01/03/2013 11:40AM

Pandolfo: Remembering the big scores


New Year's resolutions tend to be redundant and boring. But I'll give you a New Year's resolution idea that I wish I had implemented years ago.

One of my favorite movies is Big Fish. It's a Tim Burton movie and I generally don’t like Tim Burton movies, except for Big Fish.  The movie is based on a book, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace. The story is narrated by the son of Edward Bloom, whose father likes to tell tall tales, such as the story of how he caught the biggest fish anyone had ever seen.

Perhaps I liked the movie because most horseplayers have their own "big fish" stories. These scores usually start with a boxcar longshot that we came up with on a day when our deductive skills were as keen as Sherlock Holmes.

Here's my New Year's resolution tip: Keep a journal.

I've been betting horses since I was 17, and I've had many nice hits since then. And for the most part, I remember them - sort of. For instance, I remember calling charts at Yonkers one night a long time ago with my friend and co-worker Irwin Cohen. I played a superfecta key and hit for $1,800. Okay, so far so good. But I don't remember the name of the key horse that I used on top, how much it paid to win, who was driving, or who was the trainer. And I wish I did.

I know it may not mean much, but truth be told, there are a lot of moments that I remember vaguely that I would prefer to remember vividly. They teach us all sorts of information in school, some of it useful, but I don't remember a teacher ever telling me to keep a journal. But wouldn't it be nice to look back and read, in your own words, exactly what you did on the day you proposed to your spouse? Or what was going through your mind the day your first child was born.

In my twenties and thirties I did a lot of socializing with good friends and we had many amazing times with tons of laughs and adventures. Sometimes we took day trips or vacationed together. Some of these are at least partly documented by photographs, but not all. I remember sometimes afterward I would think, as soon as I get home I should write down some of the things we did and said, because it was just so funny or interesting. Maybe some day I'll use it to write a screenplay. But I didn't.

And as for betting horses, boy I wish I'd kept a journal just for this alone. In his book The Winning Horseplayer, Andy Beyer uses anecdotes from his betting scores, or tough beats, to explain how he analyzes things like track bias and trip handicapping. The book is informative and entertaining. Fortunately he kept good records and was able to chronicle his experiences at the racetrack. The Winning Horseplayer helps horseplayers understand the nuances of handicapping.

I've done the same thing in my books, using examples of horses that I hit. But I tend to use recent examples. Going back to that $1,800 superfecta score, I think the winner paid 8-1 odds and was driven by Rejean Daigneault. But I can't remember the name of the horse, and worse yet, since I can't remember the exact date, I can't go back and research it. Consequently, I don't remember why I bet the horse. And quite frankly, as a professional handicapper who writes about handicapping, this was a mistake. I should have kept records of all of the double-digit winners. You don't want to forget why you won. You want to repeat the pattern. You also don't want to forget why you lost. You want to delete the pattern.

And if you're a creative person, or an entrepreneur, a journal is crucial. You don't want to come up with an idea for a ground breaking invention but forget to write it down. Then a few years later you see the next Mark Cuban selling an invention similar to yours and making a fortune.

What triggered this idea was the first two nights of the new Meadowlands meet, which opened Friday, Dec. 28. Friday and Saturday they ran 25 races and 8 of the winners (32%) paid over $20 to win. In 13 of the 25 races (52%), the winners paid double-digit odds of 4-1 or higher. The longest of the longshot winners paid $240.80, $107.40, $44.40, $36.00 and $33.80, so 20% of the winners paid over 15-1 odds. I guarantee you that the few people who hit the $240.80 winner, or the whopping $4451.20 exacta that it keyed, will be telling that story to friends, family, or whoever will listen for the rest of their life. And as years go on and the details get fuzzy, some will think that they're hearing a big fish story.

As the Meadowlands meet goes on, it will be interesting to see if the boxcar payoffs continue. But my guess is that when Yonkers reopens on Jan. 11, racing 5 nights a week, it will thin out the competition and I doubt that you'll see many triple-digit winners at either track. But the Meadowlands is only going to race 3 nights a week and the cards should be good. I expect that the percentage of winning favorites at the Meadowlands this year will be lower than most harness tracks, and there will be plenty of good-value winners and longshots.

So if you're one of the lucky ones who had that $240 winner, keep the past performances, keep the result chart, and put it in a folder somewhere for safe keeping. If you still have a copy of the payoff receipt or ticket, file that away as well. Wouldn't it be nice to remember all the details of a once in a lifetime score like that? You can bet horses for 50 years and I can assure you that you're not going to hit too many 119-1 shots or $4,000-plus exactas. And some moments in life are worth remembering in every detail.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 18067.