By Ray Wallin
Many of us have been working from home due to COVID-19. I have been working out of my home office since the middle of March. That was when tracks were shutting down one at a time, leaving us with racing from Will Rogers Downs and Fonner Park to keep us entertained. While racing has returned with some sense of normalcy, many patrons are still not allowed back to the track and are only able to play from home.
While I have always loved the memories and good times I have had between the grandstand apron at Monmouth Park and some interesting evenings in the old Meadowlands grandstand, I have found it more productive to play the races from home. Many of my acquaintances that make their living playing the races also play from home. Some need their computers to run race simulations or crunch data. Some will watch endless replays which they can’t do at the track.
So between myself, my handicapping friends, and various places on the web I compiled a short list of some of the pros and cons that people have mentioned about playing the ponies from home.
- No Driving To and From: I used to spend a lot of time in my car driving to and from my office or jobsites. One of the greatest parts of working from home is the hour plus that I get back in my day that I would normally spend on the road sitting in traffic. Not having to pay for gas and tolls is a bonus, too.
- No Entry or Parking Fees: You are saving your bankroll already by not shelling out a couple of bucks to park or get through the gate.
- The Bathroom Is Cleaner: Normally I would agree with this one, but I have a teenage and pre-teen son at home. I am sure that some of you can relate to this.
- Better Concessions: I agree whole-heartedly with this one. My wife is Italian and can cook. Why settle for a gnarly looking hot dog in a stale bun when you can have some eggplant parm? Plus the beer and wine selection is much better, and cheaper, at home.
- Better Use of Time Between Races: The laundry isn’t going to do itself, right? Knock off a few loads, do some dishes, or get the mail. You are knocking out that honey-do list between your betting opportunities of the day.
- Less Compelled to Make Action Happen To Justify The Trip: How many times have you headed to the track with a couple of great betting opportunities only to find that a scratch or two has made the race unplayable? You figure that you didn’t drive all this way for nothing so you start to force the action on plays you are not totally confident with. You know how this ends. Your bankroll and pride are left at the track, however at home you can go mow the lawn instead.
- No Crowds: I realize that every track wants to run promotions that bring the masses to the track. Navigating through the food truck, wine tasting, or chili cook-off crowd can be a pain when trying to get to the betting windows.
- No One Steals Your Seat: This one isn’t exactly true. If I have TVG on the television and leave the room, I will often find a teenager in my place watching WWE when I return. When I am playing from my home office, the dog likes to steal my seat when I get up to see what smells so good in the kitchen.
- Betting During Family Time: Want to play a race at Del Mar or Santa Anita that goes off at 8 p.m. ET? You can drop that bet in from your phone during family movie or game night without having to be at the track, even if you have to use the excuse of trying to figure out who is calling you.
- Not Getting To See The Horses In The Paddock: This is the biggest con. When I am at the track I always use the opportunity of seeing the horses in the paddock and post parade before making my wagers. Live streaming and TVG coverage do not give you the same experience.
- Not Spending Time With Rail Guy: You can admit it; Rail Guy has a special place in your heart. As a matter of fact, you like all the characters that you meet at the track. You may roll your eyes when Rail Guy opens his mouth, but you miss the laughs and funny conversations you have had.
- Missing The Sights And Sounds: Not only do you miss Rail Guy, but you miss the thrill of seeing the race in person. The sounds of the hooves thundering down the stretch. The cheers and jeers of the betting public. The bugler playing the call to post. The sound of the gate opening. The smell of the horses and stale cigar smoke that remind you that you should shower when you get home.
- No One Else To Blame For Wrong Bets: If you punch the wrong track or combination for your exacta you can’t blame the teller. That is on your own big fingers and that small cell phone screen. It is one less excuse you can use if you have a bad day.
- Missing Your Favorite Track Employees: Right now many of your favorite track employees are likely furloughed or have been let go. From Tommy the Teller to Billy the Bartender, you miss these folks and hope that they are able to earn a living during this pandemic.
- You Have Too Much To Drink And Make Bad Decisions: You are home and not planning to drive anywhere so you have one more drink that you should have had. Next thing you know your bankroll is hurting after you let the dog pick the exacta in the last race.
- You Miss Being Outside In The Fresh Air: Unless you can bring your laptop or television out to your patio or deck you are probably sitting in your living room or home office all day. I know I miss being outside for the afternoon.
No matter who you ask, they will give you pros and cons to horseplaying from home. Which do you most identify or agree with? Do you have any to add?
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.