Updated on 09/16/2011 8:04AM

It's a method, not a madness


OAKLAND, Calif. - It was the toughest beat of his handicapping career that turned horse racing into a passion for the Oakland A's first base coach, Mike Quade.

Quade grew up in suburban Chicago "about a mile and a half from Arlington Park." No one in his family attended the races, but a high school friend, whose family had horses, took Quade to the track and got him so interested in racing that he would skip his last-period study hall to go to the track before returning to go to baseball practice.

While attending the University of New Orleans, Quade went to the Fair Grounds with other students. One night a friend called up and assured Quade he had a "sure thing" running in the first race the next day. They made arrangements to go to the track, but the next morning it was pouring rain.

"I called him and asked about how the rain would affect our pick, and he said it wouldn't hurt," Quade said.

Four students went to the track that day to bet Timmy's Pride at 15-1.

"I bet him to win and place and wheeled him in the double," Quade said. "If he came in, it would have been a big hit for a college student."

The four stood in the rain near the finish line, the only people on the unprotected apron of the track. Timmy's Pride looked like a good thing, opening quickly and holding a commanding lead into the stretch.

"We were out there jumping and screaming and getting soaked, and I'm sure people in the grandstand were wondering what we were doing," Quade said.

The stretch at the Fair Grounds is one of the longest in America, and Quade was fearful of the 4-5 favorite ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye.

Sure enough, Delahoussaye began to cut into Timmy's Pride's lead, nipping him at the wire. Quade knew that Timmy's Pride had lost, but the photo sign remained on the board so long that he began to have a glimmer of hope.

"I was just hoping maybe it was a dead heat, but then it went up official that Delahoussaye had won. Because he was 4-5, I knew I wouldn't even get a good place price," Quade said.

In the next race, Quade saw a 99-1 shot win.

"People asked me if I was disgusted to come so close, but it really made me realize that there's money to be made in this sport," Quade said.

Quade has since become a serious player, studying races nationwide with a computer program authored by Doc Sartin, an early developer of velocity-based pace and speed figures.

He is strictly a win player, never accepting less than 5-2, although on longshots of 20-1 or more, he will sometimes bet to place as well.

"Right now, I'm a win guy 90 percent of the time," he said. "I'm a two-horse win bettor. I'm a terrible exotics player."

Quade is as methodical in his preparation as he was as a minor-league manager and the entire A's coaching staff is in preparation for each day's game.

"You listen to guys in the clubhouse, and they'll talk about golf," Quade said. "You need a release, and this is definitely my release. I have three passions: I love to cook, I love to fish, and I love to play horses.

"[Horse racing] is a great release because it's a tremendous challenge. I love to be challenged. I love to take a look at a wide-open race. You see people who love to solve crossword puzzles. I fell in love with solving the puzzle of each race.

"I love competition. I like the idea it's me against other people. It's always fun and entertainment, but I have a desire to beat them."

The 45-year-old Quade has been going to the races since he was 16. He has learned to become a more disciplined bettor and become a much more sophisticated handicapper.

"I'm nowhere near as good as I want to be," he said.

Quade said he began as a speed-figure player - "I had a passion for Beyer's numbers."

Speed figures are now a lesser part of the equation for him. Pace, he said "has become my guiding light."

Using his computer and the Doc Sartin program has speeded up the handicapping process, but, as with all good handicappers, Quade does not go by raw numbers alone. The real handicapping comes from interpretation - the solving of the puzzle that he so enjoys.

"If you talk to 20 different handicappers, you'll get 20 different processes," he said.

Quade loves simulcasting and was thrilled to discover when he came to California this spring from his Florida home that California had passed a bill to allow for advance deposit wagering. He signed up with TVG and has a satellite dish to watch races.

"I'm a morning guy, and in the morning I get up early, have breakfast and study my printouts. Racing starts early [California time], and by one o'clock when I leave for the park, racing in the East is almost done," he said.

Because he likes the option of playing different tracks, Quade often goes to a simulcast facility when he's home in Florida. And he says he's one of the few people in the world who loves to visit his mother-in-law.

"She lives in Philadelphia and gets Philadelphia Park as part of her cable package," he said. "I'm always telling my wife we should visit her."

Quade says when he goes to a track, such as Golden Gate Fields, he parks himself in front of a bank of televisions to watch as many races as he can.

"I only wish California tracks offered full-card simulcasting," he said.

"I love to go to the track, and I love to watch races live. I don't bet turf races because I have not been able to incorporate my ideas on pace with the way they run, but I love to watch turf races. They're so exciting, turning for home with four or five horses having a chance to win. I even turn them on on TV just to watch them."