Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I’m a dyed in the wool dog racing fan.They’ll also tell you that I’m a stubborn old so-and-so but one who is willing to admit it when I’m wrong. (Well, if you hit me over the head with proof or get me to see your point of view to the point where I can’t deny you’re right, that is, I’ll admit I’m wrong.) So, even though I’ve written articles in the past dissing horse racing, I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind. Or, I guess I should say, had it changed for me.
The reason I’ve decided that horse racing might be as interesting and enjoyable to handicap and play as dog racing, is partly because I haven’t been able to make it to a dog track on a regular basis for months. I haven’t seen any live dog racing for almost a year. Old Man Time caught up with me and health problems are forcing me to stay in New England for the time being, so the only live racing action I get to see is horse racing. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from watching greyhound racing at the NH tracks or handicapping them. I’ll never stop watching greyhound races or trying to improve my handicapping skills.
Luckily, I have a good friend, Bill Peterson, who has gone to the track with me for years, playing the dogs with me, but also steadily trying to win me over to the sport of kings. Even though I resisted, he just kept plugging, pointing out good bets in his Daily Racing Form, while I pondered the 3/8th races at Wheeling and wondered if the 1 box would stay hot or not. One look at the long form that is horse handicapping was enough to put me off. With a dog program, you have 8 dogs with 6 lines and some stats off to the right. You have the kennel name and the kennel stats and that’s about it.
With thoroughbreds, there are all these mysterious symbols and more numbers than there are in a stock market report. I didn’t want to learn about Beyer figures and fractional times and jockey/trainer stats. One of the things I love about greyhounds is that they don’t have jockeys to slow them down or steer them the wrong way. You put 8 greyhounds on a track, turn on the lure and they’re off, going as fast as they can and running the best way they know how.
With horses, who knows what the trainer tells the jockey to do with the horse? Who knows if the horse’s fractions will hold up in this Allowance race, based on what he did in a Maiden Claimer he won two weeks ago? I don’t, that’s for damned sure. But, patiently, Bill just kept pointing out little things that show that a horse is ready to win or be in the exacta. One day, a few months ago at a simulcast venue, I went up to bet a dog in the 7th at Palm Beach and found myself telling the tote that I wanted $2 to win on the 1 at Aqueduct instead. And it won, just like Bill said it would. At odds of 8-1. I was hooked.
Have I given up dog racing? Not likely. It’s still my first choice and I find it a lot easier to handicap for the most part. However, with Bill’s help, I’ve been improving at this horse handicapping game, finding some shortcuts and noticing that it’s not quite as complicated as it looks. And that’s a good thing, because I’m all for simplifying everything, including finding winners at the track, whether it’s a dog track or a horse track.