<
>

A good year-end read

New year resolutions inside the horse racing loop are ridiculous.

What's the horse racing loop?

I have no real idea.

I have never been inside any loop, even a writer's loop. Workers can be found outside the loops. The way it sounds, people inside a loop pitch theories and pitch money around.

The loop is like a private organization that convenes in Las Vegas and South Beach and deals in inside information.

How do you get in a loop? One of two ways. You need fame or money. How can you tell you're in the loop? You're questioned about fame and money. It seems that one of the greatest fringe benefits of having been in a loop is being out of a loop.

Being out of the loop is the best excuse ever.

Don't know. Sorry. I'm out of the loop.

You can be out of the loop temporarily, at your own convenience. Then you can jump back in when the heat's off. It is one of the best clubs of them all.

Getting back to the inappropriateness of horse racing for resolutions: This is a field of few absolutes. Yesterday's curse is tomorrow's charm. The only horse-race activities worth resolving have to do with personal care like: I resolve not to get in any fights at the simulcast hall.

In our sport, what you might resolve to avoid, like absurd layoffs and allegedly crooked trainers, could pay $78.80 next time out, with you sipping tea and simply watching.

The only thing I have found to be worth resolving, or doing around Jan. 1, is going over a year's worth of bets and notes in painstaking fashion: It can be invaluable to know what you were thinking when you bet the $75 straight exacta in the $10,000 claiming race, using the top two betting choices. The apparent answer to what I was thinking that day back in April was: nothing good.

Upon further review, stupid wagers and panic thinking should be repeated as infrequently as possible.

As a bonus to this year-round documentation and year-end review, the IRS loves notes. It suggests seriousness and responsibility.

It is often harrowing to review the process of what amounted to throwing money away. It is also sometimes pretty funny, the prayers in the margin, the profanity-laced summaries.

It is also educational.

What is pleasant is reviewing the $60 winner; not that you would soon forget how you got there. The point is, you can learn something from winning.

Here are the pleasantries I have taken from the notes of 2015 so far.

Betting more paid off in the long run. Limiting yourself to a budget sounds like the right thing to do. But what's worse than loving a horse late in the handicapping process and having a buck fifty in your pocket?

Post positions can signify trouble in a big way. Here's how many times I won last year by basing a wager almost solely on an improved post: many.

Chalk can be underrated. One of the biggest Pick Threes I hit all year came on the back of a 1-2 favorite that won by a mile. One of the others that day was an All that brought home a miracle, and a 10-1 that won in a photo. In the margin of this recap was Give Some to Charity.

Two beers can be relaxing, therapeutic, even. Three beers can turn the average horse player into a werewolf.

Staying with a horse that you loved through a loss can be extremely profitable. If you liked it once, you should like it again on the chance the horse, not you, was the one who was a little off last time.

Once again this year, as has been the case since the beginning of time, ALL WINNERS HAVE VALUE.

Value hunters are looking to lose; you'll profit from Gambler's Anonymous.

Obviously the dumb losses are the most painful to review.

A sign of improvement is there were fewer of these notes in 2015: I'm probably going to lose this bet.

Here's what could stand work.

Straight exactas are hard to hit. All I can hit are boxes.

I have no idea what a long layoff means. Layoff statistics reverse themselves under my eye. My percentage of correctly interpreting long layoffs is embarrassingly slight. At one entry last summer, I drew hearts and flowers besides a race with a strong long layoff favorite in it. I passed. A 30-1 shot won. I couldn't have hit the second replay of that race.

Once again, I have had horrible luck with horses that run late if they run at all. More to this point, the late runners break bad. How breaking slowly from the gate can be in a horse's blood is beyond me. But it is. If you break like a donkey, the pace can be at jet speed, and you'll still close a mile to finish third. I am through the fall in the review of my notes. I am something like one for 15 on habitual late runners and have promised to quit throwing away money on them ten times.

Beyer speed figures are almost by definition one race late. Who couldn't be impressed with a 105 number from a claimer. The idea is to anticipate the big Beyer or speed figure 20 minutes before it happens. Numbers are frequently great at highlighting the improvement that points to a gigantic payoff. I have found wet and turf Beyer numbers to be consistently inflated.

Short fields also tend to inflate speed figures, amounts wagered, and hopes.

The big tracks in LA and NY have become wheelhouses for four and five-horse fields. Put them in the Derby with 19 others and it's culture shock. Horses campaigning through the spring in full fields in places like Arkansas have a marked advantage.

Here's one note I recognized from this year and the one before it, and the one before that one, etc. This note is appropriate for the seasons of other sports as well: You can't blame somebody for winning. Each Kentucky Derby and Super Bowl and college football playoff campaign, you hear this nonsense from people seemingly in the loop: He beat nobody. She beat nobody. They beat nobody. That is often surely the case. Here is something truer still. It doesn't mean they couldn't have beaten everybody.