Jon Stettin's Blog - AmWager

Jon Stettin's Blog

Jon Stettin's Blog (65)

  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    June 21st, 2019


    By: Jonathan Stettin

    Last week we got to see the first time in the short career of Maximum Security that he did not cross the wire first. To many, it was an unexpected shocker, but should it have been? We'll look at that in the recent content of angles we've been discussing to help identify scores and bet against races alike.

    We have recently talked about bank roll management, two year olds progressing past their earlier figures, and today, we will talk about a widely used but often confused term, "the bounce."

    While the stumble at the start didn't help Maximum Security, he was ripe to regress. Knowing when a horse is ready to regress or bounce is a strong advantage or edge, especially if the horse is a favorite.

    Maximum Security ran a very hard race while still inexperienced and lightly raced in the Kentucky Derby. He ran harder and further than he ever had before under less than ideal conditions. His trainer was noncommittal about his run in the Pegasus until he actually entered. He has even publicly said blood was drawn on Maximum Security as he was not quite right. These factors all point to a regression or bounce. Let's define bounce. A bounce is when a horse goes backward or runs significantly worse than they have in their last start or even last few starts.

    Most horses will regress or bounce off a race where they exceeded their previous top performance by a decent measurable speed figure or just flat out performance. You don't need to use speed figures to spot a bounce, but they certainly can accelerate the process.

    Sure some horses can regress and win, and Maximum Security certainly looked like he could be one of those in the field he faced in the Pegasus. That said, do you really want a short price on a horse that is not peaking or going forward when you have nicer price options on horses that are?

    When looking for a horse to bounce, thus bet against at a short price, here are some things you can watch for:

    1-   A horse who ran significantly faster than ever before in their last start.

    2-   A horse who has strung together a series of faster than their norm races.

    3-   A horse who appeared to visually run hard or work very hard in their last start.

    4-   A horse who is coming back faster than they normally do, or that their trainer likes to do or usually does.

    5-   A horse who ran well last out but is now being asked to do something they've shown in the past they do not excel at.

    Are there other indicators or tells, sure and you should pay attention to any you have learned to recognize. One thing to be careful of is the "easy win" not telegraphing a possible bounce. Some years ago, and I have written about this before, I watched a race with Bobby Frankel. His horse jogged under wraps with Jerry Bailey up and went really fast. Nonetheless, it was done handily, easily with ears pricked up. Bobby cursed. I asked what could possibly be wrong with that race?

    He said plainly, "too fast." Explaining further, "This was not the race I was pointing to, and now I have to worry about a bounce."

    I replied, "Why it was so easy."

    Here is where I was schooled and went into sponge mode and made many a score because of it. He told me when a horse runs fast, real fast, no matter how easy they do it, how it looks, or how they act after it before their next start, you always have to fear they will regress. He explained a fast race is almost always taxing regardless of how it may look to us. I never forgot that lesson, so to speak and it served me well many times.

    The bounce is a real angle. It happens. Horses are not machines and form cycles last indefinitely very rarely. Looking for the bounce and accurately spotting it can land you on some nice winners and keep you away from some short priced losers. That's a win-win right there.

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    June 14th, 2019

    True or False

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    A few years ago, a two year old named Caledonia Red barely made it to my radar in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in my early work. By the time the race came up, I made and cashed a nice bet. It was a true track bias I recognized that got me there. A true track bias is a gift that just keeps giving. Not only can you capitalize on one race day if you catch it, but you can bet with an edge on those who ran well against it and downgrade those who ran with it. The whole key is knowing a true track bias from a false or perceived one.

    A bias can mean different things to different handicappers. I define a track bias this way:

    A trend in the track that helps horses run better than they would have if they ride it and worse then they would have if they are against it. Simply said a bias can make horses who would not have won on a fair track win, and horses who would have won on a fair track lose. Anything less to me is not a true bias. It would be hard to capitalize off anything less than my definition. Additionally, although tracks can change throughout a card, a true bias will more often than not hold for the bulk of the day. When they don’t you must ask yourself if it could have possibly been a false bias. Chances are it was.

    Players are fast on the draw to label a track biased, often incorrectly at least by my definition. A bias comes in a few different forms. It can be an inside or outside bias which relates to a portion of the racetrack. It can be down the crown of the track as we often see in the mud. It can be a speed bias or a closers bias. Sometimes you will see more than one type of bias together, but obviously they can’t conflict with each other, or you are back to a false bias.

