Read All About It

by Ed Meyer

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bad Beats, Bitching, and Boasting

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 18, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Its hard to put into words the first time the objection sign made the numbers go dark, and your 10-1 shot was placed 3rd. On the other hand, for every thousand bad losers you tossed to the floor. I bet you can recount with vivid accuracy when you signed your first I.R.S. ticket, or the feeling that came over you when you saw the pick-four payouts. They were all in the upper four digits, and you had the field. I bet you can still feel the smile on your face.

I remember when we saved for two weeks to bet Mud in Your Eye at Turfway Park. He was a blistering speedster and had the services of Danny Cox, and was known for gunning a horse to the lead every time. For parking lot guys who had a red-hot tip on a runner, this was our night. Funny thing when you let the right people park close to the door for free.  It was on a Thursday night, and he was 8-1. Cox was warming him up with precision care, and his price was the same until they were being loaded into the gate. As they sprung the latch, he was a sweet 5-1. Cox opened him from the break, and was on top by ten down the backstretch. They rounded the far turn and he looked up by 12. By the time they straightened away for the stretch drive, he had an 8 length lead that was starting to dwindle, but nobody was coming. They hit the 1/8th pole, and was leading by three. As they past the 1/16th pole, he had a two length lead, but two runners were starting to bear down. With 70 yards to go he was on top, and when they posted the numbers, he had finished fourth. That was over 28-years-ago…

I was a younger man who had never spent or lost $100 at the track. I was 17, and had taken my $100 bill to play all day. I had a tough day from the first break, and the last race was on the track. I loved a horse called Tiger Man. Jesse Garcia had the call, and he was 9-2. I had $20 left, and wanted to wheel him in exactas. That was going to be $20, and if I lost I would have broke my maiden. So, I used him on top of everyone except the longest shot on the board. He drew off by 5, and never was in danger. When a cavalry charge of big price runners came rolling, I started getting excited… I saw this runner on the outside rail, and the rider was in a workout position and looked to be gaining. When I saw it was the one I left out, my confidence grew. That was before the ten minute photo and they popped up her number. The exacta paid $500, but I still had not broken my $100 maiden,  and still had that $2 bill in my pocket.

When you see a runner on top by seven at the 16th pole and nobody coming. You start thinking about going to the windows. When Steve Bass ( Julien Leparoux agent) opened up by daylight, and his price could be seen on the tote board at 10-1. It was going to be a big night, and things were just getting started. I stopped watching the race and started going back to get a beer. I heard the lowest moan from the crowd and assumed that a horse had been pulled up. When I watched the replay of the final yards, Mr. Bass hit his runner right handed and his mount bolted left and jumped the rail.

Anyone who has ever owned a race horse knows why Jerry Jones is a crazy owner. You want to win and you feel like you have a shot every time you run. They wear your silks, and that is like your own professional team. When my horse was running at Hoosier Park during the first Thoroughbred meet, I couldn’t wait to see him get that long stretch at the 7/8th’s track. He was 9-1, and I had him every which way. I had over $400 into the race, and I could have taken him -all-all in the trifectas. But not my style, and I wanted to catch it my way. When he drew off, and paid $20. I thought I had the trifecta. But I was mistaken. It only paid $20,000, and cashing my $50 win ticket just didn’t have the luster. I still think of that night from time-to-time.

Most horse players have wanted to gamble for a living. When I cashed in my 401-k, and had the green light from my wife. I thought the odds were in my favor. I followed, charted, and took notes. This was my second bet and I had been waiting for this runner to hit the turf. Mother Nature smiled on Belmont that day, and I wagered $1,500 to place on this 6-1 shot. He won and paid $14 to win and $8 to place. I cashed my $6,000 ticket and walked to the car. I was only making two or three wagers each weekend. Things looked so bright that I needed to wear sunglasses at night.

As punters around the world make a bet, there will be winning stories and bad beat songs. The track was full of stories, and betting from home has taken away that element of the game. Over the years I have seen players turn millions into thousands. I was there when an old lady who didn’t have a program hit the pick six. – How about the time when I rolled my change the night before, and went out to bet Jamie Bruin on Dance in the Sun. He was scratched for 8 weeks straight that tough winter, and when he finally caught a fast track in early March. His $12 to win seemed like sweet honey when I was cashing tickets at the $50 window. Gamblers have a short memory. The $200 we win today erases the $500 we lost getting there. As a great TV handicapper would say as he ended the day on his long running handicapping show. “Bet with your head, and not over it.” You can catch him every Thursday at 8 p.m. as the host of the Winning Ponies Internet Show, with John Engelhardt.

