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Inside a losing streak

Losing streaks, like other dramas, have starts, middles and ends.

Lucky streaks are short and colorful, like rainbows.

Losing streaks are grinds, like divorces. They're punishing. After certain losses during lousy times, you actually find yourself wondering what you ever did to deserve losing a long shot by a neck. And you actually find yourself searching back through time for an indiscretion that might warrant such misfortune. When somebody said, "You'll be sorry," a disqualification of your 10-1 horse looks like what they meant.

Most losing streaks start with a serious jolt to the system, a dose of negativity that influences numerous wagers to come. Bad moods create bad bets.


Now, a month from the start of the Triple Crown run, would seem to be as good a time as any to experience an unlucky streak -- get the nearly impossible losses out of the way. And at the moment, I'd have to ask somebody how to cash a ticket. Recent losers include a 15-1 horse that should have had an easy lead by itself and was instead challenged by a wild hare and was caught in the last jump by the odds-on favorite, and a horse that got into trouble in a short field and lost by an inch and a half.

Most losing streaks start with a serious jolt to the system, a dose of negativity that influences numerous wagers to come. Bad moods create bad bets.

My current rotten streak started with something that felt just right until post time: Passing on a race that at first glance seemed jumbled. I felt slightly rushed while looking at the charts, marking three that appeared to have equal chances to win, with three more seeming healthy enough to get all the way around and challenge for some money. So I had a cup of coffee and passed on the race and spent the rest of the time observing human nature. Nervous and loud bettors usually lose. Calm bettors don't need the money. Not having a bet can be relaxing and entertaining.

The three I liked ran 1-2-3.

The first three were almost coming back toward the finish line when the fourth place horse finished.

As my top three horses separated themselves from the rest of the field, I had stood and said softly "Come on anybody else," wishing against a perfectly handicapped magnificent loss.

Suddenly disliking three horses you had favored is a dizzying experience.

"Good hit," somebody said.

"Where'd you find that thing than ran second?" somebody else wondered. "A séance?"

"Thanks, man, order lunch on me," somebody else said after collecting on the ones I said that I liked a little bit.

The payoffs were substantial.

Not cashing a ticket while winning somebody else money is the opposite of hitting a Daily Double, it's like leaving your credit card on a bar stool.

After something like this happens, you start seeing things like good looking favorites in $5,000 claiming races.

The value of keeping notes on thoughts and wagers is that somewhere in there you'll find similar experiences.

During two other memorable bad times during which trainers and riders from dozens of tracks across the country seemed to have conspired to take my money, I found these commonalities in the middles of losing streaks.

Doing the opposite of what had started the bad streak: Betting higher sums on cheap favorites and short-priced exactas. Betting so-called trouble that turned out to have had nothing to do with the outcome of a race. Betting what the TV picker with the British accent liked. Betting closers.

Proven horse race slump-busting methods were: Hitting golf balls. Visiting the ex-wife. Taking a week off.