    An excellent example of bettors being prematurely fast on the bias draw was last weekends Belmont Stakes card. The bias talk came early and often. It was all over social media and the tv broadcasts. Trainers even voiced concerns about how the track was playing would affect their horses. They were all wrong, and no this is not subjective. Not only were they calling it a speed biased racetrack but they were also saying it was a rail biased racetrack. A good deal of this gibberish began after only the second dirt race was run. That’s an impressive assessment if you are right. Were they? You tell me.

    Sea Foam won the first race on the card. He stalked the pace, did not make the pace, and made an early inside move — a stalking trip in the opener.

    The next dirt race had the bias callers out in full force. The fact it was just the second dirt race on the card did not temper them. Majid went to the lead in relatively easy splits. He went Wire to Wire. He should have. He got away uncontested and set soft splits on a very fast but fair racetrack. One of the biggest lures to a false bias is not realizing why a horse trips out and wins. With the way things unfolded Majid was supposed to win.

    The next dirt race was won by Midnight Bisou who not only came from off the pace but was last at one point. Nonetheless, you had analysts, trainers, and people all over social media saying you had or be on the rail with speed to win. I knew this would lead to some big edge bets on the card.

    The next dirt race we saw Guarana blitz the field from slightly off the pace. It was a stalking trip. 4 races and just one Wire to Wire winner. They still screamed bias in force. On true bias days, you see 4 races and 4 Wire to Wire winners.

    The next one was a classic. Hog Creek Hustle roared down the middle of the track from off the pace. He beat my “edge play” Nitrous by a long nose and Nitrous was further back and wider than he was. The reported rail and speed bias is not what cost me that bet.

    Mitole took the next dirt race stalking and prompting the pace. Noteworthy McKinzie came from off the pace and had a lot of traffic trouble, or it may have been a different result but certainly would have been closer. That’s six dirt races and one Wire to Wire winner who got a lone lead and went slow on a fast track.

    Sir Winston won the Belmont from off the pace. Did he spend some time saving ground on the rail? Absolutely. Did it help him? Absolutely as saving ground usually does. When good horses save ground on the rail it helps a lot. Seven dirt races and one horse goes gate to wire.

    Recognizing a true bias from a false one can be lucrative. Being quick draw McGraw won’t help you be correct in that assessment.

    There was a rail and speed bias on Belmont Stakes day. True or false?

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


    June 7th, 2019

    Belmont Action

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    Between Friday and Saturday at Belmont, there will be an abundance of opportunities to go after a score. While this is great and what most of us wait for, it helps to have a solid plan of attack. All those opportunities and alluring races can prompt many to spread their bankrolls out to keep them in action, but if you are looking to take down a big score that might not be the best way to go. It’s not how I play it. These two days are when your money management skills get out to the test. If you don’t have them your bankroll can be put to rest.

    Whether your bankroll for the weekend is $100, $1000, or $10,000 it doesn’t matter. You have to apply it in the best way to capitalize on your strongest opinion. Of course, you have to be right.

    I play more aggressively than most. Using a $100 bankroll, I will take 80% of that and put that into my best spot for the weekend. I may spread the 80% across different types of wagers keying on the horse I like the best, but I won’t use any of that 80% on other horses or sequences. This puts me in position to maximize my investment on the horse I feel best about. If I am right, I will have a good majority of my bankroll on my horse, and that is how you set yourself up to score.

    Many people will spread thin and want action in every race and sequence. Can they catch a big number and score? Of course. That said, in the long run, if your handicapping is solid, you will get much farther into the black column attacking who you really like best. Does it really make sense just for the sake of action to spread around and use as much of your bankroll on a horse or sequence you like a little as opposed to one you feel strongly about? I say no all day to that.

    When finished handicapping I will look at the two or maybe three horses I like best. It is my nature to go after the longest prices one, and I will have to like a shorter priced one a lot more to pull me in that direction.

    Using 80% of my bankroll allows me to go after every type of bet I want keying my horse. If things work out, I can hit all the exotics. If not I can hit some. Nobody and I mean nobody bets too much on a winner. It’s a sinking feeling to be right on a key horse on a big weekend like this and not capitalize. 80% of your bankroll minimizes that risk.

    The other 20% is what I will use for fishing, stabs, and some lighter action. Does that at times save the day. Absolutely. It keeps one in a spot to catch that longer priced play or sequence but also leaves you strong for the major wager.

