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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Doing The "Right" Thing?

- 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.

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
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!

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.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Saratoga is a horrible track to try to make $$$$$. Too many good horses in each race, I never seem to have any luck there, but still I try!!! Byanose

Anonymous said...

...insofar as making money @ Saratoga, i pretty much stick to the 2yo races, so here's what i do in regard to those...keep all your Forms from Belmont/Churchill, stretching back about 2 months from Saratoga...know who the first-out winners were, and how fast they ran...once you begin looking at the Saratoga maiden races, you'll likely notice a few entrants who have been training in company with the first-out winners (either heads-up, or out-working them)...those horses should be extremely live...also keep an eye out for 2yo's who were graduates of the 2yo's-in-training sales (Ocala, Fasig-Tipton, or Barrett's) and who brought upwards of $100k...then you can check to see if perhaps they'd worked the fastest furlong (or quarter) at one of the under-tack shows...Albertrani and Pletcher generally have one or two of those...

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan-
To borrow the advice of the philosopher Crash Davis, I suppose you should approach this endeavor with a mix of fear and arrogance. That is, be arrogant enough to believe in your abilities, while at the same time remain mindful that this game is never easy. Unlike Walter, I offer no specific advice, but I will make a general observation that perhaps can help you in the arrogance department. Having read most of your posts regarding last year's summer meet, I recall that a fairly large number of the horses you liked actually did very well. Also, my sense is that you do, in fact, do best when you go with your instincts, and, as they said of pitcher Ron Darling years ago, think long, think wrong. Sure, there is much logic in trying to utilize the abundant information at your disposal, but if it seems to take you out of your game then it's just not worth it. Go with your gut, be patient, and who knows, you might even have some fun with this.

Good luck, bud.

Anonymous said...

Find a sloppy sports book and get down all you can on Henney Hughes in the Breeder's Cup Sprint

Anonymous said...

Discreet Cat out of the Traver's. Pointing towards the Brooklyn in mid-September.

Bank Check

Anonymous said...

....Henny Hughes is 20/1 for the Sprint...he could certainly win it, but that price is marginal at best...there are several very strong contenders out there, and the race is 4 months away...

Anonymous said... more word regarding Henny Hughes...on the surface, he appeared to run very fast the other fact, he received a 109 Beyer...but the early fractions he was pressing, 22.23 and 44.71, weren't all that fast...a look at the charts reveals that an allowance filly had set fractions of 22.12 and 44.65 earlier on the card...there's no doubt Henny Hughes was finishing like a bomb, getting the 5th furlong in 11.51 (opening 5 lengths on He's Got Grit), and finishing up in 12.04 while not fully extended...listen, i respect Henny Hughes as much as fact, i've been on his bandwagon ever since he breezed a furlong in under 10 seconds at the Barrett's sale last year (he later scored first time out for Biancone @ 8/5)...but keep in mind he was pressing moderate splits in a 4-horse field, with only one of his opponents (He's Gor Grit) showing early was a huge return effort by Henny Hughes, no doubt, but don't go handing him the Breeders Cup Sprint just yet...i think Afrashad, Bordonaro, Too Much Bling, and a few others might have something to say about that... for the bad news, Bank Check...i immediately went to the Godolphin site to verify, but there's nary a word over there...nothing on Bloodhorse either...i was beginning to wonder where you saw that, but then tried, and there it was right on the front page...UGGGHHHHHH...that horse is driving me crazy...

John said...

Alan, is this supposed to be a vacation for you and head chef? I thought it was. Why not enjoy it and stop thinking you have be the greatest handicapper in the world. Geez you're making me anxious and I am just an observer....CHILL OUT

Anonymous said...

Dont forget Songster in the Sprint division.

As for the Spa, an angle that has been successful for me, (at least until last year when it bombed)is to ignore the overbet shippers first time out, especially from CD. For some reason the recent Belmont runners from the year round local trainers tend to be overlays early, I assume becuase everyone gets caught up in the hype of the out of town trainers. Barbara, Hushion, Bush, Toner tend to score early at generous prices.

The shippers often require an adjustment period and/or a race over the track and often rebound at generous odds second time out.

Anonymous said...

Curious you mention that you've been having poor luck at the windows while using the DRF printouts. The King & I noticed a distinct drop in our fortunes when we started printing out the PPs at home -- yet I couldn't resist 'em, as I could handicap on the hour rides to Mountaineer. Eventually we both printed out copies and bought the Form at the track, and our luck started to change. Do you think it could have something to do with how the info is displayed on that hard-to-read newsprint? (Maybe eyestrain stimulates the handicapping center of the brain?)

Also, if you're short on blog ideas, a post about the joys/frustrations of Formulator would be appreciated; here at the Castle we've never explored any of the various handicapping aids, though someone once recommended the Quinella Crusher to me! :-)