Giving Thanks from the Heart

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 2, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Giving Thanks from the Heart

The time where friends and family gather and share a meal to enjoy each other’s company are typically thought of during this time of year. But, after the day of celebration came another form of giving thanks that didn’t involve a big spread of food, but one where good friends opened their hearts and told me what they really have to be thankful for.

The world of racing spins in a trajectory of 20-minute intervals. That is just about the time in between races. Horsemen bring over their runners, grooms tend to them and prepare for the race as riders come out of the room to receive last minute instructions from the trainer who excitedly awaits the outcome. – That is racing in a nutshell. The barns prepare to do battle for the purse monies on the track, but on the backside return to being some of the best of friends and family.

I reached out to some folks on the local racing scene in Ohio and Kentucky. Many were opening their hearts with all things good while others were a little hesitant about letting anyone know their secrets. – As with the many blogs over the years, I will leave out the names and just let you know what they are truly grateful about. Real people, real gratitude.

 

Ed, I’m the luckiest guy on the planet. – I was taken over by drugs and alcohol so many times it took away my ability to be a jockey. I lost my family, and the respect of others in racing that has lasted generations in my family. Hard to believe I’d give in to these demons, but I did, and I fell hard. – I started going to meetings at another track far away and slowly I was able to work horses out again. Felt great just being in the saddle. – My daughter would come out and watch her old man slowly shed the desire to be high and be out of control to finding my way back slowly to becoming fit. – We started going to breakfast every Saturday, and now we are building back what horrible decisions took away. This makes me the happiest. – Finally, after working out some nice horses, I decided it was time to try my hand at riding again. – Hard to believe what a long hard road it was, but it was definitely worth it. – When the jockey crossed the finish line with a perfect ride, his attitude of gratitude was in full force. I asked him for a pair of goggles. This is a long-standing tradition of celebrating with a signed pair and the date marked. – He asked me why I wanted them. He’s ridden thousands of winners in his past, why do I want these? – After he looked into my eyes with tears streaming down, he said this was his best and he’d send them up to me shortly.” 

 

She was the darling of the morning jogging horses and laughing with fellow pony people. – A pony person is one who climbs aboard in the morning and works the horse per the instructions of the trainers. – She had a nasty demon that has haunted her every day and eventually led to some trouble with the law. Prison was her next stop as she was involved in more than a few DUI’s that only got worse over time. – After a period of time she was still fighting her demon but found the love of her life. – Still fighting, but her attitude is changing. – She wants more than anything to climb back into the saddle and that is a goal that only time can cure. But her life is slowly changing, and for that she is grateful at another chance at finding happiness and change. Good luck, gal. We’re all rooting for you.

Usually, stories from the backside entail families gathering for the feast and sharing good company. But these stories are about regular people who have fallen. – Life has picked them up once again, and what they make of this opportunity is all in their hands. I surely wish them the best of luck and may the “attitude of gratitude” surround them and keep them on the right path.

 

There are many backside charitable organizations that help and support the many who make this way of life. Many are in need and could use a hand off the floor. But this takes money. – If you have it in your heart during the season of giving, please reach out to your local racetrack and chaplaincy program who can better direct you in getting your helping hand to theirs. – Everyone can use a second chance and the gratitude may make a difference in the lives of folks who just need a helping hand.

 

Horse Racing Game Day

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 18, 2022 in General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Horse Racing Game Day

I was hunkered in my recliner watching College Game Day. – If you’re not much of a football fan or have been marooned on an island after a three-hour tour, it is one of the highest impact chock-full of energy shows highlighting the day of college football in the land. – The hosts have a rapid-fire roundtable that used to be stats and now has gravitated to using the -6 1/2 points on the road betting gab. – How about that? I never thought we’d see the day unless you were in Las Vegas or an offshore betting paradise. What a way to start the day, and I even have an up-to-the minute injury report before hitting the local casino. Life could never be so sweet.

Racing used to have weeklong celebrations with events. – The dart contest from the best in the world, the beauty pageant, all-star dinner with all the celebs and it would all be kicked off with a real Cajun crawfish boil to support the folks on the backside. – Music, food, and fun. TVG would ship in for on-air blips and blurbs and have a studio overlooking the track. The week was a celebration. Funny how one day of racing could capture the senses of the racing fan and turn it into an event of the year.

Why can’t we do that now? – Just like “CGD” in the morning talking the doings of the day, racing could have a week to build up to every big marquee day in horse racing. – The best part is there is always something going on. There are two major channels on racing TV and FanDuel rules the day with scrolling odds on the big game while the talking head build up the card.

