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Sunday, October 30, 2005

No Schiller in Sheets

- It was halfway through the Breeders’ Cup program and the day was at a crossroads. It had been a frenetic day from the second we walked in, around 20 minutes before the Juvenile Fillies. We headed straight for the paddock, which was overflowing with a crowd dressed in preparation for the cool weather, giving it a truly World Series-type atmosphere from the moment we walked in. It was obvious that there were many visitors who had made the short hop over from the UK; the Head Chef pointed out that British men really know how to dress! From the paddock, it was off to the windows and I was right into the day without skipping a beat, and feeling a little overwhelmed - by the crowd and the lines and by the magnitude of the horses that were there and the races being run. I was running up and down, up to the seats, down to the paddock, up to the windows, back down, where I had the great pleasure of seeing Jessica again, and of meeting my other fellow bloggers Patrick, Brian, Quinella Queen, and reader Jim from Rochester, cool! I needed to calm down and drank some bourbon we had brought in, and while it provided the desired effect, in retrospect it was probably a mistake.

Now, before I knew it, the Sprint was over, Lost in the Fog had lost, and though I didn’t have any tickets still alive by the time we got to the Sprint, I found the result extremely disappointing and a big letdown. "Just inside the eighth pole he had nothing left," Russell Baze said. The shine of a potential star had been seriously doused, and we’ll be hearing the ‘I told-ya-so’s’ from all the ‘I told-ya-so’s.’ (May I point out that Battle Won finished last?) Worse yet, the race had been won by the kind of horse whose dramatic improvement since transferring to the barn of his current trainer is the sort that raises suspicions of the game’s integrity.

I’d had no luck at the windows to that point. In the Juvenile Fillies, I was immediately faced with a decision. I’d liked Wild Fit for weeks, but just before leaving I saw a note from reader Walter about a highly negative assessment of the filly’s last work by a clocker that he called ‘very, very good.’ A valuable insider tip? Or too much information? In this case, I opted for the latter, sticking to my convictions, and I was almost rewarded, as her remarkable rally from far, far back, fell just a length or so short.

Sorcerer’s Stone was disappointing in the Juvenile, Karen’s Caper tired badly in the F&M Turf, Lost in the Fog had been vanquished; now what to do? The Mile was upcoming, and a race that many had conceded to Leroidesanimaux now seemed wide open with the announcement that the favorite would be outfitted with aluminum pads. He had worn bar shoes for his last workout, but Frankel had promised he’d be reshod with regular shoes. Now, every smart guy I’d spoken to was going against him; all the bloggers, and those in the group with whom I was sitting, and sharing bourbon and having a nice time.

One of these guys at the seats, a friend of the friend I’d gotten the seats from, someone I’d never met before, was looking to partner in some dollar Pick 4’s, based on singling Saint Liam. We both agreed that Saint Liam couldn’t lose, so I was all ears. He liked Stellar Jayne and In the Gold in the Distaff; I had grown more and more in favor of the former as the day progressed. I didn’t like In the Gold at all, but I said OK, as long as we could also use Pleasant Home, who I’d picked as a longshot possibility for exotics. He was a Sheets guy, took a look, mumbled something about “forging,” and nodded in approval.

We agreed on the three foreigners Bago, Shirocco, and Azamour along with Better Talk Now and Fourty Niners Son for the Turf; and we wanted to spread the Mile to beat Leroidesanimaux in the Mile. “Who do you like?” he asked. Now, as I mentioned the other day, I never really handicapped the Mile. I was sold on the King, and once I read in several places that even the Europeans, many of whom thought they were going to win three races on the day, felt that their contingent was subpar, I didn’t even bother. So now, with time ticking down and facing lines that had been annoying all day, I started from the top – “Well, Artie Schiller, Funfair, Majors Cast....”

“No, I don’t like Artie Schiller or Funfair.”

Oh. Hmmm. O....K...., I mean, I didn’t really do the race, and here’s a smart guy with Sheets telling me these horses are no good. They sure looked good to me; how much sharper could either of them be, particularly Artie Schiller, who has never ever run a poor race? Another Sheets guy there made a disparaging comment about Funfair, like ‘oh yeah, he’s gonna have the rail open up at the right time for him again today.’ I dunno, I guess I figure if people pay forty bucks, or whatever it is, for a single day’s worth of Sheets, they must have better information than me. And though the bourbon had calmed me and was keeping me warm, it had, as usual, dulled my ability to make crisp decisions, which is why I usually prefer not drinking at the track. So I just deferred; I went along. When we did the math and figured we could include one more for the Mile, and it was left to me to add another, I wimped out and chose Leroidesanimaux, who was getting bet as if there was nothing wrong.

