Summer Checklist

 

You need to take stock in your handicapping. – Are you taking notes, watching replays, and more importantly following the E-Z Win Forms ? – If not, there is no better time than the present to fine tune your skills as summer is officially in full-swing. Start by watching some replays before you examine the E-Z Win form data. This will give you a better foundation to understand the Last Race Rating, and the Composite Ratings. – If it was a turf heat, the Turf Class Ratings will pay dividends down the road. – It’s not too late for you to examine your methods before pulling the “wagering trigger.” – “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

 

Saratoga – Race #2 – 7/24/15 – #6

Here Comes Rosie = Manuel Franco was aboard this New York-bred filly and this was far from a clean trip. She was 3rd into the turn and was bumped soundly by the winner. She rebounded nicely, and battled gamely to the wire. – If you’re a fan of a gutsy effort, this is one you should hammer right back.

 

Monmouth – Race #5 – 7/24/15 – #9

Hyman Roth = Daniel Centeno had the call and this effort may be a little deceiving. He broke alertly and played chase all the way around the track. When the timer hit 1:10.83, he was three-wide and finished in an even effort. Give him a regular pace scenario and a better post draw and we may see a winner who will reward his backers. – Just like the “Godfather” movie; ” Hyman Roth always makes money for his partners.”

 

Saratoga – Race #3 – 7/26/15 – #2

Power Nap = My handicapping antenna goes up when a runner is heavily backed at the windows and turns in a head scratcher. Javier Castellano knows his way around the New York ovals, and you’ll have your work cut out looking for a bad move. He was a victim of stumbling out of the gate with his snout getting a taste of the dirt surface. – He just never fully recovered and trainer Mike Maker does very well next out with runners who have a legit excuse. He finds the problem if any, and has it corrected quickly. I think if all systems are go, you’ll see a freshened runner. Be sure to keep an eye peeled for the work tab. If you see one or two works, bet early and bet often.

 

Saratoga – Race #9 – 7/26/15 – #8

Tweet Kitten = Javier Castellano in the irons again, and this time he was sitting on a winner and dealt out dawdling fractions to seal the deal. He had control of the race until the rail turned into the hedge, and his mount “propped” a bit and seemed to shy away from the greenery. – This may be master of the obvious play of the day, but you can look for a well controlled runner next out who probably will have instructions to steer clear of the hedge. – I can’t complain as I had the winner who closed into a 1:16.25 3/4 time, and still got up to win in the shadow of the wire. I enjoy a cashed ticket, but the real winner should have hung on as he put the field to sleep with slow fractions. – Bet back with confidence.

 

Saratoga – Race #10 – 7/26/15 – Key Race

I would like to think of this as a “key race.” – I’m a Chatterbox did everything right except the last 50 yards. He got out a bit, and it looked as though the rider’s whip was pretty close to the second place horse who was put up in a DQ. – Play this one right back for one of racing’s good guys Larry Jones. – Curalina did everything right under the guided hand of Johnny V, and he’s been on a mission of late. He race rode, and put the pressure on “Chatterbox” staying close while wearing her down. This was a very game effort for the Pletcher barn and I think you’ll hear more from her later in the summer. – Include Betty turned in one of the best late turn of foot efforts I’ve seen two races back. She was closing nicely after bumping like a pinball at the break, and was in tight and urged to go three wide in the final turn. I’m looking for a little break away, and a runner who turns in a late flash of speed.

 

Arlington Park – Race#9 – 7/26/15 – #1

Daddy’s Pleasure = Eddie Perez is usually a good rider in Chi-town,  but on this day he turned a performance that looked like a triple bug rider on his first time out. – Well, that may not be fair as many young riders come ready to win, and Mr. Perez must have been thinking of going fishing. – During the race he awaited room at least a dozen times coming fresh off the claim, and going from synthetic back to his preferred surface of the lush greensward.  He was boxed in, pocketed up and at one time looked to break free to launch a bid, but that was just a teaser. Play this one right back, and if they step up in class or have a rider change, double your bet and go to the cashier.

Enjoy your summer. Take time to watch the races even if you don’t wager. Think of it as a “recruiting mission” where you may catch a runner or two during the day. – I watch more races than the average bear, but during the summer my eyes are glued to the screens seeking out that next Breeder’s Cup winner, or the long range missile long-shot who will appear on the first Saturday in May. – Best of luck, and enjoy your summer handicapping !

 

Light the Candles !

 

Each year at Saratoga there has been a red-hot betting angle. You tried to keep it on the down-low for the first few years, but after a bevy of tickets being cashed everyone was on board. – On Wednesday, July 29, William I. Mott turns 62-years-young. For the fans at Saratoga this has become a winner’s circle watch, and if you like to make a bet or two. This is a golden opportunity to have a score at The Spa. – Wednesday ushers in his big day, and if you look over the entries, you’ll see he has one chance to keep the birthday wish alive.