“Just My Luck”

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 16, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

If you see an old lady wearing her lucky sweatshirt, or the guy who sits in the third seat in the third row. know the search for good luck is abound. People generally believe in luck and feel there is a magical force that comes into play. If you surveyed 100 people walking into the track or casino, I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts 50% have an object they believe will assist them in finding good fortune. For the other 50%, they probably keep a close eye on the folks with the lucky seat. If things go their way, maybe they will get there 30 minutes early and grab their seat tomorrow. You know, just so they can have a better view of the races…

Having worked in racing, I have to say Thoroughbred fans can be a little touchy at times. If someone is screaming for the horse gaining on the outside or rooting for their horse and rider to find more energy. This can be the end of the world. The distraction can be deafening, and it will throw them off their game in a heart beat. Just think, if some goof is hollering, or the guy two rows back is snapping his fingers in a wild whipping fashion. There are some that should call it a day, as they are more tuned into what others are doing instead of keeping focused.

I used to believe luck played a part. Yup, I drank the cool aid and felt there was a force that could go off at anytime. But after years of watching and wagering, I have changed my thought process. I don’t know if your lucky amulet or four leaf clover has any power, but there is one magical weapon I know exists and it can be found anywhere the dice are tumbling, or a wager is being made. – Your attitude.

If you keep your cool and tone out the crazies. I bet you’ll start concentrating on your gambling. Who cares what others are doing or saying? Is it really that important? Why do they have this power to change my day? I know, all valid questions. Just take a deep breath and ask yourself if you have been the victim of someone else grabbing your focus. Many will say yes, and still others will disagree. But, if we’re all honest. We’ve all been affected at one time or another. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you start seeing Leprechauns running down the aisle clacking their heels.

1. – Stay away from negativity = There are people you gamble with, and there are people you gamble around. Your game of choice is tough enough without toting more weight around your neck. Don’t bring along people who talk the “woe is me” song.  They are never happy and they never like to see anyone win. Sometimes playing alone is not a sin.

2. – There are no such things = Friday the 13th, black cats, broken mirrors, spilling salt, or stepping on a crack. Belief in bad omens goes back to our grandparents. The evil songs of the past were, “Crossing two knives will bring you bad luck, or if the cow moos constantly, there is danger to the health of its master.” Belief in an outside force allows us to focus our fear on an event or item and attack it.

3. – The blame game = Blaming and making excuses are ways to avoid taking responsibility for one’s own life. It is a common trait among unlucky people. However, if you suggest that there is no value to blaming, and that it may even cause more bad luck, the blamer is likely to get very irritated. “But it really was his fault,” he might insist. Many unlucky people can point out every person and circumstance that is to blame for their bad luck, but they cannot see what their own contribution to their situation is. Blaming and excuse making is a terrible approach to life. It eventually makes looking for causes outside oneself automatic. It is difficult for such a person to ever recognize the personal changes they need to make. After all, is it someone else’s credit if you win?

There can be a thousand answers for every loss. Know your limits when you play, know the complete rules of the game, and play with prudent money management. How can you go wrong with a bankroll, knowing how to play, and not getting caught up in the process? Keep yourself  in good company and your gambling dollars in the best. The punter who bet it all on the 99-1 shot will win every blue moon, and the chalk player will have some great days. Live and let live and you’ll find yourself paying attention to what is important. Best of luck, or would you prefer if I keep my thoughts to myself?

Save Yourself

A horseplayer that still enjoys the game cherishes every minute. There is no such thing as a really bad card of races as value can be found anywhere if you look hard enough. If it is the Breeders’ Cup, or a condition claiming event on the fair circuit. It’s still racing, and it invigorates the soul. After many years, and a closer view of the game this past spring / summer. I have come up with a couple of ideas that may get the ball rolling again. Now, there is no panacea, and this will take time. Just give it a thought, and see if any of this resonates to your inner-fan.

Thoroughbred racing has been painted in a dark light for quite sometime. I was reading an article that gave the sad news of 24 horses dying on the track every week. I have two loves, and they could be noted as 1 and 1A. Football and horse racing. – In the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research Report 2011, there were four direct deaths related to football. Twelve “indirect” fatalities relating to heat stroke, heart problems, and some blood clot issues. It spoke of high school players who died over the course of ten years from lack of proper training, insuffient water and hydration, and concussion related events. But still we enjoy the sport. We have safeguards in place such as proper medical knowledge for coaches, better equipment, and exercises to better strengthen and prepare our athletes.  With all of the daunting knowledge at hand, we still watch in record numbers and the game continues. Why is horse racing getting the bad rap? There will always handful of people who will cut corners to find an edge. In the words of the legendary Jesse James; “As long as the trains run, we’ll continue to lighten their loads.” Many people in every sport, and every facet of life look for a quick return. This has gone on since the beginning of time. Instead of hating the game, how about just hating the bad eggs in the game ?

