I won, nobody cares

A consistent source of big prices is a cheap non-winners of two claiming sprint, featuring a bad but healthy closer versus once-decent but probably ailing horses with memories of speed.

Horse races are about matchups, not anthropomorphism: by that thought process, you project human tendencies upon animals. It is assumed that some horses don't want to win, that, as they approach the wire they think: This is way too much trouble, I get to eat no matter what, no use straining something.

This type would be a 1-for-25 non-winner of two. The truth may have nothing to do with attitude. The 1-for-25 horse might want to win as much as the next nag but simply can't run fast enough.

In horse race handicapping today, nothing should be automatic. Many secrets occur outside the past performances. Yet 1-for-20 or so non-winners of two are as routinely brushed off the Form as onion ring crust. As losses pile onto the maiden win, odds move off the chart. Here's something more important an assumed loser's mentality: fitness.

This is the ideal foe in a low-level claiming race (which pays the same money at 50-1 odds as does an upset winner in a stakes race): cheap speed at a sprint, off too long, still relatively lightly raced, questionable health.

Here is a good bet against that: a closer on an off-track, a slow but persistent runner looking for the perfect stormy day, an Ugly Betty type that gets no respect based on the appearance of the number of losses.

What's good about horse racing is sometimes you get to revisit wins -- at the windows. Sometimes races fit a stencil. Plug in something similar to what won before and you might win again, at a little less money, because surely somebody else had been here before.

The first $100 horse I hit was a 1-for-a-bunch against a field that had to be better but wasn't; and recently, something similar happened. A plodder in the mud went from last to first in a bottom-feeder sprint with a short field and paid $50-something on the win. The only trouble was avoiding the short-priced unfit horses as they wobbled to near-stops.

I love celebrating good wins, the problem in this case being that an 88-year old woman to the right was going to the liquor store for a bottle of wine. She missed a redbud tree on the corner of my front yard by about six inches, which may sound close, but isn't comparatively. On the other side, they recently adopted a Korean baby boy who had an ear ache. They had just returned from a doctor's appointment and rushed the child inside and out of the chilly winter's air. Across the street is a woman masseuse. Evidently you don't have to be zoned commercial for that. A station wagon was in the drive. The house two to the left is for sale. A truck was there, somebody inside cleaning, perhaps.

That was the state of things after the good win, save for a woman walking a dog, left to right, one of those house shoe dogs, all fuzz, and down by your feet.

There are close to as many dogs as people in this neighborhood full of cottages. And even long-time residents are known by the pets they keep: You hear the guy with the Westie got fired? Guess what, the woman with the boxer is suddenly single. Guy with the pug, gone.

"I had a fifty-dollar winner," I said to the woman walking the house slipper dog. "Circled them all and kicked their backsides by a mile."

"Please stay away from me," she said, walking on.

The problem with home wagering can be the silence.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com