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Monday, November 4, 2013
Handicapping the replays

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

A review of the 2013 Breeders Cup from a wagering perspective indicates that a person has to make win bets along with all the rest of the wagers.

Whats worse than liking the winner of a race, but missing the exacta? Leaving a credit card by the sink in the rest room is worse. Being right and failing to collect makes a person feel stupid. It was possible on BC Saturday to be exactly right on the winners of a number of races, without collecting a dime. Thats because the Breeders Cup is where people go looking to win anything from a small fortune on up. If collecting 2-1 on a win bet isnt enough to dig you out of one of lifes holes, you cant complain.

If you pick a winner of a highly competitive horse race, somebody has to give you some money, its that simple. The big payoffs this time around were in the exactas and beyond. Thats because picking second and third involves more luck than handicapping skill. Whereas picking a winner can be close to a 50-50 proposition, victors almost always pay more than even money. And picking any second place runner in a Breederss Cup race feels like a 20-1 proposition.

The difficulty in picking seconds and thirds and fourths at the Breeders Cup is why they make the All button. True, playing the All button can get costly. But it reinforces an important rule of handicapping: Bet more.

Oddly enough, anybody familiar with racing in the boondocks might have had an advantage when it came to collecting on one of the bigger payoffs at the Cup, the weekends first race, the Marathon.

Small track horse racing is rife with events that make no sense whatsoever, when past performances lines look like Latin, when the ridiculous leaves the gate as though propelled by a catapult. Heres an example of one of the best small-track angles ever deduced. It was sent in by a sharp reader who noticed that when a slovenly trainer dressed up in his or her photo-op best, it meant winners circle here we come. It was like the members of a jury putting on nice duds before delivering the verdict. If youre at a racing site in the sticks, and a slob of a trainer shows up looking like a couple of hundred bucks, smile at the birdie and play those horses.

Two horses that made no sense were entered in the Marathon. It looked to the small-track players like a routine Nonsense-All play on the both of them. That the winner was from Europe and was named London Bridge probably knocked the price down to $20 on the win. Nobody sends horses that cant run a lick across the ocean and across the continent.

Most anybody can pick the winner of the replay of a horse race. I can think of a few expert pickers who might have a little trouble doing it. But if you show the rerun in slow motion, most handicappers could hit it. The main thing to be detected from this years Breederss Cup weekend is if you pick a winner, you have to get some money for that.