” and nailed a $12,000 trifecta at Capital OTB. Sound like fun yet? – You bet it does, and why aren’t we doing more of this? Take your host of the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show, John Engelhardt. Solid capper, knows behind the scenes info, and has the gift of gab. He would probably reach into his magic bag of guests and pull out an Eclipse Award writer, handicapper of the year, or local fixture who knows how to have fun and win. Talk about jumping into the pool. No need to bring your suit as this will be more fun than the law allows. If it all goes south, you take the player database from the night and send them a “BOGO” for player pool shares for the next week. You know they’ll come back, wouldn’t you?

Welcome to The Party!

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 16, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, Uncategorized, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Remember when the envelope with your name on it came to the house? You were 5-years-old, and you got mail! You tore it open with Mom’s help and discovered you were invited to Cindy Lou’s birthday party. Oh the fun, the kids, the presents, the cake and ice cream. It was your date circled on the calendar, and you have officially arrived.

We’ve all had many wonderful firsts, and some we would rather forget. You know, like being stood up on a blind date, or being de-panted in gym class. But, I digress. This cold frigid day gets me thinking back to some of my first race tracks visits. I live in the northern Kentucky area, and this was home to Latonia Race Course which later became Turfway Park. My Dad and I would venture out on a Saturday afternoon ( as there was no Sunday racing) and we would catch the last four or five races. On this day, we arrived for the early Daily Double. Big snow was coming to the area, and the tri-state was preparing for the “White-Death.”

The “Blizzard of 1978″ was coming, and little did I know the old man wanted to take in a few races before we would not see any action for weeks. I was just happy to be at the track. He gave me a whopping $10 bucks, and I was going to play all day long. The look on my face was pure ecstasy, and life couldn’t get any better. I made a $2 straight DD in two five horse fields. Trainers were busy getting their runners back to their farms and get supplies. I wagered on a small-time rider by the name of Carl Falconer. Both ends of the double scored, and Mr. Falconer who was a fireman/EMT from Louisville had pulled off a rare feat in his career. The Double paid a sweet $12, and two races later the racing card was cancelled due to incoming weather. The two worst feelings for a gambler are: having no money at the track, and money burning a hole in your pocket with no races to bet. I was on the shelf for weeks just dreaming of going back.

My son and I decided Friday night was going to be our “boys night out” at the races. I printed down my E-Z Win’s, and we were going to catch the last five races. By the time we got there, it was only going to be four live races, and that would be just enough. I taught my son to use past performances to get an idea of how the race is shaping up, and then we decide on how to utilize his plays. But on this night, he didn’t want the old man’s help. We decided we would pull my money and make some $1 exacta box wagers, and bet $2 to win on his top runner. The first event came rolling down the lane and we hit the $1 exacta and had $2 to win on a (3-1) shot. I guess I know what I looked like back in 1978, as my son stood up and raised both hands high in the air. “Dad, I love betting the horses!

I was happy as we were shared the winning moment, and I even gave him the “be a gracious winner” speech I heard years ago. But the boy didn’t need it this night. He went four in a row and three times we had $2 on each of his winners. Notice that I said three winners, and he went four-for-four. I planned on making him a $10 winner, and being able to buy a burger on the way home. We would still have enough to bet the last race and I was price hunting. Gus selected a solid (7-1) shot and I used a two box car runners. The chalk looked suspect and we were going to win no matter what. Well, I made the exacta box, and instead of making our $2 win bet on his horse, I took my (12-1) shot. Right about now I don’t have to tell you what the last 16th of a mile looked like. His runner was drawing away, and my bigger price couldn’t be found with a search warrant. My new track partner looked over at me and said; “I told you Dad, we should have bet my horse.” We had followed his lucky run the past three, and why in the heck I didn’t go one more is beyond my thinking. His invitation came, and he responded with a four-for-four day. Dad dropped his average a bit with a bone-headed move, but I know for a fact it won’t be his last. Welcome to the party!