Not every event would be the Breeders’ Cup; and that may be just fine. – Showcase the Iowa Day of Champions, The Best of Ohio, and The Claiming Crown Series. There is always plenty at the buffet of racing and it all depends on how we serve it up. – If we just run the races and hope someone plays. There may be no real hope in trying to grow the sport from the ground up if we don’t get behind it at the seedling stage.

Fans love to get their hands on merchandise and freebie items that promote the big day. There’s no billboard in the world that shows the big day in full color like a jacket, cap, or umbrella on the rainy day. – Whenever I pull my extra-large Keeneland umbrella, it has started a thousand conversations. I should get a new one every year as I’ve been a great spokesman.

Tracks can bring back the tried and true and make them new all over again. Bringing in the people to take part in on-track promotions. It could have that CGD feel if you had drawings for large prizes, VIP dining, and a shot at winning a piece of a “Big Ticket” for the pick-four. – Fans would rally around the idea of winning a big prize especially when it’s money. How about having a fan experience where they could be right in the paddock watching the marquee horses saddle up? Winners circle picture immediately following? – Just a few ideas that may draw players closer to the game.

Now, I don’t see horse racing fans getting close to the rail with large signs with their favorite horses, but I do see them showing up early to have a special breakfast at the downs watching the big horses work in the morning. – Fans have been overlooked for so long we kind of forgot about them quietly. It is time to invest and start making the player the star of the sport as well. Because without the betting public, there would be horses running for blue ribbons. – It’s not too late and at every level of the game there are opportunities to bring the fans up close and personal to the sport.

 

Breeders’ Cup in the Books

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 9, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Breeders’ Cup in the Books

The smoke has cleared, the champions crowned and congrats to the winners and excuses from the losers. – Like in every sport, there is always plenty to say after the fact. But my reflection is more about the beauty of the day and cashing tickets.

If you played the Keeneland meet, you would’ve been aware from Race #1 there was a red-hot speed-bias. It harkened back to the golden rail days that played like a conveyor belt. Pat Day would notch a lead by a half and hold on to that same lead all the way around not using the crop more than 5 times. – He would use a side arm swing brushing gently against the front quarter of the horse. – Upon asking him at a PDJF function he told me his secret weapon. He communicated with the horse with his hands. – He knew at the 1/4 pole if he had a shot. Day was ultra-impressive on speed and Keeneland this meet would have had him atop the rider standings by dozens. To this day I have never seen any rider win by 1/2 length more than the great Pat Day.

Thinking back to working at Keeneland I used to get there early with glazed donuts and orange juice. – I watched a speed biased oval all meet long and the final two day before the end of the meet I saw them adding material and for some reason they were harrowing the opposite direction. – Not sure if any of this made a hill of beans, but the closing couple days for the meet prior to the BC showed me an oval that slowly began to play more favorably. – Those were the best donuts watching the works.

I watched the speed dominate all meet, and now I was betting off-track enjoying the action. – For the Breeders’ Cup, the track was fair and was open to the best runner in my book. – I loved how horses could be wide, dominate with speed, and make a mid-pack run. I’m not much a bragger, but Keeneland was very good to me this year.

 

In the $6 million dollar Classic we were treated to something special. – Flightline romped home by 8 1/2 lengths and did it with the greatest of ease. – Anytime a horse makes an explosive effort as such, the 1973 Belmont and Secretariat are following shortly after in discussion. – I hate to make hasty calls regarding a horse to “Big Red”, but this was as close as I can remember in my lifetime. – We are always looking to find that next great one, but they are finer than frog hair.

I have watched more races than the average player. There have been many that made me wide-eyed just watching greatness hoping for the next champ. – At the end of the day, I don’t think it is fair to judge any one horse against another from history. Let’s just enjoy and hope to see a little more if we are lucky. Just to whet your whistle; wait until the babies hit the sales ring someday.

I have played the Breeders’ Cup in person at Churchill, Keeneland, and Santa Anita; here I met the best guys in racing from Winning Ponies. All have been incredible in their own right, but if I had to give a nudge it would be to Keeneland. – I usually put in a great deal of time handicapping the races and slow down my betting for 45 days or more. – Like the old butchers saying, “steel sharpens steel.” – I’ll take my 45-day standing eight count and focus more directly on fewer plays. This keeps me ready to roll when January approaches and the stakes schedule starts over again at Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and Santa Anita.

 

Drop us a line and let us know how you did? – Winning Ponies always loves to hear how you’re doing and hopefully the E-Z Win Forms are doing you well!

