- Three weeks until Saratoga, and as even as my handicapping game lies in shambles and I continue to look to writing and blogging projects to generate some income, I’m warming to the idea of attempting to do so mainly at the betting windows. That's one of the things that makes the game so great. I can suffer a day of miserable losses, and yet drive home truly believing that I'm on the verge of mastering the game. I mean, I’m not that bad, am I? Why not me? With my discipline, at least, being a strong point, it would only take one big Pick 4 score to put me over the top. I feel inspired by some advice that an anonymous poster left in the comments section last week:
Your only source of income comes from handicapping.Oh man, you gotta love that! Because while hardly chump change in terms of 2006 dollars, in the long run, it ain’t gonna put me out on the street, and who knows, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (As in, I may never want to see another racetrack afterwards!) So though I am planning to do some writing for pay, and have a special Saratoga blog project in the works, let the games begin, I say!
Like the commercial says:
36 days at Saratoga rent and living expenses: chump change
36 days Saratoga with my last nickel on the line: PRICELESS
The problem is, as I mentioned above, that I suck right now, and my confidence is shot. This is despite the fact, or, maybe because I’ve been trying to do the “right thing” lately. I’ve been studying the races intently prior to going to the track like I'm supposed to, dissecting the trainer angles and race charts via Formulator, and checking out breeding on Pedigree Query. I’ve also been printing out the pp’s at home and not buying the Form at the track, so as to force me to shun simulcasting and concentrate solely on the live races.
But it hasn’t helped. In fact, I’ve gone downhill. It’s a conundrum, this thing about doing the “right thing”. When I’ve already fully digested the races before going, I find myself either losing concentration or thinking way too much about races that I’ve studied ad nauseum. I also get a little restless, and I get frustrated if I know that the upcoming races are lacking. But if I just pick up the Form at the track and mostly wing it, then I’m missing out on information that can provide me with a crucial edge. (Or maybe it’s “too much information.”)
I reverted to the "winging it" method on Tuesday (and said 'hello' to simulcasting again). And though it didn't help the bottom line, I at least seemed to have a clue, was fully engaged, and had more fun. In fact, I almost hit a nice triple in the 6th race triple at Belmont. I had Classic Marilyn, the non-Mechanical Animal who is currently my favorite horse name, squarely on top at 8-1. But I got badly burned when 27-1 Baby Gray got his neck into third place. I was so positive about the race, that I didn’t even bother with exactas, and indeed, I ran 1-2-4-5. (I’m also cheap, which is probably my biggest fault at the track.)
Being at the Spa for the entire meeting, my inclination is that the “right thing” is the right thing. Careful handicapping before the race day starts, picking my spots for the Pick-Whatever that will make the meeting. Discipline, no simulcasting, strict budgeting seems like the sensible way to go.
On the other hand, historically I do best when I think on my feet, and take the races one at a time, including simulcast options if appropriate. It’s also more fun for me. But it won’t be fun if I blow the budget after the first three weeks, and it just seems reckless in this particular case, especially when I have all the modern tools of handicapping at my disposal. (You know, all those tools that didn’t exist 20 years ago, when the Racing Form’s speed ratings and track variants added together seemed to serve us all fine.)
So, I’m really up in the air now, and I have three weeks to try and figure out a strategy. One thing for sure, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, and I want to have fun. On the other hand, who wants to come back and have to say “I lost,” when asked how you did?
- No racing in New Jersey due to the government shutdown, and Saturday’s Grade 1 United Nations Handicap is very much up in the air, as is a huge weekend at the Meadowlands, where the elimination heats for several big stakes, including the Meadowlands Pace and the Stanley Dancer Memorial, a key prep for the Hambletonian, are supposed to be run. Reuters is reporting today that a compromise budget is in the works, so let’s hope for the best.