Sometimes when you read your own horse racing notes, it's as though somebody else wrote them.
One set of my Breeder's Cup notes has a skull and crossbones in the margin. Another set had been wadded. Another set had this notation across the top: Somebody help me.
A set of horse race notes serve two purposes. One, it pleases the IRS. Next, it is a learning tool.
After having gone through all of my Breeder's Cup notes, here are the most common mistakes.
A fourth beer.
Betting too much after a big win.
Tipping a teller too early: One Breeder's Cup Saturday, I hit the second race and then went cold. The ATM at the simulcast venue either broke or ran out of money. I went back to the window where I had tipped too much too early and asked the teller if I could have half of my gratuity back, offering to compose and sign a written promise to make the previous sum good later. Before handing over any money, the teller had to call out to a supervisor that I wanted some of my tip back. It was a little embarrassing. The teller gave me one fourth of my tip back. I repaid the money the next day.
Not betting enough and just missing one of those big Breeder's Cup payoffs.
Playing a favorite in a turf race, where those kinds seldom win.
Spending too much time looking at a particularly hard race in the past performances.
Playing a horse that had a top Beyer in its last race.
Playing late horses.
Doubling up to catch up.
Taking a date or a spouse to the Breeder's Cup races: Once when I tripled up to try to catch halfway up, my wife took the car and drove home and left me at the simulcast joint. This sort of thing is an argument in favor of home wagering. A big race day is a social event only if you plan to fiddle around.
Placing too much stock on Europe's second string of turf horses.
Asking a dope who he or she likes.
Piling onto the obvious.
Shaking an automatic wagering machine.
Ignoring uncontested early speed on any surface.
Playing two short-priced horses on top in a dime Superfecta.
Having the Surf and Turf special for lunch far from any surf.
Yelling at a security guard.
Betting football in an attempt to get your money back.
Ignoring a track bias.
Trying to bet through a bad mood.
Playing exactas or trifectas for more than a few bucks: What's worse than betting a long shot second or third and watching it win without having any money on it? The only thing worse is being unable to find your billfold halfway through Saturday's card. There's so much going on during Breeder's Cup weekend, it's hard to maintain a focus. Focusing on picking winners makes the job easier. If almost any horse can win any Breeder's Cup race, any horse can in fact run second or third. The only exactas I have hit the last couple of years have been in the juvenile races, where a few below average horses show up. One Breeder's Cup afternoon, a woman at a table behind mine said, "Is this yours?" She held up my billfold that had slipped from my pocket and was full of pari-mutuel tickets and credit cards. It's an example of how great breaking even can be.
Ignoring trends that have produced big payoffs numerous times: Success over the host race track is a big plus. Also, layoffs preceding turf races seem to matter less than idleness on dirt.
Ignoring a bad picker: It's painful when somebody who couldn't pick the replay of a race issues a prognostication seconds before the horses are loaded into the gate, when it's too late to change your tickets. All TV pickers should be required to make selections at least five minutes to the post.