Win, place, and show
October 24, 2011 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Daily Racing Form: from nags to doping! Horse racing is one of the oldest pastimes, with wagering on the nags following closely after. Betting intelligently requires either a good eye or an available record of past performance. Originally a Chicago newspaper, this periodical gives the tout the inside scoop on past performances. The monumental digitization of this paper brings a new light on racing sport. And they're off and running...
posted by mfoight (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Note: there is no "system". Well, there is the system of getting lucky for a bit, and then losing it all.

Bukowski covered this in one of the only course he ever got roped into teaching. He ended up spending all his teaching time talking about betting on the races. Most students passed with A's, meaning they didn't do any "creative writing" and mostly lost money or barely broke even.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:35 AM on October 24, 2011

I put my money on the bob-tail nag, somebody bet on the baaaaaaay....
posted by mreleganza at 10:55 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

My grandfather considered the ability to read the charts in the DRF the only suitable intellectual test of manhood in our family. Reading the Form is like opening the Book of The Righteous for infoporn nerds. It's just chock full of data. I sometimes still grab a copy just for the pure joy of trying to interpret all that data.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:00 AM on October 24, 2011

posted by Splunge at 11:40 AM on October 24, 2011

When I first skimmed the post, I thought it was going to be about the "nag lag" study that is currently making the rounds of the news.

HORSES run faster when they're jet-lagged.

In fact, they can maintain a full gallop for 25 seconds longer than normal after being exposed to light conditions mimicking jet lag, a study reveals.

The findings, contained in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology published yesterday, have significant implications for the way horses are prepared for international races, revealing it may be better for them to arrive just before a race than to spend weeks acclimatising in a new country.

Now getting back to the subject of the post....

I must admit, before watching a race, I do love to have a copy of the DRF charts in front of me. I find it necessarily because as just a casual TV viewer, trying to get any information about the actual race or the horses from whatever football announcers or generic sports hosts the TV networks employ to provide race coverage is like getting kindergarten students to explain theoretical physics.

From the charts I can get a sense of who's racing. From the TV coverage, I can find out about which trainer's ex-wife's step-child's dog end up with a broken leg after falling down a well ten years ago. Seriously it's all fluffy, over-the-top "emotional" story-telling, usually focused on a terrible illness or a struggle with addiction and the subsequent recovery thanks to the will of the All Mighty and the love of horses.

All that said, it's one thing to read the charts, but it's another thing to actually be able to place winning bets based on that data.

While I love watching races, I'm not a big gambler, even when I go to the track I can watch a whole card without putting down a bet. On a heavy betting day I'll average one small bet every second or third race. Usually I try to combine what my eye tells me with what I pull from the charts, and if I win, fine, and if not, oh well, it was fun shouting from the rail.

About the only time I did a significant amount of betting straight from the charts was one of those flukes that I could never hope to repeat again. I was on a business trip to Kentucky, and the hosting company took myself and a bunch of colleagues to Keeneland. I was about the only one to express any kind of excitement or interest about the excursion, as I was the only one who followed racing at all.

Now as I said, I'm a casual fan at best, but I can read a racing form. So I was trying to help the people in the group who had questions about what they were seeing or how they should bet, etc. I made it a point not to get too technical or try to be an "expert" because I'm certainly not. I wasn't going to bet, and started out not betting, but a few people goaded and taunted me into it. I think they were hoping to see me make a fool of myself.

I don't know what I was seeing that day, but I picked winner after winner. I cashed lots of place and show tickets and even an exotic or two. Now none of the bets were huge, and I didn't walk out of there with piles of money -- I'm really nothing but a $2 bettor -- but I was so happy not to lost money or picked my usual series of losers.
posted by sardonyx at 12:00 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Aggh. Typos galore.

I find it necessary... happy not to have lost money or to have picked...

posted by sardonyx at 12:03 PM on October 24, 2011

Here's a link to the archive itself.

Here's what they've scanned so far for 1955. Gainsboro Girl won the May 11 Burlington purse, I see.

Now all I need is a DeLorean and some plutonium and I'll be born with a trust fund.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Damn. I was hoping to recreate that lonesome week of Thanksgiving 1996 when I had no money for vacation and spent a week at Churchill Downs. I think I ended up about $40 down.

