Here’s Why: We Need to Get Real
By Candice Hare
Last weekend, we were treated to a successful comeback from two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who got up late to win the G2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. Like so many a day, controversy over Twitter ensued between those who focused on the remarkable story of him and his return to racing and others who analyzed the race itself.
Upon noticing multiple tiffs between the two parties, I wondered why this was even an issue. Yes, Wise Dan’s recovery from a serious health scare and win in the first race of his return is the kind of story about which movies are made — and even moreso with him winning this race in dramatic fashion. At the end of the day, however, betting the races is still a game and one has to undoubtedly separate the feel good stories from the facts in order to cash tickets.
Handicapping races is remarkable in that it often appeals to those with analytical minds who, with the aid of replays, past performances, (and caffeine, if you’re like me), think critically in order to make a conclusion which can be used when creating a betting strategy. In the same breath, however, it can be a very emotional game — a rollercoaster ride at times — and after watching these horses run week in and week out, it’s nearly impossible not to have favorites.
I’m guilty of having favorites as any. It’s by no means a secret that I am a massive fan of Bobby’s Kitten and have been for quite some time. That being said, when it came time for the Belmont Derby, I said straight away on my blog “To me, Bobby’s Kitten is the clear bet against.” It certainly didn’t mean I loved him any less, but after watching him run numerous times, I knew that distance probably wouldn’t suit and as a result my money went elsewhere.
In fact, who I’d like to win a race purely from an emotional standpoint is often very different than who I’m betting in a race and that even applies to horses I’ve won with in the past. Majestic Harbor was a horse I touted before his win in the G1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita because in that instance he was the horse with all of the trip notes in a perfect storm of a race, as far as probable pace and distance were concerned. I haven’t bet him since and may never bet him again despite him making good that day. But I approach races not thinking “what have you done for me,” but instead thinking “what can you do for me?” Those two schools of thought rarely agree.
I’ll say, from personal experience, when I was just starting to get serious about racing, I had many a person give me tips for race analysis and I wasn’t put off in the slightest when it was noted that a horse “beat a weak field” or “got a perfect trip.” In fact, I welcomed such suggestions, with which I either agreed or had to explain why I didn’t agree. That, in turn, helped me to develop my analytical skills with regards to racing.
Therein lies the ultimate issue I had with people who were being scolded for stating their analysis of Wise Dan’s win over Twitter immediately following the race: the notion that only positive, happy messages make people want to follow racing. At the end of the day, when it comes to new fans, we’re ultimately trying to attract students of the game, to whom post race analysis would appeal. Not to mention, for every well thought out analytical tweet I saw post race, I also saw a “Wise Dan is the best horse of all-time” or some variation posted. Is that tweet positive and cheery? Absolutely. It’s also grossly exaggerated and does no good for appealing to a wider fanbase, either.
I absolutely adore Wise Dan, who is undoubtedly an American racing star and yes, I bet against him on Saturday and lost. I admire his accomplishments, including him being a G1 winner both on the turf and dirt — a feat we don’t often see these days. I prayed for him when news broke he was ill. I was relieved as any when word got out that he would fully recover and I’ll never forget seeing him show his mighty heart when winning in his comeback effort.
In my notebook, however, it reads: “beat a woefully out of form Optimizer, who was returning from an even longer layoff, despite getting what appeared to be the run of the race. Needs to improve before BC Mile.”
She handicaps races on her website ‘Capping with Candice and is the co-host of a weekly YouTube race preview show entitled “Down to the Wire.”
You can follow Candice on Twitter @Chare889.