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Track Tracts

Upside vs. Downside Risk - Part 5:
The Answers

by Joe Takach

6---DOWNSIDE---Whenever I bet a horse to repeat, I have a very demanding checklist that must be answered in the positive. One thing that I insist upon is that the last out winner ran with the bias---not against it! While running against the bias and winning at the same time shows an extra lick of class, it does nothing for a horse�s stored or reserve energy. Horses don�t necessarily �empty their tanks� every time that they race, but some do.

Consider these extremes of the energy spectrum.

We�ve all seen races where a horse jumps to the front, wires his field with ease in a hand ride while never so much as seeing his rider�s whip and returns to the winner�s circle looking like he never ran at all. He isn�t blowing hard with his sides rapidly heaving. He doesn�t have that totally �exhausted� look on his face as if his groom could let go of his reins and he wouldn�t move. The �easy winner� is still quite full of himself in the post race and looks ready to do it again as he dances out of the winner�s circle in route to the testing barn---he�s still a �handful� and very obviously not out of gas!

I can�t remember the last time I saw a horse win against the bias and look �fresh� and ready to do it again in the post race as does the �easy winner�. The �against the bias winner� nearly always returns to the winner�s circle with head low and bobbing and his sides heaving like the pistons in your car. His tank is clearly on �empty� and any reserve energy that he had before the start of his race was used up on the track fighting the bias for the win. Keep in mind that it is extremely hard to beat a running bias and I�m certainly not knocking the horse---he�s special! But beating a bias usually throws a horse �off� for not only his next start, but possibly 2 or 3 more races. He needs time to rebuild his strength and energy.

7---DOWNSIDE---Much like the above scenario, it is a very tall order to win from the 12 hole. It matters not what the surface or distance. It takes a special animal to break from the outside fence and get the job done. Why? If he�s to get positive running position necessary to win, he must use up a lot of energy at the start of the race. Keep in mind that 11 other horses are also trying to get position. Even if he is the superior horse on �paper�, he�ll have to fight early on for that positive running position and again, that uses up part of what is in his tank. This is why you see so many outside horses fading like cheap wallpaper in the final furlong of any race---they are simply out of gas. I�ll certainly agree with anyone who says that it is easier to win from the outside going short rather than long around 2 turns, but betting the far outside in any race for any reason at any distance is nothing but �downside risk� in my book. I don�t have to �push� a bet when I don�t feel I have it going all my way. There�s another race in 30 minutes!

8---DOWNSIDE---Once a talented journeyman gets into a bad slump no matter what the cause, it is anyone�s guess when he�ll snap out of it. It matters not how talented the horse under him might be in any given race. When good jockeys go bad, they become just ordinary riders who do little more than steer their mounts---they �ride� very few of them. And face facts, isn�t that what separates a great jockey from a mediocre one.

Every good jockey and even the great riders of our game sooner or later fall into this slump category. I�m not talking about a single �bad hair day� or one where their �hamster was off his wheel for 24 hours. I�m talking about a long slump. I can remember Pincay going ice cold years back for 3 weeks while atop plenty of �live� mounts. After 4 days of watching his non-riding and 2 sizeable losing tickets, I caught on as to the why even though it wasn�t public knowledge for another 2 weeks when announced in a local newspaper that he had fallen in the morning while exercising one of his future mounts for an upcoming Stakes race.

Why did I stop betting him after only 4 days and 2 sizeable losing tickets?

Simply because it was very un-Pincay-like to have lost on both of those mounts, especially in light of the fact that the horses looked fine, warmed up fine, and encountered no negative racing luck. I began closely watching his every move during the 5th day of his slump and thought I saw a slight limp. He only rode twice that day. But sure enough on the 6th day, all doubt had left my mind. The mighty Pincay was slightly limping and riding �hurt� as if nothing had happened. Most jockeys would have taken the balance of the meet off due to the pain. But that�s what made Pincay the greatest rider that ever lived and perhaps the greatest rider that will ever live. He took pain in stride as part of his job, much like a football player in the NFL. Unless Laffit was strapped into a hospital bed, he was riding----pain or not! You don�t win over 9,500 race in the major leagues as a �candy ass�. You win 9500 races being tougher than the game itself, as was Pincay!

9---DOWNSIDE ---I don�t know about you, but after wagering on horses close to 50 years, there isn�t a single iota of doubt in my mind that my first impression of a horse is the right one for me. Every time that I re-examine a race that I didn�t like the first time, I rip up tickets and rip them up repeatedly. I�m not any better the second time around. If I can�t get a feel for the race right away, why push a bet? Any fool can stand there and talk himself into a horse in an unplayable race! I know, I used to be one of those fools!

10--DOWNSIDE---Nobody enjoys losing---at least nobody in their right mind. I hate to lose and that�s surely the reason why I work so hard at winning. I have no problem ripping up a ticket if I simply made a mistake and bet the wrong horse. However, in Southern California whenever I�m taken down by the �3 blind mice� who have the unmitigated gall to actually call themselves State Stewards responsible for fairness to all, I simply shut down mentally and stop betting for that day. I continue taking my copious paddock notes etc. until day�s end, but the Banko de Takach closes.

And I don�t care if I was about to make the biggest wager of my career later on that day. And I furthermore don�t care if that anticipated biggest wager of my life wins by 10 lengths and offers a boxcar mutuel later on in the afternoon. Whenever I get taken down, legitimate or not, I lose my balance and can�t think clearly. I need time to calm down. For me personally, that�s at least overnight.

Maybe a �take down� doesn�t effect your thinking, or effect your handicapping methodology, or negate your betting that 9th race. Yeah, and maybe in your world pigs fly and elephants don�t crap. But if you are like most handicappers to include yours truly, the main ingredient in your being is rage!

Whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, you are momentarily not the same �player� after a take down that you were before you were taken down. Stop betting until your blood pressure comes down and your thinking is once again clear and unencumbered.


Copyright �2004 by Joe Takach.  All rights reserved.
Joe can be contacted through his website at

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