Friday, 18 October 2019 19:32

Now More Than Ever

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October 18, 2019

Now More Than Ever

By: Jonathan Stettin


For about four years I have been writing about and calling for the industry’s need for two things: a central governing body, and some sort of commissioner. It’s funny that when I first started campaigning for this it was met with a lot of skepticism and even some laughter and ridicule. Since then many have jumped on the bandwagon and are calling for the same.
 
In a recent conversation I had with trainer Bob Baffert, he expressed to me he has long been in favor of a commissioner type of scenario for our sport. As most of you are aware, he is often cast into an ambassador type of role along with other key participants of the game as we really have nobody designated to be out there front and center.
 
With a centralized governing body would come a standard set of rules for all tracks. This would be medication rules and racing rules. Hopefully applies equally and fairly. We’d also presumably have some accountability.
 
With a commissioner, we’d have a spokesperson who would be charged with not only answering inquiries about misfortunes which occur but improving awareness, and both growing and restoring the Sport of Kings in this evolved and different works we now live and play in.
 
It will be difficult to achieve the above, but the time is right, and it is likely essential for long term prosperous survival of the sport we love. The difficulty will arise from the industry’s inability to agree on much and the long-standing attitude of every man and entity for themselves.
 
Those who supply information want to keep control of that and not share it without charge.
 
The tracks can’t even stagger post times.
 
The reporters and publications can’t say anything they wish due to fear of boycotts in advertising, credentials, access, and sponsors.
 
Bettors are taken for granted and even outright shunned despite their being the customer and fueling the game.
 
Our best defense to atrocities that occur is not to acknowledge some reform is immediately imperative but instead to shoot the messenger and point out how lousy an organization PETA is. They may be, but that does not prevent them from occasionally being on the right side of an argument, nor does the fact they happen to have an agenda. An equally inept defense is that many of us love our horses and treat them well. That is true but you are only as strong as your weakest link. We have too many weak links, and we are giving too much ammunition to our game's enemies. Long term that will not play out well. We need to get in front of that as an industry and not play Nero. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”
 
Our weak links lie in drugs, legal and otherwise, testing, enforcement, slaughter, aftercare, cruelty, rules, stewardship, and of course safety. Yes, we are making progress. Yes, there are improvements but perception is everything and without an organized educational program, much of it goes unnoticed by our foes.
 
We have park benches advertising to squash our sport outside the venue of one of our biggest events. We have a state governor calling for the abolishment of racing. We have a website pointing out fatalities and we now have the mainstream media coverage back that we lost for a while. If something bad happens they are all over it. I have seen zero about the Breeders’ Cup or the incredible grand competition and show we are about to witness in two weeks.
 
While we are making improvements, we can do better. Most if not all our issues can be solved. We need a bit less greed, a bit less reluctance to share some control, some cooperation, and a governing body and commissioner.
 
I have lobbied for a governing body, and an elected commissioner for a long time. I think it is needed now more than ever. If we wait much longer we might just need a trustee. A bankruptcy trustee. Remember, we have to save ourselves while there is something to save.

Friday, 11 October 2019 17:14

Pick Sixing

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October 11, 2019

Pick Sixing

By: Jonathan Stettin


 As someone who focused on the $2 pick 6 for many years, with a good amount of success, I was extremely disappointed when the wager all but disappeared. The 20 cent jackpot wagers are a completely different animal and don’t have the day to day opportunities the conventional pick 6 offered. A big part of my success wagering over literally decades was that I could count on a nice pick 6 or two or maybe even three over the course of a year. Those days are gone.
 
I don’t really play in tournaments although I did dominate the inaugural Handicap for Horses contest played over the course of the Saratoga meet. I really didn’t think anyone could beat me in a tournament that runs the course of an entire meet. You need that competitive attitude in this game. Remember we are playing against each other.
 
I have always felt there was a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge with my name on it. I am not a fan of the format of the NHC tournament so I have not thought much about that. I don’t play in qualifying contests so I will have to buy in if and when I decide to take that swing. I almost bought in last year. Then I read the rules. I didn’t like the mandatory wager requirements. Let me bet the $7500 bankroll anyway I want and I’m in. No problem.
 
I thought about buying in this year, and who knows I still may but I doubt it. In pondering the scenario I thought ok, a 10k buy in, and $2500 goes to the pot. I play with $7500. Then I thought I could take that same 10k, and put it into one of the only conventional pick 6’a left on the menu. It was a no brainer for me. I’ll dance with the lady I brought.
 
