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Peter T. Fornatale: Modern-day player has plenty to be thankful for
As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about five things that contest players – all horseplayers really – should be thankful for. Feel free to add reasons of your own in the comments section of this piece at www.drf.com.
1. Better data
In horse racing, like in so many other industries, computers have revolutionized the way the game is played. In doing the research for my new book, “The Winning Contest Player,” I spoke with successful tournament veteran Mark McGuire about how technology, specifically DRF ’s own Formulator, has made his life easier.
McGuire said: “Formulator does in minutes what it used to take me hours to do. Back in the old days I’d have all the tapes on VHS. I’d have to fast forward just to find the races I wanted. Then I’d go back through old Racing Forms to find charts and make comparisons. It could take eight hours to handicap a card. With Formulator you now have all of that stuff at your fingertips.”
Gone are the days of using a pair of scissors and a magnet to affix a horse’s past performance to your refrigerator, hoping you’ll notice when he’s entered again. Whatever your style of handicapping, it’s safe to say that computers have made your life easier.
2. More convenience
Computers have helped save contest players thousands upon thousands of dollars in travel expenses. In the old days, one would have to travel across the country to various live venues to play and hopefully qualify for the NHC. These days, it’s as easy as logging into one of the many contest sites out there like NHCQualify.com, BCQualify.com or PublicHandicapper.com, among several others.
Of course, it’s not only contest players who have reaped the benefits of being able to wager online. I, for one, will not miss the bus trips out to the Meadowlands I used to have to take a decade ago just for the privilege of betting on the full card in California. Now I can roll out of bed and watch European simulcast racing in my pajamas.
3. New California claiming rule
One of the toughest things about betting claiming races is the guessing game. Is the horse dropping because connections want a win or is he dropping because of a physical issue? I asked former successful trainer and current contest enthusiast Brent Sumja about this.
“Some of the guessing in those situations is being taken out of the equation with this new rule in California, where if a horse is claimed [and] he’s unsound you can give the horse back,” Sumja said. “I think it’s the greatest rule in terms of promoting the safety of the animals and also for handicappers as well. Over time these guys are going to learn that you can’t enter an injured horse because he’s going to be coming back to you anyway.”
Anything that’s better for the horses and better for the players is something I think that we all should be thankful for.
4. 100% payback tournaments
In horse racing, the economic engine is takeout: The percentage of money deducted from every dollar wagered. Certain contests provide players with a workaround that allows them to not only avoid takeout but, in some instances, actually allow you to play in pools where more value is being paid out to the players than is going in to the pool in the first place. These contests include the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the Wynn Handicapping Challenge (held in early August in Las Vegas) and the three New York Racing Association contests (Belmont in June, Saratoga in August, Aqueduct in November). I recommend you try to play in as many of these type of tournaments as possible. If the buy-ins are beyond your scope, put together a syndicate. You won’t find better opportunities.
5. Low-takeout pick fives
Even die-hard contest players aren’t going to be able to find good opportunities every day. The low takeout pick fives can be contest substitutes, as they are a bit like mini-tournaments themselves. You must survive to advance, and good longshot picks can be rewarded in a big way. Pick fives also allow players to focus on a limited number of races and play in a low-takeout environment. It’s the best parimutuel bet in racing and I’m extremely grateful for its existence.
I am also a big fan of formulator. I am interested in using it on a smart tv which I'm preparing to buy. Anybody with an opinion on this idea? Is that inferior to simply hooking up a computer to a flat panel tv? The reason for my interest is that my eyes get fatigued reading the formulator and I think it'd be easier to read on a large tv. I'd like to see an article on how people maximize their experience with formulator by incorporating smart electronics. Let people comment on their own setups. I e-mailed customer service but I thought you (Peter) might be able to forward the idea to the editor in chief.
HI Peter, I guess the article I sent Monday was too strong to print. Sorry about that, but the race in questiion cost me a good chance to finish high in Horse Tourneys contest. My selection was leading until Bee and Cones horse swep by on the outside. Ithink my horse would have finished 2nd Instead of 4th. I altered my play selection and after this and finished out of money. Anyhow i hope what goes around comes around.
And much much more
It tales a lot more than what you wrote about...You have to know training procedures know the jockeys and their styles suited...You have to know the "Class" factor...You have to take notes off the replays......You have to know the various tracks and there grade status from where they ship from...You have to realize a eastern speed horse will improve on a west coast track...And on and on it takes a lot of experience and on the job schooling...Even breeding sometimes enters the picture....And the trainers...they are a important issue .............
While I could be thankful for the recent success I have had playing tournaments, I am most thankful for the friendships I make while at these exciting events. Like minded people that share some of the same passions in life. Happy Thanksgiving my friend and to all contest players out there both new and old! - Eric Moomey
Question to Peter. The European way of reporting a horses performance is a frickin nightmare. All you get is where they finished and a comment. Rated towards rear, could not sustain bid. Why do they do that? Why will they not adapt to the way TRackus or DRF reports a race. My point is.. I will not bet on European races. That is a loss of revenue to them.. their loss.
Love reading your blog and look forward to buying your book. There's been nothing written on contests since Noel Michael's Handicapping Contest Book.
Other than the 3 sites listed, are there other online opportunites that will lead to the National Handicapping Championship?
What am I thankful for? I am thankful that not as many people as you imply are in favor of the asinine new California claiming rule. Buyer beware. Duh. That's the game. And as I remind horseplayers in all discussions of horse treatment morality (including, for example, the lasix debate), if you want to be pure and holy don't race these horses at all. That's what's best for the animal. Otherwise keep quiet and let the market dictate the rules.
OK, so DRF enters into some agreement with these tourney sites and yours is now the most prolific blog on this website. Why not throw us a bone? How about a promo code for a free card if we take the plunge for a contest? BTW, does DRF create a composite card for a contest if it includes races for multiple tracks? Apologies if that has been asked and answered.
I'm not a tournament player, only played about a dozen tied for first in one years ago and split a 5k pot.. I never got into it. Rule 3 I did not know that, will look into that. Lower-takeout on every bet would be nice
Who do I contact to learn the reason my comment was not posted?
Regarding physical and financial convenience contest players and horse players are also thankful for platforms like Horsetourneys.com and Horseplayersqualify.com as vehicles to qualify for numerous onsite and online contests.