|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, January 07, 2006
The only thing in horse racing that compares to the feeling of mental superiority you have after watching a race shake out exactly as you thought is the unabashed glee you feel when some goofball bet you made crosses the wire in the oddest way possible.
And so it went today with Major Parker in the fifth.
CompuTrak is a piece of software I picked up when I was working for OJ based on a reader's inquiry. It purports to measure the horse's chances based on an engineering analysis of their "friction." Horses with low friction should theoretically move with greater ease around the track. I'm sure it's more complex than that, but friction sounds more palatable to me than some weird-ass astrologically-based analysis of the race.
Then again, with the small number of fairly decent longshots I've hit with this thing since July, I don't care how it's delivering picks. I use the software to take longshot fliers. Period. I think my own handicapping is strong enough to find the low and mid-priced horses capable of contending, but I do love taking a chance on a horse with odds in the obscene double digits too. Just give me a reason.
Anyway, not only did CompuTrak identify Major Parker as a "CompuTrak Pick," deeming him the race's best bet, but he also was tabbed with a software-defined oddsline under 3-1. For a horse at 20-1 on the Morning Line, that's high praise indeed.
So I put a $4 win and $4 place bet on the horse. Normally, I try to keep my betting to the win pool, but on a longshot you don't want to see him cross second with no cash on that possibility. As post time approached, the odds kept floating up and up. 20-1 became 40-1, and when the dust settled, it was 75-1. Needless to say, a horse crossing the line first at 75-1 is as rare as those numbers would indicate. But oddly, I had a feeling this race would be won by a longshot, so I covered every 15-1 plus shot on the board with a $2 win bet, keeping the "big money" on Major Parker alone.
They lined up the horses in the gate for the 1 1/16 mile route on the grass with Major Parker loading in the nine gate, just to the inside of the race favorite.
The gate flew open and Major Parker shot out almost dead right. Not "right" as in "correct," but "right" as in "careening off the side of the race favorite in the ten hole." He pushed the ten another three or four wide, and then seemed to get his hooves underneath him. And he started to go. Fast. Real fast. Major Parker's awkward start cost him a couple of strides on the field, and yet he seemed intent on making it all up before the first turn. He flew past the pack three or four wide, and caught the lead about a sixteenth before the turn.
He was flying. :23 and change for the first quarter, which I hated in this class and at this distance. What is he doing? He's going too fast. Not only that, but turf routes are usually won by the patient. I've seen it too many times where a seemingly blistering pacesetter looks nearly invicible rounding the final turn, only to go from first to worst as the field gains and passes in the stretch.
But Major Parker was out there, up front, and thankfully was getting some pressure from Freddie Mata on Quite The Guy. Freddie brought his horse up to the outside of Major Parker (ridden by some dude named Castillo), and I hoped Major Parker's competitive streak would kick in - not that his past performances indicated he had any sort of competitive streak at all. Still, I was ready based on those early fractions to write that $8 off into the ether. He was going too fast, the rest of the pack was only a couple lengths behind, and there was no way this lead was sustainable, even with competition finally challenging to the outside.
Major Parker dueled with Quite The Guy from the half pole, four and a half furlongs from the wire. The two put three lengths, then four between the lead and the pack, which gave me hope.
Around the final turn, and somehow the pack just wasn't gaining on the leaders. Quite The Guy finally got his head out front with about a furlong and a half to go, and I was resigned to taking what would be a pretty nice payout in the place pool. But then somehow Major Parker found a burst. He lurched out front, and got about half his body out in front of Quite The Guy before feinting just a bit to the outside. Quite The Guy got a little spooked and bounced a step or two out, which probably cost him whatever forward momentum he may have had left. Major Parker popped out a length and then another half, continuing his diagonal motion to the outside. Quite The Guy had nothing left, the pack was far enough behind to not threaten, and Major Parker went from tight on the rail at the top of the stretch to a barely-controlled five wide at the wire, crossing first.
Of course, they made me sweat it out. The little deke Major Parker made that made Quite The Guy hop outside caused a Steward's Inquiry, which are the two scariest words possible when holding a potentially winning ticket. Thankfully, the inquiry passed quickly and they didn't take my horse down to the place, and I was $414 richer. I don't know if I've ever made more on a single race, but I know I've never made more off a single horse. And what should have been the icing on the cake? I ignored the software's next pick, which was a just warmer than lukewarm endorsement of a 28-1 horse I hated - who ended up crossing in first and paying almost $60. Great day could have been spectacular, but I'll live.