Note: there is no "system".

This is not true. There are plenty of "systems." It's their efficacy that is debatable. ;)

Honestly, I have a system that I think works "OK." Identify the good horses in the race (not always easy); compare the pools for Win, Place, and Show and find discrepancies, i.e. the win betting is tiny but the show betting is huge; wait until 2 minutes before the race and act on the biggest discrepancy.

Also, when in doubt, always pick the Irish horse on the turf, and look for a big bounce the second time out with Lasix.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:44 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

A very funny fiction book that has several reasonable systems, as well as a hilarious story, is Underlay by Barry Malzberg.
posted by Splunge at 1:12 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

A very funny fiction book that has several reasonable systems, as well as a hilarious story, is Underlay by Barry Malzberg.

Aw man, I was just about to link that! such a messed up book

ah well. here's the song I'm expected to post
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:16 PM on October 24, 2011

So two of us have read that book. It's one of my favorites. I forget which system I actually ran at an OTB in Brooklyn, but I ended up something like $12 ahead. Then I lost a bit. Which I would rather forget about.

Still... funny book.
posted by Splunge at 4:04 PM on October 24, 2011

I found it really, really depressing. Partly for personal reasons, and partly because of the unremitting despair that everyone seemed to have.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:06 PM on October 24, 2011

Okay. So... howabout that famous sports team that is in the news today...

I'll leave now. Where the fuck is my jacket?
posted by Splunge at 4:10 PM on October 24, 2011

Well if you really want to, Splurge, you can run down your favourites for the upcoming Breeder's Cup races. Here's the Bloodhorse link. I'd post the DRF one, but I find that site likes to limit access without a log-in.
posted by sardonyx at 4:17 PM on October 24, 2011

There is no system. You have to go out to the paddock and look at 'em.

And then you have to fool yourself that you have a good eye for winners.
posted by whuppy at 4:18 PM on October 24, 2011

I should probably go to the races one day. I do like hats.
My office usually runs little Melbourne Cup pool. Its a bit of a joke, but I've got some decent promo stuff I can use as prizes this year.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:20 PM on October 24, 2011

Who is this Splurge you speak of?
posted by Splunge at 5:44 PM on October 24, 2011

I wish I knew how to bet on horses with any sort of skill.

Any good resources or links to make me a sharp down at the Hollywood Racetrack?
posted by klangklangston at 10:27 PM on October 24, 2011


You've got a few options, but here are a few to start. (Keep in mind what I wrote above about not being an expert.)

The major publications want to encourage new readers, so they put up content to help new bettors. Here's the DRF one.

The tracks themselves want to turn you into dedicated bettors, so often they run seminars or clinics or lectures. My local track keeps sending me invitations to see people like Steven Crist or Andrew Beyer. Additionally it frequently offers handicapping seminars.

If Hollywood Park is your local track you can check out its handicapping Night School in the Beginner's Corner section of its website.

If you feel like spending money there are a number of betting programs and applications that take data (that you purchase) about the racetracks and the conditions and the horses' past performances, analyze it and then spit out betting recommendations. Brisnet is one source of data, and while it's mainly geared toward hard-core bettors willing to purchase information, it does offer a few freebies for people who like to dabble -- if you hunt for them, that is.

Overall, if you're serious about it, I'd suggest just start following the results at your track. It's easier to get a grasp on the betting situation if you're seeing the same horses, trainers and jockeys repeatedly. You can do this either in person or you can do it remotely by reading the results in the paper (if they still publish them in your local papers) or in the results section of your track's website. Additionally, there's a free web service that will track your own personal stable and send you workout results and entry listings. It also tracks major American racing series (U.S. Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup). MeMail me if you'd like the link.

Also, please keep in mind most of what I've told you is working under the assumption that you're pretty much a novice. If you're actually an experience track-goer and bettor and want to figure out how to better weigh your factors (say Beyer number vs. Moss pace figures) you'll need to turn to real experts for advice, and I'm afraid that's not me.
posted by sardonyx at 9:24 AM on October 25, 2011

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