How many times have I witnessed bettors ripping up their tickets, cursing aloud and making their blood pressure rise to dangerous levels when a very longshot wins a race?
I have lost count.
There have always been bettors that beat themselves silly because they lose a race to a horse that any reasonably talented handicapper would give no shot to win. These people, in my experience, never look at the situation closely to explain such results. Instead, they blame some outside source, call foul or feel they have made a mistake and should have had the winner.
A race on March 16 at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway is the perfect example of this category. In Race 12, No Foreign Xchange won, paying $251.50. To add insult to injury, as a malcontent may have put it, Pop Z Pop finished second at 105-1 and King Cat Anvil N finished third at 37-1.
Where were the favorites? The crowd’s first choice finished seventh, its second choice finished fourth and its third choice finished sixth.
While grouchy losers were waving fists at the Fates, clear heads set out to investigate and what do you know? —The performances of each one of the top three choices could easily be excused for their dismal finishes.
The top choice broke at the beginning and when back on gait was stressing to catch up, getting as close as two lengths to the leader (then the third choice) at the three-quarters. Meanwhile, the third choice had gone wide to get the lead and the second choice made his move at the half to get second. By the stretch drive, all three were spent. This left a last-horse-standing scenario, which gave the long shots an opportunity to take advantage of the bad trips others suffered.
This stuff happens. It happens in races of any breed; it happens in greyhound racing and would happen in zebra racing, elephant racing and, wait, it even happens in human racing, where the starting line is adjusted due to the difference in distances between inside and outside posts.
What would have happened if we changed the course of one of those bad trips in the Saratoga race? What if the favorite did not misstep? What if one of the others was not used going wide? Everything would have changed with one mere difference in trips—except the attitudes of those who do not explore the reasons for why horses win and lose; those players who are always blaming themselves for poor handicapping or some mythical conspirators for cheating.
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