Edit ModuleShow Tags

Betting the Bangtails


Published:

(page 1 of 3)

A difference of opinion,” said Will Rogers, “is what makes horse racing and missionaries.” With faith, hope and apostolic fervor, race fans will flock to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club this month for its 61st summer season (July 26 through September 13).

For 43 days, turnstiles at the fabled North County course will positively spin, herding in a range of patrons from big-time bettors to two-dollar dilettantes. But bankrolls notwithstanding, they’ll all have dreams of winning, and different opinions on how to do it.

Enter (at a gallop) the art and science of handicapping. How does one predict a winner before placing a bet? Read tea leaves or tout sheets? Ouija board, heartfelt hunch or expert analysis? What should a bewildered wagerer do to acquire advice straight from the horse’s mouth?

“Spend 35 cents and get my column,” says longtime San Diego Union-Tribune handicapper Bob Ike, with a chuckle. According to Ike, whose turf coverage takes in the Southern California racing circuit (including Hollywood Park and Santa Anita), there are plenty of ways to plot your parlays.

For cybercappers into sophisticated statistics-crunching, there are Web sites and databases bulging with downloadable dope. Useful publications include the venerable—though intricate—Thoroughbred bible, the Daily Racing Form; and the slightly less cryptic Today’s Racing Digest. But poring over past-performance charts, speed figures and other equine arcana can detract from the track’s inherent pageantry, suggests Ike, who spent childhood summers at the Del Mar oval with his family.

“The whole process of reading and interpreting the Form is really an intellectual endeavor,” he says. “I always liked the running of the race, and I think the horses are majestic animals. The thrill of competition was really what hooked me on it all.” The 37-year-old handicapper admits to a bit of early-bird wagering: “I was splitting $2 show bets with a friend by the time we were in fourth grade.”

Ike adds that it does behoove grown-up gamblers to study the sport. He estimates that, overall, “only about 5 percent of people going to horse races are making money. It’s definitely about doing your homework.”

But what of sudden inspiration, shots-in-the-dark and those nagging voices in your head urging you to plop a bundle on some galumphing dromedary? Try to base those stabs on observable track trends and patterns, advises the veteran horseman. In short, mix hard data with your sixth sense. “Gut feelings, intuition and educated guesses are all part of it,” allows Ike.

Syndicated newspaper handicapper Jeff Siegel believes a successful horseplayer should “know what’s reality. It’s no different than handicapping football, in the sense that you take in a lot of data, sort it out in your mind and try to figure out who’s most likely to win.”

But there are myriad angles to the sport of kings. Short race or long? On turf or dirt? A contest for 2-year-olds, Siegel notes, is handicapped differently than one for older horses. And who’s in the irons? A proven winner like Laffit Pincay Jr., or some befuddled bug boy who was mucking out stables two hours ago? The trainer-jockey relationship should also be factored in. And does the noble steed prefer a dry track or love scooting through the slop? Consider drugs. (Not for yourself, silly.) Is MedsaPlenty juiced on cortisone or pain-killing Butazolidin?

Bear in mind that a horse is a horse, of course. “These are not ostriches out there,” Siegel points out. “Horses do have their quirks and their own personalities, and you have to get a feel for how they’ll run under what circumstances.”

It is possible to get a better feel for those bangtails by visiting the paddock prior to the races. Does your horse look robust and ready to run? Is there a healthy sheen to its coat? Sure, you’re no vet, but you can tell a sore, gimpy gait from a lively little trot. If your pick is lathered up like the Denorex mare, she may have run herself so soggy in the morning workout that there’s precious little giddy-up left for the upcoming race.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

The Best of North County 2018

Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore

16 Great Places to Go Camping in Southern California and Baja

We’ve rounded up sites with the best ocean views, mountain peaks, and desert landscapes

8 San Diegans Take us Inside Their Favorite Spaces

Remarkable locals let us into their personal sanctuaries, from a painter's secret garden to a luxe, party-ready speakeasy
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote Now for San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    From burritos to bottomless mimosas, you choose San Diego’s best eats and drinks in 90 categories
  2. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  3. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  4. 31 Best Places to Live in San Diego
    Five local homeowners share their advice, tips, and tricks on how they sealed the deal
  5. Has Anything Really Changed Since Ballast Point Sold to Constellation?
    More than two years after the acquisition, misinformation and misunderstanding still abound
  6. Green Rush: Inside San Diego's Emerging Cannabis Industry
    Marijuana's legal. How did it go from evil death drug to medical miracle and billion-dollar industry?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Win Our Instagram Contest And Get Three Months of Free Orangetheory Fitness Classes

All you have to do is post to Instagram telling us why you want it, or enter below!

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags