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Hot or not?
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - by Frank Cotolo

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Through the grandstands, on the aprons and in the simulcast halls you will hear one bettors talk about a horseman that we all need to respect at this or that time because he or she is “hot.” The label excites players and hurls them into backing a horse based on a human’s record of late, which is in a current state of success. Players weigh it strongly though it has no substantial foundation. The notion that a driver or trainer is hot should mean little to harness handicappers for a few reasons.

One reason the concept is handicapping hokum is that the term can never satisfy a definition. One adjective meaning reads: “having or bringing unusually good luck.” Another reads: “newest or most recent.” Yet another reads: “very popular or successful.” No definition employs an empiric element needed for “hot” to qualify as a reliable state, no less an edge, for a handicapper. Being hot has neither a set duration nor an immediate guarantee as a positive element. Hot is nothing more than a Zen-like luck of the moment that may have a stream of good moments but can end upon any next moment. Hot is not a constant, proven over hundreds of thousands of samples, so no winning streak can be counted upon as  more important than other, more common, elements.

This brings us to another reason a hot horseman is not necessarily reliable when handicapping—the horse. In the center of all horse races are the actual performers—the horses. They do more work than the people behind their appearance in a race, including the human (driver), who is with the horse during the contest. A horse may sense many things in competition because of the blood running through its veins and the talent or lack of it by its family and its current health but a horse does not know when it is hot and it does not race better because its trainer or driver is on a streak with it and other horses connected to them.

Counting on the limited streaks of people over horses in action is just plain weird. Of course the trainers’ methods help and of course a driver may assist one horse better than another in a race but measuring these incidents over a short period of time by believing in some current force of “hotness” [sic] makes no sense and does not agree with the arithmatic that rules horse racing of any kind.

The percentages that matter for horsemen usually become trustworthy not when they are hot but when they are products of long-term performances. Trainers and drivers know this better than fans and bettors. A driver on a successful horse usually says the horse “does all the work” and says he or she is “just along for the ride.” A trainer complements the horse for its talent before he or she claims responsibility for any success.

Players, on the other hand, jump at disloyal elements and rarely, if ever, calculate the big picture, no less give any horse as much credit as it deserves when it wins, places or shows. And, of course, players think they can get hot, too, but let’s not get into that canard now.

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Hoof Beats Magazine The forum of Hoof Beats bloggers, featuring some of the best writers in harness racing: New York writer Tim Bojarski, handicapper Frank Cotolo, Tom LaMarra, Harness Racing Communications’ Ellen Harvey and Ken Weingartner, and Hoof Beats’ T.J. Burkett.
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