Picking the Preakness
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
The psychology of wagering comes into play in a big way at the Preakness Stakes.
It doesn't happen so much with the hard numbers and cold odds of casino games.
A gambler can't feel betrayed from dice or playing cards the way he or she can from something alive, a football team or a basketball team.
Or a horse.
A bookmaker told me that he could tell beforehand on which side of a sporting event approximately 75 percent of his regular customers would bet. He said that his biggest customer bet the favorite 90 percent of the time on pro football.
Horse players might not be that predictable. But some definite psychological patterns have formed between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
Those who picked Point Given in the Kentucky Derby are not prone to discuss their mistake at great length and do not seem anxious to come right back with this horse in Baltimore. For the purpose of analyzing the psychological hit that the Point Given people took at the Kentucky Derby, I interviewed eight individuals who had bet on the favorite, and all but one expressed disillusionment with the animal and wanted to move on and forget the whole thing in Louisville.
The people who had Point Given in the Derby, the ones I spoke with, anyway, aren't eager to switch to Monarchos here, because that would be too much like admitting a handicapping mistake. Monarchos was the opposition to people betting on Point Given in the Derby, and it seems to be the same way here. Five of those eight people who had Monarchos two weeks ago favor Congaree this Saturday.
The psychology of the Congaree backers in the Derby seems to be: It could have been worse.
According to some handicapping "experts," hanging third while running in the shadow of dragster fractions seems to somehow become as impressive as circling the field to win going away by five.
Those who had Congaree in the Derby are pleased to come right back with him here. By picking up the anti-Monarchos faction, Congaree will probably be at the least a co-favorite at the post with Monarchos, who figures to pull in souvenir money, the people who want as a keepsake a $2 win ticket on a Triple Crown champion.
The people in my survey who had Dollar Bill and AP Valentine in the Derby are strangely content with their trouble lines, with the majority of those bettors planning to try these two horses again. True, they were checked in Churchill, but not from contending positions. Dollar Bill should at least be rested, having trotted home.
The psychology of the people who had Monarchos is more difficult to document.
I know of only three people who had Monarchos on top.
I am one of them.
The other two are switching to Congaree because of the angle of the wrangle, the hard left turns on what has traditionally been a speed-favoring oval that seems to have been pinched in together at its middle.
I heard on television the other day that there is a misconception about Pimlico and the Preakness. The misconception is that front-runners are the frequent winners. The professional handicapper on television said that a half a dozen times out of the last nine or ten, horses have come from off the pace to win the Preakness.
That is true enough.
But so is this.
They didn't come from very far off the pace.
It's hard to believe there are only two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness. There are two weeks between NBA playoff games.
Surely the trainer of Monarchos knows as much as I do. Stay in touch early. Go after them halfway down the backside. Get them on the turn.
Trifecta: Monarchos; over Congaree; over Point Given, Dollar Bill, and the fresh group. The psychology of this Monarchos money: Right back.