You can figure out the rest. The return on my share of that Pick Four would have been some $4325. This was not a handicapping failure, but instead one of my own passivity and confidence in my knowledge and handicapping skills. In the Juvenile Filles, I discarded the warning on the workout, and stuck with what I believed. In the Mile, besides being unprepared and in little condition to handicap efficiently, I showed no confidence at all, perhaps even feeling a little intimidated by someone who I thought knew more than me. What in the world could have possibly been on the freaking Sheets to convince me that Artie Schiller was not a contender in this race? Even through my alcohol-induced fog, just a glance at the Form showed that he just had to be on that ticket! Why should I, or any of you, ever think that someone else’s opinion is better than ours, whether it’s Mike Watchmaker or some guy with Sheets? Or with a blog for that matter?

So I had already blown my budget for the day, and had to borrow, or should I say, “borrow” money from the Head Chef. I can’t really explain nor recall what happened in my mind to make me NOT use Pleasant Home on top in the Distaff. I guess I just didn’t really think she was going to win the race, but at 30-1....damn! I recall my childhood racing mentor in these situations repeating over and over to me “If you really liked him, you would’ve have had him, so you didn’t have him because you didn’t really like him.”

But the smart guy with the Sheets, alerted to the longshot by yours truly, now did like her, and he did use her on top and ride it to the $2045 Pick Three. He felt bad and wanted to compensate me somehow, but the Head Chef and I had planned our prompt escape following the Classic finish and, with no IRS forms to be completed, were quickly out to the parking lot. An amazing day of racing, about which I’ll be back over the next few days with more, and another valuable lesson learned. I’m hoping to be able to sneak back to Belmont for a few races today.


Walter said..., sounds like you had quite a day...that's one of the reasons i very rarely bet exotics, they're far too intricate...if i like a horse, i generally just bet him to win, period (though sometimes i'll go win/place)...i mean, if you like Pleasant Home at a price, and she wins, how should Artie Schiller (in a different race, no less) affect that?...even with a simple exacta wager, God Forbid your longshot comes in and the wrong horse runs second (or first)...if you like a horse, and the horse comes thru, you should make shouldn't have to depend on other horses as well...but that's just me, different strokes for different, here i am ranting about the evils of exotic wagering, and i actually bet into the same Pick 3 pool as you guys did! see, i liked Leroidesanimaux, and of course i like Shirocco very much...and it occured to me that it might be a good idea to try to get locked into Shirocco before his race arrived, because i thought he would probably get bet down, and then a lot of bandwagon-jumpers would climb on, the fact i had no clue in the Distaff led me to believe there was a decent chance one of the bigger prices might come i singled Leroidesanimaux, hit "all" in the Distaff, and singled Shirocco...i thought Leroy had the thing won coming off the turn, but damn if Artie Schiller didn't run him down...btw Alan, if it makes you feel any better, i didn't particularly like Artie Schiller either (in fact, i bet a matchup here in Vegas on Singletary to beat Artie Schiller)...but as you mentioned, it shouldn't matter what OTHER people think...most other people are idiots, ESPECIALLY Mike Watchmaker and many of his contemporaries...i know nothing about the Sheets, except that they're ridiculously expensive and i don't know how to read them anyway (i believe they're based on form cycles?)...anyway, i'm sorry you missed on that Pick 3, would've been real nice...i'm also sorry if i led you astray on Wild Fit...i just had some pertinent info, and felt that i should share it, since i know you liked her a lot...i'm glad you didn't listen, i would've felt really bad if i had taken you off of her, and then she had won the race...ugh...again, that's why you should listen to yourself, and not to others...there are a lot of sharp guys out there, no doubt, and their opinions often hold merit (even when they differ with your own)...but when it comes right down to it, it's your money, and you're the one making the one else can do it for you...would you like to know where I messed up yesterday???...i of course liked Stevie Wonderboy...i considered him the most likely winner, and i knew he'd offer a square price, with the bulk of the crowd on First Samurai...i've had Brother Derek in the back of my mind, as i had seen his smashing debut win, and knew there was a lot of talent there...i even had a nice bet on him in the when i got the big workout report on him, and it looked as if he was sitting on a big race, i knew i had to do something with original plan was bet both Stevie W. and Brother D. win/place, but when i walked into the book and saw Brother D. @ 56/1 on the toteboard, i guess it made Stevie W's 4/1 look really small by instead of betting $50 win/place on each of them, i went $50 win/place/show on Brother Derek, and also bet some $1 trifectas (something i NEVER do), keying Stevie/Derek in all three spots with 5 other horses (including Henny Hughes and First Samurai) in the remaining know the rest of the story, Stevie W. wins the race, Brother D. runs fourth at the huge price, and Henny/Samurai run 2-3...i had the damn super, i just didn't bet it...betting the super never even occured to me, to be honest, though obviously it should make matters worse, i had ZERO dollars on Stevie W. to win, as i guess i was mesmerized by that 56/1 on Brother i'm all over the race, had it six ways to Sunday, and i come up completely empty...that's why i hate exotic wagering, my friend...lemma tellya a quick story...when i first started betting horses, back in 1994, i loved a 2yo named Montreal Red in some stakes race in New York...he was going off @ 2/1, and i bet him every way i could think, place, show, exactas, trifectas, you name it...all totaled, i invested $52 (which was a large bet for me back then, considering i really had no clue what i was doing) Montreal Red wins the race easily, and i'm totally stoked!...i'm thinking, i just won a lot of money, right? i march up to the window to collect my winnings, and you know how much that $52 investment got me back?...fifty bucks...that's right, Montreal Red won easily, and i somehow managed to LOSE two dollars...that's when the realization hit me over the head like a sledgehammer..."if i had just bet that $52 to win, i'd have made a hundred bucks"...from that point on, i've pretty much stayed away from exotic wagering, and i'm a much happier man for mind you, every situation is different, and sometimes an exotic bet IS called for, but most of the time it's not...again, just my two with it what you i mentioned yesterday, i really enjoy your website, especially the interaction with other knowlegeable horse people...there's far too few of those around...and great call on Pleasant Home, whether you guys cashed on her or she was pulling away in the stretch, i immediately thought of this website, as i had seen her name mentioned here more than once...keep those ideas flowing,'s been fun reading your thoughts on the races, and horse racing in general...i'll talk at ya later...