    On days like these, there is always a lot more recreational and uninformed money in the pools. This is a tremendous help to us. Beat a favorite or two which should always be a goal, and your value increases significantly than what it would on say a regular day or even weekend. Use that. It can’t hurt and can only help.

    We are all usually locked and loaded by now. I try and hold off final opinions as long as possible. Will the weather change? Will there be a real bias? Will someone get white hot or maybe ice cold? These intangibles can give you an edge over players who lock in early and surely over the recreational money. Take whatever edges you can get.

    Log into your AmWager accounts and attack! All the best and enjoy these great cards.


    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo


    May 31st, 2019

    A Winning Angle

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    Last week I saw an interesting conversation on social media between a few good handicappers. What I found interesting was that they seemed to do an awful lot of work and research to come up with an angle I have been following since the early 90’s and have made some really nice hits. At the end of the day, you get paid the same no matter how you arrived at the winner, but it seemed to me they were complicating something I learned long ago was relatively simple.

    It’s no secret horses mature. They are athletes. A two year old might be the equivalent of say an early teenager if we compare equine to human. An early teenage athlete will get stronger and faster as they arch upward towards their prime. A horse is no different.

    Regardless of which speed figures you use, Beyers, Brisnet, Ragozins, Timeform, whatever, a newly turned three year old will usually surpass their better two year old figure early on. Many times as a first time three year old. They are getting stronger and faster. It will show on race day.

    To the astute bettor this can mean opportunities.

    You will find times when a newly turned three year old has what appear to be slower numbers than the bulk of the field. Many may dismiss the horse based on those slower figures. One must remain aware that those numbers were run at two, not three. If you are comparing them to numbers run at three, which often happens right through this time of year and even beyond, it can be very misleading and create value and opportunities for sharp players.

    If you know a horse is going to surpass their two year old figure, and you can see that progression will put them at the head of the class, you’re betting on what’s not all that obvious to many players. That gives you an edge.

    Of course, trainers, lay-off ability, and other handicapping principals come into play, but the premise is a strong one.

    I have keyed several nice price winners using this theory over the years. Often after a race, I was asked what did you like about that horse? Many others seemed faster. You already know the answer.

    Finding angles or anything that gives you an edge is an advantage you need to beat the other players. There are several, this is only one. There are more, and we intend to keep bringing them to you.

    Hopefully now when you peruse your past performances, you won’t be so fast to dismiss younger horses with numbers that at first glance might look like they don’t measure up. There is a curve. Things may not be as they appear. Betting on things that can or may happen is far more rewarding and lucrative than betting on what has already happened to happen again.

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    May 24th, 2019


    By: Jonathan Stettin

    I have talked about many aspects of your game and the tools needed in your arsenal to be successful betting on the Sport of Kings. Today seems like s good day to discuss one thing you need that often gets overlooked. Focus.

    Even if you know what to do and how to approach beating this very hard skill game, if you lose focus, you will almost certainly fail.

    So many players today get caught up in social media while they are gambling. People go to the races and behave like it is a social event. That’s fine if this is recreational to you. However, if you are playing to win and think you can spend hours on social media, or like you are at a catered affair, then I wanna bet that in the long run you are losing, donating, depositing or whatever you’d like to call it. Focus.

    Today, more than ever, there are so many things going on in the sport that can distract you. Most, you can’t change. Regardless there is a time to chat, and a time to have your game face on. I can be very active on social media. Once it gets close to post time, and through the last race, I’m pretty scarce.

    When I used to go to the track every day, many people thought I was unfriendly and unapproachable. I would sit at my table with my Dad and Brother, or a few select friends. If they were not with me, I’d sit alone. I preferred it that way and had my best days that way. I still do. I didn’t want to be asked who I liked, who I was alive with, what I was betting or anything. It took away from my focus.

    I guess maybe 5 to 10% of players beat the game without rebates. That is very low for a skill game, but it should get anyone who wants to very motivated and make them see there is a way.

    Sound handicapping, good ticket structure, smart money management, patience, discipline, and focus. These are all things you can learn, improve, or control. If you are not putting in the effort, and are treating the game nonchalantly, the game will devour you.

    Despite all the distractions we have the Belmont Stakes and the supporting card coming up. The Metropolitan Mile is looking like the race of the year to date. The Haskell just may pit Maximum Security against War of Will. They might meet again in the Travers with Code of Honor and Tacitus joining the party. Monomoy Girl should be coming back soon as should Omaha Beach. There are going to be a lot of good races and cards, and that means opportunities. Focus. Don’t let the distractions derail you.

