05/09/2012 3:08PM

Luck trumps skill


Branch Rickey’s statement that “luck is the residue of design” is certainly true. If you prepare and develop a strong strategy, you are more likely to succeed. However, regardless of your skill and preparation, chance always has the final word in your final results.

I’ll get to racing in a minute, but let’s use my fantasy baseball teams as an example. In a 14-team 5x5 (meaning we use five statistical categories in batting and pitching), I drafted a powerhouse team and was easily in first place at the end of April. Then the injuries began to infiltrate my squad.  Evan Longoria (out 6-8 weeks), Pablo Sandoval (out 6-8 weeks), Mariano Rivera (out for the season), and Nolan Reimold (on 15-day DL) all went down within a one week time frame. Some would argue that Longoria and Sandoval were injury-prone players (a reasonable argument), but you simply cannot predict losing both players for that period of time.

Let’s move on to another league. I walked out of my auction thinking I drafted a very strong squad and others tended to agree. But five weeks in I stand in eighth place from 10 teams. Did I do something wrong? No. I was the victim of Heath Bell on the Marlins, who blew multiple wins for my pitchers. That combined with poor starts by many of my hitters created a huge hole for my team to dig out of over the remainder of the season.

Horse racing, and harness racing especially, can be the same way. You can examine the replays, study the past performances, and run over possible pace scenarios in your head. You can paint the perfect picture of what will happen during the race, and then, it happens. A driver makes a split second decision that changes the entire outcome of the race.

Perhaps they elect not to take an obvious tuck and instead drive on to the lead. Maybe they sit in behind a tired horse and get shuffled out of contention. There are many split second decisions to be made during a race and each one can alter the perfect outline that you developed in your pregame preparation. I can point out some head-scratching examples, but why bother singling guys out for their mistakes? That is not going to make your ticket a winning one.

 How do we combat bad luck? We don’t. You simply work hard and hope for the best. As someone who has won many, many fantasy leagues and shown a profit at multiple tracks, I promise it works!

Meadowlands going to the birds

I applaud new and interesting ideas. For the most part, almost any concept is worth an attempt to lure people to attend and wager on your races. But there is an invisible line out there where innovation meets side-show circus and the Meadowlands may have crossed that line with their handicapping bird.

As someone who loves racing and prides himself on being a darn good handicapper, I take exception to the parlor trick of having a bird peck his way to winners. What’s next? A fortune teller who gives out winners?

I can’t imagine anyone is coming to the track to view the handicapping bird. Couldn’t they find a handicapping horse? Where’s Mr. Ed when you need him?

Meadowlands – A winning idea

An example of a good idea at the Meadowlands is Winners @ The Wedge. From 6:30 PM each Friday night (weather permitting) until the last race, racing fans and those who are just looking to have a good time can hang out on the track apron and enjoy drink specials, live music, get handicapping advice from host Gary DiLeo, and meet a top driver or trainer.

Each Friday a new driver or trainer makes their way from the paddock to the party. They meet the fans and give out selections for that night’s $50,000 guaranteed pick four (maybe we can get a driver or trainer to sub for the bird?). The attendees are then invited to put up $5 each to pool together in attempt to hit the pick four using the driver/trainer ticket, with the leftover money invested in another ticket designed by DiLeo.

“People come out and they really seem to enjoy it. Most of them aren’t even newbies. They are people that have been coming for years and enjoy the fun atmosphere,” said DiLeo.

Best of all, the music and all other promotions (voucher giveaways, rides in the starting car, winner’s circle presentations) are part of the festivities which are FREE of charge.