It’s hard to verbalize the great feeling I get when a race goes exactly as I predicted.
I was 10 years old, but it could just as easily have been yesterday, the memories are so vivid.
I was finally old enough to go to Longacres in Renton, and my dad was taking me for the last two races of the day.
He gave me a basic introduction on how to decipher the Daily Racing Form, and I quickly figured out from looking at Royal Blush’s past performances that he would take the lead. And, I deduced, he would be able to hold it.
I had such anticipation for that, my first horse race, and it was more than excitement I felt when Royal Blush’s No. 6 flashed on top early in the race. It was also satisfaction, knowing I had predicted that.
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I didn’t see the end of the race. I was too short to see over all the other excited people. But Royal Blush won, and a handicapper was born.
Jockeys have a hard time verbalizing the thrill and the high they feel when they ride a winner. I get that, because it’s hard to verbalize the great feeling I get when a race goes exactly as I predicted. Or the feeling of satisfaction I get when I see something in a horse that others don’t see, and am justified when the longshot wins.
It’s a feeling you can’t get playing blackjack or poker, which is why you can go to Emerald Downs and see the same people handicapping day after day, whether it be live racing or simulcasts. The odds are more in your favor in the card games, but I have never gotten the satisfaction from a winning hand that I get from accurately handicapping a horse race.
Unlike a lot of gambling, you are directly competing against your fellow handicappers. The odds are determined by the amount of money bet on each horse. Depending on the bet, about 80 percent of the pool is returned to the winners.
Handicapping is not unlike training or riding, in that even the best lose way more races than they win, and slumps are just part of the game.
And similar to trainers and jockeys, who are motivated by the possibility of a great horse, handicappers are also motivated by the ever-present chance at a big prize, hitting that one bet that could pay thousands, or even more.
Emerald Downs has added a card room on its fifth floor, and I am sure it will be well received. Just don’t expect to see me there. Not when there is handicapping to be done.