As a 1-1 favorite broke last by a considerable margin in a race suited for speed, somebody in the simulcast joint yelled, “Fix.”
At the mention of odds-on favorites, a quick word here about my beloved Penn National, the former home of numerous 20-1 shots that frequently had a tough time losing $4,000 claiming races. Purses fattened by casino gambling profits have resulted in an influx of decent horses running hard for pots of $30,000. The other evening in a non-winners of two event, several horses from New York, one from LA, one from Philadelphia Park, one from Baltimore, and a couple of locals, ran straight and true to produce an Exacta of something like $6. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when perfectly healthy, well-trained and reasonably ridden horses take over a facility when the regular horse players aren’t looking. Fans of easy winners resulting from cheap speed from any post position regret this shocking development and wish for a return to the good and cheesy old days.
Getting back to the 1-1 horse falling out last, “Fix,” there’s something you don’t hear too often, “fix” in the traditional sense meaning the act of pulling the favorites and boxing what’s left.
Whereas the old-school manipulation of a horse race used to involve choreography and required a group effort, the new fix is sandbagging, or using drugs, with the alleged illegal activity usually involving a single horse.
And rascals can upon occasion be handicapped — you can think about handling an off-trainer like an off-track.
There’s no designation in the past performances to suggest a debatable performance, no SB? at the end of a funny racing line to raise the question of what appeared to have been a sandbagging run.
There’s only this for the spellbound:
“Didn’t like the track.”
“Missed the break.”
“Needed the race.”
Beyond avoiding the cheap odds-on horses, how do you handicap what can most kindly be described as the inexplicable?
Lower echelon “hot barns” feature horses coming from layoffs and running out from under their manes.
At huge prices.
That are frequently bet late.
Hot barns don’t stay hot for long.
That youthful feeling that inspires horses to go from last to last to last to last to last to first lasts but a couple or three weeks and seems contagious, could be something in the spring barn air.
A friend and I have a list featuring refreshed claimers that flash across cheap finish lines in twos and threes: hot barns, a factor of horse race handicapping every bit as important as hot Beyers.
The speed horse that broke last at 1-1, prompting the early simulcast hall call of skullduggery, circled the field and won by five, proving that some regulars can’t even pick losers.
Originally Posted on ESPN