 

In the 7th Race, #10 – First Charmer (10-1) and Junior Alvarado enter with a daughter of Smart Strike who has been away from the races for 336 days. She has the look of a sprinter who will break sharply from the gate and be a major pace player. – Mott is winning at a 40% clip in the early stages of the Saratoga meeting, and you can plan on seeing more from his camp as they have targeted this meet. Her last work of 36.1 breezing from the gate is a solid work being the 2/18 at the distance on 7/25/15. – She’s never been a route of ground as the New York-bred’s are travelling one mile on the inner turf. I can’t say she’ll be the lone speed, but one thing is for certain. Bill Mott will ask Junior Alvarado to send from post #10 and see how far she’ll go.

 

As the son of a veteran, Mott had grown up around horses. He possessed a love for them and a desire to bring out whatever innate abilities each of them had. It was that way with My Assets, a $320 mare who finished in a dead heat to give him his first victory and enough earnings to help him purchase Kosmic Tour for $2,000. Incredibly, Mott won the South Dakota Futurity with Kosmic Tour before he graduated from high school. Mott was an exercise rider and assistant trainer to Jack Van Berg for three years at the foot of the master, and in 1978 he set out to make his mark. Looking back, this has the sound of every great sports story. Bill Mott can look back on his career with an gust of extra strong wind to blow out the 62 candles.

 

  • Mott will always be best remembered for his training of Cigar, winner of a record-tying 16 consecutive races in 1995-96. The streak included victories in the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural Dubai World Cup, and ended with the Arlington-Citation Challenge. Said Mott of Cigar, “He’s the best horse I’ve ever trained. He may be the best horse anyone has ever trained.”

 

 

  • Cigar’s streak ended in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, and he closed his racing career running third in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Until passed by Curlin in 1998, Cigar retired as the highest money-earner of all-time with purses of $9,999,815. After a public retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York, Cigar was to join the stallion band at Ashford in Versailles, Ky., but due to infertility, is living out his days as a star attraction at the Kentucky Horse Park.

 

  • Mott has trained six year-end champions: Ajina, the top 3-year-old filly of 1987; Cigar, the top older male and Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996; Escena, the top older female of 1998; Theatrical, the top turf male of 1987; Paradise Creek, the top turf male of 1994; and Royal Delta the top 3-year-old filly of 2011 and top older female in 2012.

 

 

  • In 2010, Mott picked up his first Triple Crown victory with Drosselmeyer’s upset of the Belmont Stakes at odds of (13-1). Mott has had 14 Triple Crown starters: seven in the Kentucky Derby, two in the Preakness and five in the Belmont. – In 1998, at the age of 45, Mott became the youngest trainer ever inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., an honor previously held by Allen Jerkens. – Mott was voted back-to-back Eclipse Awards as top trainer in 1995 and 1996, and was the recipient of the New York Turf Writers Association Outstanding Trainer Award in 1995, 1995 and 2000. Along with Cigar, late owner Allen Paulson and jockey Jerry Bailey, won the Turf Publicists of America Big Sport of Turfdom Award in 1996.

 

 

With the many accolades and honors for Mr. Mott, one thing will be on the mind of the Saratoga faithful. Can Bill Mott continue his birthday present to the players by saddling a winner on his birthday ? – We can’t call it by paper alone, and they’ll have to run the race and see where the chips fall. He has a chance, and his efforts this meet have the buzz with the other big outfits. Bill Mott will carry the torch for as long as he wants, and no matter the outcome. Real racing fans will watch the race, or take a look at the results for sure. 62-years and counting, and the man has plenty of magic left in his tank. – From all of your friends at Winning Ponies, Happy Birthday !

Two Friends, Three Beers, and a Million Ideas

John Engelhardt asked me if I would fill in this weekend for his weekly handicapping seminar at Belterra Park. It is a fun half-an- hour or so, and I don’t get to take part much as there’s not much time to call the first race. But that aside, he is busier than a puppy with two bones this Saturday, and I agreed to jump in the hot seat. Joining me will be long time handicapper, writer, and drinker of more beer than two camels, Mr. John Patrick McDulin. – We were talking in the race book at the end of the day yesterday, and the topics were hopping like magic jumping beans. After all things considered, here is the answer that two long time handicappers have come up with. See if you agree or disagree, and be sure to let your opinion be heard.

 

1. – Fan Education = I don’t think there is much time for fan education in a half an hour, but you can sneak some tid-bits in along the way. Instead of picking three horses each race, pick your top runner and explain why you like them, and what angles you find interesting. The other handicapper can chime in with a newbie look for the race, and you can switch off as you change races. This way you hit the handicappers who want to hear what someone else selects, and the new players can learn a bit. – How about a library on line where new players can learn how to use the self-bet machine ? – What do you look for when you go to the paddock ? – Is there any angle you favor such as fresh off the claim, shippers dropping in class, or the top rider aboard for one of the better barns. – That is a quick blast of fan education, and if you allow players to sign up on-line for loyalty cards, racing promotions, and learn as they have time about racing. You’ll start seeing the bottom line move a few points. – Every track has talking heads who put up their selections, and no matter how good or bad we are drawn to hear the golden nuggets, or watch the train wreck.