 

Handicapper’s Curse

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 16, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Handicapper’s Curse

As the winds of autumn swirl and blow, you’ll hear that hollow growl below. The numbers jumble and make no sense, as you’re almost down to your last pence. You’ll search and look but not to find, that golden ticket that will be kind. – So, keep to task and don’t delay, you’ve almost found your winning day. 

How many times have you done your homework and came up empty? Me too. – Or how many times have you stumbled from blind luck onto a big payout? Yep, that too. – Handicappers for eons have searched to find the perfect recipe for finding the winner and reaping the reward at the windows.

As we’re in the throes of the spooky season, a haunting story comes to mind. – A handicapper who can pick like magic. He studies and finds while his compadres watch and wonder. He can make that 10-1 shot look like 1-9, and his picks are something of pure gold. There is only one thing that can undo his wizard’s way. – When he makes a $2 bet on his own selections.

It seems unstoppable until he pulls out a couple bucks and all goes to hell. – A clocker by trade who enjoys talking horses with me. We’ll yack for hours about the ones he clocked and tracks far away. The love of racing courses through our veins and the conversation is never boring. That is a gambler’s friendship.

His stories of how he goes to the races and studied the night prior unearthing hidden gems. They pop up like hidden coins from the sand, and he knows his picks are solid. – There’s a disconnect between picking the horses and making bets. – I told him I’ve seen this curse many times before. Great handicappers who never win, and winners who don’t have an idea about handicapping. – If you really enjoy the sport you want to possess both. It’s a validating feeling of knowing you’re on the right path and being rewarded for your knowledge.

When he looked at me and asked; “what am I doing wrong. I know my picks are solid from many decades of handicapping with great teachers.” – The answer came to me from many years of playing the races. – It’s the money that gets in the way. You may be playing with scared money you can’t afford to lose, or the thought of loading up gives you second thoughts. – He shook his head slowly.

So, the golden answer is how does he beat the demons that keep him from cashing? – I told him to make no more than two small bets for his day at the races. – If you like them to win, bet them to place. If it’s a 20-1 shot who glimmers like gold, just make a small wager for fun. No big losses coming your way and you get to enjoy a little action while watching the sport you love. – All that I asked was to tell me how he did after a trip to the races.

A week later he came into my office. – “I cashed two small tickets that should have been a big winning day, my friend. – Yeah, but you won a few bucks and enjoyed what you love. No big investments and no huge losses. No harm, no foul.” – Then I gave him another homework assignment. Go to the races and just watch and keep track of your selections. Take copious notes of how much you would bet, and how you did for the day. Tell the truth as we can get down to what is holding you back.

He is now picking up steam and still sends me his daily picks. Today it will be for Keeneland, and I’ll be rooting for my friend. – He said, “You root for me as much as I do. – My friend, never gamble or talk betting with someone who is not happy to see you win.” 

Those may be the secret words of wisdom that will break his curse. If not, it is a start in the right direction for sure. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies, and get hot and stay hot, my friend!

 

The Splendor of Fall Racing

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 4, 2022 in Blogroll, Breeders Cup, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on The Splendor of Fall Racing

See the source image

 

As Mother Nature rings in a new season, we give thanks for the excitement of the past and await the cool crisp days of autumn. I’ve always said; “This is the best time to be a horse racing fan.” – The only way to put it to the test is make plans to enjoy a beautiful day of live racing action for yourself. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it all over again.

If you have the opportunity to make your way to Kentucky. There is a meet worth its weight in gold. – Keeneland kicks off an incredible meet on Friday, October 7, through Saturday, October 29, 2022. There is no racing to be held on Monday or Tuesday for the meet.

You have to go online to purchase your tickets for general admission and seats (if available) at Keeneland.com. – You’ll want to make a note for the spring season to do this well in advance to secure your favorite seating and dining. The beauty and scenery will be enjoyed by all, and the racing is sure to get you up on your feet cheering home your runner to the wire.

The 17-day boutique meet will attract large fields filled with the best in the nation converging on Lexington, Kentucky. – You’ll be treated to Keeneland’s 22 stakes races including six Grade 1 races – five of which are run on opening weekend, Oct. 7-9.  Saturday, Oct. 8, alone will offer five graded stakes with three Grade 1’s. There will be no other track more important in terms of Breeders’ Cup races than Keeneland, firstly because it will be the 2022 host track, and secondly because the track will host nine “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races during its opening weekend, according to America’s Best Racing.