    The large majority of people will not have the fortitude or discipline to stay at this game the way it needs to be played to beat it. That helps motivate me, and it should you if you want to be in that 5-10%. Remember you are playing people not playing for keeps. Play for keeps and let that be your edge. Focus.

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    May 16th, 2019

    Nobody Knows

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    It is easy to use Maximum Security as an example, and I am going to take the low hanging fruit. First off, when people refer to Maximum Security as a claimer that is just not correct. He ran for a tag once, only once and it was in his debut. That does not make him a claimer. A claimer runs for tags often, or surely more than just once.

    When Maximum Security ran and won first out, nobody knew what he was, or could be. Nobody. Had anyone had an inkling, he would have been claimed. I have heard but not confirmed that trainer Saffie Joseph had a claim form filled out for him but didn’t like what he saw in the paddock or just changed his mind. If true Maximum Security will forever by the one that got away.

    Whatever your opinion of Jason Servis is, he is an excellent horseman. He gives his horses time and runs them where they belong. He wins first out and off layoffs, both signs someone can train. You can rest assured Jason did not know Maximum Security’s potential when he debuted for 16K. How can that be?

    We have all heard the term “morning glory.” Some horses work fast, exceptionally so at times but can’t reproduce that effort in the afternoon under race conditions and pressure. Some are the opposite. They don’t work well or particularly fast, but show up to race. Horses fool everyone. Gamblers, Breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, Bloodstock Agents, Jockey Agents, you name it, if you are in this game at any level you have been fooled. Horses humble all of us. Some more than others but if you play in the Sport of Kings you have been humbled or you will be humbled.

    You see it in the past performances every day. Horses with high price tags dropping and running for sale in maiden claimers. Some of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world go to the sales. They spend millions. They write checks with plenty of zeroes often after a complicated vetting process. They check heart and lung capacity, blood flow, you name it. Bloodlines, speed figures, whatever can be quantified will be quantified. All that and they still couldn’t beat Mine That Bird or Dumb Ass partners and California Chrome when it counted. You gotta love a level playing field.

    One of the beauties of the sport is how our calculations and insight is right just often enough to keep us assured it is indeed science and talent. There are maybe 10-12 times a year I feel I absolutely know who will win a race. In my mind I am just so sure, barring some unforeseen fluke, this horse will win. 95% of those do win. If I only bet those, it’s a win-win, but that would get boring. Funny it is the few that you don’t remember a la A Raving Beauty at Saratoga.

    The game gives hope to those who spend less than the mega outfits and buyers when on any given race day you can open the form and like a 50K auction maiden purchase more than one that cost half a million or more. And when you realize that even when we know, we really don’t, you know they don’t either. That levels the field and we can beat em all.

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    May 10th, 2019

    Pace Makes the Race: Past Tense

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    We have all heard the saying:

    “Pace Makes the Race.”

    For years pace has proven to be a deciding factor in the outcome of horse races. Fast contested paces lead to closers having an advantage and often winning. Slow walk the dog and uncontested paces often lead to wire to wire, or front end wins. Handicapping books have been written in this though I personally have never read one. Most Past Performances now include a pace projector. The pace is thought of be that important, and I myself have been a long believer in this. My school of thought is changing. Not entirely but somewhat.

    I don’t use any type of pace projectors. I calculate that myself. If I can’t figure out the projected pace more accurate than a computer program that can’t factor nuances and intangibles, I need to find something else to do. I certainly would not want to wager on a race I could not accurately, actually very accurately, project the pace and who would be setting it, contesting it, stalking it, and trying to close into it.

    In the recently run Kentucky Oaks, there were about 5-6 pace horses. I felt Serengeti Empress would indeed get the early lead, but that she would be challenged often and hard. She wasn’t, and Jose Ortiz was able to keep her in front the whole way. He seized the race, and the other riders let him do it. No pace projector can anticipate one speed horse going while all the others take back. We can, knowing certain rider tendencies, but it was hard to fathom in advance that in the Oaks everyone but Jose would sit back.

    In looking back at the Oaks, lack of a hot or contested pace may have made the race. However, seeing that play out that way in advance, and landing on Serengeti Empress because of it, probably has close to lottery winning likelihood.