 

2. – Cross-promotion = The racino end of the business does best when racing is in session. The VLT’s become a ghost town after the Breeders’ Cup, and common sense would be to cross-promote the two. – When the racing season ends, you don’t stop with fan education. You have free handicapping contests for loyalty points, merchandise, or have a small entry fee where 100% of the prize money is paid out. Players don’t mind putting up $20 and having 100 entries. There is a pot of $2,000, and the prize monies can be paid out to the top five. – If they qualify, they get to come back later in the year and do battle for one of two seats to Las Vegas to play in the Handicapping World Series. – The cost to the facility is $2,000 in grand prize entries and a $500 travel voucher for the top two. – The total cost is $3,000, but the fact you are dedicated to growing racing is great. You keep their interest, and even during the simulcast season you try and retain or grow your racing fan base. – The more people who come in to play the $20 contest will have to purchase food and beverages, and pass by the many VLT machines sitting empty.

 

3. – Get the people close to the action = Once a month have a shuttle escort guests to the barn area where an informed speaker will show the inner workings. One trip can have a special guest as a top trainer talking about what to look for in a runner, a veterinarian can give a brief overview of their daily work and maybe get you close enough to see a runner overcoming an ailment. Wait until they see a tattoo put on a horse’s lip, or feed some carrots to an older outriding pony. – There is a reason inner-city kids are taken to the “petting zoo.” They have never had the chance to touch or feel the animal, and this tactile learning may capture their attention for years to come. – When you pull back the curtain and show what is going on, you stir interest in potential racing fans.

 

4. – Have a family area = I know, I know. There is liability to having the swing sets and Jungle Jim’s. – How about an easier version where younger fans can have a “kid zone” where they come out with Mom and Dad an hour or so before the races and experience a hands-on petting of the barn goat, an outriding pony, or have a place where they can have some fun. – After the fun, let this be the only place where a picnic basket can be brought in. The entire area holds around 50 – 75 fans, and Mom and Dad will able to enjoy a few races while the kids are having stick pony races and coloring contests. Sometimes what was done 20 years ago is still good today. – I saw first hand  this weekend as a family was warned by security for the kids to stay back away from the rail to watch the races. – That is not the way to appeal to the family demo.

 

5. – Treat players fair = There will be some who will be happy no matter what, and still there will others that bitch if you pass out $100 bills. – Have free seating, or at least at a bear-bottom price. Have the bar and concession stand close to the race book and betting area, and keep the place clean and have a security presence. Most will be glad there is someone there to oversee the day, and the ones who complain about security being in the room probably didn’t need to be there anyway. – People overall understand it is a business. It is not Disneyland, but the last time I attended it was an arm and a leg to get in there. – Give them creature comforts. A good seat with a view of the screens, cold beer just a short walk away, and clean bathrooms close enough so as you won’t miss the next race. The security aspect is always good when money is swirling around the room, and they can give directions, answer questions, and act as an ambassador for the facility. If something goes wrong with health, or an altercation, the security will keep the peace and serve as a direct line to management. – I know tracks that have 200 or so people in the building and there is no switchboard operator or security available. I guess they figure the money saved on salaries will cover the big accident waiting just around the corner.

 

There it is, and there are only about a million more. Most are little to no cost, and it is all about enhancing the fan experience. Many other sports caught on quickly as they bring the game closer to the fans all the while making them feel as VIP’s. – Well, they kind of are. They are the ones who have kept the lights on all these years. – Treat people fair and you’ll be surprised how far it goes. The job of customer service is a function of everyone from valet to top brass. There is not one department who makes all the customer decisions. One plan comes from that department, and everyone who is employed is an ambassador. Now if you find this place let me know, and I’ll meet you there for a day of racing.

What’s Your Favorite ?

I was having a couple of beers with a good friend. – It was his birthday, but I didn’t find out until our fifth beer. I know, I know. Sometimes a few can be more than one, and less than 100. He wanted to stay and bet a few simulcast tracks, and he sure didn’t have to twist my arm as I had no place to be. So two guys sat in the race book armed with programs, beer, and a little money. I guess there could’ve been a worse way to spend a birthday.

I had a winner at Del Mar, and bought us a round. Then I had a winner at Arlington, and I bought us a round. I nailed a sweet $80 exacta, and bought us another round. – ” Hey man, are you not trying to pick winners so I’ll buy ?” – We laughed and talked about the tracks we’ve worked. The good people we both knew, and what made each track special. – There was a great deal of talk about each oval, and everything from the stables to the cost  of coffee. – After he hit a nice trifecta for $300 and bought us a beer and a shot, we started putting things together.  Here are the results of ten beers and a birthday spent with a friend.

1. – Keeneland = Is there anything better ? If you die and go to heaven, I’m sure the track will look exactly like Keeneland. Once upon a time there was no announcer, but with the sweet tones of Kurt Becker. Who could ask for more ? – The food is one-of-a-kind food that is what the bluegrass is all about. The betting menu has gone from one daily double and no exactas to everything and anything. Keeneland used to be for the upper-crust only. Now you’ll see everything from the Lexington Blue-Bloods, University of Kentucky students dressed to the nines, and the everyday horse player. They run 15 days in October and April, and you couldn’t have any better days for the year. The track has a little something for everyone. The turf course is excellent, and this year they are having the Breeders’ Cup. One thing you can always bet on is that Keeneland will be a first class show. We both agreed this is our favorite track to play. One has worked at four tracks including Keeneland, and the other has worked for the Daily Racing Form and Equibase at most tracks in the nation.

