March 2012

My Uncle Hank passed away over seven years ago. He was a great family man, an avid horse player, a great uncle and one of my best friends. He loved the races and played them on a regular basis for over sixty years. He was a true New Yorker, born and raised, and lived there over fifty years. He and his wife (my Aunt Lee, also a racing fan and my favorite aunt) had season tickets at Aqueduct and Belmont and loved to visit Saratoga in the summer time.

They shared a box at Aqueduct with a man they simply called Andy. My uncle thought Andy was a good handicapper, and he really respected the way he bet the horses. Andy would basically play two or three horses a day for a large amount of money and, win or lose, would call it a day. He wouldn’t even mess around in races he didn’t feel strongly about. My aunt and uncle called it the “Andy System”.

One particular day while heading into the big “A”, Lee asked Hank, “What is your Andy System horse for today, Doll?”

My uncle promptly responded, “Well, there is a second time starter running in today’s fourth. He didn’t break that well first time out, but he really finished strongly and had great energy at the wire.”

“What is his name?” she promptly asked.

“His name is Secretariat,” he responded.

As my aunt tells the story, she and Hank were separated before the race so she went upstairs to get a better view. Secretariat broke poorly again and half way through the race my aunt thought, “What the hell did I get myself involved in this time?”  Secretariat exploded of course and won the race – the rest is history! Lee and Hank became huge fans of Big Red and followed him not only through the Triple Crown series, but in his six remaining races as well.

Years later my uncle would refine the Andy System. What he did was mark his three or four Andy System horses each day, and he’d bet several hundred on each of those races if the odds were right. Then he would play $1.00 rolling pick 3’s to keep him in action. It basically came down to his key horses winning or losing as to whether or not he would have a winning day. He was so competitive, he would cheer just as hard for his $1.00 pick three as he would for his $100.00 win bets and his $25.00 exacta boxes.

Over the last twenty or so years I have refined the Andy System for myself, but I use many of the same principles. I am a big fan of the pick four, five and six here inSouthern California. I play at least one of those wagers each and every day. However, I try to play at least three races a day from a straight standpoint as well. I also look for an Andy System horse or two up north at Golden Gate and at grass races in Florida and New York. If the odds are right, I play. However, I’m alright with passing the race if necessary.  After all, I’m sure I’ll have another Andy System horse coming up soon.

I know many handicappers that are very good at picking winning horses but are lousy when it comes to money management and wagering strategy. Most of them want to play every race and will play each race according to how their bankroll is for that day. The Andy System is a great way to wager. Eighty percent of your daily bankroll goes to the races you really like, and the other 20% is used for “entertainment” on the other races. A simple way to win at the racetrack is to wager on horses that have a better chance of winning than what their odds are. How many of those do you come up with each day? If the answer is four or five, and you are not winning, maybe it’s the way you are wagering.

Try to start each day with the same bankroll. Be consistent with your bets. Have several amounts to bet and vary your wagers according to the odds and your conviction, not to how well you are doing each day. Try not to get your emotions too high or too low with each outcome. (This is still very hard for me, and I know I’ll be working on that for the rest of my life.) When you are behind, keep the same mentality and stick to the same wagering amounts. When you are ahead, keep playing the same way. Try not to double up because you have the “tracks money.”

So the next time you are going to play the races, you should think about an “Andy System” of your own. It may take you from being a losing player to one that breaks even or makes a profit.

One day I was heading to Santa Anita fromSan Diego, back before they had simulcast wagering. As I passed throughOceansideI saw a sign exit for Mission San Luis Rey. I thought “funny” that is the feature race today, but that race isn’t a betting race because Charlie Whittingham has an entry that is going to be 1-9.

He had the two best turf  marathoners in the country and they were an entry in this race. One was Alphabetum and the other was Dahar. They both had incredible form and the only question about the race was witch one was going to win. There were six or seven other runners that would fill out the field, but unquestionable none of them had a chance, in fact all but one of them had been finishing far behind the two Whittingham’s in many of there previous starts.

After the seventh race ended I decided to leave a bit early and beat the traffic leaving the track. At that time there was at least forty thousand on track every Saturday and Sunday and the traffic would get real tough leaving The Great Race Place. As I headed toward the gates, I glanced up at the board and noticed there was, as expected, a 1-9 shot on the board. However, it wasn’t the one entry. It was the number three horse and his name was Symboli Rudolph. The entry was on the board at 7-1. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I thought I better go to the paddock and figure out what all the fuss was. On the way, I glanced through my form and had overlooked this “Japanese Wonder Horse” that had an amazing record of something like 23 wins in 25 starts. He had nearly a million in earnings, very good back in 1984, and it seemed the entire country of Japan, including at least 200 or so that were in the paddock, were there to see him win and wager on him. 