    The Derby was a little different. I was at a loss in understanding how any handicapper could not clearly see Maximum Security would be on the lead. I’d have gone all in on that bet. More perplexing were the people who were saying their “pace projectors” were telling them Maximum Security would not be on the lead, and or his splits were not fast enough. Frankly, I was more interested in if anyone could keep him company early. I did not like him to win but was sure he’d set the pace. He went 46 and change and won the Derby on the front. Justify went 45 and change and won it also. Bodemeister went that fast and almost won it. I started thinking and looking at a lot of charts. A lot.

    I did not compile statistics. I did make an observation though. Speed seems to hold better now than say some years back. Horses tend to keep going, and we see many re-break in the stretch. We saw them come to Maximum Security and also saw him pull back away.

    I have said for a long time the good handicappers evolve continually and change with the game. The game is changing. Pace is not as guaranteed an influence on the outcomes as it used to be. How many of these full of speed turf sprints do we see where one horse goes out and just doesn’t quit or stop?

    We train for speed. We emphasize it at the sales and in many of our stallions. Is this contributory if you agree with my observations? I think yes, at least in part.

    We have the large majority of our horses on Lasix. Is this part of the equation? I’d bet yes. If it helps them keep going just a bit, it’s a factor.

    We play today in an environment that is laden with cheating allegations, innuendos, positive tests, super trainers, high percentages, and more and more drugs, both therapeutic and otherwise available. Do you really think any pace projector can piece together that puzzle based on some splits? All of the above comes into play.

    As a betting man if you ask me regardless of pace will the speed hold much of the time! You bet.


    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    April 25th, 2019

    Troubled Trips & Value

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    Most of us watch a lot of races over the course of a week.

    The normal tendency when watching races or even replays is to watch either the horse you bet on or the leader. We also tend to watch a horse making a move or one the track announcer brings to our attention. When looking for troubled trips, you have to train yourself to watch all the horses in the race and see things that might not be the focal point of most other spectators. Sure the running lines will identify some troubled trips for you, but those are the ones everyone will know about. To gain an advantage or edge it helps to see some that are

    “for your eyes only.”

    There are many different types of troubled trips. Some result from bad racing luck, post position, poor rider decisions, pace, and all sorts of other intangibles. Sometimes something can happen right in front of a horse that causes them to check and lose either ground, momentum or both. The troubled trips identified in past performances usually result in underlays so it is important to understand not all troubled trips are automatically a playback and actually some may offer better value betting against.

    In my opinion, a troubled trip is one that prevented a horse from running better than they would have sans the trouble. It may be they checked, were blocked, were hemmed in by a rider or horse, went wide or were carried wide, lost ground or momentum, or were on the worst part of the track. Sometimes they can be prevented and sometimes they can’t. A horse can also have trouble, and it may not have been enough to have an impact on how they ran. Experience will show you the difference over time. There is no shortcut.

    When a horse returns from a troubled trip, you have to handicap the race they are running back in using the troubled trip to help you gauge how the horse would have run without the trouble. Then you need to look at the new race as if the horse ran as you envision they would have. You have to look at the conditions and class as well as the pace in the new race. Just because we upgrade a horse because of trouble in their last start, doesn’t mean we like that horse in this field and under these circumstances today. Once again, there are no shortcuts.

    Along those very same lines there will be times you see a horse get blocked, steadied or trapped and know they would have won that day and should win the race they are in today. Personally, I love when that happens, especially if it is a horse I spotted whose trouble does not appear in the past performances. I try and share this type of information and how to spot it for yourself through my Tracking Trips service. You can learn more about that here or on the link above.

    When handicapping a race and you see a horse coming off a troubled trip, or even one that ran with or against a true bias, I would suggest handicapping the race as if you didn’t know that first. Once done, I would then factor in what you know and upgrade or downgrade the horse accordingly.

    “Betting a horse off a troubled trip can be one of the best bets at the track, knowing which ones to bet and which ones to pass is key.”

    In the end, it comes down to doing your homework and learning how to use the troubled trip as a tool to help you bet or bet against. If a horse off a troubled trip that should win today takes more money than normal because of the trouble, a lot of people will bet against claiming there is no value in that horse. I don’t believe that. I never have. I believe there is no value betting a loser or horse you don’t like to win because of the price. The Sport of Kings offers many wagering opportunities that allow us to create value in most circumstances.