The takeout rate is the amount of money that is withheld from  every dollar wagered. We’ll use 20% as an easy figure, and see if this makes a difference. Can we bump up the takeout to 21%? Before you stop reading, take this into consideration. There was over $93,000,000 bet on the Kentucky Derby in 2010. If we utilize the new takeout rate and applied it to the marquee races alone. There would be a considerable amount of money that could be used to better police the sport. If there were 1o races a year that yield a $50 million dollar wagering threshold, there would be $5 million that could be allocated to better test for illegal drugs, offer medical education and the latest techniques for trainers, and creating a lottery-size guaranteed pool for pick-four’s and pick-six wagers. The more they bet, the more monies that come into play for this program. With expanded monies, racing could allocate more resources for horse retirement facilities, and new ownership programs.  See, it is a cyclical method where once we get it off the ground, there could be growth for the future. How about John and Jane Q. Public watching the Derby from home when a detailed commercial comes on and informs them about making the sport safer and transparent? I’ll be willing to bet a soda that you’ll be reaching a new demo, and the misunderstanding may start to break down as it is only through open communication that change can take place. Or, if all of this sounds like hogwash, we can just do exactly what we are doing and nothing will change. A slow death will be imminent, and the game with be pronounced dead while it is still breathing.

The Devil You Know is Better than the Devil You Don’t

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 10, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Racing has long lived in the past. Where everything was good, and the only problems we faced was having enough grandstand space. But you’re grandpa’s game is gone like the smoke from his cigar and the pork pie hats that filled the aprons. Fast forward some 100 years later, and you’ll see another view of the sport. These were the best of times, and the worst of times. Well maybe not as dramatic as the Charles Dickens classic “A Tale of Two Cities,” but there are some comparisons that still fit the situation today: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” Charles Dickens/A Tale of Two Cities.

*In the 1950′s, the top three sports were horse racing, baseball and boxing. Lucky fans were treated to maybe one baseball game or the boxing match of the week. Racing could be found at the track or seven digits away  with your local bookie. There was the racing wire where players could gather and hear a stretch call of a race that was all ready official. These were some of the golden times, and they have gone the way of the dinosaur.

*The 1960′s and 1970′s were a time of Triple Crown dreams and the glamour of the game. The connections of the horse took center stage, and were as watched as the Thoroughbreds themselves. Bookies still ruled the day, and tracks would be filled to the brim.

* The 1980′s were a time of double-header race cards and full fields. There was a distant talk of ITW wagering where tracks would be able to accept a race or two from a marquee track far away. About this time you were able to open a phone wagering account, and the bookies started dropping off as they growing older and the new throng of bettors were a  younger crowd who had no sense of loyalty. Players would bet with bookies and be thefirst to collect, and if they got hooked. They couldn’t be found with a search warrant. Times were a changing.

* The 1990′s ushered in a full scale assault of full- card of simulcast wagering. It started off by taking inter-state wagers and quickly accelerated to having every signal in the country. The betting model used to be 80% of handle was generated on-track and 20% came from outside sources. Race books were being built and Las Vegas started feeling the pinch. This was just the beginning of the domino effect. Tracks either were making hand over fist, or they struggled to keep up with the competition. You now started seeing tracks going out of business, and the greed of mega-giant corporations came on the scene. They came disguised as the saviors of the sport, and the public started distrusting the mega-giants like indie music fans disliking major air play for their coffee house bands. Times were changing.

* The 2000′s sounded like the new golden age, but it has been anything but. Competition grew so quickly, and the wagering dollar only went so far. This translates into working twice as hard for half as much money. Fans were treated to Vegas-style reward programs, and they graduated from being a loyal fans to players  playing one track against each other with unrealistic expectations of rewards. The handle model has switched a bit, and 80% come from off-track sources and 20% came from on-track players. Casino companies from Atlantic city and Vegas started buying up tracks in hope of lobbyists swaying the mind of politicians to allow casino-style gaming at race tracks. This was the beginning of the big changes for the new tomorrow. Promises of big purses, major tracks facelifts, and player reward programs filled the ears of struggling giants who used to weigh the money wagered. The hook was baited with a golden worm, and track managements starting selling their souls at the crossroads. The winds that were blowing where officially gale force verging on a major hurricane.

* Present day has a bevy of casino and racinos everywhere. The player is the temporary winner and you get to jump from one place to another. Just think, a free buffet for sitting in a comfy chair blowing your kids college money. Racing has become the evil “Cinderella” that is being used as a means to get legislation passed. The product initially had a boost and there where purse payments from casino coffers. State governments were sold on the idea of jobs, taxes, and expansion of  tourism destinations. This all sounds good, but if you look closer you will see purse cuts, less racing days, and the lavish race books are being replaced with smaller operations that are not able to accommodate racing fans. There is little to no “cross-promotion” of racing and casino players. They are kept apart, and the right and left hand have no clue what the other is doing. The handle model is now 90% from off-track sources, and 10% on-track. Times are tough and the lagging economy can only be blamed for so much. Malls are going under, and wagering at home in your man cave has become the new method of placing a horse wager. -ADW pools offer co-mingled wagering on Hong Kong racing, where the average pools are around $17 million per race. An average day of Hong Kong racing is larger than Breeders’ Cup day. Field sizes are dropping in the United States, and the home of the six horse field is not just Golden Gate anymore. Have you watched any races from Churchill yet?