That got me thinking about two past Breeders’ Cup pick 6’s. One I won, but felt like I lost. The other I lost, but it could have easily swung my way and the ticket structure was something to Behold. No pun intended but Beholder was a single. One of two. The other was Dancing House on the turf at about 20-1. A 20-1 single who ran a close 4th if memory serves correct. That meant the whole pool on BC Friday. 1.2 mil on a 196 ticket. Not bad.
 
The one I won and lost is another story. I was alive gong into the Classic with the Awesome Again entry and Swain. Swain was paying considerably more. I also had nice pick 4’s with both. I don’t mind the shorter price getting home. The thing is if you watch Swain through the stretch and have any doubt as to who was best, I suggest another hobby or profession.
 
Had I played, or if I play in the BCBC I would also play some wagers outside the tournament. That seems difficult and even disadvantageous. I look for an edge, not an obstacle. The one with my name on it does tempt however.
 
The demise of the Pick 6 began with the Pick 4. It hastened when the Pick 4 became a 50 cent wager as opposed to $2. It almost became obsolete with the introduction of the 50 cent Pick 5. The evolutionary to jackpots put the final nail in the coffin.
 
I always thought the Pick 6 separated the men from the boys so to speak. It was a tough bet to cash, but awfully rewarding in its day.
 
For all the pick Sixers out there, and I am not sure how many of us are left. See you all in the Breeders’ Cup pool.

Friday, 04 October 2019 12:49

Speed on the Rail

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October 4, 2019

Speed on the Rail

By: Jonathan Stettin


If you like playing the races with “their money” now is the time to pad that bankroll for the soon to be here Breeders’ Cup. With the fall Keeneland meet starting, Belmont finishing with some big days, and even some great European races like the Arc coming up, there should be something on the menu for every type of player.
 
Going into an event like the Breeders’ Cup hot, and on a roll, is just what the Doctor ordered. When you’re going good, and confident, you should be the most dangerous. By nature, we all have a tendency to play aggressively under those circumstances. If you are a reader or follower of mine you already know I am of the opinion aggressive play is the only way to beat this most challenging game.
 
With so many opportunities coming up we must choose wisely. As good as it is to head to the Breeders’ Cup smoking hot, it is equally as bad to head in cold. This is the time to start clicking.
 
Keeneland is such a tough meet. It always has been. Shippers pointing for wins at a short meet with big fields makes for competitive racing. While tough, that spells some nice payoffs. A player's dream.
 
The exception being the Polytrack period, Keeneland’s main track has historically been kind to speed. Especially inside speed. I remember responding to my Dad when he would ask me who I liked at Keeneland simply saying “speed on the rail.” That still holds true today. While it is not always easy to find the speed on the rail, if and when you do leaving it out or betting against it can be perilous. I don’t have many rules in Handicapping or betting, but I am always cognizant of speed on the rail or inside speed at Keeneland.
 
When playing Keeneland price or odds should never be a deterrent. This is generally true at any meet, but much more so at certain meets and Keeneland is one of those. Rarely will I let odds sway me, but at Keeneland they just don’t seem to matter at all, with the exception of the baby races in the spring. In the fall, players are all over the board, and recreational money is abundant in the pools. If you are right you will get paid. This is the ideal scenario for aggressive play.
 
As kind to speed as the main track at Keeneland can be, I’ve always favored late runners on the turf in Lexington. The first day or two when the grass is fresh can be an exception, but overall I feel closers fare better. California horses who are used to short grass and firm turf don’t seem to me to do as well as the east coast and NY turf horses who get different courses thrown at them more often. All these little nuances can lead to a score making decision.
 
Keeneland is so close to Breeders’ Cup time the win and you’re in races are vital. There are always a few outsiders looking to punch a late ticket to the big dance. You can often find some at more than fair odds. These are great opportunities. I love betting a quality horse when I know the connections are all 110% in. It’s a little different scenario then say when one trainer has three runners in the same 6 horse field and you are guessing who needs the race, who is pointing for another spot etc. etc.
 
A lot of US players overlook betting European races. Not me. I love it and find great value and success there. I’ll be playing the Arc card with enthusiasm. While the European Past Performances are shall we say lacking in comparison to ours, replay work which I love is critical. The field sizes are ridiculously large and the prices are crazy good especially if you get beyond the first two choices. There is no better place to bet a little to win a lot. There is damage to be done on those cards.
 
