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Monday, December 04, 2006

Division Fourteen

- Mark Cramer's short novel Scared Money has been re-released by the Racing Form since I last wrote about it in this post about keeping detailed records. Cramer advocates doing so even to the point of keeping track of more practical considerations such whether you were standing or sitting, and where, when you made your betting decision. All professional handicappers urge you to keep records, and as much as I agree and particularly like some of Cramer's suggestions, it's just not in the cards for me anytime in the near future. I'll be a happy man the day that I actually have time to do stuff like that.

In the book, Cramer seeks to apply some of his character Matt's off-track experiences to handicapping. He writes: Success at the races is a holistic enterprise. If a person can handle making off-track decisions under stress, then he is ready to handle the races.

Well, there you go. I can't even make a decision on what movie to go see. That explains a lot.

Matt, working the courtroom for interpreting gigs, is asked to help out a Spanish woman whose landlord is trying to evict her after she fell behind on her rent. Assessing the situation, he handicaps that she has no shot when the case initially assigned to Division Three. In Judge Erickson's Division Three, the favorite always won. Maria would be off the board. He is able to instead have the case assigned to Division Fourteen, where Judge Phillips is far more sympathetic to the plight of tenants, and where it was odds on that she'd escape the eviction.

My visit to the tenant-landlord courts had triggered the discovery. Certain races gave the favorites a great advantage, equivalent to Judge Erickson's Divison Three. But in other races, as with Judge Phillips' Division Fourteen, the favorite-longshot dynamic was reversed.
Ever since I first read Scared Money, around 12 years or so ago, I've always tried to approach races from that standpoint. Is it a race which is likely to finish as indicated by the toteboard? Or is it a race in which I can stand against the favorite at the least, or even approach as a Division Fourteen race in which not only does a long shot seem plausible, but even likely.

You know that type of favorite - horses dropping in claiming price off a win, first-time turfers getting bet off good dirt Beyers (or vice versa), horses running at an inappropriate distance, obviously prepping for something later or going off form, coming off a race or, better, two in which it obviously benefited from a favorable pace or trip, those horses with backclass that always get bet and never, ever win, horses that are just plain overbet.

I thought that the Breeders Cup Juvenile was a Division Fourteen race, and since I did have a bet on the winner, I'm not saying that in hindsight. Given the closeness of the finish and the ground loss suffered by Street Sense relative to Circular Quay in their prior race, there was no justification for the disparity in their odds; second choice Scat Daddy had never been around two turns and was also severely overbet.

It seems like a logical approach to try and limit my wagering to races in which I don't like the favorite. That's when the odds can really be in your favor if you're right. I know a lot of readers like to punch favorites if the opportunity presents itself, and I'm in no position to criticize any approach (and can't resist myself sometimes). But looking to beat the public choice, and they do lose around 67% of the time, is the best approach for me. When I'm handicapping on the fly in a simulcasting situation with the races coming fast and furious, left and right, east and west, the way I decide which races to bet is to simply look at the favorite. It only takes a minute, really, to quickly pick out most vulnerable ones, and that's usually enough in itself to peak my interest and invite a closer look.


Anonymous said...

I have always found it easier to indentify overbet favorites than the horse that is going to beat them. One of my favorites is a 3yo or older stepping up off its maiden win with a career top figure. Up in weight and class and often overbet.

Instead of trying to key one horse to upset the underlay I now resort to a three horse box EX/TRI with the fave off the ticket, not much risk and big bucks when I am right.

Mr. Ed

Anonymous said...

Great post Alan. . .Cramer is one of the smartest guys to ever write about racing and I love SCARED MONEY. One of the few handicapping type books that even our significant others can enjoy! Everyone should go ahead and buy it.