On second thought

See that gold-plated trailer parked behind the sponsor's tent at the PGA golf tournament?

It's a sports psychologist, trying to redirect a golfer's mind to the middle of a calm sea. Shrinks play key roles in sports that feature individual performances. Shank negative thoughts, not golf balls, into the creek. Relax. Put the subpoenas out of your mind. Breathe deeply. Visualize the ball zeroing in on the flagstick, like in "Caddyshack." You can do it. That'll be ten grand please, plus five percent of what you win this weekend.

Too bad this doesn't work at horse race handicapping. Negative thoughts are frequently essential handicapping elements.

I recall being instructed in the human nature side of multiple choice or true-false test taking. Stick to your first impressions or guesses. This game plan saves time and points, as more than half of a person's changed answers are incorrect.

The opposite is often true at horse race track. A second take on a puzzle can make you some money. Negative revelations can be golden.

Every horse race offers two perspectives, one before you bet, one after. Soon after you put down your money, the lines in the past performances carry different nuances. Sometimes you think: I can't believe I bet that plodder. Sometimes you think: That other one doesn't look so bad after all. Sometimes after betting, you have both of those thoughts. That's why you can't stop handicapping after you make your wager. After getting your tickets, you have to make one more run through the race. It can seem like you've never seen these horses and conditions before. If the race looks the same as your wager, fine. If you feel as though you have just thrown away some money, you can't just sit there.

Looking at a race after you have bet it is like hitting the Send button, when some words and phrasing immediately seem to read differently.

Before hitting Send, I can read right through an upside-down paragraph without noticing it. Before you bet, there's the tendency to assume things at face value, like running sixth twice means a horse is a dog.

After you have put down $100, suddenly two sixths can look pretty good.

What's tough is seeing things differently after you have made a pick 3, 4 or 6 bet, because you have to bet more to correct what suddenly looks like a big mistake.

There are two kinds of secondary wagers. One is a saver that you hope you lose. It's made when have everything in the payoff race except for a couple of 30-shots that you have to cover. Most savers are usually bad business. You still don't think the saved horses can win but feel obliged to bet them out of nervousness, because of all the crazy things that happened before.

The other second thought that turns out to be the best thought is a horse you simply missed on the pick 4 ticket.

Here's what you think when you see something new while running through a race after having made a pick 4 bet, when it's too late to change the ticket: Oh no.

Throughout the summer we have talked about several important betting angles here, the first being the tomfoolery in handicapping for value. All winners have value. Period. Paragraph. End of story. Next, we have started to look for first-time something, because that's where the big prices come from.

The disadvantage of home wagering is a lack of race track or simulcast joint atmosphere, and the absence of terrible picks from bad handicappers. The positive of home wagering is focus: no excuses. It's you and the races.

So there I was Saturday, sitting in front of the computer, one win into a $100 pick 4 ticket when I scanned the next race and seemed to be reading the past performances in English for the first time. I had done everything wrong. I had bet the obvious, the average, and the impossible. I had wagered on first-time nothing here, just multi-time losers under similar conditions.

It was a maiden special race, a mile on the grass, a decent handicapper's wheelhouse. Here is what I had judged to be unworthy of a $1 pick 4 bet: First time grass, first time at a mile after two sprints (and two sixth place finishes), first time against bums, and first time seriously wagered, as it was bet down from double figures to 5-1.

I thought: Oh no.

And then I thought: If I lose $50 more, I'll simply eat cheaper next week to make it up.

I bet five $10 exactas with the second thought on top.

It won in a breeze and paid around $60, which proves that a race is not to be considered handicapped even after you have bet it for the first time.