Commentary

No question mark in team

Updated: February 10, 2014, 10:08 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Four of us went in on a pick 6 ticket, $150 apiece, the thought being that four heads were better than fewer. Another possibility was that more money would eliminate near-misses.

Talking is beneficial in things like relationship counseling and rehab and horse racing. Thoughts are fleeting. If a good case can't be made verbally, a lousy horse should be easier to drop.

We were casual track acquaintances, regulars come together in search of a decent carryover.

One of them started the round table discussion by speaking highly of Beyer numbers. Any speed figure or power rating is obviously an extension of common sense, as fast races and easy victories are automatic earners of high figures. My contribution at this point of the conversation was to say that most high Beyer numbers resulted in much shorter odds than should have been the case, and that any number of things could inflate speed figures, ridiculously short fields and wet tracks, for openers. Whereas Beyer numbers were invaluable when it came to pinpointing consistent improvement, I didn't like throwing money at freakishly high speed ratings.

This person loved Beyer numbers more than the person on the other side of the table seemed to love beer. The speed figure person said that some of his biggest wins at race tracks across the land came by wagering on the second highest Beyer rating in a particular race. I started to ask if he was serious. But he never smiled and so it was doubtful that he was kidding. I did say that I would not be particularly fond of giving a fourth of a winner's share to the consensus box on the picking page. The Beyer man said that he had a talent for picking the right favorite. And it was a fact that many winning pick 6 tickets included a favorite or two.

Another person in this syndicate was rife with statistics. He had stats on notebooks, on his computer tablet, on scratch pads, and on spreadsheets. He knew which trainers were best at bringing to the races horses going from cold to warm weather, horses off a claim, horses changing equipment. He had information on jockeys going from tracks up a creek to tracks in the mainstream. He even had facts and figures on owners, some of whom might not have known as much about themselves. The one with all the technical information said that he couldn't get two races on the pick 6 card down to fewer than five horses each. Technical handicapping, which is handicapping based on history and trends, seems to work better at the horse races than with team sports. Even though every horse race is different, trends often repeat themselves. Still, using five horses on two pick 6 races, we'd need six or seven more partners in this enterprise to have a reasonable chance to win.

The guy who loved the Beyer numbers said not to worry, he absolutely loved four favorites.

The other member of this group had a couple of quick beers and ordered a third and said there was nothing to worry about because three beers enabled his mind to reach the peak of its creative capabilities. He said that he could do things after a couple or three beers that had been impossible otherwise. Having a couple or three beers and getting a buzz on helped him separate horses with potential from horses that were flat bad. He said that he had never lost as much money as he had after he had quit drinking. He said he couldn't see anything but the obvious when he was cold sober. He said he walked around with a goofy grin on his face, being nice to everybody, losing with style and grace. The Beyer man said that sometimes there was nothing wrong with the obvious. The man who limited himself to three beers said he liked two horses that opened at more than 20 to 1 in the pick 6 sequence with the fat carryover. He and I agreed that one of the toughest things about a pick 6 ticket was the lack of losers you could count on from the TV pickers, who customarily doomed horses just before post time of each individual race. It was always a downbeat experience to hear an expert TV picker relegate one of your pick 6 horses to 6th.

After one swing around the table, and hearing of handicapping philosophies and top horse choices for the pick 6 ticket, I asked if I could buy my way out of this consortium for ten bucks a head, $30 total. Of course they took some offense and said forget it.

A couple of impossible horses won, creating a huge carryover and probably bringing together hundreds of more betting teams. We had two winners, for which there was no payoff.

The best thing to come from my consortium experiences is getting to know what amounts to the competition.

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