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Bad news bearers

This one is about the most common mistake made in horse race wagering.

It happens routinely at tracks throughout the world. It's happening right now at home wagering screens, at simulcast and off-track venues, at the betting windows and betting machines.

It's about being influenced by the Great Unseen.

It's about allowing yourself to be chased off a horse by those who might know less about the sport than the man asking to borrow five bucks.

Here's the way the Great Unseen works.

These people will bet a horse that shouldn't be bet. It's that simple. Usually the surprise bet comes late, making its appearance all the more noticeable.

Given the occasional puzzling results that pop up at the low-dollar end of the sport, the first thing a person is apt to think when something inexplicable happens is: That could mean something.


Given the occasional puzzling results that pop up at the low-dollar end of the sport, the first thing a person is apt to think when something inexplicable happens is: That could mean something.

When the Great Unseen makes an okay 9-1 horse 3-1, numerous doubts gather: Did I miss something? Are they trying to put something over? Maybe the one I like better is hurt after all. Somebody close to the situation has inside information.

Who are those putting oddball numbers on the tote board? Who is the Great Unseen?

Somebody smarter than all of us put together?

A crook?

I liked a 10-1 horse the other day at Penn National and let the Great Unseen talk me out of it without saying a word. I switched at the last moment to a horse that somebody knew something about, a horse whose odds should have been higher. People who profess to know it all can be seen throughout the sporting world: Alabama is going to obliterate Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl; San Francisco has better athletes than Seattle in the NFL; Kentucky is going to hammer Connecticut in the hoop final. Picking and preaching goes on for endless periods of time. Then when the predictor is wrong, just like a TV meteorologist, it's on to the next wild guess. As much time should be spent analyzing and explaining a lousy loss as was spent incorrectly touting it.

The 10-1 horse that I abandoned passed the one the Great Unseen put me on in deep stretch and won by a neck. The 50-cent Pick Four included three short-priced horses and paid $400-something. The exacta was too much to reconsider.

Letting a number created by strangers of unknown mental capacities direct you to a horse to bet is about as depressing as horse race wagering gets.

Tote board numbers shouldn't put you on or off a horse.

Handicap a race and bet it and watch it without looking at the tote board.

If you're any good, pleasant surprises are apt to ensue.

As far as the Derby goes, I have futures tickets on Tapiture and California Chrome from the second pool. The Tapiture tickets appear headed for the IRS shoe box. Some think Chrome is in over his head, but then, who isn't. I also loved Cairo Prince before it ran like a pauper in the Florida Derby. Here's what the 10-1 horse from Penn National taught me. Again. I still love Cairo Prince. I'm not about to abandon one I liked in favor of one somebody else likes.

The Great Unseen is probably somebody in the beer, that's all.