 

 

Put It On My Grocery List

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 11, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, Uncategorized, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

... of what you want to do through <b>internships</b>, shadowing, or working

If you were a hit man, you’d have no problem finding me on a Tuesday afternoon. You better watch out when you see my cart coming. I have my grocery list in hand, and I’m planning meals, school lunches, and snacks in between. I even have a handful of coupons, but I’m lacking the pocket binder the soccer mom’s carry like a playbook. Maybe I’ll get there, but I doubt it…

On this day, I was greeted by an elderly man who has known me since I was a kid. “Eddie, how you been?” If you still call me Eddie, your one of my parents, or we went to school together. But, I still enjoy hearing the name I’ve known most of my life. “Great. I’m just doing some shopping for my son and I, and if he gets any bigger I’m gonna’ have to send him to eat at your house!” I replied. “I saw him a few months ago with your Dad, and he’s gonna be a big man. I would hate to have clothe or feed that young man!” He said. “But how have you bee? Are you going back to the track when they open?” For the many who have known me, that has been one of the constants of my life. You are reading the words of one of the luckiest guys in the world. How many people do you really know who love what they have done for work? I know, I’m not alone by any means, but racing is a passion that has defined my life and allowed me the privilege of doing what I love.

“Yes, the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m looking forward to the meet and it starts in May.” We’re always hopeful to return. I’m looking forward to calling the races, and setting the morning line again this year. But most importantly, I’m looking to improve from last year. I listened to where I began and where I ended. I think they should’ve tossed me out the first week. But thank you for allowing me to get a bit more comfortable each day. I’ve been listening to others and how they’ve evolved, and like a musician I’m still looking for my sound. I’ve been working on being more patient, and not worrying about being so colorful. I have noticed good race callers stick to the facts, and only jazz up their style when the race calls for it. Sometimes we find ourselves getting caught up in action and wanting to re-write the dictionary.

“Eddie, I’ve known you since you worked in the parking lot. For a guy that loves the races, you’ve had some really nice jobs.” “Thanks! I’ve loved every minute.”  There hasn’t been a day I’ve regretted my choice. I’m sure there are some that would tell me I’m not going to be rich, or won’t retire a millionaire. But sometimes there are more important things than money. Try taking it with you. That’s why there are so many people standing in line to make a bet. “Eddie, you have worked at Turfway, River Downs, and even got to work at Keeneland. You’ve done radio shows, TV, and written for Winning Ponies. Do you have a favorite job, or one that stands out more than the others?”

“They’ve all been great. I’ve loved them all, and it would be like picking a favorite child. But, I do have a real special job I was proud to be a part. It stands out at the top, and only a handful know anything about it.” Long ago at River Downs, I asked John Engelhardt what he thought about having an intern in our office. He didn’t object, and said we sure could use the help as we were a two man team stretched to the max. “No, John. Not one intern, but a few good people we could teach the business.” He smiled that wry grin and said see if anyone would be interested. That was the beginning, and before you knew it we had four interns that summer. I contacted local universities, filled out the needed paperwork, and interviewed the candidates. John was so sick of my power-pitch that he would put on a wool cap. He said it kept my words from bruising his brain.

I started in parking and had to work my way up. There were long hours, and not many were willing to give a hand up to get started. John may have been the lone exception, and was the one who called me to interview with the GM of River Downs. To this day, if you ask him the greatest shows he has ever witnessed. He would tell you tales of his beloved Dayton Flyers, the many incredible music acts he has photographed, and the day that Ed Meyer came in and interviewed. John sat in for the interview, and leaned back and took it all in. He said at first he was listening, but after about five minutes into the interview, he said he would have liked to put that wool cap on. “I’ve never seen a man sell himself so well for a job that was already his.” I wanted to give others something I rarely experienced; a hand up to get started in a tough business to break into. No matter what your major/minor, I told each and every one that when they left they would have a skill set that would transfer into anything they chose.

