Revisiting Saturday’s Cross Country Pick 5

I cannot fully express how cool it is to submit this piece to the ITM crew.  I’m Andrew Norris and I’ve been hooked on horseracing since my buddy (that’s he and I above at the Belmont Stakes in 2012) invited me to our local track to watch the races on Belmont Stakes day in 2010 (I hit the Super for $2.40–EASY GAME!!!).  My handicapping has come along (I made it to the NHC in February for the first time), but I still struggle with wagering.  In diagnosing my shortcomings, I wrote a few things down as an homage to one of my favorite written segments on horseracing (all credit to Lonnie Goldfeder).  This is dangerous, but feedback is always appreciated.

On Saturday around 5:15, I sat down for the first time all day to really watch the races.  I’d been handicapping the Cross Country Pick 5 and was pretty confident in my selections.  Post parade time at Woodbine for the 9th and Tom Amoss started talking about the 13.  I didn’t have her.  I’d done my homework, but I’m willing to listen and learn and when Tom Amoss (or a player you respect) says to include a horse, it’s worth another look so I looked at the race again.  

Maybe I needed Benny Southstreet’s trip notes or maybe I just missed something, because I didn’t like Afleet Katherine enough to mess with the tickets I’d spent an hour constructing—11 tickets costing $23. I had the last two legs singled to 12-Red Hierarchy (at Woodbine) and 4-Volatile (at Saratoga). I’d split the 3rd leg up a little; I thought 3-Simply would win, but saw a little something in 7-Mo Ready and 10-Turbo Drive. In Leg 2 I had 11-Coratian more times than 12-Bustoff and in the first I was certain 4-Coach Lori was going to get a perfect trip, but had two small savers with 6-Grey Seal and 8-Millennium Force who I viewed as potential threats.  That was it. But there’s Tom and Laffit talking about the 13 in Leg 1 again. I scramble: 13/11/3/12/4 for $1. Gates pop and we’re off! 12 tickets, $24 invested, and I didn’t make a dime—WHEN I HAVE 2 SINGLES!  What was I thinking?

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

I lacked sufficient conviction in my opinion in the first leg.  If I didn’t care about Tom Amoss’s opinion, then I wasted $1.  We can’t afford to be wasting dollars in this game, even $1. If I DID think enough of Mr. Amoss to include his opinion on Afleet Katherine with mine, I should have moved earlier and used that horse with my other B in Leg 3–I only had 2. That ticket, 13-11-7,10-12-4 (I was watching the horses in MTH 11 and no longer had interest in the 12), would have cost $1. I should have played it twice. The CC P5 paid $1,277.75 for $0.50. 

It didn’t even register that I was playing two Daily Double opportunities—WO 9-10 and SAR 9-10. If I have singles in the last leg of each, why am I not checking Double probables and playing that wager? If my opinions are correct, I score again.  If my opinions are not 100% correct in the Pick 5, I might still be able to make some money.  At WO the 9-10 DD probable for my strongest opinion, 4-Coach Lori, was hovering around $20. Same for 13-Afleet Katherine about whom Tom Amoss wouldn’t be quiet. The bet would have been $10 ($5 DD 4,13/12). The DD five times paid $110.25. At SAR, I liked 3-Simply most, but thought (like many because he got hammered) 7-Mo Ready might have a shot (Pletcher, gelded, getting firm turf again). Now, I’m not going to say I loved the 10-Turbo Drive, but this horse was getting back to 2 turns (which I think he preferred) and was one of the low weights AND Mike Maker and Irad, so I used him in the Pick 5.  I had Volatile singled in the SAR 10 as I thought he’d get the trip and was just the fastest of that group. The bet would have been $15 ($5 DD 3,7,10/4). The DD five times paid $155. 

I had every horse I needed to make $1,543. I got nothing. Saturday’s lesson is not a new one, but it’s very hard to actualize. Handicapping is easy. Betting is hard. 

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1 comment
  • I really respect your candid and honest self-assessment. It all seems so simple now as for what the “right answer” here was, and yet at the time I’m sure it seemed highly unlikely that a scenario like this could unfold. Truth is – these scenarios unfold all the time. Horseplayers seem enamored with the handicapping/picking side of the equation, but I’m convinced that the betting and money management aspects are far more challenging and important. Best of luck to you in the future. Thanks for sharing these learnings with everyone.

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