Joe Takach

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Want another “brick” for your Yellow Brick Road?  See if this “golden” one fits.

Every time you lose a wager, make an exact determination as to why you lost.

What happens most often after any race is that the winners “gloat” and the losers bury their faces in the Racing Form or the track programs trying to recoup lost monies in the very next race.

I don’t know about you, but I hate to lose.  Sure, it’s an inescapable part of our great game, but that doesn’t lessen the momentary pain or sense of being stupid because you didn’t have the winner that often appears quite logical as you play Monday morning quarterback when glancing back over the past performances.

But that still doesn’t answer the question at hand.

If you didn’t bet the winner, why did your selection disappoint?

I’ve always been of the opinion that only 50% of any race is handicappable.  By this I mean that you can have every conceivable piece of information on every single horse in a race and still only have half of the puzzle solved before the horses exit the starting gate.

Things over which you have no control (in no particular order) include:

1----Stable isn’t sending today for any number of reasons from larceny (mutuel price too low) to an owner(s) unable to attend due to a Board meeting or illness in the family.

2----The existing running bias that clearly favors your horse suddenly disappears right after the last race.  I’ve seen this happen many times.  Moisture is the biggest culprit.  If you abruptly go from a dry to a wet track due to a storm, prior golden “paths” can, and usually do, quickly disappear.  I can recall this happening many times during long summers at Monmouth Park.  The sun would be shinning and everything “bone dry” for the running of the 7th race, but a freak summer storm would come from nowhere and dump a half inch of rain on the track in 25 minutes and render it “sloppy” for the 8th event.  Good bye existing bias!  Additionally, I’ve seen tractors reverse direction midway thru a day’s card and the very desirable inside or outside paths suddenly became quicksand!   

3----Gate problems.  We’ve all been victim to this one quite frequently.  It’s very difficult to get a thoroughbred to stand still in a starting gate before the beginning of a race.  If you’ve ever heard a jockey yelling “no,no,no,no” once loaded, he’s trying to get the attention of the starter to let him know that his horse isn’t standing correctly and not to open the gates.  Sometimes he’s not heard or the gates fly open at the exact same time he’s yelling that he’s unprepared.  Other times, the assistant starter in the stall with the horse might have his head cocked the wrong way.   When the gates open, the runner breaks into the gate itself and loses valuable position from the bell and most likely the race itself.

4----Loses rider.  This is obviously the most serious of gate problems because you can’t win a race without a jockey in the irons.  Additionally, how many times have you had a riderless horse compromise, block, or intimidate your horse causing defeat? 

5----Jockey asleep on his feet.  How many times have you wagered on a great looking horse who has every conceivable handicapping factor going his way, only to receive the worst ride you’ve seen in 20 years?   Did I hear you say that happens to you every week?  Well it shouldn’t and probably doesn’t, but it positively happens and it’s totally out of your control! (What is even more frustrating is that sometimes the same jockey comes back in the very next race and rides a 3-legged broken-down pig to victory at 35-1 and burys you again!)

6----Bad trip.  It is not the purpose of this writing to go into every possible negative scenario that can cost you a race.  We’ve all been victim of a bad trip---after all, we don’t ride our wagers and even if we did, some mishaps often wouldn’t even be our fault.  Most times, our rider is the victim rather than the instigator of race related “trouble”, but the end result is the same.  We lose!  Always remember that “bad trips” are not by design (unless a “stiff” is in progress), but usually by a reaction by our rider after an incident caused by another runner.

7----Horse takes a bad step.  Though not as frequent as a bad trip, this negative situation probably happens more than one might imagine.  Dirt tracks are not newly paved highways where uniformity is the rule rather than the exception.  If you were to walk the entire length of a mile dirt oval in the 3 path after “grading” by the tractors before the next race, you’d be amazed at how uneven the surface is though appearing quite uniform.  What amazes me to this very day is that horses don’t take more bad steps than they actually do every race.  If a horse does take a bad step, you have no control over it!

8----Equipment mishaps.  Though infrequent and regularly inspected by trainer, groom and jockey, equipment does break during the running of a race (broken stirrups and bridles, thrown shoes etc.).  Again, you have absolutely no control over this or any way of knowing that it is about to happen!

9----Internal physical problems.  These situations are too numerous to mention, but here’s one that we can all relate to.  Many times I’ve bet a horse that looked flawless in the paddock and got a fantastic 4 to 6 furlong pre-race warm-up only to watch him pull-up prematurely because he “bled”.  This sometimes even happens to horses running on lasix.   In fact every horse bleeds a tad during a race, but usually it is not enough to stop him from performing to maximum by clogging his breathing system.

The above 9 areas make up most of that 50% of a race that you can’t control!  I’m sure I haven’t

listed every area known to the racing world, but once you begin to accept that the 9 areas do exist and have for quite some time, you can begin to make more money!!!!

You’ll do this by either giving your selection the benefit of any doubt and betting him right back if placed in a similar field next time, or by tossing him out when you discover that he HAD NO EXCUSE and most likely isn’t this good or hasn’t been this good for some time. 

Either way, it’s a win-win situation for you!  But as stated above, you have to make that determination for yourself.  This requires post-race work like watching the warm-downs and inspecting every horse as he’s unsaddled regardless of finish position.

If you work tirelessly to do so every time you wager, you have to come out better than you would have by gloating or immediately burying your face in the Racing Form!


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