John and I enjoyed having the “kids” around since we were two old farts. They had energy and the gleam in their eye that gets lost as years go by. They took part in everything. Promotions, track events, working with patrons, and assisting John on the photography end if they had the desire. There was plenty of hard work, pizza parties, concert tickets for the interns, as well as the summer tan they earned sweating in the Ohio sun. I really emphasized speaking in public. They would be tortured to hawk events on a mega-phone, and go on-air with The Regular Guy Show. At first they would be shy and timid, and by the end of the summer I had a front row seat watching young people grow. This was the best job I ever had in racing. Helping someone build a resume, gain college credits, and watching that confident look go from a glimmer to a tanned gleam. I’m proud of each and everyone that spent time with us over the summers. Some went on to graduate school, others used it as reference, and some are doing extremely well in every facet of the racing industry. I can remember ending each and every interview the same. “After all said and done here at River Downs. I would consider it an honor to work for you someday.” I look back fondly on all of my jobs in racing, but the opportunity to help others get started is the winner.

 

Against The Odds

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 10, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

We’d like to think we have a fighter’s chance when making a bet. There was never a time in my life I didn’t think I could win. I guess it would be pretty tall odds to win without believing in yourself.  For some, their bankroll weighs in the balance on a single race. It’s about that time you know your outcome. So why not slide the odds in your favor?

I played in a handicapping contest this past Saturday. I had my E-Z Win Forms in hand, and felt like it could be a good day. I began my day by watching some of the racing programs on HRTV, and had the angle on weather and contenders looking for a score. I fired up my computer and the waiting game began. As you examine the card, you make a decision. Will you play the top prediction, look for the best value from the top three, or will you dive in deeper into the tier levels to find a bigger price. I have played all three, and they have been profitable. But which would it be today?

The races had some large fields and overall you’ll see more chalk get beat. Now, this is not a hard and fast fact, but it is something you’ll want to keep in mind. On this day I was leaning toward playing bigger price runners versus the short odds. I have played the opposite many times. There have been great days where I’d go three-for-three in a blink. Now, they wouldn’t necessarily light up the board but a win is a win. Here is a glimpse of what it used to look like.

Race #1 was a winner and the horse paid $5.20 and $3.40. Race #2 paid $4.80 and $3.00, and the third winner paid $6.00 and $3.60. The sweet run had my total running at $26. Not bad for a contest, until the next event went to post. A decent price (9-1) was the winner. He paid $20 to win and $9.60 to place. The player who was searching for a solid number found himself in a good spot with a $29.60 total. The chalk player sees this and tends to play ‘chase. They forget their only $3.60 behind, and start looking for runner’s with bigger prices. This usually hurts the player as it takes away from the handicapping element and they get too aggressive. Now, the player who hit the big number is sitting in the catbird seat. They can drop back and stop odds searching. Players who get the score and drop back to handicap are usually in the running at the end. I started playing big, and was running 3rd the first four races. Then I had a (25-1) shot who ran second. He paid $16.00 to place and I had a decent play to keep me going. It is at this time when you are put to the decision.

The E-Z Win Forms were doing well, but I was digging deeper for big prices. This is not to say they didn’t have some nice price runners selected, but I had decided to go the “knockout route.” I was willing to let three small races roll past seeking blowout odds looking for my one score to put me in position. Well, those three races came and went, and some of the top selections were either first or second. I was banking on the large field bigger payout angle. I had a couple of nice scores at the end, but the end-of-the-day it had me in the top third of the field. That doesn’t get you a cigar by any means, and when you turn off the computer you start thinking where you could have done better. I sat back and felt good with my decisions. My best days are when I’ve had a nice price and started handicapping the runners I liked no matter the odds. This method allows you to accrue some money points, and get ready for the last two or three races to make a move. You’ll see players who have zero for the day, and you can always expect them to shoot with the biggest price in the race. With this in mind, I had myself in 32nd place and there were three races to go. I had my day riding on a (6-1) shot. He took the lead and was drawing away. There was a bomb chasing him all the way round and when they hit the wire together, and he was bested by a $128 winner. This one race sent the day flying out the door, and there is nothing to do at that point.