Tracks were receiving monies (subsidies) from the casino side of the business. Here is an excerpt from the Daily Racing Form: “However, the wagering patterns should be an “ominous” sign for horsemen at tracks that receive subsidies, according to Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, a racetrack trade group that includes both subsidized and non-subsidized tracks. The reason, Scherf said, is that the weakness of the subsidized tracks in the pari-mutuel market could lead legislators to cut off the subsidies, using the argument that the tracks are not being supported by the public.” – Translation, the money tracks are receiving are going to be cut off. How many business models allow for the profitable side to carry the dying side of the business ? None. – Tracks need to adopt a nation wide system of watching the product signals. How many times have you watched a (G-1) race and a stakes race going off at the same time ? – This can be helped by having communication between tracks in the form of a wagering commission. Impossible ? Watch Australian racing, and  U.K. racing.  No stepping on toes, and it offers out a menu of delivering races in a timely manner with little time between. This allows players to handicap, and you can pick and choose which track to play. For the mega-companies that offer TV coverage, you can adopt a program of grouping ” A” tracks together, and “B” tracks in the evening. International racing can be offered later in the night, an they regulate their own product. Off days such as Sunday – Tuesday can be when ” C” level small tracks run. Players will be able to choose, and the handle goes up without stepping on any other toes.

There is no easy answer, but here is a start. How about having roving clerks that walk around the casino ? – I was having a beer in a casino bar when I asked a server, “Where is the racing channel?” His answer knocked me on my butt. “We don’t want to turn the place into a bookie betting parlor.” Now I recognize his mis-understanding of wagering, but this is just one of the problems. “Yes, we do want to turn the place into a betting palace.” How many times have you walked through the casino and seen a bank of TV’s with some self bets or a clerk?  Yep, me neither. There needs to be a cross promotion of the two, because there would not have been the one arm bandits without racing. How about utilizing the use of tablets, and phone wagering at the track/racino? I have seen one try their hand, but it is the most guarded secret that is easier than finding out the secret sauce of your favorite burger joint. Allow players to wager from slot machines on the races by having a small betting screen embedded in the multi-game monster. Mountaineer Park was one of the first I saw years ago, and it was more fun than the law allowed.

We need to re-think our present course or we’ll face extinction. That is a no drama filled statement as I’m watching the over-saturation of gambling squeezing each other out. There is not enough to pay the bills, but there is more money than ever to take part in the sanitized entertainment of gaming. How about instead of subsides, racinos offer up bounce back offers for slot players who venture into the race book and vice-versa ? This sounds like a complete house of gambling, you will find yourself enjoying the slots, a few races, and having drinks in the “bad-ass” bar that has music, a thousand TV screens showing the big games, and the races. There is still a chance to heal the new wounds, and if you are one of the lucky facilities that are doing well. I think it will only make it that much sweeter. Forget the old corporate belief system, and think over the idea of change. Las Vegas was once a stop-over in the desert for military men on their way to California. Wow, maybe changing the corporate vision isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Waiting for a Friend

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 4, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

There wasn’t a down time or lack of interest. The horses were hot and the marquee tracks ruled the roost. If you’ve been following our place parlay action focused on Saratoga, you would’ve seen some big plays and close calls. But, at the end of the day it wasn’t the wagering that took center stage for our group of three. One of our group had a problem that can’t be fixed with a big day at the track. We were ready to draw down on the Saratoga meet, and there were some up’s and down’s. When life sends you a bolt of truth, you put things in perspective.

When the phone rings late in the night or the early morning, it is usually something that needs attention. We have all had the “call of crisis,” and we handle it in our own way. When our friend said he needed some time to deal with some family issues, we didn’t ask, and we lost our drive to make some money at the track. His wife had some bad tests, and he needed to be with her. They have been married for 12-years, and he is one of the happiest married men I know. He doesn’t take part in silly games about talking smack about the “old lady” or the “ball-and-chain.” His respect and devotion are enough to make the average man ashamed of himself for trash talking. – In the blink of an eye, a good man received a wake-up call that would buckle your knees.

I received a text and it was filled with bad, good, and hope. Now, that is a great deal for one message, but if you read between the lines you can understand. “Hey, I’m in Chicago and we’re in the hospital. I have taken some time away from work, and the kids are with my parents. We are facing a tough road, but the outlook is positive. She is undergoing treatment, and the doctors think we caught a break with early diagnosis.” There is not much that can be said, and the text said it all. He was busy fighting, and he wanted to reach outside the cage to feel humanity. We responded with the replies that only come from friends. He told us he spends most of the time reading or online. She sleeps a great deal, and he has plenty of time to look over the cyber-universe. “I only leave for a short jog, a quick shower, or to grab a bite. I was running down the road and a warm rain started pouring. I saw a bookstore/newsstand and took cover. As I was walking around, I spotted a Daily Racing Form. It made me think of you guys, and how I needed to get in touch.” Sometimes it is good to take a break and get some rest in a safe place. He bought a copy and snuggled into an over-stuffed chair with a cup of coffee. He had at least a couple of hours before he could see her after treatment, and this seemed to fit the bill.