    Value can mean different things to different people. Value is not simply high or long odds. Most people believe 10-1 is great value. You win $100 from just a $10 bet. If the horse has almost no shot and only really stands about a one in 20 chance or even higher of winning the race then there’s no value in betting on it. I see this mistake often, and even when lost referred to as a good value albeit a losing wager.

    Along those same lines, most will say even money is never a good value. A lot of or at least some of those people bet on sports where even money, actually a little less, is considered fair. Interesting thought process and I get there are only two teams against multiple horses. To understand value you have to look at it like this. If the horse at even money is likely to win this race 99 out of a 100 times they run it; then even money is pretty fair value isn’t it?

    “Value is not all price, it’s price against the horse's probability to win that given race.”

    To me the following scenarios are good value;

    If a horse goes off longer than expected or they should based on their ability and probability to win. (an overlay)

    If a horse offers a good or better than fair return on investment.

    If a horse is getting overlooked because of another hot horse, or some streak or statistic that means little on this day in this race.

    Sure there are other situations, but you should get the picture.

    Betting good value is as important as anything at the races. It’s up there with money management, ticket structure, and good old handicapping. It is essential for not only beating this very tough skill game but also for survival in it without a limitless well.

    We will be talking about all this and more relative to the Kentucky Derby and Derby Day’s late pick 4 on our annual Derby Webinar brought to you by AmWager. To join and “be with us” check out the link here….

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog
  • Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    April 16th, 2019

    Derby Day Value: The Kill Shot

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    Now that the Derby points races are complete and we know the likely runners, I start thinking about all the betting opportunities there will be the first Saturday in May.

    There is always value to be had on Kentucky Derby Day. Always. Regardless of who wins, and at what price, if you go after the right spots there will be value.

    This year it looks like we will have a favorite at maybe 3-1 or 7-2. I would think final odds will fall somewhere around there, but if it were as high as 5-1 I would not be surprised. This year value should be especially easy to find. You just have to be right because there is never any value in a losing wager.

    Far too many people will tie up the bulk of their bankroll in pick 4’s and pick 5’s. Those bets are fun and offer great value if you beat a few shorter price horses, but they can also disappoint if you get some logical results with so many people in the 50 cent pools.

    I love to go after some other bets on Kentucky Derby Day or any big day really. Exactas, doubles, superfectas, and triples can offer some serious value with their big pools, and so many people focusing on multi-race bets.

    If I have a single in any multi-race wager on Derby Day, and I will, one thing I surely will do is bet the horse alone, and also in doubles, exactas, triples, and superfectas. This allows for two possibilities. One is the kill shot I always go for. If my single wins and I hit everything built around it bang, Kill Shot, that’s why I play. The other scenario is if I lose the multi-race bet, or one of the others, I can still win if my single wins. It all comes back to being right. The First Saturday in May is a good time to get it right.

    I’ll use numbers to demonstrate how I structure one of my big day kill shots. Of course the longer the price, the more I like it. Price won’t deter me one way or the other. If my horse is long odds, obviously value is built in. If not, and the horse is short, I’ll create the value, and if it wins, that will sort itself out. Long or short odds, I just want to be right.

    So let’s say the sequence is races 8,9,10, and 11. My single is in the 9th race, and we will use number 1. My pick 4 would look something like this:

    8- 2,5,7

    9- 1

    10- 3,4,5

    11- 2,6

    Remember I am just using numbers to illustrate how I structure a Kill Shot bet. For 50 cents this bet would cost $9. For $10 it would cost $180. Both fair amounts depending on your budget.

    Now the multi-race wager is out of the way. From there I play doubles.

    Race 8, 2,5,7 with 1. If I like either the 2,5, or 7 more than the others, I go back at the double cold.

    Race 8 double, 5-1. That takes care of that.

    In race 9 I will bet the 1 to win, but only if I am out of the pick 4, which means I am also out of the double. If I am alive, I will bet exactas, triples, superfectas and more doubles. In the out scenario, I will make these bets but also the win bet.

    Race 9 will look like this:

    1 to win.

    1 over 2,4,6 in the exactas. I don’t reverse, and I don’t box. My money goes on me being right, that means the 1 must win for me to score.

    1 with 2,4,6, with 2,4,6,9,10 is one triple.

    1 with 2,4,6, with all is the second triple. If I hit the exacta, I will hit the triple; it is just a question of how many times.

    I am not done.

    Race 9 superfectas.

    1 with 2,4,6, with 2,4,6,9,10 with all.

    1 with 2,4,6, with all, with all. Again if I hit the exacta, I am going to also hit the super, it’s just how many times.