5th race - Tampa Bay Downs - January 07, 2006
Number / Horse / Win / Place / Show
9 Major Parker 152.40 55.00 20.00
3 Quite the Guy 6.60 4.60
2 Mr. Yippy Kippy 12.80
Thanks to CompuTrak, I had $4 to win and $4 to place on Major Parker. Not a goddamn thing on the program said he had a chance, but I'll take 75-1 odds fliers all day long if CompuTrak says I should. Outlay = $8, Win = $414.80. My biggest single win in I don't know how long.
God bless America.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Thursday's Racing Results
· Race 1 - #4 Bronx Cheer didn't menace. I put together a wacky trifecta with Bronx Cheer locked into second place too, and found three of the four horses I had in that trifecta hitting the board for a $407 payout on the $1 tri. Net loss of $14 ($5 to win on #4, $9 trifecta miss)
· Race 2 - Liked #2 Preceptor a great deal here, and said I'd play anywhere north of 5/2. Got him at 7/2 for a $5 win ticket. Didn't play #8 Bluff for the win, as I thought he was an underlay at 2/1. Bluff won, paying $6.60 on the win. You can't second guess yourself if you think it's a bad bet (I did) even if it wins. Net loss of $5 (win on Preceptor).
· Race 3 - I put a single $2 win bet on a longshot in this Maiden race. Lost $2.
· Race 5 - I had $4 to win on #2 Imagebylamplight, who I liked a little bit at his closing price of 9/1. Missed. Also had $5 to win on #1 Kisses For Kara, who I said I'd play at 7/2 or better. I played her at 2/1 and regret it. Then I put together two $12 trifecta tickets, ignoring #8 Kickn Chickn on top and I didn't buy a win ticket on him either. And he did go off better than 9/2 (5/1). Net loss of $33 on this race, and I'm kicking my own chicken in regret.
· Race 6 - I liked a lot of horses in this race, but only played #1 Sacred Feather on a win ticket (off odds of 3/2). Bad play by me, and it missed. I ended up building a $4 trifecta ticket that hit for $37.60, and took the two horses I liked on the front leg of two $2 Daily Double ticket singled with the favorite in the next. Had to sweat that out. Net gain of $28.60.
· Race 7 - My Daily Double pick was #6 Montecastillo, who ran exactly the race I figured he would. Lurked midpack, then blew everyone away in the stretch. I cashed the Daily Double winner for $35.60. I also had a $5 win ticket at even money for Montecastillo, which paid out $10.50. I missed on $6 worth of win tickets on a horse named On The Fan, who I liked enough at his off odds of 14/1 to take a look. No worries. Net gain of $31.10.
· Race 8 - The horses I really liked here, #1 Great Plains and #7 Davids Expectation, both went off at odds that were patently unattractive. Didn't want to play them, but for some reason I felt like putting together a skinny superfecta for $8 (which I hit three parts of), and an $8 trifecta (which I hit one leg of). I look back at this shit and get embarrassed. Net loss $16.
· Race 9 - No wagers made. I liked #1 County Trial and #2 Andiamo, but not at the prices being offered. #7 Chispazo was a horse that intrigued me too, but 4/1 was way too skinny to let me take a look. Andiamo won by a nose over a horse I thought was overrated and inconsistent, so I'm not heartbroken about missing a bet here.
Net loss for the card was $11.30. I pushed $89 through the windows, and since takeout is roughly 20% (the track's cut before the pools are divvied up amongst the winners), my acceptable loss/break-even number was $17.80, which means I did fairly well today. Had I not been a retard with the wacky exotic bets (not including the $4 trifecta I hit, which was a good bet for that race) and had I not ignored Kickn Chickn, it would have been a much better day. I love that I didn't play win tickets in races eight and nine, as the value just wasn't there, but I can't give myself kudos for discipline when I'm playing $8 superfectas now, can I? Regardless, good day and one I'll try to improve upon for Saturday.
Tampa Bay Downs Picks for Today
· Race 1 - #4 Bronx Cheer stepped up off an October win, ran second to a much classier horse than any of these today last out and hung a solid speed rating. I'd play at 2/1 or better.
· Race 2 - With no real pressure to the pace, #2 Preceptor should get out to the front. Good signs with the step up in class and I like the bullet workout on 12/23. Probably ready for this spot. Play at 5/2 or better. #8 Bluff can close when asked, but should need a hotter pace which looks unlikely. I do like this horse at 5/1 or better (meaning higher), but I don't think that'll happen.
· Race 5 - #1 Kisses For Kara shows solid closing ability, and despite near-paceless look to this race should come in for a share. I like that the trainer is dialing down the distance for her a little bit, makes sense for this one. Play at 7/2 or better. I like #8 Kickn Chickn a bit here too, despite some oddly erratic choices by the trainer recently. I like Bernal onboard and the second off layoff angle for some improvement, and that this horse may go up and challenge for the lead early. Good play at 9/2 or better.
