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HomeHorse RacingThey Didn’t Know: a weekly look back at horses that fooled the...

They Didn’t Know: a weekly look back at horses that fooled the public (July 22)

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If we want to score big at the races, we need to know when the public’s money is on the wrong horse. When we are confident in our opinion, we should be confident at the windows–no matter where the public’s money is going. This column is all about looking back to find the kinds of horses that trick the public time and again. 


Camera: Wilco Sets Us Straight About Underlay Steam Horses 


The lyrics of a Wilco song are in my head as I begin to think back about the favorites on Saturday that the public got wrong. It’s always a good time to bring up their 2002 Album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.


I need a camera to my eye

To my eye, reminding

Which lies have I been hiding

Which echoes belong


It’s never a good time to bet a noisy, steamed-up 3-5 first-time-starter, as they did in Race 6 on Sunday at Saratoga. When horses like Camera, who owners purchased for  $1.275 million as published in the PPs for all to see, get bet to 3-5 in a 10-horse field of 2-year-olds, it tells me once again, this game is still beatable. Especially given his post. 


The Todd Pletcher trainee was drawn outside in the 10-hole, he broke poorly, raced near the back, and finished up the track in 9th. 


No, Jeff Tweedy was not thinking about horse racing when he wrote “Camera” but there’s something there in the lyrics (watch me stretch to make the connection here) and I hope this serves as the proper reminder of the lies horseplayers tell themselves which gather steam echoing throughout the racetrack and broadcast as the race approaches. These echoes of sure things don’t belong in your bets. (Nailed it.)


Whether it begins with the clockers, the barn, or owners, some horses get tipped out the wazoo. Everyone and their least favorite uncle catch wind that the horse is a lock. They call these horses steam. In a world of no sure things and losing streaks that would make even a Mets fan flinch, many horseplayers grasp onto a heavily tipped horse like a toddler grabs onto his blankie and a spot on his mother’s lap. 


Horseplayer: “It’s hard out there, Mom.” 

Mom: “I know it is, child. But there’s a sure thing in the 6th at Saratoga.”

Horseplayer: “He’s gonna win, right Mom?”

Mom: “I know you’ve had some bad luck but I promise everything will be fine.” 

Horseplayer: “I sure do like cashing tickets.”


Well, your mother lied–everything will not be fine, there are no sure things, and the seasoned horseplayer who is willing to take a stand on the other side of such nonsense is always in a good position to hit big. Even the bettors who have heard nothing can see what is going on in the price–he’s 3-5? they know! We gotta bet him! They didn’t know


To have an edge as a horseplayer, we need to develop a different instinct than the public. When we see a horse like this with the $1 million purchase price in the PPs getting bet way below the likelihood of winning, it’s not because it is a sure thing. It’s because markets, not just horse racing markets, are driven by noise. And steam horses like Camera are as noisy as they get. Savvy gamblers seek out and exploit noisy horses


Trained by Wesley Ward, Sam’s Treasure won, second time out, at 6-1. A 15-1, 13-1, and 24-1 rounded out the top four paying $116, $808, and $6,907 respectively for the exacta, trifecta, and super (all payouts with a $1 base bet).


Front-running Favorites In a Field of Front-runners 


In the $100,000 Wolf Hill on the Haskell undercard at Monmouth Park on Saturday, five front-running types signed on in a field of ten. That’s a lot of speedsters who no doubt would be gunning from the gates, setting a hot pace, and likely fading to the back. One of these, Nothing Better, was made the even-money favorite by the public. How can the market so unabashedly not reflect a clear understanding of pace handicapping 101?


In the words of Monmouth’s race caller Chris Griffin, here’s how the pace unfolded:


And they’re off. Just Jeremy flew out of the gate from the outside. That’s Right is in that early mix. There’s Fore Harp and Nothing Better is going to joining them. Four across the course here as they get set to hook up in the backstretch and they are flying early!”


When the pace looks to be hot, just remember the teachings from the Book of Matthew: ​​So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. When the 5 1/2 furlongs were up, Nothing Better finished 5th, while the other three duelers mentioned in Griffin’s call finished 7th, 9th, and 10th. At 10-1 Alogon held off Witty, Mid Day Image, and Belgrano for a $71 exacta, $435 trifecta, and $2,472 super (all payouts with a $1 base bet).


Listen, I get it. Nothing Better had only finished out of the money once in his last 13 races, and that was against much tougher last out in the Jaipur (G1). Pace makes the race, that age-old adage, is something we never want to forget, although the public often does.


When you see situations like this, find the horses with late run and simply box them to your heart’s delight. The expected value in this scenario makes up for the inefficient bet. Follow that up with a ticket or two pressing your opinion on the closers you think stand the best chance. Laugh all the way to the bank.

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