They Aren’t Machines

I have both written and said this before:

A bettor looks at the past performances and watches the races and assumes a horse will do what they did last time; a handicapper looks for the reasons they won’t. 

You’d be surprised at how many people play this game and adopt that philosophy since we are playing a pari-mutual game that is probably a good thing for some of us. 

Tiz the Law, Swiss Skydiver, Gamine, Serengeti Empress, what do they all have in common? They were expected to win, and they all got beat. True Swiss Skydiver and Gamine raced each other and barring a dead heat, one had to lose, but they both lost. 

Horses are not machines, and although we rely on their past performances to predict the outcome of races, those results are more foretold by patterns, trends, pace, form cycles, intangibles, and more than by simply assuming a horse will run as they did last out. If more people grasped this concept, the number of people who beat the game might creep up beyond the 3-4% that is currently widely estimated. 

On Kentucky Derby day, I was in a position to win about 500K if Honor A. P. won the race. If Sole Volante won, it was about a cool mil. Sure, I didn’t close the deal, and yes, Honor A. P. might have made it interesting with a better break and trip, but I was able to put myself in this position off a total of about $1500 in wagers. They were a pick 6 and multiple pick 5’s. 

The good news is I’ll put myself in that position again and will close the deal. You can as well. 
The key to being in that position was recognizing how difficult it would be for Tiz the Law to win, and the race not being the cakewalk many assumed it was. I am on record prior to post saying he was a bet against and outlining the many reasons I saw that pointed to a loss. 

To reiterate briefly:

He had peaked in the Travers and was likely to regress. 
He had maintained his form without a hiccup for a long time. 
He was drawn wide and the pace projection did not really help him. 
His rider was inexperienced on the biggest stage with a bullseye on his back and millions of dollars on the line and millions of people watching. 

There is more, but you get the idea. At 3-5 you don’t want any of those negatives jumping out at you. Look for the reasons they won’t repeat before you look for the reasons they will. Percentages will immediately shift in your favor.

Next, play your opinion, and don’t cover others. I used two horses in the Derby. When the race came, if you asked me now that you are alive for some real money do you wish you included Tiz the Law, the answer would be no. 

Let’s use the 100K plus pick 6 payoff for an example had Honor A. P. won. Any extra ticket I put in, including Tiz the Law would cost me over 100K if my true opinion is right about Honor A. P. Why would I do that? 

At the end of the day, you have to be willing to cash less tickets but win more money when you’re right. It is a concept that goes against human nature, which just screams use as many horses as you can afford and just cash tickets. That is a surefire way to be one of the 96% of players who lose. 

Swiss Skydiver was another pretty safe bet against. She ran hard in the Alabama and just as hard in the Blue Grass against the boys before that. Her prior race was not exactly easy, either. How many can run a string of hard races together without regressing or throwing a dud? Both Tiz the Law and Swiss Skydiver ran well, but they didn’t win. I liked Gamine as she was fresher and lightly raced and I thought had a pace advantage, but if she lost, it was Shedaresthedevil who made sense, and I said as much in the Past the Wire Oaks Derby webinar. 

You have to be willing to take your shot and stands. Defensive play is a tough road and will hurt more than help your bottom line. 

Cash less but win more and don’t assume horses will do what they did last time; look for the reasons they won’t. That’s step one to the 3-4% club you want to be a part of. Most will never make it. You can. 

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Jon Stettin

Since childhood, Jon has always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. His years of experience have earned him a well respected spot in the industry as a handicapper. He now is a frequent contributor to AmWager as well as writing for his own site.

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