 

2. – River Downs = Originally called “Coney Island,” and was once owned and operated by Tamany Hall from New York City. – This little gem had a incredible 7/8th’s of a mile turf course, and was known to be one of the best hidden gems in the country. Laffit Pincay flew in and won the Budweiser Breeders’ Cup race and said, “it was one of the best he had ever ridden on in my life.” Wesley Ward brought in a runner and made arrangements with John Engelhardt to work one of his runners over the greensward. He went on to Royal Ascot and became the first American to saddle a winner at the historic oval. The crowd was a typical blue-collar group, and the fields were jammed full of condition claiming runners. Many trainers and riders you may have heard of made their way through River Downs. Steve Cauthen rode his first winner aboard Red Pipe. Perry Ouzts is the 11th all-time leading rider in Thoroughbred history and continues to ply his trade today. Julien Leparoux and Rafael Bejarano also hung their tack in the jocks room, and a host of others too long to name. It was torn down and replaced by the new Belterra Park.

 

3. – Kentucky Downs = An undulating one-of-a-kind turf course in southern Kentucky smack dab on the Kentucky / Tennessee border. European in nature, and the main clubhouse has the look and feel of a southern mansion. The track offers up the best in simulcast action, and they play more bingo seven days a week than a group of retirees could handle. They now offer Instant Racing, and the purses are sky-high. Some of the best on the turf make their way at the end of September for the very short meet. You won’t go wrong with the home cooked chow, and the beer is always cold ( if you bring your own) as it is a dry county. – With all things on the table, make Ky D one of your new bucket list tracks. I worked there for close to a year, and the people are as sweet as the tea they serve all day. Just a reminder, when they straighten away for home, there is 3/8th’s of a mile to the finish line so don’t get to excited if your watching on TV or computer. That part can be a little deceiving as it goes on forever.

 

As we wrapped up our evening he received a call from his granddaughter. He was going home to have ice cream and cake, and his smile lit up the room. I enjoyed the evening talking about what we love made three hours seem like a few minutes. – The betting turned out a few bucks to the good, and the track talk was one you would have loved to hear. I love a good “man’s night at the track.” For a horse player it is a needed duty as it reminds us from where we once came. – Can’t wait until the next night out. If you see us, just pull up a chair and join in the conversation. No invitations, and no dress code. But you may have to buy a beer or two if you pick a winner.

 

 

Mutuel Fun !

 

The public isn’t betting much, and the field sizes are small. So what’s a player to do ? – The new fan doesn’t know as much as the old guard, and playing the races can take more work than dropping in a coin and pulling a lever. Mindless, all random luck with no thought but wild hope. – I guess it could be fun, but how about another idea ?

 

For new players, seasoned veterans, and the bus trip group that just pulled up. They can get in the game at a controlled price. – We’ll call it “Mutuel Fun.” For a $20 share, you’ll receive a share in the group wagering pool, a free soda / beverage, hot dog, brat, or mett. – You’ll have a tailored tip sheet, and see the selections on a TV screen or monitor. For everyone in the world who has a smart phone can log on and have the group selections in hand. – Easy to get into, and you don’t have to put in any work. Think of as a slot machine, but with lunch and a chance at a better payout.

 

If it doesn’t sound like fun, go ahead and check your pulse. – We’ll project a modest pool of 200 shares being sold. – That is $4,000 to start up the betting, and we’ll have the track handicappers put together a pick-five, pick four, and begin a good size rolling place parlay. – At the end of the day if there are monies to be divided, simple math can pay each share accordingly. If it all goes south, you’ll receive a “bounce back offer” to get a share at half price next week. – Sound good yet ? – Easy and just like the slot machine. The work is done for you, and all you have to do is enjoy your light lunch and root like crazy along the rail. – We need to create a way for bettors to get in the game cheap and introduce them to the fun. What do you really have to lose ?

 

Handicapping contests have been popular over the years, but fans are going on-line to play now. If you love the contest circuit you’ll see more tracks jumping out of the “brick and mortar” travel here to play. – Make it easy. Have a player signup on-line, fill out a rewards / loyalty card application, and away they go ! – They’ll have a chance  to win weekly prizes and the top ten each week will come back to play in the “Tournament of Champions.” – The top three winners receive a trip to a sister property and enjoy the incredible accommodations to introduce them to your brand. – You’ll create a new player, introduce them to your brand, and capture data where you can send tailored email offers. – Sounds like a win-win for everyone, and you’ll be able to check the interest of the players. – The contest is free, and you’ll have a track handicapper break down the card with a custom tip sheet to allow them to have the inside info without doing the legwork.

 

There are plenty of ideas to engage your customers, and it is up to the powers-that-be to make the best of every opportunity. – I use the 2% rule of player return. if you have 8,000 players over the course of a meet sign up online and play in the contest. You have 8,000 names for your database to send tailored offers, and if the 2% model hold up you’ll have created 160 new players who will be interested in your product. From there, you tweak the contest design, and create a cross-over program for the racino / casino patrons. – The work will be a little more effort, but we live in the times of creating fans in small batches. Catch their interest, keep them engaged, and you’ll start seeing subtle changes to the bottom line. – What do you have to lose ?

