ESPN.com - Horse Racing - It's quality, not quantity

Jay Cronley
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Friday, March 26
It's quality, not quantity




The psychology of gambling involves powerful forces.

Here's an example: You can't win two days in a row.

Sane horse handicapping is letting a race come to you, it's spotting a horse and waiting patiently for its return in a better post or under a smoother operator.

Most horse players spend a day at the track and believe they've never met a race they can't handicap.

It is possible to play 19 races at 13 different tracks and win money. It sounds like a dare. Or something somebody who just got out of the joint might do. But when you get a couple of dollars ahead, you think you can do the impossible like hit a grass Exacta at Santa Anita.

One day last week I hit two races at once at the simulcast joint. When horses with whom you have a ten-spot riding win by daylight on side-by-side television monitors, there's the tendency to think you're on a hot streak. But only people pitching quarters at cracks in the pavement and people cranking the slots and people playing roulette get hot.

As it concerns horses, hot streaks are an illusion.

It's not so much that you're hot as it is that the right kinds of races are coming up.

Many of my best wins have similar past performance histories.

Having been audited by the Internal Revenue Service, and having been asked for proper proof of gambling losses up to but not exceeding the sum of any gambling wins, I have begun to write down much more than the phone number of the occasional waitress. I write down bets and results. Sitting down with a clear head and examining where you've risked good money can be a dizzying experience. It is also helpful. Had I not documented a losing $50 bet on a five-year old maiden, I might have blocked it out of my mind and done it again.

Anytime something happens 95 percent of the time, that's valuable information.

According to my records for the last year or so, that's how often I lost the day after winning $200 or more.

Being unable to win two days in a row at the horse races is one of the all-time sports jinxes.

I took this phenomenon to a shrink who lives around the corner and showed her my numbers.

She didn't know much about horse racing but found it remarkable nonetheless that the day-after wagers were consistent losers, no matter their size or style.

It was as though the bets on consecutive days had been made by two different people - the winning set of wagers by a shrewd handicapper who made the most of small bets, the day-after action by somebody throwing darts.

The trained counselor went to her library and came back with the following opinion, which looks good to me.

Winning makes you think you're smarter than you really are.

For information about a trend to be good for the average person, it has to come from somebody reasonably normal.

I have been married twice and am single now and have two black and white springer spaniels.

Vehicles are relatively unimportant to me.

It is my opinion that "In America" was far and away the best movie of the year.

It is also my opinion that "The Sopranos" is experiencing a below-average season.

I don't think Tiger Woods has caught Nicklaus.

All but one of the women on "Saturday Night Live" make me cringe. Stephanie Weir on Mad TV is better than all the women on SNL put together.

Evan Hunter/Ed McBain is the best writer in the world.




 




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