When looking ahead to the Breeders’ Cup, it is important to remember that the winners of more than 40 Breeders’ Cup races down through the years have made their final prep at Keeneland’s Fall Meet, according to America’s Best Racing. – Look for top riders Irad Ortiz, Tyler Gaffalione, Jose Ortiz, Luis Saez, Florent Geroux, and Flavien Prat to name a handful. Trainers target the meet all year long looking to cap off a great year. You’ll see; Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Brad Cox, Chad Brown, Ken McPeek, Steve Asmussen, and a host of many talented conditioners looking to have a big meet at Keeneland. The action will be served up on a daily basis and all you have to do is be there.

According to America’s Best Racing:

When analyzing the preferred Keeneland main track running styles, horses would seem to have their best chances to win by staying within two lengths of the lead at the first call in sprints, and within four lengths of the lead at the first call in routes. Keeneland often features a good rail on the main track and handicappers need to factor that into their picks. In dirt sprints, post No. 1 can be expected to win about 15%. For example, at the 2022 spring meet the rail post accounted for 12 wins in 59 dirt sprints for a 21%-win percentage. Horses can win sprints from anywhere in the starting gate, but the inside posts 1-4 offer the best chances. – In Keeneland dirt routes, front-runners also do well, particularly at the 1 1/16-mile distance, with about 20% of those winners going wire-to-wire. In addition to speed and tactical speed, the other thing you want in dirt routes is an inside post. The inside four post positions do the best.

In terms of running style preferences on the Keeneland turf, it’s better to stay on or close to the pace than it is to try to come from too far back. The majority of winners lead or have gotten within 2 ½ lengths of the front at the half-mile marker. Closers have their best chance on the grass in races at 1 1/8 miles and beyond.

Post positions are important handicapping factors on the Keeneland grass course. In turf routes, inside posts are best with posts 1-4 winning the most. The far outside posts are not great at most distances on the Keeneland grass. Based on a large sample size in turf routes run at Keeneland since the fall of 2014, various posts 1-7 yield between 10-14% win percentages, but there is a steep drop-off after that in terms of winning percentages. The least advantageous distance for outside posts is at one mile, and the absolute worst posts for all turf routes at Keeneland are posts 10 and outward. Those posts combined to go 0-for-47 a few years ago and have been only slightly better ever since. At the 2022 spring meet, horses breaking from posts 10 and out took the collar, going winless from 48 starters.

Keeneland doesn’t card very many turf sprints. There were 15 such races at both the 2021 and 2022 spring meets, and there is a similar amount in the condition book this fall. With stats in these races going back to 2006 you can build a Keeneland turf sprint winning profile despite the fact they don’t run many annually. Based on the long-term figures, off-the-pace runners that rally from between two lengths and six lengths behind with a half-mile to run tend to do well. However, tactical speed has improved in results from the most recent meets. Lately, most of the winners had already gotten to the lead or within 2 ½ lengths of the front by the time then entered the stretch. In terms of turf sprint post positions, 12 of the 15 winners last year broke from posts 1-5. At the Keeneland 2022 spring meet, starters drawn in posts 8 and out went a combined 1-for-55 in turf sprints.

The fall season culminates with a tremendous battle for the championships with the Breeders’ Cup. This will take place at Keeneland on Friday, November 5, and Saturday, November 6, 2022. – There will 14 championship events worth over $31 million dollars, and can be viewed on the NBC Sports Network, FanDuel TV, and FS2. – You’ll want to follow the races during the meet to get ready to do battle with the best in the world on this weekend.

Keeneland is a magical place. Like Brigadoon, a magical Scottish village which appeared once every hundred years for a single day. Keeneland rolls open the gates every April and October for around 15 – 17 days. – It begins as you walk through the bucolic settings of tree lined parking rows to the majestic Sycamore tree that stands guard over the paddock where many champions have been saddled. Keeneland is a tradition. One where you’ll keep on your calendar for years to come. The slogan for the track has been in place for decades; “Racing as it was meant to be.” 

 

 

 

Small Tracks; Big Excitement

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 25, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Small Tracks; Big Excitement

The wafting smell of fresh popcorn as you walk through the gates. As you make your way to the program stand and purchase your book for the day, tip sheet hawkers yell out their sales pitch of winner’s from yesterday, and the ones that await today. – You have made your way into the massive confines of the racetrack. Some are monsters that once held the larger crowds of yester-year, and the new, more streamlined tracks are a bit smaller but offer up just as much excitement. In my opinion, smaller tracks are like the long-ago slogan for Avis Rental; “We try harder.”

Smaller tracks offer up a close-up view of the paddock where the horses are saddled. You can almost reach out and touch them as they take the track. – Before the races I saw a security guard tossing football with his grandsons in the winner’s circle. Not a sight at Keeneland, Belmont, or Churchill Downs prior to the races. – The smaller ovals offer a bevy of family fun and make it a complete day of entertainment.

