Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wagering for Fun and Profit


September 1, 2010

Dear Diary,

Have you ever made a bet where, if you lost, you wouldn’t be too upset? In fact, you might even enjoy the fact that one particular rival won? It’s a lot like sanity insurance, actually.

What am I talking about? OK, last things first. Sanity insurance is when, as a public handicapper, you don’t have near enough the money to play a Pick Six given the number of permutations required. What to do?

Simple. You make a straight $2 Pick Six on the six horses you selected to win each race in print, on the air, wherever. After all, could anyone live with themselves if they picked six straight winners sequentially and not collect?

It can be done but, trust me, it’s neither good for your self-esteem nor your confidence level.

There’s nothing worse than someone thanking you for making them semi-rich as you walk away with your bankroll between your legs. Ergo, for peace of mind, you buy sanity insurance for $2.

An emotional hedge is a variation on this theme. Say you’re a huge Yankees or Lakers fan. Given their reputations, national followings, and present skill levels, they are installed prohibitive favorites to win a championship.

But as a handicapper you know that 3-1 is a public price meant to attract action on both sides but unrealistic because the opponent has a better chance to win than the odds indicate.

So you take 3-1 on the underdog against your team for $100. If the underdog wins, you collect $300, knowing you made a good business decision because the odds were skewed for the purpose of book balancing, a.k.a. bookmaking.

However, if you lose the C-Note, it was worth the money to you because your favorite team won the title. Feeling good about losing this particular bet is the emotional hedge.

That’s the plan for Thursday’s ninth race at the old Spa.

Absent a potentially prescient opinion, media types such as myself root for the best story. And if the Lisa’s Bobby Trap story isn’t the equine story of the year, I don’t know what is.

For the 14 handful of fans who might not be aware, Lisa’s Booby Trap is a three-year-old daughter of a $1,500 stallion that was given away, subsequently sold on the if-come. The filly has one eye and a club foot that requires a hind shoe to be worn up front.

Did I mention she was named by her owner-trainer-groom-hotwalker for his wife--who died of cancer too young and promised her husband she’d return as a racehorse--and his favorite gentlemen’s club in Miami, located about a mile from Calder Race Course.

And did I mention that said owner-trainer Timothy Snyder at one time had about 20 horses but lost his horses and spent his savings paying for his wife’s treatment?

And that he turned down a cool half-million o buy her before she showed up in Saratoga and won the Loudonville Stakes by six lengths, her fourth career victory without defeat? She’s won those four races by an aggregate 42-¾ lengths.

Could any of us who labor at this have made this up?

Well, Lisa’s Booby Trap is my emotional hedge in the split Riskaverse overnight stakes, for which she has been installed the 5-2 early line favorite. Her story and how she fares will be featured on NBC’s “Dateline” Thursday night.

On the Equiform performance-figure scale, Lisa is faster than most, but only on a par with several major contenders. Let’s do a little more handicapping.

Pedigree as a predictive tool is very valuable, giving indications of potential ability to handle disparate conditions such as grass, slop or varying distances.

Given her bloodlines, Lisa is not particularly well bred to excel at anything. But that’s what makes her improbable story so cool in the first place.

Once a horse has established its form, it takes precedent over pedigree. Workouts are also a very useful predictor. Although there’s no guarantee that early morning form will translate to afternoon success, it can provide strong hints as to a preference for different surfaces.

In Lisa’s case, she was expected only to get a feel for the turf when Snyder sent the filly and Kent Desormeaux over to the Oklahoma turf course for a gallop. Snyder told Desormeaux that if the filly wanted to do more, however, let her do it. She did, and he did.

While the workout was officially recorded as a three furlong move in :35-flat around the dogs, Lisa was caught by her trainer in :47 for a half mile, and five-eighths in 1:00. Clearly, Lisa can handle the surface.

But her rivals are proven in turf competition: Khanchord Kid is a graded stakes winner, toughened by four tries in graded company. Sea Road was extremely sharp winning her last on this course, earning an excellent figure.

There’s Queen of the Creek, who despite being too keen early, handled older fillies on this course July 26. And who knows how good Marseria is? Two-for-two in Italy, she ships over here for the clever Team Valor outfit.

This potentially loaded race will be an excellent test for Lisa‘s Booby Trap. And she had better be all that if she is to remain undefeated. But to paraphrase Damon Runyon, at 5-2 that’s not the way to bet.

I’ll take Queen of the Creek at anything near her 5-1 early line odds. If Lisa’s Booby Trap keeps her undefeated record intact, I’ll be smiling as I rip my tickets.

Written by John Pricci

Comments (0)

Page 1 of 1 pages