 

 

What’s For Dinner ?

Enjoyed a fine dinner this evening. When you mix in a dab of good conversation, friends, and interesting hobbies, you’re destined to have a fun evening. – I listened and enjoyed, and even if your flower bed doesn’t interest me, I enjoy learning something new. – There are no gamblers at the table and seldom do I throw out a recruitment spiel. But tonight not only did I receive a genuine ask about racing, they wanted to know what I look for in the process. Normally I keep it short, but it was real and true and I answered to teach them something new.

I have a process of watching video replays for horses with notes on their last race. Some call it “trip handicapping” and others just want a feel of what to expect as far as pace. – If their name is on the video to watch list, they had a troubled or compromised trip. You can only get a feel by keeping copious notes. If you ” see something” or wish it happened. You have killed the process. Start here and keep moving. – Just keep looking for your edge.

Take a look at the past performance lines. I love a bunch of angles, but here is one that I absolutely love. – If they make a middle move and fade a bit. This is a promising tid-bit if you follow it up with shortening in distance, a better rider change, or dropping in class. Here is an example of what the running line may look like:

2   – 2 – 1 – 3 1/4

He broke 2nd, and stayed there until the 3/8th’s pole in a 6f affair, where he took the lead. He faded down the lane to finish 3rd by 1/4 behind the winner. – He showed good stalking ability, made a solid move, took the lead, and came up a little short in the gas tank. – Watch the replay, make some notes, and be on the lookout for the above changes and toss in for good measure a solid work or even a bullet effort in the morning.

After finishing my drink and the conversation kept moving, I was asked about obvious notes. – These are my first go-to-angles. Look for a top three rider / trainer at the meet. If they team up together, that gets added points. Now, if a “big name” comes in to ride, you need to see if they’re just aboard to get a feel for the track, or have they ridden him in the past or for the trainer. – The top three riders at the meet and same for the trainers win 75% of the races. When they team up together, give it a shiny star for a top effort. – Has there been two or three works coming in ? Look for the 2nd time out in the morning, or if a barn likes to “blowout” close to race day. – How does a trainer do on the turf, first off the claim, maiden claimers, or what is his percentage with the rider. – All important, and it is up to you how much weight to give. Or, you can prepare a little easier. – “How do we get the easy route, Ed ?”

Winning Ponies offers up everything I said, and tons more. – They have a Last Race Rating showing where they fit last out, and the Composite Race Rating shows where they fit the last three efforts. It’s all color coded for turf, dirt, synthetic races, and offers handicapping icons that show if they are dropping class, first time starter, fresh off the claim, moving up in class, first time turf effort. – All of the above mentioned stats on how a rider / trainer are doing on the year, at the meet, or teamed up together can be “toggled” over, and up pops instant stats for your viewing.

When the rain comes, I have to start all over. All you have to do for the E-Z Win Forms is “click” the change of weather tab, and you get  a brand new set of E-Z Win Forms at no cost. – Most data providers tell you who to bet 48-72 hours out and cannot change. WP takes everything into tabulation, and shows you where the runner fits today and the probability of how the field sizes up. No more guess work or missing anything. They do the leg work, and you use the info. They’ll cover your tracks, and many you don’t have time to handicap. That is the bonus. They cover it everyday, and make it easy for you to understand without living your life doing the homework. You get the facts at hand and spend more time deciding how you’re going to bet. – Most services charge one fee no matter how much you use. – If you start your day later in the card, you’ll only be charged for the races left on the card. – If you are new, or a hard core player, you can understand how to use the E-Z Win Forms in a glance. If you need more info, no problem. They have broken down each area covered for easy use.

” So, Ed. Why should I do all of the homework myself, when I can get a comprehensive glance of how the races shape up at the click of a mouse ?” – ” Good question. I didn’t say I had all the answers, I just told you to look for an edge or an advantage.” – We finished a great meal and the conversation circled round the table. Upon leaving, my gal’s boss asked if I was going to play any races on Saturday. – ” Why wait ? – I’ll be looking tomorrow to build a bankroll for Saturday.” – ” Give me a call and I’ll meet you out there.” – There it is. The sweet sound of getting ready to play the races. – When I got home I had an email asking what time should he come out ?

 

 

A Tonic That’ll Fix a Broken Heart

I had $3,000 to my name. It took all summer long to save it working two jobs, but the life of a college student knows no boundaries. – I was asked by my son “why I worked so much, and didn’t I try and find a gal ?” – The answer was yes, I had one, but she booted me to the curb like the Wednesday trash. – Most guys would have spent the summer drinking out with buddies running down the girl who left them cold, but not me. I had a different plan for this broken hearted guy. – I was going to put together a partnership and claim a horse.