No handicapping, but just reading the articles. That was enough to set him in motion to contact us. Funny how a newspaper can bridge a gap and allow for an escape. He asked if we had gone to the track, and if there were any big runners we cashed. After a bevy of group texts, he asked if we won anything with our place parlay. After we told him we agreed to make group decisions with the E-Z Win Forms,  and without his input we would wait for him for another day. This was a gesture on the part of two guys who didn’t want to leave out their partner. He was happy to hear of our concern, and moreover our patience to wait. We told him we’ll kick it up later. “How about Keeneland? Churchill, or The Breeders’ Cup?” It will keep, and we’ll all get together when you both come back home.

Sometimes the wake-up call comes in many forms, and once in awhile we catch a break. He felt optimistic and our texts have grown into calls when gets time. He said it was just too tough to talk, and texting allowed him to communicate as he needed. We received some good news this morning when he said the doctor’s will allow her to come home next week. She can finish her last treatments near home, and the treatment has worked at this stage. We entered in as three guys getting together to have some fun and win some money. If both come home and the treatment gets the job done, we’ll have won more than Fort Knox. I can’t wait to see our friend, and I sure hope he’ll be able to get out for a short bit and relax with a few races. – So, sit back and get ready as we have $1,200 for the Belmont, Churchill, Keeneland meets. I think he’ll be ready for a guys day out, and he gets first pick with no input.

 

The Grass is Greener

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 3, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Betting the ponies is more than plunking down a few bucks. Some have control, and enjoy the beauty and pageantry. There are aggressive punters who seek to make the big score, and there are bettors who take it a little too far, and it can make a tough story. I made a stop at the race book after work, and wanted to make a bet or two. I ran into two good friends, and after an hour in the betting parlor. I wouldn’t look at things the same.

Buddy was rolling. He is the type of guy who could find a handful of diamonds in a sewer pipe. But that is Buddy. He has a great job, a brand new home, and a wife that men could only dream of having. His life looks perfect, and if you watched for more than 10 minutes, you may find yourself wanting to take his place.

Ray is a salesman, and he is really good. If there was a picture of a natural in the dictionary, you would see his picture. His new car, smooth fitting suits, and $10,000 watch would have you wanting to know his secret. “Ray-Ray” has some bad luck. He once had a horse who was on top by ten at the 16th pole at 12-1. He stood up and started snapping his fingers with his signature “that’s my boy,” and his runner veered right and jumped over the rail. Ray likes every race, every game, and runs out to bet the high denomination slots if there is more than 10 minutes between races. Money doesn’t seem like a problem, as he makes it faster than they print it.

Ed – I’m a lucky guy.  I have never been a rich man, or will my face appear in Forbes. But that’s alright by me. When I was young, I thought a job in the racing industry sounded like a dream come true. If you have read any of my past works, you know that I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I have an incredible teenage son, and the opportunity to take part in the game I love. I don’t have a big 401k, or will my name be slated for a (G-1) race with Derby implications. I look at things a little different, and count the wonderful people I have met, friends I have made, and exciting moments I’ve witnessed.

Three guys sit down in a race book and start handicapping. If that doesn’t have the start of a million jokes, I don’t know if I have heard one. On this day we all agreed to meet up and play a couple races. But, this day would be different. Ray was complaining to me that Buddy was killing them. “He wins, and then his phone will ring. It’s his old lady, and I get to count the number of times they say, ‘I love you’. I hate it, Ed… Has it always been like this?”

Ray leaves his seat to hit the ATM, and go up  and make a bet. Buddy grabs me with a big hug and gives me a big squeeze. “Good to see you, Eddie. How are things here at the track? I hope they are treating you right.” It was Buddy all around, and he is the kind of guy who leaves the room a better place when he goes home. “Luck favors the bold, and fortune finds those who happy.” Buddy is a natural as well, and he is a lucky man. “Ed, I wanted to ask you about Ray. Has he always had a problem? He seems on edge, and can’t sit still.” “Bud, I don’t know if he has a problem, but he is definitely a different sort. He is him, and you are you. He doesn’t see things the way you do, and that is fine. – Why don’t we put a pick-four together?” – “O.K., Ed. Let’s make a good ticket, and then I have to go home and have dinner.”

Ray comes back to the table, and is steaming from a bad beat. We asked him if he wanted to get in on the bet, and he said “you guys could get Secretariat beat.”  The ticket was created, and Buddy went up and made the bet. That alone gave us an edge, as Buddy has the Midas touch. Ray was firing away, and were getting ready to watch the first race. Ray said he was going to stay and have a few beers.  The runners were loading in the gate, and Buddy gave me the fist bump and wished me luck. Ray looked over at us and asked if he could buy our $100 ticket for $20 before they broke the gate. “I am just trying to give you guys a chance to keep some money in  your pocket.” As the runners stormed home in the stretch, our 8-1 shot was drawing away. Ray exclaimed an “F-Bomb” and said he was going to bet that one. Buddy left promptly and said he would call me later to see how much we won (That made our odds go to 6-5 on the Midas touch factor). I soon followed, and Ray stayed behind.