Who Would You Call?

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 6, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

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My grandpa used to tell me stories about the old days. He was a plumber by trade and loved to play the ponies. There couldn’t have been a better example of a small-time guy who gambled. He was taught by father to plumb, play the races, and his love of eating. Just a small town fella’ who enjoyed laying down two bucks and having a rooting interest. My Dad used to tell me he would go through his $30 bankroll betting the Daily Double as it was the only exotic wager on the card. “Papaw” smoked cheap Dutch Master cigars, ate more ice cream than the law allowed, and came home every night by 4:30 to be the first to sit at the dinner table.  He was born on Valentine’s Day in 1903. He would have been 112 years-old this year, and it brought me fond memories.

Papaw was one-of-a-kind. He loved to laugh, work in his garage, tend to his Beagle hounds, and look over the old Playboy books the neighbor kid hid behind his garage. Just a common man with a big appetite.  He never took a trip overnight away from home, and was always in bed early. I used to visit him all the time, and we would talk for hours. I knew about his tough upbringing, love of animals, and the big races he won. – He met my grandmother at Latonia Race Course, and they marries on the way to the Kentucky Derby. I have the program above my bar to keep him close. No matter what I ever did, he was always in my corner. I once went three-for-three in little league, and he never forgot. You would have thought I was the next Mickey Mantle. You could say we were pals. I was the last to see him in the hospital. Not that he wasn’t loved, but I was working near and it was an easy “sneak-away.” He talked about everything, and knew the end was closing in quickly. We held hands, talked, and told me how proud he was of me. He would have thought my time working at the track was better than being the president. Just a regular guy with a regular life.

One of his greatest stories was being at the track with his father. He witnessed the biggest $2 win payoff in history. That’s right, a $2 win ticket on a filly named Wishing Ring in the sixth race at Latonia in Covington, Kentucky, on the 17th of June 1912, paid $1,185.50. By far the largest single mutuel winner in North American racing history.  In the 1970s, when the American Racing Manual stopped printing the highest mutuel payouts on record, Wishing Ring’s win stood well above the second highest winner at odds of 419-1 which came at Agua Caliente in 1933. Local records for odds on winner under the mutuel form of wagering were shattered in the closing race at Latonia this afternoon when the backers of Wishing Ring received $1,885.50 for each $2 invested. The posting of the price caused intense excitement and the four holders of winning straight tickets were the objects of great interest. The lucky ones were mere tyros in racing and included a lady who backed Wishing Ring because of her well-sounding name.“Bob” McMillan, the filly’s owner, was probably the most chagrined person at the course, for he neglected to have any sort of a wager on her.  Previous to Wishing Ring’s victory, the record mutuel pay-off on a winner was a trifle over 400 to 1.  The total amount wagered on Wishing Ring this afternoon was only $22, of which $8 was straight, $4 for place and $10 to show. The place pay-off of $644.50 for $2 also constitutes a record.

I read the account in Collin’s Ghost back in 2011, as I love to read about history. It takes me back to a simpler time. When going to the races was an event, and standing in a thick crowd was exciting. The top three sports of the time were: Horse Racing, Baseball, and Boxing. Tracks were used for political events, speeches, and the occasional pugilistic match. I loved hearing his stories. He used to bet with the local bookmaker, and they had a smoke filled back room where men would read the Daily Racing Form. He put in the plumbing, and I’m sure it was to pay off his monthly debt. He didn’t drink except for his once-a-year glass of egg nog he made. Well, my grandma made it, and he poured in the Bourbon.

I once read a book and can’t even remember the name…. But, there was a one passage that stays with me to this day. “If you could make one call to someone who has passed on, who would you call?” I’m getting a little bit older, and you can measure that by how many are on the other side. There would be many I would love to speak to, and others who stay in my heart daily. But there would only be one quarter going into the magic phone to heaven. – It would be to Papaw. – I would love to hear his laugh, the way he called me #1 (grandson), and what he thought about me getting to work in racing. I’m sure he would be proud. Not because I’m the end all to be all, but because I will always be his #1. I have his Sportsman of the Year gavel, measuring stick he used working, and his program from the day he married Mamaw. I was lucky enough to have owned a few horses. They were cheap claimers, but for him they would have been top-notch performers. When we won our first race, our group was running toward the winner’s circle. I looked up and wished Papaw would have been there on this day. Some years later, I was looking at the winner’s circle picture and realized he may not have been there in body, but his spirit was always with me.

