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.

Another Trip Around the Sun

by Ed Meyer

posted on June 30, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | 2 Comments >>

It comes around quicker these days, as it seems like yesterday I was just blowing out the candles. Well maybe that was last week, but you know what I mean. As you approach a birthday you take stock in what you have and what is no longer here. You count your blessings and relish the memories. This birthday like many others for this race fan is filled with gratitude and happiness. As we use to recall every bad beat and every photo that went the other way. I now find myself counting the wins by how many friends I speak with and family members that are still here to talk racing.

Working in Thoroughbred racing has been more than a dream come true. How many people do you really know love what they do ? – Me neither. – I can recount every job and every moment. As a kid I used to attend the races with my dad and grandpa, and I spent my time in the high school library reading results and entries at tracks around the nation. – I remember once playing in a high school football game and we were beating a team pretty bad. They let the clock roll, and that meant the game would be over 45 minutes sooner. As I walked past the ref I could see his watch and it read 8:00 pm. – I figured if we get off the field and I skip a shower, I could catch the last three races at Latonia Race Course. We did, and I hit the road with my tape still on my ankles.

I am grateful for so many that have helped me along the way it would read like a political speech. I’ll sum it up by saying thank you to you every wonderful person who continues to make my dream come true. – There are a few people who rise to the top. I would just like to give a little special “thanks” for all they did for me along my travels.

Greg – Thanks for giving me my first job in the parking lot many moons ago. This taught me the first people fans meet on the way in can be very important. Attention to detail, and learning to take handicapping to the next level happened during this time as a young man.

Bob – Can’t thank you enough for all that you did. You taught me to believe in myself, and gave me plenty rope to run with. You created an opening for me and let me design the details. You won’t see that many times in your work experience, and it helps me on a daily basis to this day. – Thanks, Big T.

Izzy and James – It started with a few emails, and since 2008 I’ve been a part of your team. Allowing me to kick off the Winning Ponies Internet Show and writing for your site has been a great joy. – Can’t thank you enough. I wear my black Winning Ponies cap with pride to this day, and you guys gave me a little extra to build my resume. – Thanks, guys ! – May all your photos be winners.

Brad - Thanks for allowing me to spend a year with the Yankees. Keeneland is the benchmark of what racing should be, and I appreciated your time and wisdom helping me see the big leagues. – Walking past the big iconic Sycamore tree in my daily trek was like walking past Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame.

John – Where does one begin ? – As you heard the best sales pitch to the GM at River as I sold myself for a job I already had thanks to you; Taking me in to be the 1A on the Regular Guy Show, or getting my foot in the door at Belterra trying my hand at something new. You taught me how to have fun with handicaping and working in racing. Never take yourself too serious, and enjoy a cold chill at the end of the day. – You are one of a kind to say the least, and I will always consider you to be the big brother who let me tag along. – Thanks, Colonel.

*Handicapping is a long road. Last week when I was asked “how long does it take to learn to read the Form ?” – There has not been a day I have not learned something new.  – Have patience. It is all about the journey.

*Treat the guests, patrons, or visitors with respect and courtesy. – Act as if your job depends on it because it really does.

* Bring a kid to the races; take a new person who didn’t think they’d like the game, or just spend time talking with an older player who likes to share stories about the game. The first two invest in the future and the latter respects the past.

* Share your knowledge. – It’s just more fun to help someone along the way.

* Bet with your head and not over it.

* Don’t argue with your better half about making a trip to the races. – It never turns out well. Trust me.

* Try and make it to the paddock once every trip. There are magical things that take place there.

* Be happy for others when they win even if you lose.

*If you lose don’t cry and if you win don’t brag.

* Enjoy the beauty and pageantry. There’s no other game like horse racing. – If you listen real close you’ll hear the hoofs beat from the past running down the stretch.

Well, another year in the books, and the race is official. – I find myself enjoying more and worrying less. Past memories are the reason you see that little smile on my face when I walk in the door to the track – Until next year, may all your photos be winners, and I’ll see you at the races !

What’s Going On ?

by Ed Meyer

posted on June 30, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Summer is always a busy time. Great weather, fire up the grill and watch the sunset. Racing has always been a big part of my life. From my years in the parking lot as a kid to the many incredible jobs as an adult. There is something about the beauty and heat of the summer sun. The days are longer but time goes by quicker. Just like the Kenny Rogers and First Edition song; ” I just dropped in to see what my condition was in.”

This is my fourth year calling the races at Belterra Park. – There’s a new wind blowing, and I’m pretty sure it’s the winds of change. Advertising is starting to draw attention, full fields in most races, and fun events fill the day. The positive energy has replaced the nay-sayers, and communication is taking the place of direct emails on how things will be. – Every once in awhile a little change is welcomed be everyone. This is one of those rare times. – The best part, I think this is just the beginning of good things to come.

The races are exciting and the place is beautiful. If you look at the promotional schedule it is chock full of good stuff. A little something for everyone. – This year has replaced the stale and robotic with the fresh and new. Everyday I walk in is a good day. How many jobs have you had when you pull into your spot you feel like a little kid going to the amusement park ? – That sums it up for this lucky racing fan. Having a job you love is never going to work again. – I used to read that mantra for years, and there are no better words that could sum up my working life.

The other day I had the pleasure of seeing a couple friends who are horse owners. – No names mentioned, as they aren’t the kind who seek attention. The trainer is a professional man who is also horse trainer to complete a full and exciting life. His partner is a beautiful soul that could feel at home anywhere. – When they stopped up they always greet with a hearty hug. No stodgy handshakes here as they don’t know many strangers. – We talked about handicapping and their horse that was going to run that day. We spoke about the special feed they use and how their horses really take to the vitamins and nutrients. – I almost asked for a bowl for breakfast.

The race was two away and we parted with a strong hug and deep well wishes. They are the kind of people who leave anywhere they were a better place just by stopping by. – Energetic and positive vibes only, with more smiles than frowns. As they walked down the hall we agreed to meet again soon as they had some horses shipping in from Chicago later in the month. – Good things to look forward to. and chatting with folks who love the game. – When their race came up they were sent off the odds-on favorite looking like a million bucks on the track. Stalking perfectly in third just close enough to see the leaders as they passed the 3/8th’s pole. The rider had a handful and asked her for a little and she responded. – This is the part as a track announcer where you get the chills and get ready to wind up with a little action in your voice. – I said “she’s on the rail and ready to uncork a rally.” – The action was starting to build and you’re ready for the big run for home. – She started backing out of the action and as they turned for home, I could see the rider trying his hardest to throttle her down gently to prevent injury but that happened three or four jumps earlier. – I wish I had some good news for my friends who love the game with genuine affection. – ” Ed, she took a bad step and the injury was beyond the care of a surgeon. She had to be put down.” I remembered an hour earlier how the day held promise and the two most positive people at the races made the walk to the paddock. – They were saddened well past any words, and only time will allow this horrible day to fade.

The day started with hope and happiness and ended on a bitter note. But the game goes on. This is the way it has always been, and guess it always will be. – Mirroring life it has the highest of highs and lowest of lows. We remember the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. – Here’s to the many people who make the game great and honor the most majestic creatures with time, love and care. – Until next time, I’ll see you at the races !

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.