01/02/2014 1:49PM

Make racing-specific new year’s resolutions


For the horseplayer, a new year means new possibilities for success – the excitement of what is yet to be. But what’s the best way to get the year started? I think we all should make racing-specific new year’s resolutions.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the year of the horse. Technically, the Chinese new year doesn’t start until the end of the month, but that’s okay. The way I look at it, the new year hasn’t quite started for horseplayers, either.

I choose to measure the year not from Jan. 1 to Jan. 1 but from one National Handicapping Championship to the next. Since the NHC doesn’t start until Jan. 24, we still have a couple of weeks to get our ducks in a row.

So, what should we resolve to do? That’s up to each of us, of course, but having spent as much time among my fellow degenerates as I have, I have a few suggestions.

Resolve to come up with a clear goal. Too many players simply fritter away too much money when it comes to horse racing. And, hey, if you’re just out to have a good time for a few hours each month, week, or day, that’s totally fine. The pools need you.

But I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you’re different. You read the Form – not just the past performances but the articles as well. You’re clued in. You want to win. You should have a goal.

Some possibilities, ordered from least difficult to most, include playing every day at a meet like Saratoga and keeping your head above water, hitting a pick six at some point in the year, qualifying for the 2015 NHC, showing a flat-bet profit in 2014, and finishing in the money in the NHC.

Choose a goal, keep the appropriate records, and, perhaps most difficult of all, be honest with yourself about it.

Actually, this last point is my second suggested resolution in and of itself. We’ve all heard the great Harvey Pack story about the guy who started out living in a mansion and ended up living in a furnished room near Aqueduct. When he was asked by a stranger if he was up or down from a lifetime of playing horses, he said, “I’m about even.”

Don’t let this happen to you. Again, it’s fine to treat gambling solely as entertainment, but whether you want to be a pro or are just messing around, you really should set aside a specific bankroll for playing horses at the start of the year and play off that. Your upside is the same, and you limit your downside.

The final resolution I want to talk about is the one I’m making myself. As I write this, it is actually Jan. 1, and I want to take a moment to wish a sincere happy birthday to every Thoroughbred born in North America. Without these wonderful animals, we horseplayers would have nothing.
It’s not often enough that we remember that. I love racing, but more than that, I love being around horses.

When Michael Beychok won the $1 million first prize at the NHC in 2012, the horse who got him the win was Glorious Dancer. He and I recently talked about his decision to claim her.

“For years, I was guilty of taking for granted what these horses do every day on the track,” he said. “We derive so many gains from them, both financial and recreational. They get oats, carrots, and, if they’re lucky, get treated as pets. We owe them more than that.

“I bought [Glorious Dancer] first as a sporting gesture: ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to own the horse that won me a million dollars?’ We ran her, she won, we had fun. Then I thought, ‘Why am I running her?’ She had nothing more to do on the track.

“I know you can’t save them all, but for starters, I personally wanted to save this one, so I brought her to Louisiana, retired her, thought about breeding her, then I donated her to a Louisiana rescue. She lives the life. Then, in my speech at the Eclipse Awards, I offered to contribute a percentage of my winnings to horse rescue.”

I love this idea, and I’m on board. I will donate a percentage of all the gross money I receive from various efforts in racing to various accredited horse-rescue organizations. This will include money won as well as money received from the Daily Racing Form for my book and this column. Feel free to join me. Let’s make the Year of the Horse mean something.

◗ Here are the contest races for Saturday’s “Last Chance” NHC qualifying tournament:
3:34 Gulfstream 7
3:53 Tampa Bay Downs 8
4:03 Gulfstream 8
4:22 Tampa Bay Downs 9
4:33 Gulfstream 9
4:50 Tampa Bay Downs 10
5:03 Gulfstream 10
5:25 Fair Grounds 8
5:30 Santa Anita 5
5:55 Fair Grounds 9
6:30 Santa Anita 7
7:00 Santa Anita 8

Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
We must not forget a lot of those Gamblers, stabbers, numbers players, etc. not only add to the pools but they win more than the pro prefers to think that's why 1-2 buckle the shoe ( as I once heard ) won about 3x that day while my well planned handicapped races went down to photo finishes, bad trips, Pace, Ride, Etc. Its an unexplainable sport/game at times everyone who is honest knows this and tag #'s usually pay more. Sometimes these less than intellectuals actually WIN.
w More than 1 year ago
You win. Stop by my table at TI if you would like to talk substance. I get it. Wrong medium to educate folks.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
W, I'd stop by your table if I had any idea who you were! I am going to take a longer look at these complicated issues in the coming months on the blog, With a little luck, we can get to the bottom of what's what. . .
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
anytime your in one of these tournaments i dont care what anybody says you need skill and LUCK.if its one where you win your way in then everyone in the room done it the same way. they will be good or they wouldnt be there. on contest where you buy your way in or maybe won a drawing etc. well you can fiquer about 20% of the players dont know much. but the rest will be good if they put up $600 to $1,000 to get in. if i was to win one of these(i probably wont play in any more as im 72 y.o. now and half crippled up). but if i was to have to make a short speech on how i done it. i would just say folks im no better than anyone in this room were all good or we wouldnt be here. it just happens to be my day.
w More than 1 year ago
Since my last response trying to clarify Brian's post wasn't accepted, I'll try a different approach. The most recent "last chance" event just concluded with 144 participants paying $400 (approx $56K) for 6 spots...so roughly $9000 per spot (excluding rounding and "breakage"). If the online operator had offered entries at $300, would they have sold out the 220 available entries, thereby offering up 11 NHC spots? Probably but at $6000 per spot there is no margin for the online operator after having to pay NHC for their "take" so the online operator needs to make some profit but it is simply economics to determine the sweet spot. Lower the price, drive the revenue, which is sadly something track mgmt doesn't seem to grasp let alone some of the online operators. To go off on a tangent, look at Santa Anita, reduce the take on DD but remove the rolling doubles. Wonderful logic.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
This post was not rejected, sometimes it takes me up to a day to approve posts.. .I have a lot of other stuff going on. Believe me, if it were up to me I would just sit at my computer all day, talk racing and bet, but sadly that is not the case. . .
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
OK, I asked for a breakdown of the NHCQ costs and here's what I got from NHCQ honcho Ken Kirchner: "For NHCQualify, our takeout is usually between 20-21%. We pay $6,500 per NHC spot, plus hotel and travel allowances. For last Saturday’s contest, 1 NHC spot was awarded for every 24 entries @ $400 each = $9,600. Minus expenses of $7,630, net takeout is $1,970, which is 20.5% takeout."
sk More than 1 year ago
Great article , Most of your article give good insite to player
Robert Johnson More than 1 year ago
Too funny what they want you to pay for here! Great read and ideas! Happiest of new years to you in every way.
Brian Feldman More than 1 year ago
What is the takeout of the nhc?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I have forwarded this question to someone I think can answer it, personally I do not know. I have had several players tell me that the NHC is not about the value per se, but more about the experience and chance to win such a prestigious, valuable tourney.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Keith Chamblin of the NTRA was kind enough to respond personally to your question. Take it away, Keith! "There is an 18% takeout for the NHC derived from two sources: the $50 individual memberships and a portion of excise fees paid by non-member organizations to participate in the NHC. The remainder goes to NHC purse, Tour purses, Consolation Tourney at Final, bonuses paid to multiple winners, gifts for NHC qualifiers, travel/hotel for the 25 players who won spots thru free NHC tourneys and travel/hotel for the more than 20 players who qualified by finishing in the top 150 on Tour Points Leader Board and weren't already qualified. Total purses and awards to players will be right around $1.9mm." Thanks, Keith. Perhaps I'll explore this topic further in a column later in the year.
afkam More than 1 year ago
Two different questions...what is take of nhc ? is different than what is take of nhcqualify ? regarding take of nhc, IF one believes 18% takeout quoted, it doesn't take into account money which is profited/taken out by those who sell nhc spots online (such as nhcqualify, horsetourneys, derbywars)...therefore making overall take on nhc much higher than 18% for players
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Seems to me like there are two separate issues here. I will do what I can to look into them in coming articles. It would seem to me that transparency is really a good thing for everyone involved, as complicated as the issues might be.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
Great Article and congrats to Michael Beychok on his victory ( a class act ). We need more people like him in this world and within this industry. I respect him for the claim of Glorious Dancer along with his approach of making a difference ( one horse at a time ). On a handicapping note RECORD KEEPING is a must for any serious player ( its been said have never seen a profitable punter who doesn't ) Its true. Record Keeping is a necessity and if not / START.
Tommy Giglio More than 1 year ago
I would like to participate in some of these contests, I understand that you have to be a member of the NHC. What/When is the best time to join? Are you the same Peter Fornatale that use to work at a certain radio station in NY? I do read most of your articles on drf, thank you.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Tommy, you are thinking of my father, who unfortunately passed away last year. Best time to join the NHC Tour is probably right after this year's NHC, or in advance of whatever the first qualifying tourney you want to play in. Tx for reading.
Thomas MD More than 1 year ago
I'm really looking forward to your book. I've been playing the races for a LONG time, but I haven't a clue about contests. I'd ask questions, but I don't know enough to ask useful questions. I checked on your book's availability last month and it said sometime in January, so probably not much longer to wait! Looking forward to it! Thanks! - Dr. Tom.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
It's available for preorder on the DRF site right now. Read away and ask me anything you'd like!
Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
contact the coast casinos in vegas they have about 6 major tournaments a year. they will send you all the info. i think the next ones in feb.heres one in march.27 thru 29th at the new orleans. $1,000 per entry. (ive played in this one 3 times) phone 1-888-566-7223.hope this helps good luck.
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
NHC too many eastern races for me ...
Will LaTulippe More than 1 year ago
Hey, I gotta know the Western races. It's a national championship.
Wayne Gunter More than 1 year ago
Very good article Peter. I am on board and hope all tour members will get on board. Suggest that anyone that gets the chance to come to Lexington to go on a horse tour and see the farms that have so much tradition and the horses that have gave all horseplayers the thrils and excitement of this sport. I went 2 years ago and to the horse park and saw Cigar and Funny Cide and had a great time.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Tremendous idea! I got to visit Three Chimneys years ago and the experience has stayed with me -- was so cool meeting the great Seattle Slew himself!
mikey More than 1 year ago
You do such great work and so few write.These contests are so much fun and nail bitting.Keep up the great writing and i hope more will write in.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Tx, Mikey. We've had some nice convos on here and hopefully we can keep 'em going.
AndyScoggin More than 1 year ago
You know I'm with you when it comes to supporting thoroughbred retirement organizations. We all need to make an effort to take care of the horses that make our sport so enjoyable! Thanks for stepping up, Pete!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
No problem, Matt. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am very grateful for all the support you've shown for my work and I hope we can hang out soon.