throwaway said...

you mean the $6.80 on the Saint wasn't enough to get you to the IRS window?

i agree with walter -- didn't see too many people touting Pleasant Home, so that's something you can feel good about. ditto re. Wild Fit. though he went off the slight favorite, we did correctly identify St. Liam as being a notch above the rest, so that's 3 of the races. and at least you didn't have one of your picks (Wildcat Heir) collapse (let that be a lesson to me: when a horse races once a year, that should be a red flag!), and another (Private Vow) ease up from an equipment malfunction. Sure, the 4K would have been a huge hit, but just as with the Spa meet, you had some successes yesterday that go beyond what can be measured in bullion.

My one complaint with you is that all this BCup stuff is causing you to neglect your ranger blog -- particularly on a night that our dominic moore scored 2 goals!


alan said...

Thanks guys. Yes, I did have a lot of good ideas at least, and I have them in writing to prove it too. Saint Liam, in particular, was much the best in my opinion given how much ground he lost on both turns, so I think we were really right on about him.

Nice going Walter with Shirocco; sorry that Stevie Wonderboy didn't work out. As far as the question of betting win vs. exotics, to me, identifying the winner means that it's an opportunity to create mucho value and have some thrills. I don't bet enough to get rich by betting 9-2 shots to win, but by concentrating on exotics, it allows me to have some real shots at some exotic-sized payoffs while keeping my betting well within my budget. It was hard at first, but I've conditioned myself to shaking off having the winner but not making money. Of course, when it comes to 30-1 shots, twenty bucks on the nose will do just fine.

Tote Board Brad said...

Not only did you have some good ideas, at least you got a good "the one that got away" story. Nice pick, even if you didn't cash.

Conversely, the one winner I posted (Shirocco) I didn't bet at plunged odds. The others? Mostly up the track, including my "I'm so smart" play, Karen's Caper. At least Knights Templar didn't embarrass herself.

It's so good to see that all you kids had so much fun at the Cup. I went in 2002 at Arlington and didn't place a bet. I enjoyed the great racing, but you couldn't get to the windows and they weren't prepared for the crowd.

Belmont knows how to handle it, though, and I didn't have troubles getting down during the Belmont Stakes. Perhaps I'll reassess my "I'll never go to another Breeder's Cup Again" position.

Great posts from everyone in the Alliance.