Professor of Ponies

by Ed Meyer

posted on June 26, 2011 in General Discussion, Horse Racing | No Comments >>

ProfessorI was reading about the legendary Pittsburgh Phil in an article in the DRF this week. It took me back, and made me think of how far we have come in racing.

He lived and gambled in the times where real information was scarce. His name was George E. Smith.  He loved the ponies, and passed away in 1905 from tuberculosis. He was charting the races by himself, and would write them down as the race took place. Today, Equibase takes care of this, and it is a hard job. I could not imagine what he was trying to accomplish alone.

Phil was a player. He had some basic maxims that still hold true today. In my opinion, he would be the real father of trip handicapping. I loved his name, and if I could give myself a cool moniker, I would choose the “Professor of Ponies.” I have been a student of the game for most of my life, and I have tried to pass along my love of the sport to others. I guess that would be a “professor” of sorts. But a far cry away from Phil’s status.

He kept his notes, and demanded value. Most players would agree that getting value is at the top of their list, and today it would fall into the category of money management. I enjoyed how he shared his story with one lucky reporter of the time, and gave him a peek at his methods. For the majority, it would be attending and betting in the dark. For the savvy player who put in the long hours, an edge could be had. It was during this time that players who wanted to put in the time could win at a better clip.

The main thought I left in my noggin was that every player should put in their time. I always remind a friend of mine that if it was so easy, there would be nobody at work, and the lines at the track would wrap around the building. Not being the case, it is gambling. We must put in our time if we seek to get ahead of the game.

Phil left this life with over $2 million in assets. That was a staggering figure of the time, and would be about 10 times that now. What I read and tried to apply to my own handicapping was to put in the time. We now have the option of seeking guidance from information sources as Winning Ponies to keep us up to speed and allow us more time to focus on money management, and deciding on how we will invest our winnings. I see this to be a tool that Phil would have loved. It would level the playing field, and many other bettors would be right in the “know” as he was in his time.

I think as handicappers we have evolved. By having a data system at our finger tips allows us to spend our time deciding how we will put this info to good use. I would think Phil would be happy to know that many have benefited. It may have hurt his profit a bit, but I am sure he would have found an angle that gave him an edge. Thanks, Phil. Speaking for horse players from all walks. We are grateful for you.