In the wake of the recent indictments that rocked the world of thoroughbred racing, a logical question is, what now? To complicate matters further, the world is dealing with a virus that is changing the way things are done. Races will be run without spectators at most venues, at least for now, while oddly casinos at these same facilities remain open. The Kentucky Derby going off on the first Saturday in May is far from certain, as is whether or not there will be fans in the stands. Sadly, running races for empty grandstands is not as odd as it would have been maybe in the ’80s or ’70s.
What now? With all the uncertainty, that becomes a difficult question to answer. Plans for meets like Keeneland, who has already announced the start of the meet will not include fans, and Saratoga, and even the Breeders’ Cup towards the end of the year at the least have to be re-thought.
More pressing, however, is how we handle our approaches to betting. We now know our worst suspected fears were true. Performance-enhancing drugs have permeated our sport, and this includes our biggest showcase days and races.
If you think those already accused and charged are the only ones who were cheating, I suggest you are being quite naïve. The odds of that are astronomical. It is quite possible we see more accusations, indictments, and charges. Even if we don’t, it would be foolhardy to conclude nobody else has been doing it. I am also of the opinion there are others in a position to cheat in racing, and also other ways. Are we as comfortable batteries or buzzers, or whatever you want to call them, are not being used as we were a few weeks ago? I’m not. If top trainers cheat, is not a logical question are any riders cheating? I say it is a reasonable question, indeed.
Why should we as bettors trust anything racetracks put in front of us when the Federal Government had to step in and do what they have repeatedly proved they were both unwilling and incapable of doing?
So, we are left with our what now dilemma. We love the game, or we would not be here. Most of us long for a fair shot on an even and level playing field. Maybe the recent events will lead to that, and maybe not. Either way, we’re here now.
My what now is pretty simple. I am going to try and use the recent events and what impact they have on the racing to gain an edge wagering. Exactly how I do not know yet, but I do have a game plan.
For the most part, I will be playing really small, and I mean really small over the next few weeks. I know people want to jump in hard thinking things might be shall we say cleaner now, but not me. As small as I will be playing, I will be watching, taking notes, and studying film more than ever. I have to spot the tells and nuances that surface before anyone else, and also the ones everybody misses. They will be there, but nobody knows what they will be yet.
I am very curious how the horses from the high percentage barns run. If these outfits were taking an edge, will they stop? Were they not taking an edge? Will we see drastic form reversals? The races and results will tell us all this and more. Due diligence time for me, the rewards will follow. This very weekend we will see some high-profile horses from high profile barns. What will they show us?
I have always said this game is a marathon and not a sprint. I feel that way more than ever now. I may miss a by chance score with my patient approach but make no mistake I will be like a cobra waiting to strike when I know I have spotted something. You can follow along with my thoughts and observations at TRACKING TRIPS.
A leopard does not change its spots. Those who cheat will continue to do so. They may pause, cut back, but the old ways will return if we do not as an industry cut them out. Until then, and it may never happen; it is something that we as handicappers have to factor in.
If things are as widespread as I suspect they are, and they quiet down for a while, which would seem logical, this too will be reflected in the results. Will we see slower times? Slower figures? Less re-breaking? Less late odd fluctuations during the race or at the break? There will be so much to watch and a lot of variables. It should make that next big score so rewarding. Oh yeah, and fun too.