Bad Beats — A Little Laughter to Soothe the Burn, By Chad Harmon

Bad Beats

A Little Laughter to Sooth the Burn

By Chad Harmon

 Before I get into the story, here is a little background for anyone that doesn’t know me. Horse racing is a passion of mine that was passed down to me by my father. We made many trips to different tracks together throughout the year. I would say that about 90% of those trips were made so that I could photograph the races.

One of the great things about horse racing, handicapping, betting and photography is that you can always learn and/or see something new. While I have a passion for both racing and photography, I’ve learned that betting and photography should be separated. Both require time, focus, and attention to detail. Over the years, I’ve become a decent handicapper and normally hold my own when I can give the time necessary to handicap and bet. Over the years, I have also learned that when I am taking pictures and try to handicap and bet, I go from being a decent handicapper to being a well below average bettor.

Now, when I go to the track to take pictures, I still handicap but with a focus on what horses I am looking to shoot, running styles for where to position myself and/or cameras, and different storylines so I’m as prepared as I can be.  I try to do most of my betting at home when I can focus solely on that with no other commitments or distractions. With a wife and a three year old, having no other commitments or distractions is not something that happens frequently.

My favorite bets are typically daily doubles and exactas. Maybe three or four times a year, I’ll play the pick 6. Hitting a pick 6 is a bucket list item that I will achieve at some point. Favorite pick 6 story was at Saratoga in the late 90’s I was 5 for 5 going into the last leg on a $6 pick 6 ticket (was all favorites that day) and I had Richard Migliore with the favorite on the turf. I went from being 5 for 5 with the favorite in final leg to having to cash a 5 out of 6 pick 6 ticket for $7.20, $1.20 profit! I told you it was all favorites!

Not sure I would classify this story as a bad beat but more of a tough beat, a very expensive beat, and a highly entertaining beat, especially in the eyes of MY three year old.

For this past weekend, my whole betting strategy centered on placing a big win bet on Shared Belief in the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park. I made sure early in the day I had enough money in my account to cover the win bet on Shared Belief that I was planning and then a little extra to play with throughout the day, in case anything caught my eye. Between the Withers at Aqueduct, the card at Gulfstream, and Dortmund also running at Santa Anita, I was fairly certain I would be placing more than just that bet on Shared Belief.

It was about 20 minutes to post for Race 4 at Santa Anita when I got to sit down and look at the races. Battle Of Evermore was the buzz horse and I had read a lot of positive things about him. I used Young And Hungry, Anytime Anyplace, and Legal Authority underneath Battle of Evermore in exactas ($40 Ex 3 w/5, 10, 12).

Dortmund was in the next race so a no brainer to play them in a big daily double. No brilliant handicapping as Battle of Evermore went off even money and Dortmund went off 3/5, the daily double was only paying about $6 ($100 DD 3 -6).

With two strong singles,  why not take a stab at the pick 3? The 9 and 11 were the two favorites and looked to be formidable in Race 6 ($50 Pick 3 – 3 / 6 / 9, 11).

The pick 6 started in Race 4 as well. Since I had three singles in the pick 6 sequence  that I had confidence in, I figured why not take a stab at the pick 6? Race 7, Dynamic Sky, Majestic Harbor, and Finnegans Wake looked like the main three but I spread with Patrioticandproud and Power Ped as I didn’t want to get beat by Drayden Van Dyke or Neil Drysdale.  Race 9, I wasn’t familiar with the horses in that race so I went six deep using the 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, & 11. The $2 pick 6 ticket cost $120. Not a super expensive ticket but not cheap either ($2 Pick 6 – 3 / 6 / 9, 11 / 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 / 5 / 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11).

There were a couple of minutes to post in Race 4 and I was giving my son his afternoon snack at the table trying to keep an eye on the TV  in the family room to see when the horses were leaving the gate. My wife noticed and said I could move his chair into the family room. I knew from past experience I would be picking chex mix up from the carpet, had I have gone through with that suggestion. Fool me once… nevermind.

The horses were just coming down the downhill turf course (such a cool unique beautiful layout) and I was able to spot Battle Of Evermore inside just before crossing over the main track. Battle Of Evermore won a head over Young And Hungry and Anytime Anyplace in what was a really good horse race. A lot closer than I would have preferred but I hit the exacta and was alive in the Daily Double, Pick 3, and Pick 6.

