Thursday, July 3, 2014

We are athletes. Mental athletes. We aren't robots.

Bettors are athletes. Mental athletes. We aren't robots. Neither are horses. We all need a break to stay at our best. It is something we need to remember as bettors and consider about the horses we bet.

BWT Taj was one of the horses I bet on Tuesday. I did that because he made a lot of sense on the data points I had, and the price was also good value. On paper that is.
But in my notes on his previous races, I had noted that he looked like a tired, warn out horse to me. I rarely bet those types, because I know that horses are like people. They are good when they are good, but they get run down and tired just like anybody, and when you have to compete at the level many of them do, you can't get away with so-so performance most nights. Not at the better tracks anyway.
I only bet him big to show, and made a small win bet. I thought he might turn it around and win, and the price made it worth that, but as I looked at the field, I couldn't find 3 horses he couldn't outlast off the very soft trip I expected him to get. Coming to the top of the stretch, after sitting in the pocket the whole way on a leader who was going forward, I thought he was the winner. At the very least, he appeared to have 2nd locked up and 3rd at the worst if one horse came flying from behind. Even past the tote board, he still looked good enough to get 3rd. And then............he gave it up and lost 3rd to a horse who had recently been a non performer. 
So, I knew he was tired and you shouldn't bet tired horses. But I did anyway. Why did I do that?
Mostly, I thought he could hang on. But, I know better than that. But in addition, the trainer made a comment on twitter that suggested the horse was tired, or sore, or a combo of both, and that he had taken care of that.

"R5-BWT taj-kinda needed that week off, now he's fresh for his second crack at older horses.Wasn't disgraced last time!"

And now we get to the portion of the blog where I tie that all in.

I had a good day on Tuesday. Good, but tiring. I bet most of the day, and handicapped much of the time I wasn't betting. By 10pm, I stopped. I was just tired. People who don't do it have no idea how tiring that can be.
When you bet horses seriously, you are an athlete.
We are athletes. Mental athletes. Fatigue is a very big factor.
I don't think people really understand how sharp you have to be, how you have to see everything there is to see, to cash decent tickets. The margin of error between winning 10 bucks and losing whatever it is you bet is very small. You are going to lose enough anyway, no matter what you do. You simply can't afford to lose the ones you should have won. Or, bet the ones you will lose that you should have avoided. BWT Taj falls into that category. I did have that nagging gut feeling I should avoid him, but I took my shot anyway. I made mostly good bets on Tuesday, even a few that lost, but if I had to pinpoint one I would not make again in hindsight, that would be the one. He was tired. I knew he was tired, and you shouldn't bet tired horses. They race like tired horses, and tired horses get passed at the end by fresher horses. All that makes perfect sense.
When you are handicapping, an afternoon nap is really important. It refreshes you. Yesterday, I took one, and when I awoke, I was alert, but still a bit tired and certainly not fresh. If I began to bet, I probably would have lost because I would be making mistakes. And all that would mean is that I had to make those losses up, losses I shouldn't incur in the first place.
So, I have learned to simply not bet some days, or for some stretches. I would rather miss a few wins than incur a whole whack of losses because I really wasn't up to doing my best.
As mentioned yesterday, I did catch Nirvana Seelster, and I did that mainly due to my data study, but also due to watching him and seeing that he was a tired horse, but would likely rebound and come back to form at a price because others wouldn't take that into consideration. That is where the value is..and it was this time. I got 8-1 on a horse that likely was really a 3-1 horse. That can make up for a lot of mistakes like the one on BWT Taj.

 "NIRVANA SEELSTER is one I was all over 2 starts back when he showed consistent and explosive closing speed. He got a horrible trip that night, partly because Hudon drove a poor race and partly because the horse isn't right. I thought he might be better this time, but he was cranking his head sideways into the first turn and only bested the balance of a weak bunch. He is going backwards now. Hopefully Budd can get him right, and he has a history of being able to do that. I would watch him very closely in the post parade in the next few starts, and play him if he looks good and avoid him if he doesn't."

This was my comment a week before. I thought he looked better, and fresher on this night, and that was the difference for him this time. Horses and people aren't robots. You have to assess how they are this week. And not pigeonhole them based on a bad week or stretch.

A couple of years ago, I was watching the Don Cherry documentary bio movie about his life, and they went over the big incident when he went off on Brian Williams about the big hockey fight at the World Juniors about 20 years ago. In the movie, Cherry's wife, Rose, explained to others that Don Cherry still thinks he is a hockey player, and as such, he needs his afternoon nap. When he was called out of the blue for that TV gig, he was napping, and because he didn't have that, he might have said things and done things he otherwise wouldn't have. That has stuck with me for a while. I respect that you must be who you are and maintain your sharpness, if you want to bet, or be the successful racehorse you are bred to be. I think many trainers would do well to start respecting that. Since they mostly don't, and just keep sending out tired horses, I have to just take advantage of that fact. Which is a fact.

With that, I will handicap a race tonight where I see that factor coming into play. It won't guarantee me a winner, but at least it gives me a starting point to look for value.