There are pony rides in the paddock for the kiddies, as they wear the silks of a jockey with safety helmets walking in circles led by a lucky intern. – Father’s Day was a free track cap with the purchase of a program, and Mother’s Day was track logo T-shirts with a red rose for everyone. – Beer mugs with the past winner’s names printed the year they won the marquee race on Labor Day, and family fun day with games for the kiddies and entertainment all day long. – Free tickets to be drawn for a big concert right next store, and a host of constant fun on a daily basis. – I learned more from River Downs than any other track I’ve worked put together. – Treat people to a day they will remember, and we’ll make fans, friends, and players to last a lifetime.

I think it’s a tough time to compete for the discretionary dollar. A million casino and racinos, lottery, and even bingo halls with loaded with scratch-offs with a bevy of games cut into the profit. Add-in 700 channels on TV that offer up movies, sports and bring the races right to you without leaving the comfort of your home. – If we’re going to survive and plan for the future, we have to distinguish ourselves from the others.

The other day a high-ranking casino manager came up to see me and was asking questions. Most were great fodder for discussion while others came from a handbook he must have read. Then came the $10 question; “Why is racing such a special thing? I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal?” – The answer was easy. We are an entertainment destination. “What do we have that the others don’t?” – He shook his head and looked lost. – Racing; We offer something the others don’t and won’t have. – He still looked lost probably trying to figure out the profit margin which sways highly to the rapid-fire slot machines. But it’s still something completely different they’ll never have. That what makes us special.

Smaller tracks are a gem. The oyster hidden in the smaller grandstand with incredible views and the best soft serve ice cream around. – If you’re looking forward to your once-a-year trip to Keeneland, Belmont or Churchill. Make a couple of trips to your local track. It may be smaller, and you won’t see a Derby winner. Wait. The rider who won this year’s Derby and the trainer have horses on a daily basis at our place. But I digress.

Take the time and make the trip. You’ll probably see some of the old faces from long ago and go ahead and introduce someone new to the game. Best action in town by a mile. How many times have you seen a hundred people cheering for a slot machine? Never. – Go ahead, make the trip, you’ll enjoy yourself if you’re not careful. Who knows, maybe you’ll see the 6th all-time leading rider in the world, or the rider who won the Kentucky Derby this year, or a new jockey plying their trade climbing the ladder to bigger and better things. – Sometimes the hidden gems are right around the corner. The popcorn is still hot and fresh, and the action is second to none. Hope to see you at the races!

 

 

 

The Sound of Winning

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 25, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on The Sound of Winning

My son and I were watching a day of college football. He’s not a big fan like the old man, but still enjoyed it. “Why is it such a big deal with the fight songs and music when they get close to scoring?” – It really didn’t hit me until the game was over and I was on my way to bed. Music makes the sport, game, or event build into a fever pitch. Your excitement levels reach new highs, and you find yourself leaning closer to catch every moment. As he was walking away, he was humming the Ohio State fight song and didn’t even know it…

(1883) Ohio State University Fight Song- “Buckeye Battle Cry”, and “Across the Field” – YouTube

Racing is not above the absence of music and emotion. When you hear the “Call to the Post” at the races you can feel your hair stand up on your arm. It signals the excitement of things to come. – The call dates from the French cavalry- “Pour la Reunion des Trompettes”-1804 by David Buhl. The first U.S. usage is found in 1834 as a trumpeter’s call, according to Taps Bugler: Jari Villanueva.

(1883) Call to Post at Churchill Downs!! – YouTube

 

Once upon a time when at the races as a horse was entering the winner’s circle. You would hear a bevy of different songs playing in a brief blast. This was the rider’s favorite song and it used to catch your attention even when you weren’t watching closely. – Hearing some smooth Latin music or the dulcet tones of Lemmy from Motorhead would immediately let you know who was entering the winner’s circle. – It was popular in the early 90’s, and just faded away quietly. I liked it, and still do to this day.

In between races, as your signal gets sent out around the world, fans are treated to varied sound of jazz, rock, country and everything in between. – Some racinos have a piped in station that sells music to play in the background between races. Many people have told me they love our music and where can they find it. – Easy, just go to the races or watch us on your favorite ADW site.

Music has been an integral part of warfare and the soldier’s life since the dawn of history. Even the instruments on which music is played have themselves acquired great symbolic power — a regiment’s drums are second only to its colors as an emblem of honor and tradition. In the 18th century, the act of enlisting was described as following the drum, according to History Net.com.