At 9:45 p.m., I received a call. I had forgot about the bet as my son and I were watching a college football game. Buddy said there is 5 minutes to post, and we have five runners from the 12 starters. “Ed, we have some nice payoffs if we get lucky” (Now we are even money on the Buddy-meter). I turned on the race, and we watched our runner win. The smallest ticket came home and the ticket paid $750. We started making plans for the next weekend, and agreed to meet and put together a ticket after 6 p.m. This way he could take his wife to dinner, and stop out later. Ray called me the next day and asked if “goof-ball” hit his ticket. “Yeah, we got lucky and won $750.” He didn’t say much, and told me we were lucky. I agreed, and he said he had some calls to make. “We’ll catch up soon, my man.”

As I drove home, I thought of the two men I have known forever. I’m no saint, and I do and say goofy things as well. But I couldn’t believe how much we’ve all changed. It wasn’t just them, it was me too. We had grown apart, and the agreed upon meeting time was a nod to the past. I thought we’d be those three old guys sitting together and playing the races every day. Maybe we will, but right now we seem farther apart than having anything in common. But that is life. Sometimes there is a happy ending that makes your heart feel warm. But there are others that leave you feeling a little sour. For something that was more fun that the law allowed, had turned into a task or a job. We had travelled to far away tracks, borrowed money off each other a thousand times, and had more laughs than a circus. But that was then, and it is certainly different now. I hope someday we’ll rekindle the friendship flame and find those three seats with our names. That would make me a happy handicapper and a lucky guy. But even with the Midas touch of Buddy, I don’t even think Ray would make a bet on this longshot.

100 Days of Living the Dream

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 26, 2014 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | 3 Comments >>

When the Travers is in the books, and you start reading about the fall meet tracks. You tell the fat lady to start warming up, as the cool winds of autumn are just weeks away. Football season is on deck, and baseball is starting to shake out contenders to watch down the stretch. I tried to convince myself there was plenty of summer action left in the tank, but when you start seeing Halloween candy making its way to your local grocer, go ahead and ask the Rubenesque lady in the corner to belt out her first tune.

I have enjoyed this summer more than many. They’ve all had seasonal beauty, and the action was hotter than your polo shirt sticking to your back. But this one was extra special for me. Since 2008, I have had the pleasure of writing about racing with Winning Ponies. The runners, red-hot selections, and the hurdles that racing is facing. I have brought to life the colorful characters that I’ve encountered in my 25+ years in the industry, and was the host of the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show before passing the baton to my good friend, John Englehardt. I have had the distinct pleasure of working for Turfway Park, River Downs, and Keeneland. Along the way I have had the greatest opportunity to host radio shows, and do on-air handicapping for the above mentioned tracks. One would say that I’m a pretty lucky guy who started working in the parking lot as an 18-years-old kid.

I was hired by Keeneland to become the ADW Coordinator for Keeneland Select. To say I was a little awestruck would be akin to saying the Beatles knew a few songs. When I arrived in the parking area the first day, the summer sun was beaming through the trees like a welcome from the wagering gods. Not knowing what was in my future made the trek to Lexington that much shorter from my home. The task of creating a new wagering site was a mammoth size undertaking. I had the pleasure of working with some unique professionals who’ve made an impact on my heart forever. Almost a year into the job, my position was eliminated. I’ve only had five jobs in my life, and the drive home my final day was a quiet time of reflection. I started thinking about getting a job in the real world. You know, where people go and do their time without passion or a driving desire. I was certain my days in racing had come to an end, and my involvement with the race track would be as one of the many weekend warriors I have written about. There was a lump in my throat that felt like a baseball, and the many memories I had made would have to last my lifetime.

This past March I received a call from John Englehardt. We have known each other for many moons, and have become good friends over the years. John is working as a consultant for the new Belterra Park, and asked if I was interested in a job for the race meet? That lump in my throat had come back for a moment when I asked what would I be doing? “Ed, you will be the first announcer at Belterra Park.” Now, for those who don’t know. There are only about 30 in the nation, and it is a very tight fraternity. They all critique each other to the bone, and one is always bitching about the other. But, they keep it to themselves, as they are the only ones to have the right to nit-pick a fellow race caller. I had filled in for Mike Battaglia a few times at Turfway Park, but this was far from being in the club. – When John asked me if I would like to come aboard, my answer could only be a glee filled yes. I was working in racing again, and the 500 lb. monkey who was on my back would climb off for 100 days.

The track was new, and it stood in the place of the old River Downs where I called home. I signed my contract for the meet, and was shown the announcers booth. For many, they would have not liked the sight lines, the glass, the level, or the carpet. For me, it was perfect. When you start any new job you set expectations, and personal goals. My goals would be simple. Show up early, give 100%, and try to get a little better each day. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, and grow an extra thick skin as players wanted to hear one of the past race callers who were very good.  Sometimes when you follow others who are gifted in their craft, the job can either weigh a million pounds or be light as a feather. I chose the latter, as all I wanted to do was let my love of the game show through in my calls.