· Race 6 - Plenty to like here in a competitive AOC race. #1 Sacred Feather has raced at Churchill, which I like, and lost her last out to an unpressured pacesetter who ran away with the race - but hung a career-best 81 Beyer in the place at this track/class/distance. Solid workouts, steady improvement, and should love the pace scenario without a speedster up front. Tough to like a short price on this one with a lot of competition, but I'd play at 5/2 or better. #3 Ashley and I has the second off layoff angle (which I love) and could bounce a Beyer spike to the mid 70s, which would be competitive here. 5/1 or better? #4 A Different Tune gets hot jockey Lezcano onboard, the second off angle and hung a career-best Beyer last out. Great workouts in late Nov/early Dec and is really ready to strike here. Play this one at 7/2 or better for sure. #6 Buck Spender had a huge workout on 12/30, which should sharpen her speed for this sprint. Wouldn't surprise if she wakes up and grabs the lead and maybe even goes wire-to-wire. That being said, she laid a big egg last time coming off a good workout. 6/1 or better only. And #9 Cacchinated could be a longshot above 10/1 worth watching.
· Race 7 - #6 Montecastillo needs only a marginally average performance in this spot. Great play at or around 2/1. #7 On The Fan, should those odds float up towards 10/1, could be worth looking at. Steer clear of #8 Tactical De Naskra, totally overrated in this spot.
· Race 8 - #7 Davids Expectation needs only an average Beyer to win here, and I expect that will happen. Gets that second off layoff angle I dig, and has a history of running in stiffer competition than this. Like this one at 6/5 or better. #1 Great Plains has great recent Beyers, and I really dig that the trainer reclaimed this horse one race after another trainer claimed him, even paying a $4K premium to do so. This is a little bit of an ambitious class jump, but he could score. 9/2 or better.
· Race 9 - I'm really torn on #7 Chispazo. I love the unpressured pace he's likely to set, and he's on his second off which could mean a nice performance spike. Has a good history running this distance, and his best will be plenty. I think he might end up close to 5/1 on the board due to the scary-ass trainer/jockey connection, which might be the worst connection on today's card. I'd play him at 5/1. #2 Andiamo is interesting and due for a Beyer spike. He was running over his head in class, but this should now be the right spot and the right pace scenario for this horse. Great workouts lately, but he'll probably be overbet. Like him at 7/2 or better. #1 County Trial has always shown a Beyer spike in his second off layoff, which is where he is coming in today. He's a stalker and will enjoy not having to chase a rabbit out front too. He's only ran this distance on the turf before, which I don't like much, but seems capable of striking in this spot too. 3/1 on the Morning Line, I'd play at 9/2 or better.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
I Should Be Packing My Bags...
And that's the bad news. One more night here, apparently so they can feel assured that I'm not going to blow an O-ring the first time I try to push solid food through the "infected area." I don't get to go home, I don't get a Taco Bell quesadilla (marketing works on the ravenously hungry) and I don't get to
On the plus side? I just licked clean a plate containing a modestly sized take on the hot open-faced turkey sandwich. Welcome back appetite! With any luck, I'll have some actual honest-to-god energy to blow later on this evening, and I might then see you at the tables. Whee...
415PM UPDATE: I got discharged! Of course, that's different from all those times I called the nurse's station to notify them that "I had discharge" awaiting their analysis, this one means I get to go home. See y'all online later I think...
Monday, January 02, 2006
You will all be thrilled to know that while I do have a colonnic perforation, which will necessitate surgery later this year, my pus bags are in retreat and should I make it through today without battling a fever I will be released tomorrow. For now, I am enjoying my lunch of raspberry sherbert and ginger ale, and counting my lucky stars.
No, not just because I'm healthier than I was two days ago.
More because I headed down to the CT scan expecting the same song and dance as Saturday. They'd take a picture, they'd inject me with some tracer shit, they'd take another picture, I'd be done. What I didn't know is that there was an additional step being added to the dance card. One that involved a Double Gulp sized bag full of fluid and an applicator about the size of an average carrot. Yes kids, BG's first enema. And just to preserve the drama, as the tech had me roll over and present colors (if you will), my doctor walked in and wanted to see the pics. She saw what she needed and I was spared an assful of god knows what.
And maybe somewhere in the bottom of this sherbert I'll find my appetite.
Observed While Under Observation
· Apparently, along with my supposed near-supernatural tolerance for the pain I must have been feeling, I also have veins that are "like sandpaper." I'm sorry? How's that? Well, what happens is that the nurse has to work real goddamn hard to try and get that IV needle in the vein, and because of the sandpaperyness of these very masculine veins of mine, they often find themselves pushing so hard the needle just goes right the hell through the vein. Once I figure out how to either use this at the poker table or turn this into a super power, watch out.