After the next two weeks, which takes us to two weeks out for the Breeders’ Cup, I’ll go into an ultra-conservative approach to betting. I like to start studying for the big event early and keep my focus there. Those two days are loaded, and there is much to absorb, and also much to miss if you don’t put in the work. We don’t want to beat ourselves by not being prepared.
 
Good luck these next few weeks. Let’s pad those bankrolls and head to Cali on a roll.

Friday, 27 September 2019 18:43

Small Field Strategies

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September 27, 2019

Small Field Strategies

By: Jonathan Stettin


Of course, most of us were looking forward to the Jockey Club Gold Cup card at Belmont only to be disappointed in the field sizes, especially in the stake races. The Gold Cup drew just 5 horses. Sure we all prefer big fields laden with value and competitive runners. More often than not in today’s game that just is not the case. We need strategies and adjustments to deal with small fields from a betting standpoint.
 
Depending on your style on betting this may or may not significantly alter how you approach a wager. For me it doesn’t change how I play, it just impacts payouts. I adjust more based on that than field size.
 
In multi race wagers, I look for a single or two. With small fields that does not change and at times even makes isolating a horse or two to single easier. It certainly takes away from the time of work one needs to put in. As they say, time can be money. Regardless of field size, I will look for my singles. I’ll also try and avoid them being the favorite or everybody’s single. A small field won’t change this approach for me.
 
My exacta strategy will also stay intact in a small field. I’ll play one way, cold and not reverse. I might play a second exacta with the same horse on top, usually for a lesser amount, but I do this the same way no matter how many horses are going to post. The payoffs take a hit, but my approach stays the same.
 
I’ll discuss how I compensate for the payoffs.
 
What I do change in small fields is triple and superfecta play. I just say no. I don’t find it pays. That leaves some extra money to go into the bets I do make. I can increase the amount I play multi race wagers for, as well as the exactas. Hopefully, or at least some of the time this is enough to offset or absorb the difference in payouts. We have to play the hand we are dealt. Short fields must be reckoned with.
 
If you have a fair share of short fields in a sequence you can try and go short in the races you don’t single. This will also allow you to increase your wagers. Fewer horses to cover means more money to place on the ones you feel you need.
 
Money management and ticket structure are so crucial. If dealing with small fields is something you’ll face often you need a strategy that applies to that scenario. A lot of players will pass a card of small fields in favor of a card someplace else with larger fields. That may work for them. I don’t do it. I like to stick to the meets and circuits I play and where I’m comfortable. In the long run, I find that works better, at least for me.
 
A lot of times I find if you get away from the favorite in a small field the win price is not that bad. Sure you may not get that 15 or 20-1 we all love, but you can surely find a solid horse at 3,4,5 to 1 or more. There is nothing wrong with that.
 
If you like to stick to certain meets as I do you have to be prepared to make lemonade out of lemons. We don’t like small fields, but we have to deal with them.
 
I don’t view the Jockey Club Gold Cup as a bad betting affair. To the contrary, I am looking forward to it. I think there will be some talented runners going off in the 3 and 4-1 range. I can live with that. A win bet and cold exacta at that price are fine. There are fewer horses to beat you. Lemonade.
 
A single at that price can work out just fine as well. You can make money and create value in any field size. You may have to play it smart and be right. On the bright side, I don’t think we will have this issue to deal with on Breeders’ Cup weekend. Stay tuned.
 

Friday, 20 September 2019 12:36

Lots of Options

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September 20, 2019

Lots of Options

By: Jonathan Stettin


Today more than ever the bettor has many options on where, when, and how to gamble or invest their money. Whether it is racing (my game of choice) sports, table or casino games, poker, backgammon, chess (my second favorite) or whatever, there are an abundance of choices. Within the racing game alone we choose from many tracks, and also different wagers.
 
We all have wagers at the track or through an ADW like our AmWager that we favor or gravitate towards. Like anything else, things become comfortable and routine like. For some reason, just about all the talking heads promote the pick 4 or pick 5 wager. It is almost all they talk about when it comes to promoting a wager. I guess their bosses, who likely mandate this, miss the fact many other wagers are much better for the churn of handle they seek. Those bets can be great, and they are fun. However, they are far from the only option and in today’s market often not the best value or chance for a nice hit. Of course, there are exceptions and if you luck out or well play one you can really take it down, but if you are a sharp player you realize there are other opportunities to explore.
 
