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The horse player's resolution

Here's all the resolution a horse player needs for a successful new year: Don't be stupid.

One way to achieve that lofty goal? Don't get uppity.

Here's how.

1. Take another look at small tracks.

There's green in them-thar sticks in the form of fat purses from slot machine profits.

Horses coming from Sunland or Mountaineer were not there for the oats. There were there for $30,000 maiden-special prizes. Decent horses now come through places that were once average BS (Before Slots).

You don't have to play tracks so far from the sea, just the occasional horse from one of those places.

There's usually a perk that comes with playing good horses from a wide spot in the field -- odds inflated by snobbishness.

2. Compete against the silly people.

Most dumb gamblers are punching slots at the casinos.

But bad gamblers like their fresh air and mineral baths, too; a couple or three times a year, the truly terrible bettors will leave their smoke-flavored casino clothing at home and take in some spa horse racing, where gambling money is budgeted to be lost.

At places like Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., in the spring, gamblers fish for largemouth bass in the morning, bet the horses in the afternoon, and consume alcohol in the evening.

Horses put more money on the boards at spas than elsewhere.

3. Think outside the Beyer.

One of the biggest wins I ever had was on a single-digit Beyer who must have gotten a couple of points simply for simply showing her tattoo.

It was like the perfect dust storm, a cheap claiming race for non-winners of two, featuring a one-for-twenty-something horse against younger and fresher, and, as it turned out, lamer. A young woman rode the one-for-almost-thirty horse, a redneck bonus worth who knew what on the board, ten percent?

Some handicappers live on Beyer numbers, if you can call that living. Any ranking measure is like the NFL quarterback proficiency rating. If somebody completes 18 of 22 passes for 310 yards and six touchdowns, that's probably going to run up a decent figure. Similarly, I don't always need a number to tell me what it means to win certain stakes in particular times. I find Beyer numbers to be helpful in suggesting improvements or decline -- a 3 to 6 Beyer can be much more attractive than a 20 to a ten.

At the lowest claiming level, a horse that has finished 27 races, sometimes slowly but oftentimes with dignity, just could be healthier than eight or nine others with better numbers.

You should have seen it.

Gimpy horses peeled off left and right and we swept right through them to win for fun -- whatever fun was, the $5,000 ranks were probably wondering.

4. There's value in a diet soft drink.

Great progress was made last year in eliminating the search for 'value' from the horse player's mindset. This isn't Filene's Basement in Boston, where shoppers dig for shoe values.

This is gambling, where all winners have value.

If what figures to be the winner doesn't have enough value for your liking, bet an Exacta or go have a soft drink.

5. Don't forget to think.

Nonsense like technical handicapping is based on trends designed to eliminate the thought process because thinking is just too much trouble.

Some people bet football games based on data compiled by players no longer on the team; worse still, deceased or in jail.

Winning is about match-ups, not printouts.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com