Well, I found that other person and I started watching all summer-fall for which fit our budget. I finally found one and begged my partner to jump in and get started. He had a case of “alligator arms” and couldn’t reach his wallet.  – After five wins and two seconds, we decided to travel to Churchill Downs and claim a son of State Dinner named State Budget. – He had a flair for going to the back of the pack and come flying like Silky Sullivan. By now our venture was picking up steam, and had third partner who wanted in as he had his grandmother’s pocket book next to his heart. – Off three guys went to Louisville, Kentucky. We had all gotten our needed state licenses, and put a large deposit in the horseman’s bookkeeper account. All we had to do was have our chosen trainer drop in the claim slip and we were soon to be horse owners.

 

It was the last race going 7f, and Eddie Razo was named aboard the horse. He was in a $5,000 claiming race and we were going “all-in.” – Not me, because when we picked up our third owner, I had another $1,400 to bet with. I figured if I was going to bet on somebody else’s nag, why not put my money where my mouth was ? – They broke from the gate and he was along the rail breaking from the #1 post. He was laying in 5th about 6 lengths off the pace. About the 3/8th’s pole he began to move and by the top of the lane he scooted right up the rail and drew off to win by three. – My buddies were “high-fiving” and we all went down to the winner’s circle. – We were jumping around and when our trainer walked away with the claim tag hanging from his halter, I couldn’t have been any more excited. – They both said, ” we should have bet him !” – Well, I made the biggest wager of my life and had over $6,000, and a share of my first horse. – If you ask me the name of the gal that dumped me that summer, I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup.

 

There were good times and bad, and the three owners split ways. But I remained with another fella who was more to my way of thinking, and we made a great ownership team. – We went to Hoosier Park to watch our horse run, and it was the inaugural Indiana Derby. He finished 5th that day, and I still have the program to prove our big day. We ran at Turfway, River Downs, Beulah Park, and Keeneland. Yep, even the Mecca of racing saw our smiling faces when we ran second in a $10,000 claiming race. – It was more fun than the law allowed, and to this day my Dad claims that when I started owning horses it ruined racing for him. – He was a party pooper, and that is the nicest way I can put it.

 

Eventually he ended up on my Mom’s farm, and lived out his life on seven quiet acres. – There was a large man with a young boy who pulled up one day to give him a look. The boy loved the big gelding, and wanted to buy him for trail riding. His Dad said he was going to have to pay me from his savings from working in the tobacco field, and the young man and I went to haggling. – ” Will you treat him right ? Feed him, care for him, have your Dad call the vet if he gets injured ? ” – Yes sir, I’ll do anything to have Budget as my own. I have always loved horses and my Dad said I’ll have to save my own money to buy one.” – “That’s good young man, sounds like he’ll have a good home.” – “Sir, how much are you asking for State Budget ?” – “Well, I was looking for around $2,000, but if you’ll take good care of him and give him a good home. I’ll sell him to you for a handshake.” – The look in his eyes still lights my heart to this day. – When the large horse van pulled up to take Budget to his new home, he ran up the long hill with his ears pricked. He was sure he was heading back to the races, but little did he know he was going to the best place in the world. – As the van pulled away, he reared up inside and kicked the side door. He was one-of-a-kind. – The moral of the story is simple. Winston Churchill said it, and we need to hear it from time-to-time. ” There is something good about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” -

The New Creation

The giant building that could be seen for miles away is starting to crumble away quietly. Sports has changed, and Thoroughbred racing is no exception. – Fan experience in a racing environment was once upon a time based upon standing in lines. Remember when you would leave before the last race to beat the traffic ? – Race tracks never took into consideration what the fans wanted. They didn’t have to, as all they had to do was buy minimal advertising to alert the opening or a big event. – Not the case for today’s player. The failure of racing in the United States can only be blamed on the ovals themselves. They didn’t plan for the future and thought if they opened the doors people would come.

 

Access is essential. Bring the game closer to the player, and they’ll pay attention. Racing is a complex game that can be broken down to the basics of entertainment. – That white elephant that is empty 95% of the year needs to be examined. Fans of all sports are not that far apart, and we’ll take baseball for instance. – Once upon a time fans would pay, sit, and watch. Only a lucky handful of fans could ever think of getting an autograph. Now you’ll see fan zones, and places where kids can interactively play the sport. – Notice the fare has changed ? You used to mortgage your house to buy a hot dog and a beer, and now you can expect a wide array of fare from the tried and true, to the four star pavilion areas offering the best dining in hometown. The interactive areas for fans to drop back and relax, and peruse the history of the game is a winner. Going to the ballpark is an experience, and no longer are you expected to show up and drop a lump of cash. MLB, NASCAR, NBA, NFL, and a host of other venues has the idea. I’m not much of a soccer fan, but they impressed me the most with large venues offering a multitude of fan experiences.