When you think about the nature of pari-mutual wagering and that we are all playing against one another. You have to realize that sometimes going after something where the waters aren’t filled with both sharks and guppies can give you an advantage.
 
I love exactas. They often offer great value, and if you play them aggressively, as I do, you can make some nice hits. If you like a horse that is say 6 or 8-1 and you single him in a multi-race bet and he wins but you lose another leg that is one of the most frustrating ways to get beat. If you key him on top of exactas, sure you can lose even if he wins but I’d argue the chances are less likely. If your key horse wins you probably have a nice handle on the race and will nail the exacta. As a single in a multi race wager, he may win and you may have that good handle on that race but there are three or four others to get by. I love the exacta. I play them even when I single a horse in a multi race bet.
 
Usually, I will just take one or two exactas. For example, if I like the 5 I may bet the 5 to win, single the 5 in a multi race wager and take a cold 5-7 exacta. If I think second place is more side open I may take $100 exacta 5-7, then $50 exacta 5-2 5-4. That gives me three shots for second and if I can’t get that home if the 5 wins, it was just not my day. I will still have the win and maybe even the multi going for me. Options. I think it is important to explore them when deciding where to invest your money.
 
Triples and more so superfectas can also offer great value and opportunities. You will also find fewer sharks in these waters even though the pools are often healthy. A lot of recreational players go in these pools playing names and numbers. This is a dream scenario for some of us and you can often capitalize on it. 
 
While we may gravitate to where we are comfortable and get led there by talking heads, that may not always be where the best opportunities are. Depending on the price of your top or key horses you just have to look at all the items on the menu. This game is about maximizing when you are right and sometimes you have to go outside of the comfort zone to do that.
 
Another almost forgotten bet is the double. While I personally do not find as much value here as I do in exactas, triples, and superfectas, it can be another option for many players.
 
You have to get out of the routine and comfort zone to improve. That’s where we make progress and progress can mean scores. That’s why we play. 
 




Saturday, 14 September 2019 05:46

Woodbine Mile Thoughts 2019

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September 14, 2019

Woodbine Mile Thoughts 2019

By: Jonathan Stettin


The Woodbine Mike is always an interesting and competitive race and this year is no exception. Here are my thoughts and how I’ll play it.

#1 El Tormenta- Looks overmatched I’m here. Handles Woodbine and should appreciate some added ground over his most recent starts but looks up against it to win this.
#2 Lucullan- Has come back like a new horse. Always had some ability but is better than ever right now. If he handles Woodbine, and I suspect he will, I think he is your winner. The price won’t be 8-1 like the morning line but should be OK.
#3 Silent Poet- He is my second choice and the other horse I would use in any multi race wagers. He is game and improving and loves this course. Dangerous.
#4 Synchrony- Will have plenty of support here. Not mine. He is capable for sure but I don’t think he is peaking or sitting on a top race, two things I look for. Also a likely underlay.
5- Got Stormy- Coming off two monster efforts, I am looking for some regression in here. Taking a swing against the obvious favorite. Will be no surprise but I think he can be beaten.
6- Awesometank- A filly, albeit a good one against the boys, not my favorite angle. I’d need to see more from her. Not impossible but not for me in here.
7- Raging Bull- Is there such a thing as a third choice? Not really for me but if there was he would be mine in here. He has always had ability and class, and I think he is coming up to an A race or effort. That could be good enough if some of the others I lean to don’t fire. I’d use in multi race wagers on a spread ticket.
8- American Guru- Will be a price and should be, looks overmatched and would need a surprise career race to win this. I don’t see it.
9- Made You Look- Always tough to toss Chad Brown in any grass stake, but if it was easy everybody would be doing it, I can’t get here, he just does not look as good as some of the others regardless of connections.
10- Emmaus- May not win but I think he is sitting on one of his better or A races and that can put him close. I will use in exactas, triples, and superfectas in the second, third and fourth slots. Should be a big price.
11- Admiralty Pier- Another big price that can probably not win but can maybe sneak into the exotics. Another I would use in the back slots looking to make something happen.
The ones I think are the win contenders are Lucullan, Silent Poet, and Raging Bull. I will use those three in multi race wagers leaning on Lucullan heaviest. Emmaus and Admiralty Pier will be in my rear slots in vertical wagers as they are both long odds horses I think can hit the board. Enjoy the Woodbine Mile.