Music makes the event bigger. – When you’re standing with 150,000 people and “My Old Kentucky Home” plays at Churchill Downs. I’ll bet dollars to donuts there’s not a dry eye in the house. – It reaches fans in many different ways. – When you hear the fight song at the big game, everyone is on their feet cheering the warriors to do battle in the game of sport. But nothing competes with hearing the “Call to the Post” for me. – It takes me back as a young boy standing with my dad as the horses paraded in front of the grandstand ready to do battle on the track.

Just pay attention as the big game is close, and you’ll hear dueling bands trying to drive their team into a frenzy, or the beauty and pageantry amplified by the long tradition of call to the post. – I bet it will have your full attention.

 

Making Memories and Remembering

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 4, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Making Memories and Remembering

I always tell readers to take a new person to the races. Especially if they’ve never been and take the time to explain what’s going on during the day. – This makes it more fun and who knows? Maybe you’ve made a lifelong fan for the game. I have a couple of stories; one from the past and the other that will take place this Tuesday.

Friend #1 – He was never into horse racing and was more of a race car, dune buggy type guy who loved that style of racing. But we’re very good friends and he was willing to try anything new that I loved. I guess it could have been that we were going out afterward as he may have thought of this as an appetizer of having a few beers and watching a few races.

I started to explain what was going to happen in the next 20 minutes, and he interrupted me and asked if I wanted a beer. “No, I’m good for now. I try not to drink and play the horses.” Looking back maybe a good idea for a young horse player, but he was just getting started. As he made his way back from the concession booth, he had two large draft beers in his hands. “I said I’m ok, and I’ll wait till later. – They’re not for you, they’re mine.” – The night was set, and he was getting lubed up for taking in the races.

Race #1 – They took the track, and he handed me a $20. – “ Bet me whatever you’re playing.” – While I was gone, he hit the concession stand for two more Pabst Blue Ribbon drafts. – The race was running, and he stood up and started screaming for our horse with vivid profanity and high fives as he crossed the line first. – “Great job, let’s do it again!”

Race #2 – They were coming onto the track, and I went down to stand in line to make a bet. When I returned there were two more large paper cups filled with the golden nectar that was making him a racing fan for the night. – If we stayed five races he was going to be passed out.

After Race #4 – He was starting to get “Yellow Cab” drunk and began to really show his new interest for the game. – When he took his shirt off where we were sitting, there he was 12 large cups of handicapping juice into the evening, I thought we’d wrap it up a little early and head on out for a few more drinks. – When I asked him what he thought about the track as he walked shirtless to the car; he said, “Man, the beers are really expensive at the track.” – He really tried to enjoy the horses for me, and as my good buddy he took one for the team. – He passed away suddenly this week, and I’ve been reflecting on some of the good old days we spent together in our youth. – He wasn’t going to be a regular visitor, but for me he was willing to try anything. – I’m sure gonna miss my friend. He was one of the good guys. How many friends would force himself to drink 12 beers and watch the races without his shirt for a buddy?

 

Tuesday is a day I’ve been waiting for. – I have a friend who’s going to come up to the races and sit in the announcer’s booth with me watching the races. – She’ll tell me stories of how she fell in love with racing many moons ago with her horse racing loving husband and all the big days she was on hand to enjoy. – She was the receptionist you would hear on the other end of line greeting you with a smile and direct your call to the right place. If you think of all of the important jobs at the track, this one quietly sits in the top five. When Covid hit, she was one of the many let go as the future was in question. When called back, she opted to remain a fan with good memories instead.

You want to know who the special guests who are coming on Thursday, she’ll know. Problems in the office, she knows. – Promotions being planned, she has all the scoops. – Long ago I found out from another track to always bring in candy once a month to the receptionist. My check was always waiting there with a program, and before I would leave, I could write a book on who was doing what. They keep the incoming traffic moving like the Swiss trains. – So, my friend is coming up to spend the day and watch her favorite rider Perry Ouzts make his way to the winner’s circle. I sure hope he has a great day! – Even more, I sure hope she enjoys her trip out to see me.

She’ll speak of the many trips of going to River Downs with her husband. He’s been gone twenty years now, but her tone makes it seem like they were there just minutes ago. We’ll share stories, and I’ll show her the fun of the best seat in the house. – She loves the excitement of the races, and you can bet dollars to donuts I’ll ham it up a bit so we can share a laugh and talk until the next race. – That’s what it’s all about. Sharing your love of something with others.

