April 25, 2011
One of the fun things about the exercise of handicapping is accounting where you went right and where you went wrong. It helps you to go back and look at your mistakes, correcting them so that you don't do the same things in the future.
So it is that I have looked over the Simulcast selections I put on the Oaklawn website for Saturday and I find mixed results. One of the prime tenets which has guided me over a long period is that handicapping winners has much in common with establishing a batting average in baseball. If you hit .300 you're doing well.
If that's the guide, then I had a good day on Saturday. Considering my "Top Ten" plus my picks in the stakes races which were offered at the afternoon tracks (Gulfstream, Aqueduct, Keeneland, Hawthorne and Lone Star), I had 23 selections and eight of them won. That is a winning percentage of 34%. A $2 play on all 23 picks would have yielded a total of $ 76.70. That reveals a profit of better than 50%. In other words, it was a good day.
But the key to a day like that is to be willing to take some chances.
Two of the 23 picks went off at odds of 10-1 or higher and were winners. Without them we're losers for the day. What this tells me is that you have to rest on the courage of your convictions. Dooney Rock ($23.60) in the last race at Hawthorne was a troubled horse in his last start, while Holiday for Kitten (25.60) in the Giant's Causeway Stakes at Keeneland was racing for a red-hot stable of owner Ken Ramsey and trainer Wesley Ward.
When everything else is even in a race, it's often more subtle angles which produce winners. But you might as well take an educated risk in those cases.
The one thing this exercise provides is a lesson in the one element which escapes the majority of horse players. I have disciplined myself to come up with two horses at each of the five tracks for the entire day with the exception that I have a selection for each stakes race. If you don't have some form of discipline and end-of-the-day acounting then you never see your mistakes and can never improve.
I encourage you to take my picks for each Saturday and do your own set. Some might be the same and some will differ. But take the time afterwards to see where you might improve. I took a lot of shots on Saturday and used Oaklawn-raced horses on my bias about the competition level at Oaklawn. Although I produced eight winners, many of those were not Oaklawn-raced horses. Furthermore I only picked four second-place horses. That means that even cherry-picking from five tracks, I only hit 12-23 either first or second. I know that I have to improve that number to gain your confidence as a public selector.
I believe in learning from past mistakes, so you'll see me do these "post-mortems" often after I send you a set of picks for a Saturday. I think you're entitled to that and I must stand up to criticism where I've failed.
But the past weekend was a pretty good weekend and I hope you did well. Futhermore, I hope you take this on as a great challenge during the summer months. Simulcast can be a fun mental challenge and you can turn it into a profitable one, if you create some discipline rules and stick by them. That means that often the exotic wagers are your biggest enemies. The lure of the big payoff is often our biggest downfall at the track. Tread gently there. It will eat away your profits rapidly and thrust you into a whirlwind from which you cannot escape.