Monday, July 23, 2012
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
The summertime search for bad bets continues here, the hope being that there will be a race when something like these make up a field.
1. A horse with a post position unsuitable for its skills
2. Bad trainer
3. Slow horse
4. Surface change, fake to real dirt
5. Bad jockey
7. Catches late "smart" money
8. A regular horse
9. New front wraps
10. Off cheap win in the slop
11. Fresh from a win in a six-horse race
12. First for new trainer
The eighth horse at 10-1 would carry the money around.
There are plenty of unsure things in racing. Eliminate the consistent nightmares and you have a chance.
Here's one: Avoid anything that belongs in "quote marks."
Left of me in a betting line not long ago was somebody, a male, who appeared to have had too much to drink. He bet $200 to win on a horse, then $10 and all on the Double, then $20 on some specific exactas, spilling beer from a paper cup onto the teller's counter and causing her to use a paper towel to keep the suds off the wagering equipment.
The contest in question was a six furlong maiden claiming race. Nobody in it appeared to have been worth too much more than what the man had bet. One horse had run third at big odds, probably surprising itself. Another horse had a fourth, closing from last as others treaded water on a way off track. Half this field was comprised of first-time starters, none with works of more than four furlongs, none with good works, none with breeding that rang even a rusty bell. The horse taking the $200-plus had run twice, finishing around the middle both times. The person making the wagers beside me in line carried no tack, wore no diamond horseshoe ring. He did have an expensive watch, suggesting possible law firm connections.
And here's what many across the land could have thought as the horse clicked to 6-5 a minute to the post: It looks like "they" got us again, "they" being a faceless, classless, less than unsavory crowd of chiselers that knew something and was using it against us in an unfair fight; "they" being the "smart money."
But it was only some drunk.
First off, to include "smart" in connection with betting on a cheap maiden claiming race is oxymoronic.
Next off, all anybody trying to put one over on any level could know a thing about is their own horse, not what's left in the field. Most would-be hustlers are bad handicappers. It's almost ordained that most horses "they" try to put over run second, at best.
There's only one time when intelligent money is consistent, and that's in a maiden special race when a well-bred horse is conditioned by somebody talented and is slammed down to odds-on. They usually win. Get a pick 3, 4 or 6 ticket.
While on the subject of maiden races, here are two more thoughts. A first-time starter at a rout is bound and determined to need that race. First-time starters with decent five furlong works are apt to perform better than horses working shorter.
A smarter claiming race move is apt to be from 20-1 to 10-1, not 4-1 to 1-1.
And on the whole, thousands of dollars are smarter than beer soaked hundreds.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.