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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Make Art, Not Tout

Reader McCarron recently wrote: I will never understand paid tout sites. Isn't the fun, skill, and ultimate aim of the game to pick your own winners/have your own opinion? Why pay someone else to tell you what to think?

I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that, at least at my modest level of play and though the money is always nice, a large part of the reward from winning is the mere satisfaction of getting it right. I replay in my mind the moments at which my brilliant deductions were first formed, to be later cultivated and assimilated into a winning ticket. Or two.

Having said that though, no one forces you to go to a tout site; and besides, guys like my buddy at Discreet Picks have attracted a loyal following of knowledgeable players with a spot play or two a day accompanied by smart analysis and insight which can be ultimately worthwhile even if that particular selection doesn't work out.

But where I personally have been starting to have a problem with touting is at the track itself; and, recently in particular, at Saratoga. It's not like at Belmont where you can't hear a damn thing. I'm hanging out in the backyard, the TV's are blasting and first, you have the former Siro's show before the races with some of the wisest handicappers in the game going through every race in a fair amount of detail. Serling, Crist, even Beyer was there for the Woodward. Guys who are not always modest with their opinions to be sure.

And then, the damned bell, reliably counting down the remaining seconds of my active life, rings 18 minutes before the first, and here we go again with the analysis. We don't even get Jan Rushton anymore, just more opinions. It gets oppressive to me after a while, I'm like, enough already.

I'm not begrudging or belittling those people who like this stuff, and it helps willing beginners, and others, to get involved (which of course is part of the point, and I don't recall the last time I heard any track handicapper say that a race sucks, I think you should sit this one out). But I do think I'm in the majority at the track - and I'm talking about the real horseplayers - who are fiercely independent and competitive, and who are just not particularly interested in having anyone - even (especially?) smart guys like the aforementioned - telling them who they should, or should not, bet.

Besides, handicapping is a purely subjective endeavor; everyone has their own theories, their own approaches. I consider it to be a form of art. The past performance lines are rows of data which can be interpreted in countless different ways, any way you'd like....none of which, in the long run, is likely to do you much good considering the high random element to the results of most races. There's rarely any right or wrong here, only after-the-fact. Your opinion is as good as anyone's.

At museums, some people like to follow tour guides, or they rent headphones with recorded explanations that tell you what a painting means or suggest how you should react to it emotionally. That's fine if that's your thing, but they don't blast it over loudspeakers at the Met. So I think that tracks should similarly rent out headphones, so those of you who wish to can listen to other people's opinions, and the rest of us can not only concentrate and think for ourselves, but we can also bask in the sounds of the rustling of the trees, the clomp-clomp of the horses walking down the path, the excited murmur of the crowd, the approaching thunder in the distance....or, at Aqueduct, the songs of the gulls, the roar of the jets, the anguished cries of "blood clot," the familiar happy cacophony of the video slots.....


Anonymous said...

agree with you 100%. the nice thing about the lack of a functioning sound system at belmont is the quiet when you're near the paddock.

but speaking of quiet i have to say i miss the "anguished cries of blood clot" when i'm at saratoga.

cheers, chris

ljk said...

I think the NYRA folks should spend a few days at Keeneland. No commercials for casinos and no blathering Little Andy saying "I don't know, he could win but...". At least we were spared "Mitch at Large" this year.

I too want just my own opinion. I'm searching for downloadable PPs that don't include the morning line.

jk said...

I enjoy the "Closer Look" comments in the DRF. You could say this is some form of a tout sheet.

Overall, I am with the rest of you. All of the fun is picking your own poison and seeing how it plays out.

Jan was good. What happened to her?

Steve Munday said...

Good idea. Why not transmit "expert" handicapper touts over a low-power radio frequency so whoever wants to listen could tune in w/ their headphones (available for purchase or rental at binoc stand). Heck, they've been doing this for years at the gym. Besides the welcome peace and quiet, it would save me from getting P.O.'d when the horse I just bet at 8-1 starts getting touted over the PA with 5 MTP.

Steve Zorn said...

Jan Rushton quit NYRA to return home to South Carolina to help take care of an ailing family member. I certainly preferred her paddock observations to Little Andy's ego.

Anonymous said...

Jan provided something different, a horsewomen's perspective to the paddock scene, something that can not be found in the pp's. And she also would actually get a trainer to give their opinion of a first time starter on occasion. I caught a number of winners this way.

She was therefore worth a listen (and always a look).

I wish her and her family well and hope she returns at some point down the line. In the meantime, NYRA should find someone to be the eyes and ears in the paddock.

Before each race, the current NYRA duo du jour just repeats exactly what they said in the morning, they are not even near the paddock most of the time, often talking right over horses that are acting up etc. without taking notice.

To give credit where credit is due, I have heard Andy suggest passing a certain race on occasion, the only track handicapper ever to that.

ballyfager said...

Picking winning horses is a great leveler. Everyone has an opinion but you're as good as your last bet.

As I've said time and time again, the fact that Beyer, Brown, Ragozin etc. numbers are for sale is a tacit admission that THEY can't make money betting them.

Dunque said...

Personally I love hearing the commenters jump all over horses I hate. I figure their money plus the moneyh of anyone who follows their advice gives me an added payoff.

It is all about helping beginners understand. And honestly, on occasion, I've picked up valuable pointers I did not know. For instance, Andy's factoid of the meet that no A.P. Indy offspring has ever won a sprint at Saratoga (over 100 entrants). That alone was pretty valuable.