 

Back to the race track. They need to re-think a plan, and put it into action. The good ones prepare and invest in the future, and others wilt and die off slowly. – Don’t put a fresh coat of paint on a 50-year-old building. – Knock it down, and have temporary tents that offer comfort, and wagering opportunities. Before you start to think of a campground, put that aside and remember how Fair Grounds had temporary facilities on the same property  while the new track was being built. – When it comes up from the ground, a place that once had seating for 10,000 needs to be 3,000. For most there has to be an open air grandstand with a large cover that shields fans from the brutal sun and stinging rain. – Have roving clerks available in the grandstand and apron areas. Don’t wait for fans to come to the windows, bring it right to them. Have an area of plentiful self-bet machines, and the regular players will gravitate. Have mutuel windows and more than just one beginner’s window. Now, not being a fan of doing away with jobs, but there needs to be a cash-out machine you’ll see in every casino. Players can have an ATM, cash in their tickets, get a cash advance from a credit card, and load more onto an existing account. Now you have your outdoor fans being taken care of at the windows. You need to have multiple areas of easy access where players can grab a beer, have a bite to eat from a wide array of selections. – The rail must be up close to the track where you can feel the thunder as the horses run past. The paddock should be open air, and have a place where fans can grab an autograph or a pair of goggles from a jockey. – Bring the game closer and more accessible to the fans. Make them a part of the game and they’ll stay intrigued. Their discretionary dollar is going to take a great deal of work, and in the end you’ll be happy every time you pull into the facility.

 

Fans can be broken into many demos like all sports. The Race Book is a different animal. There must be free seating for around 500, and you can offer a low-cost seating option to cover facility costs during the Triple Crown, and Breeders’ Cup. If you try and make a profit on where they’ll sit, you can bet they’ll just walk away. The fan experience must be enhanced. – Offer plenty of self bet machines, a handful of your best clerks, and the cash out machines that offer multiple functions will allow players the ability to serve their own needs. – Have servers or waiters roving the seats as in Las Vegas and bring the drink or food to the player. Let them keep their thoughts on the wagering. The Race Book is open everyday of the year minus the few days where religious holidays exist. – Keep it clean, close restroom areas, and the availability of servers who are walking around will keep players as long as they wish. – The television products have come light years, and you need to have a plentiful variety of screens. Individual carrel seats with screens are a must, and there must be an area where players can purchase a table of ten or more for a get together or celebrate. NO GROUP sales or large groups of newbies. This is their land, and they roam the prairie. – But, there needs to be at least two corporate areas closed off from the Race Book, and they’ll hold up to 50 or so in capacity. Don’t make too many, as this will drive the urgency to make their reservations in advance.

 

I don’t think there is only one answer, and I sure don’t think it’s been sitting in a bottle. Racing needs to reinvent itself like every sport or great business that has survived. Thoroughbred racing has a beauty that is rarely offered in life much less in sport. The powers that be have to put down the “build it and they will come” attitude and focus on the destination aspect. Race tracks are surely not your grandfather’s place of play, and if they think about changing, maybe life is on the horizon. – Focus on having the best bar, bands, food, and the beauty of horses all shaken, not stirred in a large mixing blender, and I think they’ll have the next generation of racing fans. Add in the ideals of the casino world, and things really take flight. – We have 157 channels on TV, 12 movies to chooses from at the Cineplex, and a variety of options to spend our discretionary dollar. Racing can be one of the top dogs again, but long is the road and narrow the way. I wonder if they’re willing to pay the cost, or just allow it to die off slowly regaling the good old days.

 

Harder Than it Looks

How many times as a kid did you want to be the next big league player ? – The only thing you ever heard was it’s about one in a million, and you better stick to your studies. Probably good advice as I’m not the starting pitcher in the big game. But how many times have you wanted to test your abilities to be a professional gambler ? – Yep, you too can be the next Matt Damon from Rounders. Well, maybe not as handsome, smart, or giving up being an attorney. But you get the idea. – Gambling for a living is harder than it looks. I have had the pleasure of watching many over the years and it isn’t as much fun as you would have thought, unless you like having that big roll of money in your pocket. Here are a few tricks of the trade that professionals will never pass along.

 

1. – You never tell anyone what you play, how much you play, or if you win or lose. Nothing can make the train leave the tracks quicker than a bragging story over a beer.

 

2. – All big time players rely on a data provider or service. If they claim they don’t, they are a bold face liar. The game is constantly moving and a savvy player wants to find an edge to get them to the winner’s circle. They subscribe to big money services you’ll need an upper level degree to understand. – Then there are the video replay artists. This takes up a great deal of time, and by the time you’re completed. You need to go back and decide how you’re going to put it into play. – You are on the perfect site for examining data. They don’t tell you to play the 1-2-4, and forget about it. They take everything into account, and have a proven track record. And you’re able to use it as a novice or a hard core player. Someone has put in a great deal of time to bring you the best ideas. I enjoy a service that allows me to decide based on empirical proof, or examine the proprietary numbers to find the hidden nuggets of wisdom.

Stay away from services that have data out 72 hours – 48 hours in advance with one sheet. This is tout and not a handicapping tool. Winning Ponies allows you to change up-to-the-minute for track changes and only charges for races used. Now how many others can claim that ? – Give it a try, and see if it helps you move your mark.

 

3. – No drinking, partying, or hanging out with the gang from work. – Lonely is the road, but you can sure meet them afterward to buy the first round of drinks. – Keep your focus.

 

4. – Take and keep notes on how your are doing. Don’t try to remember the first big win you had but you’ll forget it took $500 to get there. Use your phone, ask for your year end profit and loss statements from loyalty cards. – The numbers don’t lie.