I began on May 7, 2014, and I would be in the “crow’s nest” Thursday – Sunday until October 19th. If you have ever wanted to try something new, or begin a new career. It can be a tall order. I made a pact with the wagering gods that I would give it everything I had each day. There would be regrets, no whining, and no bitching. I was working at the track again, and that is all I have ever wanted to do. The announcers booth is home to myself and my compadre, John Englehardt. If there was ever a guy who has heard some of the best announcers, he would sitting to my left for 100 days. John had the pleasure of working with one of the best in the business with the late-great Kevin Goemmer. Kevin and I became friends along the way when he worked for Charlston Broadcast Technologies. Over a dinner meeting, and ten bottles of wine. Most were garbling their words as time passed, and I kept begging Kevin to say some of his famous tag lines he used to call races. We laughed until we couldn’t take it, and we all stumbled to the limo for a ride back to the track. John has been a great resource. “Ed, you might want to drop this, or how about that?” Old friends only get closer with time, and this has been another chapter about two guys who share the same passion for racing.

Every day I walk into the booth, I feel grateful. I have to keep my smile in check as my car pulls into the parking lot. I admit things were a bit rough at first, but they have settled down. I feel a little more confident everyday, and enjoy every moment. Anyone who has wanted to come up and look around, or hang out as I call the race is always welcome. Not because I have a great ability, or I’m one of the best in the business. I just want to share the journey. So if you ask me if I’m having a good summer? Well, I guess I’ll just say yes. Words could never describe how lucky I feel, and the summer of 2014 will be one that will standout for years to come.

Listen Up!

I have read every article, listened to the many race calls that have captured my heart, and watch Saratoga every chance I get. There is no secret that Tom Durkin is walking off into the sunset, but the thought of a legend hanging up his tack has me in a reflective mood.

We like to think there is a “creative bug” that lays inside our imagination, and spills out the sweetest of words with the greatest of ease. Not the case for many. And yet, for the lucky few, it is like a fine cigar smoldering ghostly swirls next to a fine cognac. But enough of my attempts, and back to someone who can lead the pack.

I was reading a Thoroughbred Racing Commentary article by the talented Teresa Genaro.  Durkin detailed how he became enthralled with his love of language. There before our eyes was a peek into how the student became the master. Reading the article made me appreciate the old school education that once was common among young students. Durkin fell in love with Latin, and gives full credit to Father Joseph Wren for his love of the Romance languages. But it wasn’t a quick phrase, or a smooth presentation that held my attention. It was how Tom Durkin spent his time before the third race every day in his announcers booth.

Durkin was a long-time member of (B.E.S.T) – Backstretch Employees Service Team. For over six years, he allowed up to six lucky observers to pay $100 to watch and listen to him call the third race. All monies collected went to better the lives of backstretch workers of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. He estimated there has been over $200,000 contributed. Durkin may be hanging up his mic and drifting off to a villa in Italy, but before we say out final farewells. Maybe we should kindly ask the man to voice the needs of the many.

For those who are in need, and for the many without representation. How about having that familiar voice speak to our heart for years to come? We’re not making Mr. Durkin go back to work just yet. But before he walks off into the setting sun in a far away place, Durkin’s sweet tones could be used to bring attention to the sport he has loved for so long. Racing needs help, and who better to voice the needs than the man who has held our attention for years? Think of a voice-over artist who details the upcoming movies that will take us on a journey. Now think of Tom Durkin as a spokesman for retirement foundations for Thoroughbred racing, and the behind the scene workers who dedicate their lives to equine athletes. Who would better fit the bill? Who have we listened to with child-like amazement? There could be a second act for the man who has been such an integral part of the game, but not before he has his final few days doing what he loves. Take time if you haven’t already and listen deeply. Drink it in like a fine wine, or taste the sweetness of his tones for a final time.

Three Reasons Horse Racing is Your Best Bet

After all of the trips to Las Vegas, Laughlin, California, Florida, West Virginia, Indiana, and now Ohio. I have become a seasoned player in the world of glitz and glamour. It seems every trip I’ve ever made has me looking to break even by the end of the night. Oh, there have been a few sweet nights at the tables, but overall it has been an exercise to break even. Do you call that gambling? I used to take $50 bucks and would get to play some 25-cent video poker. If there was any windfall. Off to the $10 blackjack table I would rumble. That $50 has graduated into $200, and it never seems like it is enough. If I take $200 to the track. With a little restraint and a couple of winners, you can bet dollars to donuts I’ll hang around for the feature race.

 

1. – Bang for your buck

If you’re playing three tracks. One live, and two simulcast. You select the best races from each track, and in the end you’ll have around 12-14 races to play. This allows me to take a breath, and do some well deserved thinking. When I am at the casino, the winning hand I just had gave me just enough time me to rake back my chips as another hand was rolling out of the shoe.

Some decisions at your local casino are made for player comfort to extend the amount of time played, and some decisions are made simply based on casino income, as with any business. The casino expects the player to get 60 hands per hour.

