Normally, I write about more serious topics on how to improve your handicapping. Recently, I was having a conversation with my good friend and longtime track buddy Walt. We reminisced about the oddball crew we would run into on our weeknight jaunts up to The Meadowlands and weekend excursions down to Monmouth Park.
This discussion got me to thinking that all race tracks are parallel universes. The same regulars exist at each track, off-track betting facility and casino racebook. They may dress different, be different ages, but all exhibit the same characteristics.
The Reverse Midas Touch
We all know this guy, like the racetrack scene from A Bronx Tale (Link is NSFW). It is like they are cursed. Everything he touches turns to crap. You have never seen him cash a ticket and anytime you find that you like the same horse, you have an overwhelming sense of doom. He is the unluckiest man in the world. Even if your horse hits, it will end up getting disqualified. Yet, this guy is there every day.
This guy is the victim or more tough beats than any other guy at the track, but all for good reason. The first race was simple, the jockey didn’t send his horse out to the lead early enough. In the second race, his horse was steadied at the start. During the third race the sun was in his horse’s eyes. He is always quick with a reason why his horse didn’t come in, but it is never the result of how he is picking them!
This guy is the best handicapper at the track or maybe even in the world. He had every winner today and will show you how he got there… after the race is over. He generally is only talking in the past tense. Did you see that fifth race off of the layoff switching from dirt to all-weather to turf while dropping in class, getting a new jockey, and moving out three post positions from its last race? That one hits every time, didn’t you know?
These horseplayers generally keep to themselves. They come in with a plan and are generally all business all the time. Armed with more information than most, they don’t get too emotional during a race and will tune out the craziness. Chances are they will be in a booth in the tele-theater or at a strategically located table (by themselves) so they can see all the monitors.
This is the guy who shows up with a handful of races left on the card and scavenges himself a free program from an abandoned table of the trash. Sometime he’ll pick up tickets off of the floor and run them through the self-betting terminals. He may try to snag the last half of your hot dog if you aren’t careful.
There is always that one guy that will ask you who you like only to tell you that your horse doesn’t have a chance. He’ll tell you that there is no way that the apprentice jockey will get a good trip, that the horse’s sire is horrible on the grass, and that there is no way this horse can handle two turns today. Do you ever wonder if he actually ends up playing what you liked?
The Numbers Guy
This guy doesn’t always need the program. His biggest score was that time he played his locker number from high school in that trifecta at Saratoga. How else would he have had a 60-1 shot on top? When the locker number angle is working, he digs a little deeper and plays his birthday. This can also be that guy who only plays the #4 horse in 4-1/2 furlong races from Charles Town or the #7 in 5-furlong turf races from Monmouth Park. Forget the past performances, it’s all about the numbers!
This is the guy who is always bragging that he has a tip or some inside knowledge. He knows from a friend of the groom of the 6-horse in the next race that the horse is ready to run B-I-G today! He’ll make it seem like he is giving you a huge secret and, occasionally, it even pays off.
The Virtual Jockey
This guy thinks that he is riding his horse to victory, like Kramer from “Seinfeld”. Often his program will need to suffice as his whip, which he will use with great vigor during the stretch run, often to no avail. He displays so much enthusiasm and energy that, if we could harness it, we could solve the world’s power needs.
He is a close cousin to the virtual jockey, but has retired from virtual riding. He is overly vocal because he understands that jockeys and horses can hear him through the monitor, right? Maybe such people work as librarians during the day and need to get a release after a long day of being quiet?
Last Minute Decision Maker
You got in line to bet, figuring that three minutes to post would be enough time. You have written down or know exactly what you want to do. Then, there is this guy in front of you who waits until he is at the window with the teller or self-betting terminal to finally look up at the tote board and start to consider what bets he plans to make. He is easily spotted, listen for all the “uhs” and “ums”. If you are lucky, you’ll even have a few seconds left to place your wager too!
This guy won’t shut up about a horse from the minute the last race is official to the start of this race. He will tell anyone who will listen, whether they want to or not, about his picks. Sometimes he even plays them. If you comment that the turf course seemed a little soft, well, this guy will tell you what kind of grass it is, how short it is mowed, and what the watering schedule is — not that you really cared.
Now, the big question: Which one are you?
Ray Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog. Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.
Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping. When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf.
Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at www.jerseycapper.blogspot.com Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.