Del Mar, where the fake meets the wake: Some of you are going to have to try really hard to lose money at this meet.
You’re going to have to put the unnatural bias caused by the fake racing surface completely out of your mind. You’re going to have to stay with your subscription to the power rating services. Keep checking your common sense at the bar. Play Del Mar the way you would any other flashy track, looking like you were about to paint a landscape instead of handicap a sprint, what with all those colored pens and pencils for coding various elements of a horse race, green for money won, pink for a filly among males, and so on. Pay one of the most helpful biases no mind. Pay the teller instead.
Here’s the only color you need to play Del Mar: A black Magic Marker.
A year or so I wrote a piece saying that I’d take natural racing surfaces over manufactured product any day, the point being that specialist horses making a living off fake surfaces seldom carried the success when returning to nature. I immediately heard from a man whose company helped coat the track at Golden Gate with artificial material, his two arguments being safety and the ease with which certain races could be handicapped. In other words, in any words, when you opened up a can of fake dirt, out popped a racing bias. A bias is one of the chief reasons you go to the horse races, others being free handouts and the barbecue sandwiches. When somebody in the business says that a surface could be a boon to handicappers with good sense, what’s to argue? Handicappers are not out to create a more perfect racing union. We’re out to get our money back, and then some.
The first few days of the Del Mar meet, I’ve been playing $1 pick three tickets and collecting good payoff with regularity on bets of $37 and the like.
Here’s how. That racing surface has been stopping speed like a school crossing.
Loose leads, contested speed, anything up front in a sprint, you can go ahead and put those tickets in the IRS shoe box as proof of losses. To say that artificial surfaces are usually tiring is like saying 108 degrees is hot. It makes for some exciting finishes as entire groups of horses change positions halfway down the stretch; and more double figure winners than you can shake a fist at. Big leads are counted down like the ball falling at New Year’s. The other night at the simulcast joint, Friday, I announced the No. 3 horse as the likely winner in the third race. One handicapper had the three circled in chartreuse, which meant that it was too late and lacking in class. Another had a dark blue line under its name in the Form, signaling depression. When the speed quit, the three won by plenty of inches and paid $31.
The obvious problems with feeling too comfortable are of course the turf races, which, at a good track, is like trying to handicap fish biting. Perhaps it is my imagination, but even the turf at Del Mar seems to be particularly stressful on anything toward the front.
Once inside the fields on the fake dirt surfaces, when it comes to separating inexperience from higher priced veterans with similar form, you’re on your own.
The first couple of weeks of meets anywhere show some big numbers on the board. On tracks where the leaders start bouncing for home, you only need one color to use on the past performances, anything to run a line through the speed.
Originally Posted on ESPN