Saturday, January 27, 2018

How was your night? Mine really kinda sucked.

My night last night can best be described as disappointing. Not the first one I've ever had betting on horses, and it wont be the last. But like every one of those that came before, I still can take some positives and lessons going forward, to make the good nights even better in the future and hopefully take some of the potential bad nights and turn them into better nights.

Betting on horses. The pillars
I view betting on horses as having 3 components, all equally important parts.
1) handicapping and work. However you do that, it has to be done, and you have to be good at it. If not, the other two parts don't matter. You would just be floating in the raft outside the Titanic, but you still would have been on a sinking ship. You have to be on the right ship and sailing straight and smoothly, relatively speaking.
For me, that means I gather my data, enter it, study it, look at trends, patterns, specifics on certain variables. A lot of us do that, and I'm no different. Whether my way is better than your way, we could debate. My way is different that yours, and that is not up for debate. We all do it differently, in some small ways. As long as we get it right, and getting it right means winning money consistently while taking the losses of others who don't, that is all that really matters.
After I do that first part of the handicapping, the work is not done. I watch replays, very carefully. I am looking for any little thing I can see, something that I believe matters, and that is most likely to be missed or ignored by the vast majority who would bother to do it. I had about 3 horses I uncovered for last night, and while all were valid, a couple of things I saw were noted by the track video hosts. So, the value was gone. One was ignored and missed, and that should have gotten me a free pass no matter how the night went otherwise. I also had a past data point that was ignored off the program, and that was another where I should get the windfall. Generally, I liked the entire setup of the card and thought there would be multiple chances to make a profit. There were also some races I didn't like and had planned to sit out, unless something unusual happened or presented itself. It actually did, and I ignored that too. But more about that later.
On these two points, the data and replays, I didn't short myself at all. Fridays at Woodbine are a night where you can't. The margin between a value winner and a value loser is very slim and tight. I am aware of that. Thursday night is a night obvious chalks come in, so while I watch and do the things listed above, I know I can skimp a bit, because its unlikely I will play much in either case.
2) handicapping the entire race now that you have all the parts of the first component complete. This can be termed...finding relative value and putting the pieces together. In many cases, this involves putting a bad value horse that is being over bet against my good value horse that is being under bet, and hopefully grossly under bet. Again, more work. Its just work layered upon your skills and talent. I mostly did that, but I shorted myself on one race, and that bit me in a way that it should. I didn't act in a thorough enough way, and I got spanked for that at the end of the day. That is a lesson that never gets old. For every amount of work you skip, or don't do, or take for granted, you will lose a proportional amount of money because of that. I know it will happen to me periodically, as I am human just like everyone else, but I know I have to keep it to a minimum and try to avoid it playing out like that. When it does, I take it as punishment so that at least in the short term I will tow that line.
3) discipline and focus. The evil twins of betting failure for most of us. Dave Shwartz talks about a session, and part of that is that when you are going to play a session, you play it. You don't surf, you don't go make dinner, you don't make phone calls. You focus on the task, and you play at the highest level you can. I totally failed on this part and that, in the end, is what caused me to lose, when I should have won a lot.
Here are the specifics of how it all happened.
I had pegged a few value horses I was looking at. They were:

