Bettors’ behavior under the Breeders Crown big top

by Frank Cotolo

We have arrived at the coveted harness racing event of the season — two nights of Breeders Crown finals, this year at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Star-studded fields featuring the top horses of 12 divisions are out for glory, to be spotlighted champions of their ilk. And this year there is a special guest addition, a French-trotting hero that is setting up a unique international challenge.

Along with the stellar equine casts are the “money drivers” and the trainers with their wealthy entries and the amalgam of owners that have invested scads of dough and months of scattered emotions to have their horses wind up in the special company of Breeders Crown fields.

Take a breath.

It is somewhat overwhelming, a spectacular 12-ring circus extraordinaire featuring big fields with the season’s fastest and richest trotters and pacers rolling in tiers, the colored spokes of their sulkies spinning, their gaits defying the clock with illuminating speed.
And here we are, the bettors, beneath harness racing’s big top, enrapt by it all.

Bettors Banquet (BB) is here to equalize your motives with your emotions. We have something to prove, also. Can we walk, chew gum and wager wisely at the same time?

For punters, nothing should be intimidating about the two-day racing spectacle. None of your handicapping or wagering objectives — as we continue to endorse in BB — should change. Nothing must become a distraction.

Bettors beware. Stay on the message. It is wonderful that this horse won, earning its second million and that horse won faster than any horse in any universe and some driver rattled off three super-stakes wins in a row.

Bettors, however happy they become about the statistics the sport documents, are in competitions of their own; they are trying to make money. Sure, for some of the audience betting is something spectators do with a few dollars. That is all well and good but for bettors, this is not an “awards show” for fans; this is the work they do regularly to make money.

Bettors must remain just as profit-oriented when playing Breeders Crown finals as they do when they address $3,000 claimers. It is imperative to “stay on message.” In the pari-mutuel profit-making game, you cannot afford to be a fan first and a bettor second.

Being profit minded does not mean you dig more deeply into your bankroll for betting because the highest class of horses is more reliable. Only a novice would believe that faster races with richer horses driven by popular drivers and trained by men and women with larger stables is insurance of any kind in the pari-mutuel betting arena. Stay aware or wake yourself up to the fact that a gorgeous, well-gaited trotting stallion breaking at every speed and/or earning record that wins and pays at 1-2 at Woodbine/Mohawk presents the same 1-2 reward as the 12-year-old trotter that won three $6,000 races in as many years with nationally unknown drivers and a trainer with a stable of two at Old Delaney Downs [sic].

Only the applause is different.

The Breeders Crown is not the time for wagering promiscuity. Play your most confident opportunities as strongly as you do for any other race. You will not be punished. There are no “betting police” handing out fines for passing a wager on any high-profile race. No one on site, online or in a moving vehicle with a mobile device and a betting app is required to wager on every Breeders Crown race.

Your focus on these classy contests is extremely important. I know from decades of experience because at times I worked for the Hambletonian Society or a trade publication as a journalist, and at other times I worked for myself as a bettor. I could only seriously work for myself as a bettor if I was not working as a journalist covering Breeders Crown events; the two tasks go together like chalk and cheese. Either will suffer when trying to accomplish both.

My most successful Breeders Crowns as a serious bettor came following the advice in this edition of BB. In the context of one season’s finals, for instance, I found my greatest tool for an accurate measure of a horses’ chances is studying replays, especially when there are elimination races. I take special notice of horses that lost elims but qualified for the finals. I watch all of the action, not just horses in front, and I ignore winners. Then watch again and once more, making note of positive moves.

Over the years I have been able to focus betting on certain finals based on encouraging horses in elims that telegraph a bigger and better performances in finals. If those horses meet my demand for price, I bet the race — to win only. The results of my behavior under the Breeders Crown big top produced high-percentage profits from winners including Charley Barley (2006), Artists View (2007), Poof Shes Gone (2009), If I Can Dream (2009) and Impressive Kent (2010).

Well, what do you know? A bettor is able to walk, chew gum and wager at the same time.

… to be continued