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Monday, February 15, 2010
Losers no more

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Common sense plays a key role in horse race handicapping, which is why so many people lose.

With the 2010 racing season digging its way out of a national snow drift, here's an updated primer on Handicapping for the Luckless.

Forget horses moving to or from fake dirt: Golden rules are difficult to come by in this business; so semi-precious rules will have to do. Artificial dirt surfaces are to horse racing as long-drive competitions and miniature golf are to the PGA tour. The fake dirt bias is so severe, it's best to eliminate horses switching surfaces. This way of assuming would seem to favor Rachel Alexandra over Zenyatta, in the real world, by broadening daylight.

Don't touch anything in the men's room.

Don't get all that carried away with jockeys changing horses to another in the same race: Sometimes it's in their contracts and there's no choice. Also, the change is automatically overly discounted by the suckers.

If there's room enough on the back side, and scarce competition to your left, there's nothing wrong with rotten post position speed.

Short fields greatly discount Beyer numbers.

Don't talk to anybody unless it's to ask them who they like so you can eliminate a horse or two: Same with tip sheets and experts on TV. Check them out only to get rid of the obvious. Selling picks to tourists is much easier than selling them to yourself.

Steadily improving Beyer numbers usually show up well in the Derby.

Don't mess with the IRS: Keep notes as well as tickets. While on the subject, how do all those millions accurately document slot machine losses?

Don't take a bad mood to the windows.

Oftentimes drop-down shippers at tracks whose purses are spiked with slot sweets are actually healthy.

Late runners usually need a lot of help.

Some small race tracks are like barns in that numerous horses from a particular place run hot: A few years ago, everything coming from Sunland won at larger places, a couple of seasons ago, Canterbury. Bias against small tracks is money.

Buy a Racing Form.

If nothing looks good after a couple of passes, pass on the race.

Don't play lousy trainers or jockeys.

In quarter horse races, consider the "suck up" factor in which a horse is so fast out of the gate, it creates something of a vacuum, or a space, dragging along, so to speak, a horse on either side, at a big price if you're lucky.

Take more money to the races: Unless you want to miss another tri by a dollar.

Read Steven Crist's book about exotic wagering.

At most tracks, Quinellas pay more than half of Exactas, more than half the time.

Betting "All" exactas usually beats making a win bet.

Watch Double and Exacta pools.

When somebody asks who do you like, say, "Nobody."

Trendy picks are useless.

Horses with the longest prices enjoy closing for second in short fields.

There's probably nothing wrong with a "lost jockey" line, depending, of course, on where it happened: If a jockey is lost and found, if he or she gets back on the horse next time out, and it figures, play it with confidence. There should be a line for "jockey flops."

Trouble is over-played. Checked while lumbering along fifth, who cares. While on this subject, tired horses drift, eager horses sometimes lug in.

"Value" is anything you collect.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.