By the time Race 5 went off, the little guy was done with snack and bouncing back and forth between me on the couch and my wife on the loveseat. The Robert Lewis was billed as a rematch between Dortmund and Firing Line who had a great stretch duel in their last race at Los Al. I knew if Dortmund was going to get beat it would be by Firing Line. Turning for home it wasn’t looking good for Dortmund. At  the 1/8th pole,  Firing Line looked to be going on and as if Dortmund was going to have to settle for second, which would return nothing for my daily double and I’d be dead in the Pick 3 and Pick 6. I’ve seen enough horse races to know at the point it was pretty bleak. I’ve seen an occasional horse with a ton of heart battle back in the stretch so I was holding out a glimmer of hope Dortmund could come back but he looked beaten. When he started coming back my cheering for Dortmund got the little guy to come over to see what the commotion was about. He was happy to give me celebratory high-fives and I knew I dodged a bullet in that race. By winning the Robert Lewis Dortmund cashed my daily double and had me alive in the Pick 3 and Pick 6 and got two of my three singles home.

I checked the Race 6 $1.00 Pick 3 will pays and Pulling G’s with Gary Stevens was returning $10.40 ($520) while Logan’s Moon with Mike Smith was returning $21.80 ($1,090). I was feeling pretty good, had the top two horses with two Hall of Fame jockeys. The horse that scared me that was taking some money was Whine for Wine, Bejarano for Hollendorfer. My wife asked which numbers I needed and I told her 9 or 11. The exacta and double that hit previously covered all the bets I placed and I had already made a withdrawal from my account. Any other bets cashed in the pick 3 or pick 6 would be pure profit.

The race went off and Pulling G’s, the favorite, was at the back of the pack, so I shifted my attention to Logan’s Moon, who was in contention. Logan’s Moon came about 5 or 6 wide around the final turn and got the lead with Solid Wager and Victor Espinoza on his outside hip. COME ON 11! Logan’s Moon was holding the challenge off for most of the stretch. With two jumps to the wire Solid Wager put a head bobbing nose in front. NOOOOOO! With a jump to the wire, Solid Wager was a full nose in front and on the wire Solid Wager had beaten Logan’s Moon by a head on the wire. NOOOOOO!

My head went in my hands I heard belly laughing coming from my right side…it was my three year old cracking up at my reaction. I saw the replay and had about the same reaction as when I saw it live. My son also had the same reaction, apparently my agony is hysterical. My wife asked me to keep repeating my reaction for the entertainment of my three year old, so I repeated NOOOOOOO and put my head in my hands over and over and over again, to the repeated laughter of my son. Race 5, he was on my team high fiving Dortmund’s victory and 29 minutes later he was laughing at me.  To make it sting a little more Solid Wager went off at 68-1 and paid $138.20 to win. My $50 pick 3 returning $1,090 got beat by a 68-1 head.

The San Marcos Stakes was up next and Finnegan’s Wake won as the 9/5 second choice. I was 3 of 4 on my pick 6 ticket.

For the San Antonio, my thinking was California Chrome being the fan favorite would take a lot of money and go off as the favorite right around even money to 6/5. Shared Belief would be second choice around 7/5 or 8/5, hoping to get $5.60 for the win. A $500 win bet would return $1400. I miscalculated (Jim Rome’s bankroll) and when I checked the odds before the race Shared Belief was 3/5, ticked up to 4/5 and went off at even money. I did NOT place the $500 on Shared Belief to win at even money. Shared Belief ran a really nice race and all three of my singles hit on my pick six ticket and it was 4 of 5 correct going into the last leg.

After missing out on the Pick 3 and a $1,090 hit, I was kind of hoping the head loss also wouldn’t cost me the Pick 6 but I spread six deep in the last leg and thought I had the winner covered. Sure enough Intoxicating Move won the last leg. The Pick 6 paid $17,128. The odds in Race 6 on Logan’s Moon were less than Solid Wager so had Logan’s Moon held on the payout would have been less but none-the-less the head defeat prevented a significant payday for me, to say the least. I did receive the $2 consolation payout for 5 of 6 which was $34 and turned into $68 because I went two-deep in the losing leg. However, the best consolation was unintentionally entertaining my son. It’s tough to be upset about a beat when you hear the laugh and see the smile of a three year old, even when it’s at your expense (pun intended)!

We thank Chad for sharing his story! You can follow him on Twitter at @ChadBHarmon

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