Racing has post times around 2o minutes, and you have time to collect your thoughts. If you stick to the 12-14 race plan, and you take a $200 bankroll. You can make it stretch as long as you like. Unlike the casinos where there is a minimum, and you see the cards at a machine gun rate.

2. – Blinded by the light

Casinos develop everything from when you pull up to the doors with a fast paced music playing your favorite 70′s and 80′s songs. That is the target demo, and why not let them hear the Stones or Zeppelin? The bright carpet patterns would make Walt Disney toss his cookies. This is a design to keep you moving, and circle you into particular slot areas. Have you ever walked around and felt like you were in a maze? Yep, it’s all by design. A design that will part you from your kids college money before getting your free dinner buffet that only cost you $300.

Pari-Mutuel wagering is “betting among ourselves.” Simply put, you are wagering against all of the other players. The track takes a percentage called a takeout from each dollar wagered. Is usually runs about 17% on WPS wagers, and 21% on exotic plays. The casino rakes in all of the cash, and pays you out in a secret formula to allow you to accrue comps. Here is an example from Vegas Tripping, an award winning guide to Las Vegas. – You are a $1 video poker player, and you play in one hour sessions three times per day. Your stay this trip will be three days. – Here is how the casino sees you: Your video poker play is calculated at 500 hands per hour, three sessions daily and three days long. – Your donation to the casino is calculated to be $20.7 per trip, and your expected should be free drinks while playing.

At the track, the margins are different. Use an 18% blended takeout rate. Now split that 18-cents from every dollar in half. 9 cents from every dollar goes to the horsemen in the form of purses (prize money). The other 9 cents goes to the track for state and federal taxes, keeping the lights on, upgrades to the track, advertising, and paying salaries. – It doesn’t leave much on the table for free trips and spa sessions. This is why racing needed to saddle up with casino companies who purchase them and make plans to build for the future. At first, the news is about the creation of jobs, and how racing will benefit from added exposure. For every track that has shown an up swing in attendance, purses, and handle. There is a leveling off point, and business eventually gets back to the old formula. Who suffers the blowback? The racing industry with purse cuts, and the downsizing of racing dates. As a wise man once told me, “the devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t.”

3. – Win baby, win!

Casinos greet you at the door with a high powered “hello, and thank you for coming to XYZ casino.” That is not customer service. That is a stale greeting with no feeling, and only meant to get you engaged in conversation and feel good about coming.

As long as I have worked in racing, I felt you have 3 minutes as players walk in. “Joe, good to see you. Best of luck today.” “Ronnie, good luck today. Let me know if I can do anything for you today.” That’s it…. Greet them, meet them, get out your message and get out of their way. Racing fans typically do not want to be bothered, and you have already let them know you are there for needs. Turn them loose and let them play. Playing the races takes a bit more thinking than pulling the lever or tapping a button. Now, with all due respect to high limit card games and craps. Don’t bother them as well. Just when they have all of the numbers covered and have odds on each one, a waitress comes up and asks, “would you like a Jack and Coke, or a Rum and Coke?” – Stay clear, and don’t feed the animals. They know what them want, and how to get a ahold of you. Every time that lucky gent has the dice and all numbers are decorated. Up comes a $5 newbie or a waitress, and the dice go flying off the table.

Casinos have a plan. Win, and win it all. – This reminds me of an old farm saying that you can sheer a sheep many times, but only skin him once. Race tracks and any form of pari-mutuel wagering wants you to win every race! Now this is a tall order, but they make their money off of every dollar wagered and the takeout percentage. I know this may sound a little tough to believe, but just ask the pit boss to explain the comp system and you’ll swear you just asked for the recipe for the secret sauce that makes the new tax code book look like 2nd grade homework. Racing offers the needed creature comforts, and the game is changing to offer a better dining experience where you don’t have to sell your house for a  hot dog. Tracks are offering entertainment, music, drink specials, and a sports bar feel. Call it a learning curve, and the only way for them to survive, is to get out and support the game. Baseball, football, and every other sport has no problem asking fans to come out and show support. Why should racing feel silly about asking? Just think, if you went to see an NFL game and there was a betting window. I’ll go out on a ledge and guess they won’t have any problems filling the stadium to capacity.

The long and the short. It is up to you as the player. What do you like? Where do you think your discretionary dollar will last longer? I know racing can be a little intimidating, but this is not your grandpa’s game anymore. There is a huge movement for fan education, and easy wagers that can be made at beginner windows. Players can wager by phone, tablet, or computer at most tracks. This has allowed fans to enjoy the sport, and not have to stand in lines or wait for a seat at the tables. Education is key, and racing has a edge. It can come in the form of a free on-line tip sheets, handicapping webinars or videos, and the ease of motion of getting your bet down with no one looking over your shoulder. I had racing on the mat receiving a standing eight count. But if we look a little closer, maybe the evolution is slowly moving to cater to the next generation of players. – But don’t wait too long. If you do, you may be sentenced to sit a video slot terminal losing your car payment on your lunch break.