    I did say Kill Shot, so no I am not done. I have more doubles.

    Race 9 double, 1 with 3,4,5. Again if I lean to one of those more than the others, I go back at that one. 1-5 double cold.

    This style is not for everyone. It works for me and took me several years to lock into it. The rewards have been indescribable. Especially those days where things are breaking right, and you can feel in your bones you are taking down everything. The best thing a teller ever said to me was on one of those days.

    “Would you like me to see if I can find a bag?”

    Actually, he or I should say I didn’t need one. The track, Calder, which was owned by Churchill Downs at the time didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay me. The mutual manager asked if I could come back a few days later. I happily agreed. They paid me in bricks. That’s what a Kill Shot can do, and once you do it, you want to do it again.

    This game and this style are not for the faint of heart, however. You have to be able to shake it off. Big time. Some years back I bet a horse named Giacomo in the Derby this way. I blew every exotic - every single one. It was a numbing experience. It was a very long walk to the car. That year I was still perfecting my style. I did not bet win as I was too greedy. I thought I should be making a score. Had Afleet Alex beaten Closing Argument for second I would have. He didn’t, and he was about ten lengths better than Closing Argument on his off days. Like I said you gotta be right and this is not for the faint of heart.

    It’s Derby time; I’ll focus on the wins for now.

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog

    Past the Wire     Tracking Tips Logo

    April 12th, 2019

    A Win is A Win

    By: Jonathan Stettin

    In these times of most wagering being done off track through ADW’s and simulcasting, we miss a lot of the true day to day racetrack experiences. As someone who went to the track literally every racing day for decades, I can say confidently it was a world within itself with a full cast of Damon Runyon characters, and all the stories and tales that go with them.

    Those experiences are hard to explain or share with the new generation of players, even those who frequent the tracks on weekends. Sure, you still have a die-hard few every day regulars, but through attrition and poor management, they are fading away fast and not being replaced.

    Playing the races is one of the few experiences where winning can feel like losing. Have you ever singled a horse in a multi-race wager and have it win at a price but you were already knocked out of the sequence? If you bet that horse to win, as I likely would in that scenario, and get your money back with a small profit, it feels like a loss.

    If you have ever been alive with two horses to close a pick 6, one paying 50k, the other paying 250k and the smaller one noses out the longer one, you’ll win but feel like you lost.

    The Sport of Kings affords many of these scenarios. Fortunately, there is indeed a fair share that tip in our favor as well. At the end of the day however, a win is a win. Be grateful for them.

    A term I grew up hearing among hardcore race trackers that I rarely hear today is “bail out.” The once frequently used term that I still personally use, as old habits do die hard, describes being down or losing a considerable amount of money on the races, then winning it back on the last race or sequence. It’s a wonderful feeling, to get your own money back as we used to say. Even if you come up a little short, say winning back $4,700 of a $5,000 deficit, it feels like a win.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have been a very disciplined player for a long time. Unless you're well is bottomless that is a requirement for long term survival and profitability. That said however I have at times done what was necessary to “bail out” as have many of us hardcore players. Some of these stories are true racetrack classics.

    When I used to go to the races every day, most with my Dad, I would bet a lot more than he would and a lot more aggressively. On one of those days at the now gone and all but forgotten Calder, I was losing several thousand dollars on the day. I really did not like anything in the last race being simulcasted from Belmont, and I was pondering whether to hit the ATM to try and bail out. While pondering my Dad must have read my face and asked how much I was down.

    "You don’t wanna know," I replied. He knew what that meant, and I followed with, "I'll be right back."

    "Where are you going," he asked.

    I said, "The ATM."

    "How much money do you have?"

    "$7," I answered, "not enough to try and bail out."

    "Give it to me," he said, and I did.

    My Dad, who I always called Giuseppe, looked deep into his racing form. He motioned the roving teller Christine over and bet seven $1 superfectas. I did not think there was much hope, and I was sure I should have hit the ATM and handled this myself.

    The race went off, and I watched on the small TV on our regular table with a defeated feeling. To my surprise, Giuseppe nailed the super. I don’t remember the horse, though I wish I did, but Jorge Chavez rode him. The superfecta netted Giuseppe almost 8k for the $1 bet. He collected with Christine, gave her $100, took $200, and put the rest on the table and said “never forget the time I bailed you out with $7.”

    I never forgot.

    Published in Jon Stettin's Blog