As the horses walked around the ring, one thing was for sure, if it was a beauty contest, it was already over. The two Whittingham runners were big and strong and were super healthy looking. Symboli Rudolph looked like a washed out $10,000 claimer. The people in the walking ring didn’t care. This horse was there hero and they were going to cash a ticket on him no matter what the price was. He was very nervous and he had kidney sweat dripping down his hind legs. He must have weighed three to four hundred pounds less than each of the Whittingham runners.   One gentleman standing next to me said, “This is a rebate given to the American People for all of the cars we have purchased fromJapan. We had better take advantage of it.”

By the time they loaded, the odds went down to somewhere near 2-1 on the entry. As they passed the stands for the first time, Symboli had not taken the first turn very well and he was far back early. As they turned for home Alphabetum and Dahar were  fifteen lengths in front of the field and to this day I can’t remember which one of them actually won the race.  Mission San Luis Rey, indeed!!!!

The point to the story is to keep an open mind when you are playing. You never know what is going to happen next in this game. Be aware a horse may load with a Superman type cape on. Or that a man will jump out on the track and try to punch the horse on the lead in the head (And maybe even carry his luggage with him). A horse may pay $15.60 to win, $7.00 to place and $160.00 to show. A first timer in theU.S.may win a Breeders cup race with the worlds best rider in the Irons and pay 99-1. The races may be taken off the main track for a day and all races will be run on the grass.  And you may one day be an “only” in the Pick Six when there was a big carryover. ………….After all, how well we do is based on how well we think mixed in with a little bit of luck. If we continue to keep an open mind, than anything is possible.


I thought you might like to hear what I did race by race on Big Cap Day. Thanks to all of you who attended the seminar and listened to the show. I hope you all enjoyed the day and made some money.

So here we go . . .

Santa Anita Race 1- passed. Race 2 looked like favorites – passed.

Race 3 – didn’t see any value so I passed. I’m surprised that we don’t see a horse break through the gate just before it opens more often. Good call stewards. I feel sorry for the owners of the horses that ran all the way to the wire.

Race 4 – I wanted to see Carol’s Legacy on the track. He looked fine and price was right so I made a win bet on him and played some pick 3s singling Graeme Crackerjack in race 5 to several in race 6. Carol ran for about a half and then tired. I lost the win bet but did get the first leg in pick three home. Race total – minus a little; total for the day – minus a little.

Race 9 (Gulfstream) – Usually when I go to the racetrack live, I try to concentrate on the home track races. It’s super tough to jump in and play a race at a track when you are not going race by race. I would prefer to jump in on a grass race because I don’t feel like the track will change.   I really liked Salt Water Cowboy in this race so I made a note to self to check Gulfstream ten minutes to post. He was bet way down, so I passed the race. Race total – zero; total for the day – minus a little.

Race 5- I felt really strong on here with Graeme Crackerjack. I did have him singled in leg two of the pick three, so when he was bet down to 5-2, I passed. I would have bet him straight at 7-2. Somehow Joy Boy cleared the other three speed balls and Graeme came rolling late only to get second. Race total – minus a little; losing second leg of pick 3,  total for day – minus a little more.

Race 10 (Aqueduct) – I didn’t think this was a race to bet because Hansen looked so strong. I marked this as a race to watch to stay ahead of the game with Triple Crown series. Hanson didn’t break all that well, but he crushed them anyway. Race total – zero; total for the day – minus a little.

Race 6 – Pick six wager started here and I was in for small % of a group ticket that Jason and I put together for the seminar players. My top horse in this race was #8 Vegas Babe. He was a first time starter that had very good breeding for the hill, out of the mare Very Vegas who won several times down the hill and was a speedy type. This race didn’t have much visible speed in it. Vegas Babe won the race.  I started a pick three from here and started the pick six with a thirty dollar winner. Race total – zero; total for the day – minus a little.