Using The Secret Weapon

The smoke has cleared in Las Vegas, and the NHC is in the books. Some of the best players in the world did battle for handicapper of the year, and you can bet dollars to donuts they’ll have their ducks in-a-row for the new year. This handicapper is going to toss his hat in the ring, and I love the idea of playing for a trip to Vegas. The idea of playing in a tournament gets my blood pumping, and you can bet I’ll have my E-Z Win Forms in hand. Come to think of it, that’s how I got the idea to enter the contest this weekend. I started thinking about the handicappers that played in the NHC Championship, and the many methods of data they use. I wanted to know how the E-Z Win Forms would have held up against the 606 players.

For my query, I used the top three selections from the E-Z Win Forms. I narrowed it down to the top three and looked back on the results. Now, this is not to say you would’ve had every single winner in the mandatory races, but you also could have had the $128.20 winner at Oaklawn from them just as well. Using the top three E-Z Win Selections has always held water for me. Winning Ponies has the Last Race Rating, Composite Rating, Turf Class Rating, handicapping icons that keep you informed about the level of competition they are facing. If you like past performances, they have piles of information detailing rider and trainer stats and how they do as team and what their percentage is for the meet and for the year. With this test in place, here are the results from day one in the NHC Championship.

Race #1 – Tampa Bay Downs

The order of finish = 1 / 10 / 5 = The #1 was the top play and he returned $6.60 and $3.20 for $9.80.

Race #5 Gulfstream Park

The order of finish was 4 /1/8 = The #1 was the top selection paying $5.20 to place.

Race #4 Oaklawn Park

The order of finish was 11 / 5/ 3 = The top selection ran second and paid $6.80 to place.

Race #7 Aqueduct

The order of finish was 1 /6/ 11 = The tope selection won and paid $8 and $4.90 for $12.90.

Race #7 Fair Grounds

The order of finish was 7 /6/4 = The top selection ran second and paid $7.00.

Race #5 Santa Anita

The order of finish was 9 /5/ 2 = The top selection won paying $6.40 and $3.80 for $10.20.

Race #7 Golden Gate

The order of finish was 4 /8/ 5 = The top selection ran second and paid $4.80.

Race #7 Santa Anita

The order of finish was 6 /1 / 4 = The top selection won and paid $7.60 and $3.80 for $11.40.

 

You had to play the eight mandatory races and were given your choice to play seven optional from 50 other races. The format is $2 to win and place, and the cap is (20-1) on the win and (10-1) on the place. Just using the mandatory races, the E-Z Win Forms had a total of $68.10. This is not including the optional races of your choice. After day one was in the books the leader had a sweet total of $115.80 for the 15 races. The E-Z Win Forms had $68.10 NOT counting the optional races. The leader had a $47.70 lead having wagered on seven more races. This is not to take anything away from the incredible job of the leader. But Winning Ponies proved it could be an incredible tool in contest play. After only 8 races, I would have been in 60th place, and that is in the top 10%! For me, the answer will be pretty simple this Saturday. I’ll be using the E-Z Win Forms in my arsenal. If I get way behind, I can dive deep into the tier levels to find a bomb, or it may be the top pick! Win or lose, be sure to go back and check your data. See if you were getting the bang for your buck needed to take down the money. I can’t tell the future, but you can bet my sheets won’t be far from my reach. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

Are The Good Times Really Over For Good?

by Ed Meyer

posted on February 5, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

I’m a country music fan, and by title alone. I’ll bet you you’re dialed in I like Merle Haggard. Take a look at the words of one of his biggest hits, and you’ll start to question if he feels the good times are over for good.

