10/21/2015 2:16PM

Jerardi: Converting the obvious into a payday at the Breeders’ Cup


I know these truths to be self-evident: I am not as good a handicapper as I was 20 years ago because I don’t have the time to spend on all the details, and I don’t concentrate as well as I once did. I am, however, a much better player than I was 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or five years ago, or ever.

It is the age-old question: better at handicapping or betting? Both would be nice, but I don’t know many people who are equally proficient.

If I had to choose, I would take betting, and not just because I know my opinion is not as good as it once was. If anyone asks me about the game, I always tell him it has a very neat bottom line: Did you leave with more money than you started?

How smart you were, or how close you were, or how unlucky you were is the trifecta of irrelevance. If you spend any time complaining about what just happened, that is time you could have spent considering how to best leverage your next opinion by betting the right amounts in the right pools. If your bet does not reflect your opinion, you just made a bad bet. And if you don’t know how to frame a bet to reflect that opinion, you are in the wrong game.

So, as I commence my long days and nights buried in Breeders’ Cup past performances, I will begin to consider betting strategies almost immediately. I used to wait until I had done all the drudgery of watching tapes, reading articles, and going back over my annual notes on major horses. What I found was that I was usually too tired in the final hours to make rational betting judgments. I knew a lot, but it was not translating into money.

Eldridge Cleaver said it in a far different context, but his classic “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem” comment certainly applies to this final exam we are all about to take. So, in the very early moments of my race-by-race considerations, I will be forming betting strategies, some of which will remain in my head, while others will be written in the margins of the past performances.

Sometimes, the lightbulb goes on in seconds, almost like you have seen a race run before it is run. It was that way for me in last year’s Dirt Mile. I knew 2013 winner Goldencents was going to the front again, and I knew he was going to win again. This was no great secret since he was a heavy favorite. What did not seem quite as obvious was the bottom half of the exacta. It was obvious to me.

I had watched Tapiture run a distant second to Bayern when that colt broke a 40-year-old track record in the Pennsylvania Derby. Inside speed dominated that day. Tapiture made an outside move and never stopped trying. I thought he was set up to run the race of his life.

What I got totally wrong was the price on the exacta. I was thinking $20 to $25. It was never close to that. The bettors also thought it was obvious. Goldencents was 3-5, and Tapiture was 9-2. I was thinking Tapiture was going to be 8-1. I bet the cold exacta but not what I had planned to bet. It paid $14.20 and was never in much doubt once Tapiture made a wild move on the turn.

I think I looked at the Dirt Mile for a minute before coming to that opinion. I eventually took a harder look at it just to see if I had missed something in that quick glance. I had not. That was the play.

And that is why I will take a hard look at the Juvenile Fillies with Songbird and the Turf with Golden Horn. They look like two of the more obvious winners on the weekend. If either runs anything close to a career-best race, the others can’t win. That is the kind of uncomplicated premise that I like. Now, whether there actually turns out to be a bet I will like in either of those races is another question entirely.

You might say that both of those horses are obvious, and I would not disagree. But let’s return to the original premise. I don’t have that many easy answers to the really hard questions, so I like easy answers that can potentially translate into cash when you can combine one very strong opinion with a secondary opinion that makes handicapping and economic sense.