I’ve always said the best part of racing is the people. Many over the years I have written about in my blogs. – Taking the time to enjoy the day and just share a laugh is worth its weight in gold. Looking back, I remember many stories and incredible people. Many are gone, and still to this day I have met many new faces with a story all their own. If you put my feet to the fire and asked me who I’d like to spend a day at the races it would be easy.

My Dad and I riding out to catch the last three races at Latonia Racecourse in his old rusty white pick-up truck. My grandpa in the front seat and my Dad picking him up with a $20 bill wrapped around an admission pass. My college buddy who would put a Daily Racing Form on the window of my car with a written note “ Meet me here at 11:am, and we’ll go to Keeneland.” – Those days were golden then and even better to look back on. – Well, I’d like to talk more about the good old days, but my son and I are going to watch and wager on some races from Saratoga today. Memories still to be made, and I’m sure they’ll bring a smile now and times to come.

 

See you in the winner’s circle.

Plenty of Room at the Table

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 28, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Plenty of Room at the Table

The landscape for wagering is in full effect. There are so many avenues to spend your discretionary dollar – the decisions are getting tougher and tougher. I have seen that gamblers at any level love to play for a jackpot of sorts. – Slots and video poker offer up some sizeable feasts for the rapid-fire players, and this has been just one of the many reasons that racing has taken a shot to the gut. It’s not enough to just compete and open the doors for throngs of gamblers to come running through. We must plan together as an industry and not just assume the biggest bully wins.

If you look at the NFL, NBA, MLB, just to name a few, there is a process of a governing body to allow for a fair and level playing field for all. – It will be the sign of the end of racing when you watch one large behemoth dictate to others what will happen and how you’ll be allowed to play. It’s already happening, and we assume that’s fine. – The above-mentioned leagues try and keep things fair; growing with drafts, TV rights, and penalties for those who don’t play by the rules. Is it fair? I would say it’s a step in the right direction. Everyone has a seat at the table.

Horse Racing right now is being manipulated by bigger entities that push and shove smaller tracks around. Twenty plus years ago there was an article in the Daily Racing Form about the “Ten Super Tracks of the Future.” – I scoffed at the idea at first, but as I watched tracks fall by the wayside, the trend is becoming a reality. The ten super ovals would be the only racing in the country, and we would be playing them if we wanted to get our bet down on the ponies.

So, what to do? – I’m sure everyone that makes a bet will have a sure-fire plan, but as a man who has worked the majority of his life in horse racing here are a few ideas that will start the thinking process. You don’t have to agree with everything, just give it a good think about the future.

Take a look at field sizes. They are shrinking from 12 horse fields to five and six even at the biggest tracks. We could take a cue from Europe and Australia about running a live a race. Take the top three tracks running on a typical day. Now, there can be a governing body that stays in full contact with the track’s stewards and tote operators. They may need to take an additional minute or two to keep from running right on top of the other tracks. This will keep fans from jumping from one to another where somebody is going to lose. – No need, as if one fails it is only a matter of time before another track is next. We really don’t want to see any track fail or become the odd man out when it comes to handle. Keeping the “Big Three” off of each other is a great way to ensuring each will have focus on their signals/handle at the windows or betting sites. Maybe a good start? – When you’re watching the NFL this year and the big decisions on a penalty or review get tossed to New York for a final decision. Tell me it can’t work in racing as well.

Smaller tracks. They will have a seat at the table as well. – They will start hours earlier, or later if they have a top shelf lighting system in place. – Keeping the small tracks operating will allow a place for horses to run when they no longer are the G1 attraction and keep small time trainers in the game. It’s not a good sign when the smaller tracks are pushed out of business. Horses at the marquee tracks can’t all run or compete at that level. The small track has a certain charm of its own by offering competitive racing at a lesser level. – Generates revenue, job growth, and adds to tax coffers. As the big boys run at 1 pm, have the smaller tracks going to post at 10am. By the time the marquee oval has the first post parade the smaller track is finished for the day. – The smaller tracks will get more focus from the early ADM monies that would have been split on the bigger tracks. Then, after the eight-race card at your local smaller track is over, the bigger tracks will have a more concentrated stream of handle. – Everyone wins and still plenty to go around. You don’t think tracks, OTB’s or ADW’s want racing to fall off the cliff, do you? They still get a good percentage from the tracks running. They don’t mind if it’s home of the Derby or the $5,000 claimer.

Years ago, Beulah Park used to have “Million Dollar Mondays” when not many of the big boy tracks were running. It was a golden time. – Smaller tracks need to take the off-days that marquee tracks don’t seek and start early and be the early bird that gets the worm. Those million-dollar handle days were on super cheap claimers which yielded big payouts. The kind of results gamblers love to chase.  Smaller tracks have a purpose.