· The CT scan dye tastes better mixed with apple juice than with cranberry. Sadly, it does not come in a 20 oz cup full of Red Bull, vodka and roofies.
· They're rather fond of giving me a shot "in my belly" of something that's supposed to prevent the blood from clotting while I'm lying prone all day long. So now I have to add "lying prone all day long" to my list of things I do all the time I have to worry about now.
· There was a near-Shakespearean comedy of errors that began yesterday morning when I begged the nurse to let me unplug from the IV drip for 45 seconds (saline only, no medicine) so I could wipe my sweaty ass down and put a t-shirt on. We bargained to a pair of hospital-issue pajama pants, an assortment of rags and soap and five minutes of privacy, but I would remain connected to the machine. Naturally, I tugged the IV out of my vein by catching the dangling tube with my toe while putting on the pajama pants, so my arm began to bulge with "fluid" that wasn't making it into my vein. Of course, the initial IV hookup was nearly painless and in a fairly comfortable spot high on my inner left forearm. The first nurse thought she was going to implant the fucker in the back of my right hand. I refused, so she went about three inches north of my wrist and "found" a vein. After much pain and squirming on my part, it became apparent that what she found was nothing she could put a simple needle into, so she moved a little higher and tried again. More pain, same result. Another nurse tag-teamed in and went to the other side of my right arm, again close to the wrist. This ten minute "Ouch!" / "Hang on, almost." fiasco resulted in the aforementioned and still indecipherable "sandpaper veins" comment, and still no live IV hookup. She then found some place in the side of my right wrist and basically shoved the goddamn thing in and taped it down (after muttering about the remarkable "blood return" from the vein, which was evident in the blood-stained ID bracelet I continue to wear), but did such an amateurish job that I hit the nurse call button no less than 30 seconds after she left the room as the burning and pain continued. Her supervisor came in, confirmed it was a terrible attempt, found a spot on my left arm and plugged the goddamn thing in efficiently. So they could have unhooked me like I was asking for 45 seconds and saved time, materials and labor (not to mention five scabby bumps on my right arm). This morning? They offered to unhook me and let me shower. Yes, thank you.
· The hospital pants are fairly comfortable, and are in a nicely understated khaki color. This works nicely with my blue t-shirt today, but I continue to flaunt fashion convention by wearing black anklet socks as well. Mr. Blackwell be damned.
· One thing I am doing to amuse myself while I'm here is a little imaginary prop betting. I actually get to measure my urinary output, AND I get to post that output on a marker board to keep track. So when I feel a pee brewing, I'm already guessing how many cc's I'm about to spurt. Any sensible line setter would always set this O/U at 240, but I did have a fairly amazing 340 early this morning. I should put an exclamation point next to that one on the board.
· The night nurse is about my age, which would be enough for my mom to openly suggest I should ask her out. However, she wears quarter-sized discs in her ear like she's a member of the Tatanga tribe of Western Sierra Leone. Who does this? (A: The night nurse at this hospital) Why? Is it basically like a self-advertising personal ad that states "If you haven't mangled your penis with elective surgery or multiple piercings, I have no interest?"
· By the way ladies, I've lost fifteen pounds in three weeks with this condition. Screw South Beach, hop on board the Abscessed Colon diet plan!
· For the first time in a long time yesterday, I actually was craving a big-ass sandwich. Of course, I still have no appetite (cannot finish a hospital-issue portion of jello), but wanting the sandwich is the first step, right?
· I had forgot to mention that when I was brought to the dual-bed triage room in the ER on Saturday, there was a woman in the next bed who was dead asleep and didn't move for a number of hours. I guess my mom asked and was told she was found stinking drunk and passed out in a snowbank (considering the 40+ degree days around here lately, finding a snowbank drunk or sober is impressive), and wouldn't tell anyone her name or address. Although I appreciate sensitivity as much as the next guy, I would have labeled her file "Jane Drunk."
So here's the deal so far... They're trying to treat this condition by hitting me hard with antibiotics for a few days, putting the abscess in retreat and cutting the risk of spreading infection. It appears to be working, but we won't know until later this afternoon after the CT scan is analyzed and my doctor gives her report. But my pain is gone and my white blood cell count is down. Both good signs. My understanding, though, is that at some point I'll have to come back (months, not years) and get the offending portion of colon removed via surgery. Delightful.
At any rate, thanks to Bob for getting some of my good friends to give me a ring yesterday. Awfully good of y'all to call, and hopefully I'll be home either later today or early tomorrow with enough energy to actually hang out online and toss some cards around. Damn, I miss that. And thanks to everyone who left their well-wishes in the last post and to my freaked-out Florida friend for her panicky email yesterday. Yes, I should have gotten the X-Ray a day or two earlier. More news when I got it - Later...
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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