Racing’s Man of the Year 2014: The Horseplayer
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL., December 20, 12012—The story of the year in racing did not happen on any racetrack no matter how much one admires exploits of dual classics winner, the improbable winning return from colic by a defending Horse of the Year, or the retirements of his and her legends of the game.
That distinct honor went to the most unlikely individual or group of them all: the American horseplayer. Their voice was heard early and often; from a stewards stand at Gulfstream Park, to a board room at Churchill Downs, to the keeper of racing’s data in Lexington.
Horseplayers were able to shine a light on officiating by examining the adjudication process leading to disqualifications, to putting the hurt on a public company for raising the tax on wagers, to stating yesterday that they are concerned as hell and are not going to accept inaccurate running times anymore.
When was the last time racing identified a common problem, fashioned a consensus for problem solving, and took action all within the same 24-hour period? Don’t strain yourself overthinking this: To my knowledge, it’s never happened.
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.