When I stopped training racehorses in 2006 I also stopped going to the horse races as a fan. I went the odd time, but it was very infrequent. That had already started even when I was training. When you go to race 4 or 5 times a week, you don't feel like going to just watch and bet as well. Kind of like when you are a bouncer at a strip joint and you don't want to watch porn anymore.
Growing up, I went , as a fan, a lot. At times, it was 4 or 5 times a week, sometimes more, and sometimes two different tracks in the same day. I couldn't get enough of it. But even then, there were times where I formed an opinion of a horse and was so sure I was right, and as soon as I spoke up, that horse would make a liar out of me. Most times when I said a horse had no shot, it won. I am not the only one who has had that happen to them, but even still, it just leaves you wondering. If I was smart, as soon as I said that, I should have bet on it to win. I would be filthy rich by now if I had just done that.
By the time 2012 came around, it had been many years since I had attended the horse races. Maybe 3 or 4 times in 6 years and not at all in the last 2 years. I started to miss it. The weather was nice in the spring, as we had an early hot spring and I decided to start coming out more again. Not as often as I used to, but once every 3 or 4 weeks. By labor day, we had been about 5 times. There wasn't much to do around here that I hadn't done before on Labor Day, so we went out for the races and then the fireworks show.
For whatever reason, all year I had picked a lot of winners, and not just favorites, so I was getting high on myself. Too high. Way too high. You know what happens when that happens. You start to say things like "that horse has no shot to win" when your wife wants to bet it and you tell her not to. And if that horse is 25-1, you know if it wins you are going to hear about it all night.
This night, I wasn't picking any winners by the time the fifth race came along. I had a lot of contenders and close calls, but I was 0 for 4. The previous race, sensing it wasn't my night, I told her to pick a horse and we would bet on it, since my luck or talent wasn't working this particular evening. She picked one I thought had a shot, although she picked it because of its name, but it came in 4th or 5th.
The next race came up and I surveyed the program. It was a high end stakes race and it seemed pretty clear who the contenders were. Little Brown Fox, Knows Nothing and Prestidigator. I loved Prestigitator, so I settled on him. He had just tied the track record the week before and was a multiple stake winner who I had bet a few weeks earlier at Barrie. She wanted to bet Intimidate.
As I looked at the program, that horse looked like he had no shot. Zero. I could not see any scenario that worked out for this horse winning. Of course, I told her not to bet him. At that point he was about 30 to 1 and he ended up going off just a bit below that. He had never faced stakes horses and showed none of the speed of most of the others, let alone the top 3. I thought his connections were idiots for putting him in this race.
I made the comment that:
"I would strip naked and walk onto the track and stand there if that horse won the race."
Of course, the minute I said that, I should have gone and bet every cent I had on him. He was a cinch.
As the race started, immediately I knew something was not right. Another horse, Cold Certified, who had no business doing what he did went to the front and set insane fractions. In fact, 26.1, which tied the track record for the fastest first quarter any trotter had ever trotted over that track...and he is a mediocre horse at best. Meanwhile, Intimidate sat back in second and just followed him. The others were way back, thinking they could come at the end and it wouldn't be an issue.
Cold Certified slammed the brakes on and started to go backwards. Just seconds before that Intimidate missed it, got out of the pocket and got a big lead. Still, they weren't even at the top of the stretch yet and he did not belong with this bunch. That is what I kept telling myself. They would swoop him in the stretch and leave him in their dust.
Of course, that didn't happen. Did Intimidate win the race? No. He lost by a head at the wire. But he almost did win and it took a track record to beat him. I was this close to having to run on to the track naked and eat my words, while covering up the family jewels.
Even worse, my wife wanted to bet him to place, which he did, and he payed huge to place. I heard about that the rest of the night.
Now, we are almost two months later, and Intimidate races tonight at the highest level, the Breeders Crown. His owners had to pay $62,5000 to enter him in the race, and last week he showed why he is full value for that risk. He beat Little Brown Fox and proved he belongs.
Do I think he will win tonight? No. I still think he isn't that kind of top horse, although he might become that one day.
Could I be wrong about that? Yes. I am wrong a lot and I admit that.
If I say it enough tonight, I might just go and bet him anyway, all things considered. I have smartened up enough over the years to at least realize that. Betting against my own strongest opinions is the best bet I can sometimes make.