Tonight's 11th race at Charlottetown would be considered the feature race on the card. Fillies and Mares Open. The top purse. Most of the races at Charlottetown can be hard to handicap, because so many of the horses are poor, or sore, or even lame, or just hard to separate. 
But with this class, the form is somewhat easier to follow. Which means if you can find a slight edge, then you will get a very good price on a horse you can have some confidence.
So, I will handicap this whole field on that principle, because as I see it, this is a race about trip and form. In reality, most races are. Very few races have a horse that so outclasses the field that none of that matters. It pretty well always matters. 
And in this race, you have multiple horses that appear to be at various stages of the form and energy cycle, but for reasons that I understand well, will be overbet or underbet because of their apparent on paper form, which most bettors love to rely on when they bet. It is a lazy way to handicap, but as long as they are willing to do that,  I am more than happy to take advantage of it. As long as I am sharp enough to put that effort in. Today, I am.
Lets begin. One by one.
1) For All We Know 

Back in the early winter, she was the sharp one. The one taking all the money. The one winning or just getting beat week in, week out.  She got claimed out of a 12 claimer at Yonkers,  and immediately her form went off. At some point,  she was sold and arrived in the Maratimes and has now been freshened up and qualified. Her qualifier was excellent, her post is very good this time, and she looks like she might get the trip to take advantage of a speed battle of many others. The only question is whether or not she is race fit to go the speed this race requires. I think she might be a second short of that, but I'm not sure. I would want a decent price, say 5-1, and that might be there. She does appear to have a class edge on most in here. But class isn't always enough.

2) J K Special

Was very sharp for a while, moved up the class ladder and even took these down at huge odds once.  But generally, although she used to be a pretty good mare, she isn't as good as most of these anymore.  In a real  competitive field like this,  I can't see her being anything but a mare trying to hang on to 4th or 5th money. I will play against her,  and her likely big price.

 3) Andro Madi

 Is the wildcard in this race, and in my mind, everything hinges on her. I know her better than most of these because she raced at Mohawk and London for a long time before coming East. I knew, and know that she is a very fast leaver who loves the front and will go a long way to get it. Also, her driver is one who seems to insist on having it, and will drive hard to get it even when he shouldn't. He has done that for weeks, and she has appeared to wear down as that takes a toll on her. I bet her two starts back, to show, and figuring she was a cinch, she almost lost 3rd at a very short price. She sort of rebounded last time for a decent 2nd, but the hard trips are piling up on her. She certainly goes to the top again, and I see her collapsing earlier this time, probably down the backside. I will play against her. She looks like a tired horse in reality who maybe doesn't show the extent of that on paper.
She has had 6 very hard trips in 5 weeks.  Not many would even have anything left at this point. Others can take advantage of that on her, but I'm certain the bettors will hammer her again. She is a very hard trier, and game, but like I have pointed out in this blog, when you are tired, you simply can't give what you don't have.

 4) General LuckyPercy

 Has been the benefactor of some very good trips on Andro Madi's back and got the job done the last two times. Mostly though, she is an also ran who finishes 2nd and 3rd a lot against these types. I see her taking a lot of money,  possibly even going off as the favorite, and she might not even get the pocket this time. I will avoid her. She can win, but it is very unlikely. If I was playing the triactor, I would use her for that, but otherwise she doesn't strike me as a major threat.

 5) Stayoutofmyaffair

Has been an also ran with these types for a while. She requalified with the hopples on raced better and finished closer last time with these,but she still doesn't show enough for me to play her. Eventually, her turn might come. She was good enough in the past. As Jason Hughes has two in this race and has chosen his other to drive, for tonight, I will pass on her.

 6) Brodys Leona

Simply doesn't look at all competitive with lesser horses,not to mention some sharp ones in here. So, I pass on her right off the bat, until she shows me something that suggests she isn't just in this class to drop some money to drop down for a score.

 7) Bunny Mach

She is the razor sharp, former very classy mare who looks to very contentious. She has jogged in her last two, whipping these. However, post 7 in this type of field means she is going to get a tough trip. 
She generally takes back from the outside, and appears a lot more brave on the lead, which she is highly unlikely to get tonight.  She is possible, but not probable. And again, two hard trips to win. She is not likely to be able to keep that up at her age. I could see her missing the board entirely,  or getting up for second from an overland trip. But not winning.

 8) Veronicavermillion

Is capable enough, but post 8 really hurts her. It wouldn't shock me if she won it, but I can't see her getting it done. Triactor play though. She finds a way to be involved and capitalize when others fail,which a few might do in here. She seems fresh enough and good enough to consider.

Here is my picks, in order,  top to bottom. I went with the fresh, class horse, and hope she is tight enough to follow Andro Madi and get out in time to win it. If not, Bunny Mach or General Lucky Percy are the next two to get it done.

1) For All We Know
 7) Bunny Mach
 4) General LuckyPercy
 8) Veronicavermillion
 2) J K Special
 3) Andro Madi
 5) Stayoutofmyaffair
 6) Brodys Leona

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