 

5. – Never show anyone how much you bet. – 100% of the time they will not understand, be happy for your big win, or clap for you on the way to the windows. – You’ll hear lovely things like; ” how come you didn’t tell me, or you have ruined gambling for me for life.” – It’s not for everybody and how many times has a Wall Street warrior called you up with his best stock tip he’s been watching for months. – Just like your teacher used to say. Keep it to yourself.

 

6. No advice. – Free advice is worth every penny they’ll pay. Why give away your hard work for nothing ? – Once upon a time our biggest player was asking me who I liked daily. My best play of the day, my only one. – After going 10-10, I gave him a horse that was 12-1 on the morning line. It got checked and blocked to run a game third. The next day he said to me; ” I bet your big horse, it cost me $10,000.” – Keep it to yourself, as gamblers only care what have you done for me lately.

 

7. – Keep your records, IRS slips, detailed accounts of mileage, data costs, and anything that comes out of pocket to play the game. If you’ve had a big year, you’ll like the write off to counter the money Uncle Sam took away from your bankroll.

 

8. – Stay away from 10% cashers, touts, tipsters, and big talkers. – This is pretty easy to understand. They just cloud your vision.

 

9. – Professional players don’t bet every race that pops up. They handicap around 25 races, then use the best 12. After closer examination of the 12, they cut it down to the best 5-6 races for the day. They look for multi-race plays, and hammer on a big number horse to win once in awhile and you’ll only see a place bet when they’re looking to build the bankroll, or cover a wager.

 

10 – Professional players take some time off a couple of times a year. A couple of weeks where they watch trends and rethink their stance. I usually take off a couple of weeks after Breeders’ Cup. Racing takes a breather, and we recoup a bankroll. – Don’t be afraid to drop back and watch, or pull the trigger and go bombs away. Patience is the key and utilizing the opportunity is your best tool.

 

Build a bankroll, follow on one – three tracks running, and start your focused approach. I’ll bet you have some good days ahead, and you’ll love the game more than ever. – Last weekend I studied, watched a few key race videos, and looked over the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms. I was six for six early, and had a tough beat going 3/4 in the guaranteed pick four. The day was still a winner, and that was my goal. The next day I loved some races and decided I would handicap at work. You can just imagine how that day went. – The time you put in is worth every second, and if you don’t, I hope you have your rabbit’s foot or mojo bag. You’ll need everything and anything just to break even.

A Gift From the Racing Gods

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 7, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

 

Forty years ago today, one of the best fillies that ever graced the track broke down at Belmont Park in a match race. – Early on she had many other names. ” The fat yearling, the freak, and the filly that didn’t want to run. Hard to believe she had ever toted the weight of such names, and you can file them with the same folks who sold Babe Ruth’s contract.” – Beauty comes in many forms, and she had a gleam that would have blinded the sun. – I’ve watched her race on You Tube a million times, and every time I still hold out hope. Since that fateful day there has never been a match race between two racing champions.

 

She was foaled at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky. She was bred by Stuart Janney Jr. and Barbara Phipps Janney, owners of Locust Hill Farm. She won her maiden race in record time by 15 lengths. She was on the lead at every point of call in every race she ever ran. She set a new stakes record in each of the eight stakes races she won. She also equaled two track records. – When you think of every great runner you have witnessed in present times, it’s hard to compare, as it just wouldn’t be fair.

 

As you read the past performance lines, you’ll find it pretty tough to find many in this rare filly’s company. – Jockey Jacinto Vasquez had ridden both Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure before, and Vasquez chose the filly. Braulio Baeza had the mount on Foolish Pleasure. The “Great Match” was heavily anticipated and attended by more than 50,000 spectators, with an estimated television audience of 20 million. – I guess if you ever watched the movie Seabiscuit you could’ve seen how the country was captivated by horse racing. The Big three of the time: Baseball, Racing, and Boxing was the time setting for the War Admiral / Seabiscuit backdrop. – This was 1975, and the times surely had changed. I’m sure that Ruffian had plenty of support from the ladies of the day as she was the equine equivalent to Billy Jean King ready to do battle with the opposite sex.

 

I guess I’m still holding out hope, but no matter how many times I’ve watched the race. When a horse breaks down my breath weighs heavy in my chest like an elephant having a seat. – I wasn’t there on this fateful day, and the details of the many brilliant veterinarians who tried in vain to save her, still brings tears to my eyes. – The Ruffian Equine Medical Center opened on May 26, 2009. It cost $18 million and is located outside Gate 8 of Belmont Park. Inside the facility, specialists work to solve problems before they become major issues, such as a colt showing lameness that can be diagnosed and cured before he makes the track, perhaps providing such an animal a chance to do his job and have a good life beyond the track. – As you look at the flag poles in the infield area, there is a true champion buried there with her nose pointed toward the finish line. It is hard to believe it’s been 40 years. It’s hard to believe that after her first year of life she had climbed the mountain to be one of the greatest horses to grace the oval. – As many in racing have told me, the game goes on. That is what it was meant to do. We’ll just wait with patience that the Racing Gods may send another glimpse of true racing greatness.