Commentary

We didn't execute

Updated: September 30, 2013, 1:40 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

This is like looking at your divorce papers. It's like doing your taxes and wondering where the money went. It must be like the Jacksonville pro football coach looking at game film.

This is a review of the Gold Cup race in New York and a reassessment of my bets. It's supposed to be a learning experience. There's a tendency to say what coaches say, we didn't execute. Instead there is no way around what happened. It turns out this is an anatomy of rotten handicapping.

A big race like this shows why people love betting horse encounters of the second kind, racing in the sticks. At the Grade 1 races, horses are almost always healthy. A half dozen of them have legitimate chances to win. In the sticks, favorites can be thrown out like the day before yesterday's fish leftovers. In the sticks, entire fields occasionally come to the racing fields wrapped almost like mummies. Sometimes the first three favorites can be laughed off. Simply put, big races are harder to figure. Little raced long shots make more sense.

If you feel like you can get a favorite out of the money, it's time to bet.

The Gold Cup had angles galore, namely the most important reason to look closer at a race, a suspect morning line favorite. That Cross Traffic was predicted to be the betting favorite at post time made a person wonder whose line was it, anyway, Grandpa's?

If you feel like you can get a favorite out of the money, it's time to bet.

When Cross Traffic stepped out of the starting gate like he was about to hang a Do Not Disturb sign on his door, visions of winning a lot of money sharpened markedly.

The obvious play was Palace Malice and Flat Out with somebody ready to pop one. Palace Malice appeared to be the better of the first two. And Ron the Greek seemed as consistent as Alpha. I recall looking at the tote board right before punching up some tickets and making the first of several errors in execution, thinking that given the numbers up there, perhaps the Greek was something of a stretch. There's the tendency to think that a 20-something-to-1 horse at Belmont was like a 50-1 horse in the sticks. You think that it probably had less chance to win than you thought. The mistake here was the failure to realize who had made the horse that had run fourth in last year's Breeder's Cup Classic, and no worse than fourth in top of the breed races thereafter, 20-something-to-1 here: dummies. Not betting Ron the Greek was so easy, it became contagious. It's an example of how a number can chase a person off a horse.

Here are the tickets that go into the IRS Receipt Box: Palace Malice and Flat Out over Ron the Greek and Alpha in some big fat exactas.

And then after that: Some more on Palace Malice over Ron the Greek. And then after that, $10 more, same way. And then $5 more. And then these $2 bills, just like the other wagers.

And not a cent was wagered with Ron the Greek over Palace Malice.

How could a person think a 21-1 horse could run second but not win?

There is no reasonable answer.

I thought that I had inserted somewhere in the Revised Rules of Wagering, Fiftieth Edition, that a long shot should never be bet one way. If you think that a long shot can run second or third, you absolutely, one hundred percent have to think that it can win.

Going back over things like this is why coaches burn some game film.

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