King for a Sunday
PLANTATION, FL., December 15, 2014—The first time I heard the expression “King of the World” in relation to betting on horses, it was uttered by Andy Beyer, my first Saratoga roommate back in the mid-1970s.
In the rented house on Lake Avenue I read the manuscript of his seminal work, “Picking Winners,” and later that meet Andy introduced me to his good friend, Steve Davidowitz, informing Steve “he has a good opinion.”
I think it was the proudest day of my young handicapping life.
It was a memorable Spa betting meet, too, but no thanks to the two of us. The author of that first Saratoga score was our roommate and another of Andy's friends, Maury Wolff, a.k.a. “the Kid.”
"The Kid" now happens to be the industry’s go-to guy on matters pertaining to the economics of betting, particularly as it relates to takeout rates, rebates, and the like.
One night that Saratoga summer, as the three of us read our Forms, sharing opinions and relevant pieces of information, Wolff suddenly leaped up from the couch, scrambling toward the pile of back Racing Forms that served as our handicapping library.
Handicapping four decades ago was not like it is today, when a wealth of information is readily available to handicappers through any number of sources.
In addition to furiously scribbling trip notes into track programs, horseplayers needed to keep records. It was a time when not even the win percentages of trainers and jockeys win were included in the past performances.
I must say, however, the somewhat arduous process made all those who did so better, more complete horseplayers.
Gulfstream Park Brand Has Never Been Stronger
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., December 6, 2014—It pays to advertise, at least it did yesterday on the official opening day of the 2014-15 Gulfstream Park season.
The crowd on the first day of the “Championship Meet” was plentiful and enthusiastic, some of the regulars sitting at favorite tables surrounding the walking ring by the time we arrived shortly after 10 a.m.
A Fine Day for Racing in Hallandale Beach
Photo by Toni Pricci
Live racing still very much matters in this simulcast era, it creates buzz and that’s really saying something these days.
The featured Claiming Crown event is good business, too, with the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association coming up with the lion’s share of the purse money for the eight stakes offered on the day.
Parenthetically, the house comes up with purse money for the non-features, of which there were two on the 10-race program.
In all, 144 horses were entered on the program--a great betting card, especially if your name is Nostradamus. It was difficult enough finding true legitimate favorites, must less divining winners.
But like other major racing events, this Poor Man’s Breeders’ Cup brings out the players.
Marc Lawrence College & Pro Upsets Dec. 11-15
ARIZONA over St. Louis by10
The Gateway to the West provides the backdrop for this Week 15 opener, which fi gures to see less scoring than a dyslexic Scrabble tournament. The Rams enter off back-to-back shutout wins (the first time that’s been done in the NFL regular season since the Steelers accomplished the feat in the 2000 season) while the defensive-minded Redbirds have held 11 of 13 foes to under 21 points this season. And to boot, this day of the week hasn’t been exactly an offensive highlight reel for either of these squads as the Cardinals have been outscored 179-85 in their last six Thursday tilts (0-6 SUATS) while the Rams (2-5 SU, 1-6 ATS) are averaging less than 20 PPG (outscored 175-135) in their last seven contests before getting the weekend off. So why are we raising Arizona to Best Bet status and asking you to meet us in St. Louis? For starters, the Cards are 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS off an AFC fray while Louie is 0-4 SUATS the last two seasons following back-to-back SU wins. In addition, Arizona is 11-3 ATS in this series when taking points, including 9-1 ATS in this building. Better yet, Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians is the knock-out artist in this week’s TRIVIA TEASER (page 2) while the Rams’ mentor provides The Clincher: Jeff Fisher is 1-8 SUATS in his NFL career as a home favorite versus a .700 or greater opponent off a SUATS win.
Marc Lawrence College & Pro Upsets Dec. 6 - Dec. 8
OHIO STATE over Wisconsin by 3
You gotta feel for the Buckeyes. Entering 2014 on a 24-2 SU run under HC Urban Meyer, Ohio State lost starting QB Braxton Miller for the season with a shoulder injury before playing its fi rst game. J.T. Barrett stepped in for Miller and led the the team to 10-1 record – before leaving with a broken ankle in last week’s bitter 42-28 win over archrival Michigan. Now Meyer has to turn to his third starting QB this season in what will be OSU’s biggest game of the season. It’s our contention that the team will rally around new quarterback Cardale Jones, a 6-5 250-lb product of the Cleveland Glenville pipeline and a 3-star recruit out of high school. However, Jones almost ‘Winstoned’ his way off the team earlier when he was guilty of tweeting: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” Open mouth, insert size 20 foot. Those hijinks almost landed Jones a one-way bus ticket home… to which Meyer now says, “He’s matured a lot. I think he’ll do a great job.” Maybe so but we’ll rely on this week’s INCREDIBLE STAT (page 3) and Meyer’s sterling 15-9 SU and 18-6 ATS career mark as a pick or dog – including 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS since 2003. He’ll need all that and more to bring down a Wisconsin team on a 7-game win streak, thanks to RB Melvin Gordon’s exploits (8 yards per carry and 26 TD’s) and an under-appreciated defense that’s limited foes to just 260 yards and 16.8 PPG. The Badgers have not missed a beat since 2nd-year HC Gary Andersen took over for Bret Bielema and Andersen’s 18-8-1 ATS success against opponents with better records is certainly noteworthy. However, the well-oiled machine reminds us that since the inception of the Big 10 championship games, the favorite in these contests is a poor 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS – and that the Buckeyes are the only FBS team to outgain every foe they’ve faced this season. Incredibly, a win here won’t guarantee a playoff appearance for Ohio State as the Selection Committee might react negatively to the loss of QB Barrett and choose another 1-loss team (like TCU) with a healthy starting contingent. Still, we think Meyer has too much talent and depth on hand to let this opportunity slip away. Take as many points as you can, roll up your sleeves and get ready for a 60-minute WAR.
Slouching Towards Tucson
PORTLAND, OR, November 19, 2014--Beginning December 8 for four days, racing's biggest movers and shakers will gather at the 41st Annual Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson, Arizona.
The annual pilgrimage has become the place for industry stakeholders to keep in touch with each other, swap a little gossip, and get a sense of how the industry is tracking as a whole.
This will be my 10th trip to the great American Southwest, a journey I look forward to at the end of each year for the colorful characters one meets while congregating at the hotel bar each night, talking about the year that was.
It’s great to see that behind the scenes of racing and gaming stand people who are trying to insure the industry continues to tick.
It’s a place where companies can showcase anything the industry requires, from new betting software platforms, to television cameras, to racetrack surfaces.
Although the exhibitors have got smaller over the years, attendance at the seminars has remained very strong as there's always something new to discuss each year, always something new to take away, hangovers notwithstanding.
Adore Me’s World Record Performance Down Under Unforgettable
Christchurch, New Zealand – Nov 11 – That’s no typo; you read that correctly. Indeed, harness horses often race at distances over two miles here and last week I witnessed the fastest two miles—that’s 3,200 meters to us—in harness racing history.
Of course, that makes the time of 3:54—with a last half-mile in an astounding 55 seconds—trotted by Adore Me so extraordinary.
We know the Yanks love their speed and appropriately Adore Me is a daughter the prize American stallion, Bettor’s Delight, a very familiar name to harness racing fans world-wide.
And the five year old mare didn’t just establish a new world record; she smashed the old one by 1.5 seconds in an event that was just as extraordinary as her performance: