Monday, September 5, 2011

A Fair To Remember

With the first annual Baltimore Grand Prix Indy car races over the weekend, I felt the need to go watch some racing… some HORSE racing at the Maryland State Fair.  It’s a thing I do every year… I go out to the track and spend the day betting on the ponies.  As with last year and the year before, I’m getting a post out of it.

One the way in, I passed the same stand as last year; the one that had the fried Pop Tarts, Snickers Bars, Oreo, PB&J sandwiches, etc.  This year, they added a new feature:

To me, there is no need to take the most perfect confection ever and defile it with deep-frying.  

My goal on State Fair Racing Day is to win just enough to cover my overhead, which this year is $5 for parking, $8 for admission to the Fair, $5.50 for a soda and a slice of pizza, $3 for the racing program and  $1 for the “tip sheets”.  This year I had to fork over another fifty cents for a pen, because I left mine in the car.  Total overhead costs: $23.00.

On the way in, I saw all these girls lined up along the wall of the track.  I was thinking, WTF?  Either a bus is coming to pick them up, or they’re all FFA chicks here to see the horses.  Then I realized that there was a concert being held there that evening.  Aha.  I’d have to find out who it is, that is garnering such attention.

It’s an interesting mix of people, at a State Fair race track.  It’s like part wholesome families, part degenerate gamblers.  I’m kind of in between… a wholesome gambler, one day a year.

Betting 101
I usually bet $2 exacta boxes.  An exacta is picking the 1st and 2nd place finishers in order.  If you “box” it, it means they can finish in either order.  (Technically, you’re placing 2 exacta bets at $2 apiece, so the total bet is $4.)  Sometimes, if I’m trying to cover more ground, I’ll box a favorite with 2 different horses, like betting on the 1 and 3 horses, plus the 1 and 5 horses to come in 1st and 2nd.  That would be $8 in bets.  So any winnings would have to pay more that $8 for me to break even.

And They’re Off
I claimed a seat in the grandstand and reacquainted myself with the racing form.

Geez, I’d forgotten my pen in the car and then kicked over my Pepsi.  You think that’s a bad omen for a day with this many mojo implications?

Last year, I made much sport out of the names of 2 of the jockeys, Chris and Wes Ho.  Later, Mama Ho had Googled their names, found my post and left a good-natured comment of her own.  Her sons had spent the day messing up my bets, so I promised that I’d put a few bucks down on the Ho brothers the next time I was out.

Race 1
Wes Ho was running on the 3 horse, Our Jaks, so I bet a $4 exacta box with another favorite, the 2 horse, Empress Lisa.  I like to start conservatively and go from there, preferably with a fistful of ‘house money.’  As post time approached, the odds on Wes Ho went to even money.  If he didn’t finish, there were going to be a lot of people wanting to smack a Ho.  But that wasn’t necessary because the 3 horse charged late from 4th position to 2nd and they finished 2-3.  I won my bet… a whopping $7.40.  Subtract the initial bet and I cleared a whole $3.40.  Not a big gain, but then any time you don’t lose, you win.  I think Yogi said that.  Thanks Mama Ho!

Race 2
There was no Ho in the 2nd race so I took the consensus picks from the tip sheets and boxed 5 (Unbridled Babe) with 7 (Piper’s Punch).  I’m all for babes being unbridled.  It’s being “brided” that’s a whole ‘nother thing.  I also played a straight exacta on 5-6 (Sangrada Familia).

The 5 horse stayed in the mix but they finished 3-5-6.  If it wasn’t for the 3, I’d have nailed the 5-6 part.  I didn’t feel bad…the winning horse was running it’s first race ever, so there was literally no history.  But that’s the way the horse races, so I was out $6.  No more ‘house money.’  I did notice that the jockey that won the first race, Xavier Perez, came in 2nd here.  I’d have to watch him.

Race 3
This was a race for horses that haven’t yet won 2 races, so there was some history to work with.  I tried an experiment for this bet… I analyzed the stats carefully and bet on my own analysis rather than what the tip sheets said.  I felt pretty good about it.  The favorites they were picking didn’t add up to me.  Their win and other in-the-money showings were too far in the past.  The tips said bet on a 4-7 finish.  I exacta boxed 3-6.  (My Name is Ralphie and Queen of the Disco.)  This was a good gamble… the toteboard said that hitting my exacta would pay $81.  That would get me some solid ‘house money.’  By bucking the crowd, I was either going to be brilliant or look like a fool.

From my seat in the stands, I took some shots of my picks.
Joshua Navarro on My Name is Ralphie

Malcolm Franklin on Queen of the Disco

The favorites, 4 and 7, shot out to an early lead.  My 3 horse, My Name is Ralphie, was next to last.  Queen of the Disco made a late charge to win, but Ralphie never came close.  The favorite 7 horse came in 3rd and the other favorite, 4 horse, did not finish in the money.  So all told, I wasn’t totally right and I wasn’t totally wrong.   And the exacta paid $94.80.  I lost my meager $4.

Race 4
This was another tough one to call… while there was plenty of history to evaluate, all seemed kind of “meh.”  Going with the hot jockey Xavier Perez, I boxed his 8 horse, VP Joe with the 7 horse, Joshua Navarro on Am So Happy.  Navarro blew it for me in the last race so I figured I’d give him a chance for redemption.  I also did a straight exacta on 7-3, with a horse called Unpinkable (in honor of my Pinky).

The one combo I didn’t cover was the 8 with the 3, so naturally that’s how they finished.  Gah!  My 7 horse finished 4th.  “You’re dead to me, Navarro.”  I’m down another $6.

Race 5
Now I’m betting the jockeys.  Perez is running the 3 horse, Kansas Tornado.  Navarro is on the other favorite, the 2 horse Big MJ.  I avoid him like the plague.  I box 3 with 8 (Big Apple Alke) ridden by Wes Ho.  I also played a straight 3-1 exacta with the 1 horse, Skidoodle.  I was sorely tempted to bet on a horse called Pop’s Mojo.  In fact, he ran at the Fair last year and I bet on him to win, and he did.  That was also his last win.  And this race was 2 furlongs longer.  He was going 20-1 odds this time, so I stayed away.

Now I know that Navarro is just messing with me, as he runs 2nd to my 3 horse.  The 1 horse never came close and Wes Ho on the 8, came in 4th.  If I hadn’t purposefully avoided Navarro, I’d have hit the exacta for $17.40.  Shit, down another $6.

Race 6
I’m starting to get discouraged here and feel the need to shake up my mojo.  I decide to watch the next race from down on the rail.  I’m just betting the jockeys again, because it’s a maiden race (for horses that have never won) and there was little history to evaluate.  I boxed 1 (Wes Ho on Missy Kim) and 3 (Xavier Perez on Miss Sweet Talker) in an exacta.  This was a 6-furlong race, meaning they’d cross the grandstand once before going around again to the finish. 

It’s fun to watch the race by the rail and it’s a great picture-taking opportunity.  Here’s what I got…

These first three were from the first pass in front of the grandstands.  You can see the 4 (Joshua Navarro on Riley’s Rampage) and 2 (Malcom Franklin on Sugadadeze) horses running in front.

Now, racing for the finish line:

It’s still 2 and 4 dueling for the win.  My 1 and 3 are nowhere to be seen.

The gray 4 horse won by a nose.

Freakin’ Navarro wins again.  Fucker only wins when I don’t bet on him.  Minus another $4. 

Race 7
To further shake up my mojo, I place my bet at the downstairs windows, but return to my original seat in the grandstands.  This time I combine betting the jockeys with my own analysis.  I exacta box 9-7 (Xavier Perez on Roman’s Touch) and a favorite Coolheaded.  I do another exacta box, 1 (Dom) and 7 (Coolheaded).

They finished 9-7 so I finally won one.  (Whoo Hoo!)  Roman’s Touch was 8-1, so the exacta bet paid off nicely for $67!  NOW, I’ve got some house money!  Just when I was thinking about calling it a day.

Race 8
It worked once, so I tried it again… I went all the way back downstairs to place my bet.  Unfortunately, some other people moved my “seat marker” Pepsi bottle and sat in my seat.  I sat right in front of them.  I toyed with the idea of standing for the whole next race, just to piss’em off.

Perez has been winning like crazy but in this race, he’s on a horse that’s running 30-1.  I may be dumb but I’m not stupid.  According to the stats, the 3 horse, (JD Acosta on Rapid Redux) had won his last 10 races so it was a no-brainer to couple him with another favorite.  I picked the 1 horse, Albrecht.

This was another race where they pass the stands twice and I made an ass of myself by celebrating as the 3 and 1 horses “finished” 1-2 on their first pass.  (oops)  But I got to celebrate again as they hold on to finish (for real) the same way.  Whoo Hoo!  Rapid Redux was such a huge favorite, the exacta only paid $7.80.  Minus the $6 I bet, I cleared a stunning $1.80.  Again… it beats losing.

Race 9
This was the last race of the day, so I decided to really give it a go.  (The house money helps!)  I bet downstairs again, because you never mess with a streak.  I also usually watch the last race from the rail, but again, I went back to my seat, so not to upset the mojo. 

This was the first race that Chris Ho was running; Wes Ho was running as well.  I pondered long and hard on doing a box with these two, but I wasn’t crazy about the horses they were on. 

The program and both tip sheets said to bet 7-3-1. (Albert Delgado on Please Sir, JD Acosta on Here for the Music, and Joshua Navarro on Mr. Mannie.)  I played 2 exacta boxes, 1-7 and 3-7.  I also played the trifecta (picking 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers in order) as 7-3-1.  Needless to say, I was totally invested in these three horses.  Bet cost me $10, which is a lot for me on one race.

Once again, a Ho busted up my party.  Wes Ho on the 6 horse charged late for 2nd place and the finish was 7-6-3-9.  I had the 7 and 3.  The 1 horse (with Navarro) was nowhere to be seen.  Gah!  I had given him another chance and this is how he does me?  Oh, and that 9 horse… that was Chris Ho.  Rolled by the Ho’s again! 

Mama Ho, I apologize.  I should have listened better.

On the way out, I took a shot of all the youngsters still in line. 
I found out later that they were waiting for a show by a group called All Time Low.

Hmm.  Never heard of them.  Obviously I’m getting very old.

Anyway, my totals for the day:

Net bet winnings: $29.20
Overhead: $23.00
Net Daily Earnings: +$6.20

Whooooooo!  Moneybags in the house.

I’m not complaining though.  I had a day’s worth of entertainment and it didn’t cost me a dime.  I won on 3 of 9 races, even if 2 of the wins didn’t add up to much.  Even in the ones I lost, I was usually pretty close.  Added up for a Fairly satisfying day.


Stephanie Iris said...

I once saw a guy eat a deep-fried Twinkie once. I almost puked.

bluzdude said...

Miss Sassy Pants,
I agree. That's a horrible thing to do to a Twinkie. I hope they at least took the wrapper off.

Mrs. Bachelor Girl said...

You have NO IDEA how good deep-fried Pop Tarts, Snickers bars, Oreos, PB&J sandwiches and buckeyes sound to this pregnant woman.

Cassie said...

Holy hell, you made money! This never happens! You've gotta ride this money train all the way to rich-town.

Judie said...

All this analyzing is way too confusing for me. I have only been to the races one time, and that was in Alberta one year with Rod and our Aunt Betty. Here's how I won every time: I picked the horse that, from his prancing around and snorting, appeared to have the most energy. Then I chanted his name in my head twenty times. I won every time. Do you think I was just lucky, or am I one to something? HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Jessica R. said...

This was a confusing post, but you used the phrase "slap a ho!" and had awesome photos, which made it a win for me to read.

bluzdude said...

Mrs. Bachelor Girl,
Of course all that sounds good… you’re from Louisiana… that means you all eat ‘gator, snakes and other assorted reptiles, right? The Fried Twinkies just look good by comparison.

Right… at $6 a day… I’m just raking it in hand over fist…
But I normally do OK at the track. Last year was an anomaly, when I lost about $50. The time before that, I came out ahead. I’m happy as long as I break even.

That sounds like a pretty effective system for picking the winners. Not sure how it would work on an exacta.

Yeah, I apologize. I should have made the recap much simpler and without all the numbers. Lesson learned. And thanks for being the only one to comment on the pretty pictures. I was really proud of the race shots.

Cher Duncombe said...

Great photos, Bluz! I'm equally impressed with your expense account. Wow, I could never be that disciplined because I would have had to try those chocolate covered peanut balls. Oh yeah!

bluzdude said...

I would love it if they stopped at the chocolate covered peanut butter balls... it's the 'deep frying' that kills if for me. Totally unnecessary. The brilliance of the Buckeye should not be tarnished.

Anonymous said...

I've got to go to the track with you sometime because I have no idea how to bet horses, read a form, or box anything at all. And after you explained in this post, I still have no freaking idea.

All I figure is, these horses better run fast because I'm pretty sure that the Maryland State Fair is one stop away from the Elmer's factory and the Arby's kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and did you watch coverage of the Iowa State Fair? They had fried butter there. An entire stick of butter dipped in batter and fried. I'm pretty sure they had that in Rome right before the end.

bluzdude said...

I'd be happy to teach you how to be a Break-Even Degenerate Gambler. There's really more information on those forms than you can really process. The trick is to know what's important. And to wear your lucky shirt.

I did hear about the fried butter. Reminds me of that old Eddie Murphy-produced animated show called the PJs, (meaning The Projects.) The protagonist asked him to make his favorite; "chicken-fried steak-fried chicken."

Unapologetically Mundane said...

I've had the deep-fried Buckeyes (of course), and yeah, the batter completely overwhelms the peanut butter and chocolate. But hey, I'm not complaining about a mouthful of delicious batter. What I love is that they felt like they needed to explain what Buckeyes are on the sign!