By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
Equibase handicapper Ellis Starr and I have been friends for over a decade. Both Kentucky transplants from California, we share a love of Thoroughbred racing and a fascination with the puzzles of handicapping. He was my regular cohort during my stint as host for, “Today in Thoroughbred Racing,” a weekly radio show devoted to the betterment of the sport and the intricacies of playing the horses.
Monday morning, Ellis, known publicly as, “The Ubercapper,” sent out a tweet:
Ellis Starr @Ubercapper
Compliments to @racehorsereport for helping me many years ago to understand how the “all” button can be your friend.
Over the years, Ellis and I have had countless handicapping conversations – on the air, at handicapping seminars, tournaments and privately, usually in the Keeneland press box. Despite being an excellent handicapper, he is understandably a conservative bettor. Ellis sometimes handicaps and writes reports on five or six cards a day, which are sold at equibase.com, and despite their quality, to wager on 50-60 races a day is a sure path to financial ruin.
He picks his spots.
I did not become, “The Pontiff of the Pick Four,” by keeping the rubber band on the bankroll. Nowadays, my handicapping concentration centers around the late Pick Four at the tracks I play. The later races are usually the better ones on the card and being at the end of the day, I have more time to address them.
My process begins by eliminating the horses who I don’t think can win. Locating any possible singles or doubles is next. Then I formulate my ticket and decide whether the payoff is worth the risk. Finally, it is pass or play?
Sometimes I don’t have a clue about a race and sometimes I can’t eliminate enough horses. This is where, “the ‘all’ button can be your friend.”
Ellis hates wasting money on losing bets. Who can blame him? But he was the first guy to say to me, “Why didn’t you back wheel him for $2?” when Closing Argument ran second to Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby (G1), keying a $9000 exacta. Ugh.
In his defense, the Ubercapper seldom “wheels” anything or hits the “all” button. He sticks to the selections he sells, unless some new tidbit of information is revealed after publication, but having seen me make some pretty nice Pick Four scores, he has become aware that even as “Uber” as his handicapping is, sometimes a race is so chaotic, “all” is the best selection.
Ellis loves Pick Threes, and the one that spurred the tweet was a 2x7x1 combination that returned $481 for every buck invested. Now that ladies and gentlemen is a nifty payoff, and certainly better than stabbing at four top “contenders” in the “all” race to save $6.
One last note.
No crying when you “all” a 12-horse race and get the favorite home on top. Remember, the public is right a third of the time so this will happen. You can console yourself with the memories of the $98 winner who provided a $13,000 score that sent you on a winter trip to the islands.
“Good night, Barbados.”
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