Thursday, February 07, 2013

Champion Handicapper goes to …

Now that the Eclipse Awards are in the rear-view mirror, what better time to talk about the Eclipse Awards than now?

Naturally, in three weeks or so I’ll be sure to start talking about the Super Bowl and my two theories for the power outage. 1. Producers of Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl IX pulled the plug in the Big Easy (the timing was too perfect. The lights go out and, what’s this, the Puppy Bowl starts? Follow the money …

2. The more plausible of the two solutions is this: it was Bane. We’ll the proper authorities figure it out.

Since we are a site that pays a certain degree of homage to the great and powerful horse player, I figured this idea would stoke your fires: Champion Handicapper. What is this sport without the horse player? And why not honor him?
The Eclipse Awards has become the annual ceremony to honor the “Big 5” trainers and Adena Springs. The Eclipse Awards recognize the best journalism of the year. It’s high time the other branch of horse racing gets its due.

The branches, just to get a bit didactic here, are horses, horsemen, journalists, and the horse player. This is a fair order of descending importance (and by that I mean perceived importance. We all know how important the horse player is. Actually, in the grand scheme, I’d put the horse player above the journalist.). Though the weight of the sport comes out of the pockets of the lowly horse player, gets its increasingly sparse coverage from its writers, so that what? The top tier may reap the rewards? Let’s take back the night.

The League of Handicappers, a nice comic-booky name. Register for the League. That’s all it takes to be a pro. Just sign up. But you’re in the pool with the big boys, the heavy hitters, and the small-fry blogger.

Through the League, every wager is recorded, every type of wager, at every track. Rules, you have to play at least five different tracks in a given year. Maybe John Pricci picked the most pure winners of the year, but Top Turf Teddy hit two Pick 6s and a Pick 4 on Derby Day.

It doesn’t matter how much money you actually win, that’s not a product of skill (though it can be). I wouldn’t much care of the guy who goes ALL-ALL-ALL. In fact, the League keeps track of how many times you’re inclined to use the ALL button. Sometimes it’s necessary, but this will keep any billionaire playboys from “buying the title”. Eligibility for the League, and thus to be considered for the Eclipse, needs to go to most skilled player. Already, the parallels can be drawn to the other disciplines.

Who wins the Champion Trainer? Going back 18 years, six trainers have one the award. Six. (Todd Pletcher 5, Bobby Frankel 4, Bill Mott 3, Bob Baffert 3, Steve Asmussen 2, Dale Romans 1). All these trainers have the power of numbers on their side. It helps to hit bullseyes when you have 100 darts to throw at the board when some of your competition might only have 10 darts with mangled flights and chipped points.

Just as the greater number of horses a trainer has increases his or her chances, so too does an increased bankroll. These things can be overcome. Horseman still need to be skilled. So too does the horse player. While exact monies wagered will be kept hidden and only known by the head of the mainframe, all that matters is picking winners and cashing exotics from tracks all over the country to prove you’re not just a one-track wonder.

I’d say that some of the days would have to include the marquee ones on the schedule, but that would take care of itself. Those are the days where you’re likely to catch an 18-1 horse or a favorite at 3-1.

Over the course of a calendar year, the numbers won’t lie and it will be put to a vote. And the winner is …

If you or a loved one—or an enemy you’re looking to lure into your confidence—would like a hardcover, first edition book, I’m giving away (while supplies last, limit one per person) copies of Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. If interested, email me at and let me know how you would like it inscribed. The only catch is I ask you to review it on Amazon. That’s it! What a world!

Written by Brendan O'Meara

Comments (1)

BallHype: hype it up!

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