Are You Smarter Than a Third Grader?

Third-Grade-WorkLast year I talked to my twins’ third grade class about what I do for a living. As I talked about the projects I worked on and what civil engineers do, it sparked some great questions.

Thankfully, none of the children asked me if I was a train engineer, but the questions quickly degraded. They started off asking my favorite and least favorite projects to work on, how long it takes to build something and other benign questions. Suddenly, they turned into doom and gloom scenarios, like “What happens if one of the buildings you built falls down or gets destroyed by a volcano erupting [which would be something if it happened here in New Jersey]?”

As I tried to steer the conversation back to the projects I worked on — that that weren’t destroyed by a volcano — I began thinking how would I answer a similar line of questions about horse racing?

What is your favorite track?

Of course, I must say Monmouth Park since it is my home track! I have a ton of memories about summers there with my Uncle Dutch, great winning days with my wife and a couple memorable NHC tour events. Outside of Monmouth, I always loved going to Atlantic City Race Course during the last few years of the all-turf meets that were held there. I would look up at the dilapidated grandstand, thinking of what it must have been like in its heyday with the likes of Frank Sinatra and rest of the Rat Pack hanging out there.

What is your first memory about horse racing?

My family made annual trips to Monmouth Park when I was a child. The first year that I got to go, we were able to take the Dawn Patrol tour. I may have been five or six years old at the time, but I remember riding the tram and seeing all the activity — the grooms, the horses, the riders. I still have the clear green, plastic-brimmed visor that was the promotion at the track that day.

What is the most memorable race you ever watched?

There are many races that could qualify for this answer. I was a big fan of Tiznow and watching that amazing stretch drive, holding off Giant’s Causeway by a nose in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic still sticks in my mind.

What is your most memorable day at the track?

Shortly after I got married in the summer of 2000, my wife and set out for Haskell Day at Monmouth Park. We got stuck in traffic and ended up parking at the end of the overflow parking lot. I carried the cooler until my arms fell off and we finally made it into the grandstand after the first race. There were no seats left, so we shared the cooler as our seat. After a few losing races we were about ready to leave. The skies opened up and the rain was adding insult to injury at that point. I placed a wager on the fifth race and said if we lost, we’d be leaving. We ended up cashing a ticket on every race the rest of the day! We played the rolling Pick 3s, exactas, and win bets, but we were in the black on every race for the rest of the day. While no win was huge, it all added up. As we sat in the long line of traffic out of the parking lot later, we netted over $1,000 for the day.

Who is the greatest horse racing related person that you have ever met?

Believe it or not, I have never actually met any big-time jockeys or trainers (being friends on Facebook doesn’t count). I have met several not-so-household name jockeys and owners of small strings of horses while sitting on the apron at both Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands, though.

What is your biggest winning wager?

My biggest winning ticket was a pick-4 at Saratoga in the summer of 2011. Javier Castellano accounted for half of the ticket and, in the first leg, Julian Leparoux guided home a horse at 18-1 from sixth in the stretch to win by three quarters of a length. The $2 pick-4 returned $3,672!

While I won’t answer that would I do if a volcano erupted in the infield of Monmouth Park, I would love to hear some of your answers to the line of questioning posed by third graders.

Ray Wallin
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 ray.wallin@live.com.

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