Dry Creek Image

In Spades
Bad At Redhot
Hurrikane Kingkong
Er Monica
Topville Chrome

Walk Two Moons
I will take them one by one and go over how I approached the entire card, within the framework of the 3 components I described above.
Race 1 had Dry Creek Image. I thought she had a compromised trip the race before and also raced and finished well anyway. I knew Chickie Love, the big favorite, would be overplayed and I thought she was a very suspect favorite. Again, bad value horse meets good value horse. The other player, Reys N A Rocket, was bearing out badly the week before, but she was viable. I thought I could get 6-1 or higher on Dry Creek Image and that was good relative value. I thought the play was all the way across, win place and show, because I could see Chickie Love completely missing the ticket. Because paying attention is very important, in real time, a 3rd horse called Maralika was way overbet on a trainer change via a claim, so I actually had 16-1 on Dry Creek Image. I put my bet in. But, as they were going to the gate, Dry Creek Image started to cause trouble, and they paused. I didn't like what I saw, at all, so I cancelled my bet. Chickie Love was a very suspect favorite, and was actually trapped in late in the race, but got lucky to get out at the right time and came on to win, while Reys N A Rocket got the lead and bore out sharply again, as expected and got beat. Dry Creek Image got 3rd, but was no threat to the top 2, and it was a good leave overall. I played it right and paid enough attention to stick to the discipline. No loss. On to race 2.
Didn't like anything in race 2, so I passed on the race. The favorite, who I disliked and was terrible value, won anyway, so another good pass.
Race 3 brought IN SPADES, who was on my radar. My data rated his performance very highly the start before in defeat as a big favorite, and I could see the players ditching him for that reason. I expected 4-1, and it came, so I played him. He was one of many, and I didn't like the favorite Burn Out Hanover, so I went against him. In Spades raced well, but he was too far back early and closed huge, but into a fast last half, and he couldn't get there. I'm okay with that. That will happen, and you will lose some of those. It was a good play I would make again. Nevertheless, we were 3 races in and I hadn't made anything and actually lost a small amount on Race 3.
Race 4 brought Bad At Redhot. I should preface my following statement with this comment.
I trained horses. I have had dogs all my life. I would take home sick barn cats and try to help them, even make friends with some of those in the barn that were scared of people. I am an animal lover. I hope all racehorses, good or bad, are treated well, get to live long lives after their careers are over on farms roaming pastures and eating grass to their hearts content.
But, being a realistic person and bettor, I can tell you that a rat is a rat. What is a rat?
For racing people, these are horses of limited ability that wont try very hard, and aren't consistent. For a sharp bettor, these can also be value longshots, in the right field. Bad At Redhot fit that profile.

What did I know about her, and the race last night in particular? She is a rat, facing many other rats. Good form, bad form, its not much to go on with these. Some weeks they show up, some weeks they don't. In a lot of cases, external variables come into to play. The favorite, E R Rhonda had post 10, which is such a low percentage post hindrance, that almost no horses win from it at Woodbine. E R Rhonda almost did her last start. She had it then too, actually led the entire way and crossed the line first, but was dq'd for running out sharply into the 2nd place horse. Based on that, many thought post 10 wouldn't be a problem this time. I didn't see it that way. I also didn't like any of the other horses in the race, based on what I knew about them generally. So,  I didn't really look. Big mistake. That cost me.

What did I like about Bad At Redhot? She is a very low percentage winner, but, she tries and with the right easy trip, which she could get here, she could be dangerous. Her driver, Jody Jamieson also has a history with her of getting her to perform at long odds. That wasn't on the program, but its in my memory bank. I figured her for about 25-1. As it turns out, she went off 70-1. I made a small win bet and went up to make some dinner. I lost my focus, violated the sanctity of the session concept, and the race was off before I came back downstairs. She finished 2nd, got the trip I suspected, E R Rhonda blew up, the rest were rats that raced like rats, except for one rat, Jordies Hope, who beat me.
How did I miss her? I hadn't looked and she has a significant trainer change from the last time I'd seen her. If I had noticed that, by deploying the 2nd component from above, I would have considered that and played her as well.
I also always back up a horse like Bad At Redhot to place, but I didn't here. I didn't do the work, and I lost my focus, with poor discipline, and I lost a $43 place payout on Bad At Redhot.
Four races in, my handicapping had been good, but I had serious violations of other components and I was down where I should have been way up.
​I didn't like anything either way in race 5, and it came pretty much how I expected with low value horses getting it done. I was​n't the only one, as my friend Garnet Barnsdale had the same assessment and passed as well. When you got nothing, that is when you pass.
Here were my picks, as posted in my group about 1 hour prior to first post for the first 5 races. 

 Race 6 brought Hurrikane Kingkong, who I thought would be my best bet of the night. I thought he had a very troubled trip and lacked a chance to go forward when it mattered the previous start, and while I had noted that, the track handicapper also noticed it and told the masses. I wasn't sure what kind of value I would get. But, I disliked the two probable favorites, being Artoffical Flavor, who was very lame the previous start, and Lyons William, who was a horribly overbet rat the time before who was placed last for going off the course while he was backpeddling sharply. I still thought relative value was on the table. Hurrikane Kingkong was in the 6-1 range, and while a shade low, I thought that was fair. But, Artofficial Flavor came out post parading looking like a totally different horse. He was sound and ready to race this night. I had mentioned to Garnet and my friend Ryan that if he came out a different horse, all bets were off. He was, but I left my bet up on Hurrikane Kingkong. You can guess how it played out. I made a mistake and lost the bet. Probably, because I was 6 races in, had handicapped well but made mistakes and just wanted to make my play. So I did. I violated the session concept. A session is a session. You play it properly, no matter how you are doing up to that point. Hurrikane Kingkong finished last, with no excuse. He maybe should not have won, but he should have been at least 3rd. He is a rat. I got this one wrong, for multiple reasons as I described.

