By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
When I trained horses, I loved Thursdays.
My average string over the twenty-year stint was about 14 steeds and varied from a single animal to 28 one summer at Del Mar. Most of the horses were claimers and Cal-breds but occasionally I would get a “Saturday horse,” as Mr. Kilroe would call them, and be able to compete with the likes of Charlie Whittingham, Laz Barrera and Bobby Frankel.
Most of the time, my wins came on Thursdays – maiden claimers, low level claiming races and a smattering of starter allowances. “The backbone of the game,” one horseplayer called them, but really, the bottom of the barrel – inconsistent horses and unpredictable results – the fodder of carryovers.
Fast forwarding to the current century, I follow the twitter feed on a daily basis. It amazes me how many people handicap every day and back their selections with cold, hard cash. Monday at Finger Lakes, Tuesday at Parx, Wednesday at River Downs and Thursday at Sacramento tweeps post picks. How can this be?
These people have jobs – granted, many are industry related. But who sitting at a desk in Kentucky has a burning desire to handicap the fourth at Sacramento on a Thursday? What’s a gal in Buffalo doing, perusing the past performances for Parx after lunch on a Tuesday?
I love this game and I don’t want to say that love puts me in a class by myself, but it wouldn’t take long to call roll. As much as I love handicapping and watching races, I am amazed when three or four tweeps are fascinated by the fourth at River Downs on a Wednesday. In the words of Captain Renault in Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on in here!”
Are they making money betting on slow horses?
I know a professional handicapper that concentrates on the Ohio circuit and does quite well, as he is the big fish in the little pond. That’s how he makes his living. But a California desk jockey, bored to death on a Thursday afternoon, pulling up some pps for the Ellis Park finale because it is going off in 10 minutes, is probably not in a long term profit situation.
There is the “action” thing. I get it. Personally, I love using my TVG points to bet Irish steeplechase races on Sunday mornings when my wife is out of town. It’s a guilty pleasure for me. One rare Sabbath, she woke up on East Coast time while in California and called to check in.
“Good morning. How are you?”
“Great! I’m up over $800 and it’s just nine o’clock.”
“How did you do that?”
“I hit the winner of the first race in Ireland and he paid $38 and I had the trifecta in the third for $500 and change.”
She’s not a morning person.
If all Sundays were like that, I’d send her on a vacation every weekend.
In my capacities as a racing publicist, consultant and broadcaster, I spend a lot of time watching allowance and stakes races. I’m always on the lookout for developing stars and possible Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup contenders, following at least a hundred horses during the winter and probably twice that amount in the summer months.
Since the bulk of my attention is there, I have found that my best handicapping days come during big events – cards with multiple stakes and high class allowance races – where I know the horses so well, that I might not even need past performances to tell you who I like.
Bottom line is that I have become more of a weekend player and I have seen my strike rates rise dramatically. I’m a lot more anxious to spend time handicapping and my handicapping is of better quality by laying off on weekdays – the clarity of thought is amazing when you are not beaten to a pulp.
I still bet my watch list horses during the week, but I don’t go out of my way to find bets. I let them find me.
Maybe Thistledown is your track and that’s where you win. I know a guy that creams them at Delta Downs but couldn’t cash a voucher at Fair Grounds. Take a look at your results sheet. See where and when you excel and concentrate your efforts there. It will mean more money in your pocket at the end of the year…
And better productivity at work.
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