04 August 2005

Why I Heart WIlliam Murray

I'm glad I stumbled across William Murray's The Right Horse: Winning More, Losing Less, and Having a Great Time at the Racetrack after my first day at the races. True, it would have been more helpful before my first visit, but it turned out to be just the right book at the right time for me.

For one thing, the book is well-written and captures the magic of the racetrack. Even though my "local" track, Mountaineer, lacks the manicured grounds and grandeur of, say, Saratoga or Santa Anita, it has a certain old-fashioned charm. In this era of technological wizardry, there's something quaint and endearing about the simplicity of the betting booths, the wholesomeness of the dirt and the turf before you, the classic bugling sounds announcing the parade, and, the collective excitement when "They're off!" echoes over the PA system. Murray's book captures a sense of this scene and is able to seamlessly weave the human element of the track into discussions of handicapping. And he is clearly fond of those who line the rail. At one point, after a tale of a particularly upbeat loser, Murray says, "It's this persistent gallantry in the face of adversity that enchants me." I understand what he means; the patience and stoicism of the average trackgoer seems to me to be a central part of the track's charm.

Murray's description of the factors to consider when handicapping provides a gentle introduction to the game that's easier to grasp than more "hard-core" and mathematical handicapping manuals focusing solely on speed-ratings or track pars. The Right Horse is not a complete guide to handicapping; it is, instead, a guide to having fun and not embarrassing yourself. Murray covers major topics such as trainers, jockeys, owners, the Daily Racing Form, and the various kinds of races as well as the types of bets available at the track. All of the coverage is solid and clearly explained.

A lengthy section of the book is devoted to a description of an ordinary day at the track, complete with DRF past performance data for each race and the thought processes behind each of his bets. He wins some, he loses some, he passes on one, and overall, he has a fine day, taking home something like $200 dollars.

And finally, he provides a summary of things to look at when handicapping along with 15 simple rules to "keep you cheerful and solvent at the racetrack, one of God's minor playgrounds." I found them practical and easy to understand. And they worked!

At Mountaineer on July 4, my husband and I had spent quite a bit of time handicapping one of the day's "big" races, the $75,000 Firecracker Stakes. We had decided on an exacta that included Beau Watch, who went off as the favorite, and Modena Bay, another one of morning line picks. Yet, I continued to look over the past performances, and for a number of reasons, I still liked a long-shot mare named Lady Grace. Murray's Rule Number 10 came to mind: Never allow anyone to talk you off the horse you like. So, of course I decided to bet her. With her odds at 12-1, and Rule Number 6 in mind ( "If your top horse is four to one or better, you must have a straight bet on him to win."), I bet her to win. A few minutes later, I watched her pound across the finish line -- first.

Thank you, William Murray.


Horse racing capper said...

Liked your report on book. I will put on my reading list