Race 7 was probably my biggest procedural mistake of the night. Obviously, for various reasons, things were not going well on this card for me. So, you start to get sour, doubt yourself, and then you don't stick with the plan. That old psychology bugaboo many of us handicappers can fall into. I have worked hard to overcome that, but I'm not immune to a relapse.
Er Monica was up in race 7. I hadn't seen her, didn't have any data on her, but I know her driver is a high percentage driver who gets performance and wins lots of races with longer odds horses. She looked good enough to me, and I was only so so on many of the other contenders, who I thought were likely to be soft at the tote board. So, I was going to play her. Then, since I didn't love her that much, and didn't have anything concrete like data or replay issues to go on, I just decided to pass. Again, you can guess what happened. Her driver got her the trip she needed, found room late, and was up in time for a 10-1 score, which I had missed. Things were just not going well tonight.

​Race 8 was up next, and I just decided to play what I had intended to play. I liked Topville Chrome a bit off his replay, and he seemed a contender among many, although the data told me he was only okay his last start. In relative terms though, I really disliked the favorites in this race, not just one but two of them, so I played him win place and show, and also the same for Star Clipper, who seemed to be hinting at a good effort, but was risky. The odds were good on both, and I thought it was a good value play, which is really the point of all I do anyway. Star Clipper was 10-1, Topville Chrome was 6-1. Together, they were good value to play together. I only needed one to perform if the favorites were false as I thought they were. It was a strangely driven and hotly contested race, but while Topville Chrome got a bad shuffle, Star Clipper was in position to win but lost to one of those favorites, Gillys Boy. I still got a decent place price on Star Clipper, but he didn't win. I played the race well. But here is the takeaway at this point and this is key. 

You have to play all the races where you think you have done all the homework and you have value to play into. You can't pick where you play, where you don't, and consider how the night is going. You are going to lose some of the In Spades races due to race factors, Hurricane Kingkong races when you simply get it wrong, and the Star Clipper races when it doesn't pan out exactly how you need it to. As long as you play them all, and your skill is valid, you will win enough. Like the E R Monica and Bad At Redhot races. You can't skip races that you should play.

Race 9 I liked the favorites and didn't really like my top pick much, so I skipped the race. Favorite won, 2nd fave was 2nd, my top pick was weak late as I thought he might be. It was simply a good race to leave. ​No need to panic and play a race that wasn't playable in my view.

Race 10 I liked a few, not that much but so so. I played 3 horses to place that I thought had value. I got 2 of them, and made a small overall profit. It was an okay play. You need to make the small profit at times if its a good play. They cant all be bombs like Bad At Redhot.

Race 11 was the icing on the bad cake for me this night. I made only one mistake, but it was a very costly one. I did so many things right for this one to work, but I only had to do one thing wrong for it to not work out.

Walk Two Moons was the one I saw in the replay that I felt everyone had missed. I thought she got a terrible drive the start before, but still finished well enough, well off the screen. My data confirmed that, she was dropping in class, with a good post and likely to get the perfect trip. The favorite, Bernadette, is an old class mare, but she has terrible form, coming off a layoff, with a bad post and a history of giving up the lead late. It played out exactly as I thought it would, and while I was looking for 7-2, the favorite was wildly overbet at 3-5, and Walk Two Moons went off at 14-1.
I didn't bet. Why didn't I bet? Just as they were going to the gate, I got distracted by something, which doesn't matter, and I wont describe here. But, when I gathered myself, it was too late, the race was off, and the whole way, I knew she would beat the favorite, which she did.
In sum, I have a good system, the components are the right components, but without the execution you need, and I need, it wont matter. Component 3 is critical.
Never forget that. I wont. Discipline and focus are crucial to success playing horses. 

On the way home from the grocery store while I was writing this blog in my head, I heard this song in the car. As bettors, and just humans who have ups and downs, its good to remember the sentiment of this song

Remember, betting on horses is supposed to be fun. Its a lot more fun when you win and have a good time. That happens when you get it right. Tomorrow is another day, to enjoy and achieve, with lessons in tow.
Good luck if this helps you. Have a good time. The sun can't shine every day. But it will shine again, if you are bright enough.

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