There is still room at the table. – But it will get worse before it gets better. – Look for marquee tracks to dump major ovals and focus on mid-level tracks to buy them up and shift dates to another holding where they can empty the competition. – But there is plenty of room at the table only if you are looking to keep racing going at all levels and not have a monopoly on a select few. Just some thoughts from a lifetime racing fan and someone who has worked at many tracks during my working life.

Good Conversations

by Ed Meyer

posted on August 28, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | Comments Off on Good Conversations

Perry Ouzts early in his career. (Courtesy Perry Ouzts)

 

There are good, bad, and the ones you get early in the morning about purchasing a new car warranty. All serve a purpose, but when you have a face-to-face conversation with a legend of racing you tend to be all ears.

The door opens into the jocks room. Gently as it swings out and a small man enters the room. He doesn’t say anything and just comes into begin his day. He’s been doing it like this since Rablu. Just ask him, it seems like yesterday. April 2, 1973. The track was Beulah Park (Now an industrial park) outside of Columbus, Ohio. It was a cold rainy day, but the beginning of a career that many would be proud to hang their hat.

Perry Wayne Ouzts was born July 7, 1954, in Lepanto, Arkansas. He and a gaggle of cousins of which most if not all had a hand in horse racing. – It was 1965 and his cousin Earlie Fires was riding at Chicago. Perry was small and already had a love for horses. Being a jockey seemed to fit his liking as it seemed “like a cool job.” He made his way mucking stalls in Chicago and learned about getting on horses. Over time, his confidence and ability grew.

Vietnam was going on, and Perry was a little nervous about what could lay ahead for him. As he turned 18-years-old he registered for the draft. He was 5 feet 1 inches and 95 pounds; a little lighter than the backpacks he would carry in war. – But had another calling of moving from Hot Springs to Chicago following in the footsteps of his racing family. In the spring of 1973, he was ready to race, and his love of racing brought him to Ohio where he would spend the majority of his career even to this day.

He can recall with great accuracy the weather of the day and loading into the starting gate. – Looking around as he hit the wire there was nobody else around. “It was like slow-motion, not in real life. And I thought it was a pretty good thrill.” 

The very next day he rode nine races and won two races. “I got to thinking, this is pretty fun and seemed like a great way to make money. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be like Willie Shoemaker.” – As the meet went on, he continued to keep winning races. – He was the leading rider at his very first race meet. – With 7,316 career wins later, he is the 6th all-time winningest rider in racing. – That is where our conversation began.

As Perry walked into the room, I congratulated him on his three wins the day prior. He just nodded and quietly said, thank you. A man of few words who chooses to do his talking on the back of a horse.

I asked Perry a direct question. Something I usually stay away from as he’s not a big talker and would rather focus on work. – “Perry, are you going to hang it up and head to the beach with your wife Toni? Or are you going to chase the record of David Gall for the 5th all-time leading rider? – Ed, I think I’m going to make a run for Gall’s record.” – This was about the most talk you’d get from Perry on any day, but he seemed pretty focused on this next goal as he had just passed career win number 7,300 days before.

Perry Wayne Ouzts is only 80 wins away from David Gall’s accomplishment of 7,396 career wins. – With a little over a month in the Belterra Park meet, he’ll shift his tack to Turfway Park where the rider colony is much tougher. But he’ll still notch some wins over the cold winter. – I have a mental count going for the rest of the month and some winner’s at Turfway, he’ll pass David Gall next season at Belterra Park, which took the place of the historic River Downs that has faded into history. Belterra Park is his new home.

He’ll be 69-years-young and move into the 5th all-time place in riding history. Kind of like having your own Mickey Mantle playing in your own back yard. – Perry is a quiet, humble, family man. His dedication is what kept him to task. His love of winning hasn’t changed one bit from his first win on that cold spring day in Columbus, Ohio at Beulah Park. – His love for winning hasn’t lost one bit of luster. If anything, he savors every win with a slow jog back to the winner’s circle like a fine wine or an expensive cigar.

In the short time we spoke; many words were said without uttering a sentence. – He is focused and sees the goal. His love of winning is a thing to behold. The look in his eyes said all that needs speaking. Each win is like the first, and his dedication to being on the backside before sunrise is the stuff that winners are made from.

Perry, best of luck chasing down your next big goal. – One thing is for sure; we’ll all be rooting you on as you cross the finish line that day. I wouldn’t miss it for anything, and hopefully I’ll be the one to call you into the winner’s circle on this day.

May be an image of 1 person, riding on a horse, standing, horse and outdoors