Race 7 –Industry Leader was my best bet of the day and he drifted up to 11-1. I made an “A” win bet on him and keyed him first and second in exactas and trifectas. After stumbling at the break, he ran huge and hit the wire with eventual winner Hoorayforhollywood. Somehow, I did not use Scoffield Barracks so I missed the trifecta. The exacta paid a miserable $17.60. It’s hard to believe in a twelve horse race with an 11-1 shot running second that the exacta could pay only $17.60. However,  I did play that exacta box the biggest so I ended the race with a small profit. Two for two in both pick six and pick three. Race Total – plus a teeny bit; total for the day – minus a little.

Race 8 – Teafatiller was my long shot play of the day; however, he looked horrid on the track and I had him in pick three anyway. Renegade Storm was the possible overlay and he was a nice price. I had both in the pick three and several others so I didn’t bet the race straight, but I did start the pick four. The result was a three way photo, and I had all three. Ten Devils won the photo, and I hit my pick 3 here returning $348.70. Three for three in pick 6. Closed out pick three and started pick four. Race Total – plus a decent amount; total for the day –plus a little.

Race 9 -Eden’s Moon was really worth a bet at 5-2. She was at least 4-1 for the first fifteen minutes on the board. I decided 3-1 and I would make a straight bet. When she dropped below that mark, I decided to stick with what I had  and just play a couple of exactas in the race, playing against Reneesgotzip. I lost the exactas but, whenEden’s Moon won the race I was two for two in the pick four and the group was four for four in the pick six. Race total – minus a little; total for the day – plus a little.

Race 10 – Now 4 of 4 in pick six and with favored Mr. Commons singled I felt no real obligation to bet the race. He ran great and just did not get there. Great ride by Mike Smith, He was just second best. Race total – minus a little from pick 4; total from the day – plus a little.

Race 11 – It’s hard to get back up after losing the pick six in leg five and I felt terrible, having a very good handicapping day yet being only a few dollars ahead. However, I was determined to cash in this race. The betting in the race went as expected accept for two things, Ron the Greek was bet in half and Uh Oh Bango was 20-1 on the board. My original plan was to play against “Bango” at a short price, but now he looked like a live long shot. So, I bet Uh Oh Bango to win and played trifectas keying Setsuko first and second. My original trifecta in the race was $20.00 a copy without “Bango”but since he was such an overlay I used him as well making the trifectas $30.00 a copy. I hit the tri several times and got back $138.60 for each one. We missed the consolation pick 6 when Setsuko ran second. Race total – plus a little; total from the day – plus a little bit more.

That was a hard pill to swallow leaving there with a few extra dollars in my pocket when it could have been much, much more. But, the positives of the day far outweighed the negatives. I made a great decision to add Bango in the last race or I would have lost money on the day. As far as the pick six goes, you have to get close a few times before you finally go all the way and hit it.

What could I have done better? The first five races and the out of state races I played the right way. Race six down the hill I should have made a win bet on Vegas Babe.  Any runner that is going to pay 10-1 or more that is your top horse, make a win bet on that runner. Luckily, I did catch the pick three, but it didn’t pay all that well. In addition, you can’t rely on hitting multiple race exotics as your only source of profit.

Race seven, I could have made more by betting Industry Leader to win and place and just playing the exacta to my second horse in the race witch was eventual winner Hoorayforhollywood. I’m trying to break a twenty five- year old habit of playing win and exacta boxes and it’s a hard habit to break. The exacta pool is not the pool it used to be. See previous blog “Revisit the place.”

Race eight, no adjustments. Race nine, I should have made a win bet onEden’s Moon. In my mind she was sixty % to win the race and went of at 5-2. Because I had her singled in the pick six and pick four, I felt certain if she won I would benefit in some way. As it went, she did win and my horses were second in each of the last two races.  

Race ten, I had Commons for the pick six. I wasn’t fishing for value but Willyconker was getting really good and was only one point behind Commons on Thorograph numbers  and figured to get a trip…………….

Race eleven, admittedly I never play the super high five. It’s usually a maiden sprint where any runner can finish fifth and I just don’t like the wager in that race. This race, however, I was playing against any of the speed runners including favored Ultimate Eagle. I played the trifecta for $3.00 and had using all the horses that ran in the Super High Five. If I played the same ticket in the super high five it would have cost $240.00 instead of $90.00. I would have cashed for $10,000 instead of $400.00. Maybe a bit of a stretch, but thinking about how you are going to wager is more important now than ever. You need to not only pick the winning horses, but you need to wager correctly.

Have a great weekend of racing and I’ll be back next week.