A Bad Beat & Badly Beaten Elicit Different Responses in Horseplayers

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Ed DeRosa

August 25th, 2015

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read about gambling on horses (and gambling in general, I suppose) is “Same face win or lose,” and I try to hold myself to it, but the fifth race on Monday at Saratoga Race Course tested that resolve.

In a pari-mutuel game, what goes around comes around: today’s bad beat is someone else’s good fortune (or as Black Sails writer Robert Levine used to say when we were classmates at Denison University working on The Denisonian student newspaper, “One man’s gold is another’s gonorrhea”).

So between the “same face” mantra and an understanding of how playing this game works, I don’t tilt easily, and when I am frustrated I take extra care not to blame jockeys for my bad bets, but I cracked Monday afternoon.

I had pinned all my hopes on either #1 Tapitry or #4 Dating Lady Luck, and for most of the race it appeared that Irad Ortiz aboard the former and Joel Rosario on the latter were more interested in making sure the other couldn’t win than in winning the race itself. When they finally got down to business neither was able to catch My Sweet Girl, who finished a nose ahead of Tapitry.

I lost, felt I should have won, and wasn’t happy about it.

Another frustrating thing about betting on horses is that better bets make for tougher losses. Tapitry was 4-to-1; Dating Lady Luck was 1.95-to-1. One of those two would have to win 53% of the time for my bet of only using the two of them to be a good one. This race happened to be among the 47% that they lost, but as the race played out I’m comfortable that I made a good bet as one of those horses probably wins at least 55% of the time.

Good bet, bad outcome, and after a little more stewing than I care to admit to, I eventually turn the page to a maiden special weight race featuring Rachel Alexandra’s first foal (but second to race) Jess’s Dream making his career debut.

As the lone first-time starter in the field of seven going 1 1/8 miles, Jess’s Dream was the 3.25-to-1 second choice, and many people were looking to beat him based on the physical impressions he had made previously in the morning and currently in the paddock.

I was among them, feeling that taking this long to make to the races and debuting at a longer distance showed a lack of confidence in his ability to fire first time out.

And we were all feeling pretty smart through the first half of the race in which Jess’s Dream languished in last before figuring things out in the stretch and blowing by everybody to win by a length in 1:49.06 for a solid Speed Rating of 94 and a Class Rating of 114.2.

Another losing ticket, but one that was a lot easier to accept because I was just plain wrong. Given my opinion of the race there was no way I was going to cash with Jess’s Dream winning, so might as well enjoy the performance!