05/10/2017 2:49PM

Marks: Handicappers deserve more information

Derick Giwner
Knowing which horses are "feeling good" would be a big help for handicappers.

If the casino indicated that cards are marked in order to provide the dealers with what might be termed a house advantage, how crowded would those tables be? The same applies to any other game in which the element of pure chance is subject to house manipulation.

My gut feeling is that any sanctioned gaming venture not in adherence with the requirements of its customer base would either modify or cease to exist. That said, I’ve yet to hear the slot player question the intentions of the machine he’s playing.     

But here we are again.

On April 28 there seemed to be a much livelier and noticeably earlier quarter-move effort by Penpal’s driver Pat Lachance resulting in a hard-fought win over some pretty fair pacing mares, including Blue Moon Stride and Darlinonthebeach. Previously Penpal had not been closer than 7th at the half-mile pole in three starts, though in her first two starts she did rally to be up in time. In start number three, she found herself so far back that her usual stretch rally was not nearly enough.

Thereafter, word circulated through the various industry sites, particularly the Sunday edition of Harness Racing Update in which “feedback” is posted, that there was a conversation between Meadowlands Owner/Operator Jeff Gural and Mr. Lachance. Whether or not the betting public had knowledge of this gathering is unknown, though an educated guess suggests that someone might have known something.

A day later at Freehold, Andovertheplace, off a maiden breaking seven length victory, was never a factor finishing a well-beaten fourth. In that she had received a class upgrade, she may well have been overmatched, but that’s not really the issue. It seems she didn’t have a great week health-wise and driver John Campbell was made aware, since he clearly adhered to a primary obligation of protecting the horse and handled her appropriately. Unfortunately the betting public knew nothing of this and as a result, some money was wasted.

There was another situation on April 28 regarding David Miller and the debuting Glitzey Gal that got all sorts of social media play after a frustrated but very erudite bettor named Les Stark made his displeasure known on Facebook. That stimulated much commentary from other learned players, particularly Andy Berg, Glen Goller, Mark Weaver, and The Curmudgeon (Murray Brown) as to what Miller’s intentions might have been.

It used to be common knowledge amongst some bettors that any “first time starter” would need one or maybe two tightening starts before really getting serious, but not all big-time players embrace that theory.

Even though betting is not officially sanctioned by the NFL, the league goes above and beyond to ensure that the “fan” betting or otherwise has access to information that could influence an opinion. Generally by Thursday players are listed as “probable, possible, or doubtful,” or whatever the catch terminology happens to be so the fan can make a reasonable projection of who may or may not take the field on Sunday.

However, as I illustrated in my last DRF Harness article, harness racing has always taken the position that the betting public is essentially a liability to be provided as little information as possible. Of late there has been some improvement in this area, particularly at The Meadowlands where in the race reviews section typically includes a trainer statement when available. And that is a step in the right direction.

Back in 1976 it took months of intense lobbying by my then Sports Eye colleagues just to get the Roosevelt and Yonkers Raceway programs to list the modified sulky users, even though it was common knowledge that some horses improved four seconds pulling a modified. But of course that’s old news, just as the commentary concerning driver intentions has probably been bandied about since Ben Hur first reached the Coliseum.

The key factor is that only the information is relevant!  What one does with it is another story. However, as the NFL and other leagues keep indicating, information inundation seems to work best. That said, why couldn’t the public know what Mr. Campbell knew, that his filly did not have a good week and might not be up to aggressive movement? Or for that matter, that perhaps Mr. Lachance might be a tad more aggressive this time around?

Given the speed in which words routinely circulate in this era, the above should be doable.

I may still make the wrong betting selection but at least it will be based on up-to-the-minute information.

My gut feeling is that any millennials we may reach out to will demand nothing less.