Are we rolling down hill
Like a snowball headed for Hell?
With no kind of chance
For the Flag or the Liberty Bell.

Wish a Ford and a Chevy
Could still  last ten years, like they should
Is the best of the free life behind us now?
Are the good times really over for good?

I grew up in possibly one of the last simple times. People didn’t sit in the same room rolling on a cell phone, and if you wanted to talk to your friends, you had to pedal your bike and hope to catch them. Things have gotten so fast, and our attention spans have shrunk 50% over the last decade according to Brandon Gaille.co – For adults, the average attention span for watching a video is 10 seconds for 89.61% of the population. That’s incredible, and sad all at once. In the Shawshank Redemption, when Brooks said, “The world has gone an gotten itself in a big damn hurry.” Those words hold more truth than ever. – 25% of young people forget the names of family and close friends, the average office worker checks their inbox 30-40 times an hour, and members spend 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month.

The Haggard song got me thinking about going to the races. Getting ready, the drive out, the planning, the events of the day, and of course the ride home where we could talk about the races. Why the decline? It’s still good stuff, and now more than ever the powers that be are cranking down on the offenders. So why give up on the ponies? Easy, it’s not fast enough. I’ve watched with amazement as people feed video poker machines so quickly they don’t get up for a restroom break, and some forget to eat. Now, I’ve waited a race or two to grab my hot dog and soda, but I usually get there. That is one sure winner for the day.

This years Super Bowl wagering was the 2nd all-time figure for Las Vegas. Over half the households in America tuned in putting the figure around 112 million. The big game is a big money venture, and outside of  Vegas has multi-billion dollar illegal wagering going on. My question is how many people hit it big on the game? Now, factor in the 10% juice, or the cost of making the wager. If you would like to win $100, it will cost you $110. If you’re Floyd Mayweather and bet $5 million, it’s possible to win big. Or, you’ll be lining up on the bridge if the Seahawks ran Lynch on the 1 yard line to beat the Pats. But, I digress. People love sports, and handicapping the game is high on our gambling list. Is it the best way to take a shot? No.

The lottery windows are on-fire when Powerball goes into the stratosphere. But, what are your chances of being Bill Gates? The Powerball roars to over $317 million for tomorrows drawing as you take your $100 and go for the gusto. Your odds are only 175 million to 1. I loved the myfoxphilly.com article where they said if you put 2,533 tickets on every seat at the 69,000 Lincoln Financial Field, odds are there may be one winning ticket. Is this a good bet for your $100? Nope.

Now, let’s take the same $100 to the track. We have ten races to play, and we’ll give ourselves $10 per race to wager. There are 20 minutes in between races to walk around, handicap, or grab a beer. We can walk down to the paddock to see the ponies, make a bet, and root like crazy for the fastest two minutes in sports. I think you’re getting the idea. I like to enjoy wagering, and not think of as a fast food, or a hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. It makes for a day out. We can talk, walk around, study, or you can even play with your cell phone and watch a 10 second video. Slow down and enjoy the day. Slow down and experience the thrill of a wager you’ve selected. Take-it-all-in, and you won’t feel like you went ten rounds with the champ at the end of the day. I’ve played cards, roulette, keno, craps, slots, blackjack, pai-gow poker, and even played the big six wheel. Yep, I have pretty much bet it all. I love football, and even tossed my hat in the ring every Saturday and Sunday throughout the season. But with all of this action, there is nothing that compares to the beauty and pageantry of racing.

You can win, and some even win really big without betting their house. There is a sense of history. Walk into a casino and you smell fresh air being pumped in, but at the track it is a whole different experience. It grabs you and pulls you in. Not like the lottery terminals or slot machines. As you walk into the track, your senses are in full-bloom. There is bang for your buck, your money goes farther, the enjoyment lasts for hours, and I have to ask if you’ve ever watched as someone jump and cheer for a slot machine for two minutes straight? Me neither. Let’s go to the races; the good times aren’t over for good!