Commentary

Disfavor

Updated: October 24, 2008, 4:41 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Anybody can bet a favorite. All it takes is money and the urge to associate.

Betting a favorite is frequently like gaining class by association. There's relief in numbers, particularly in defeat. A perk of playing a loser favorite is instant commiseration. Nobody wants to be a poor single, poor you, poor me, just having lost on a 20-1 shot. Lose by ten on a long shot, it's not poor you, it's silly you.

Poor us, that's better.

Playing an undeserving favorite often feels better than taking a shot on a live dog.

Losing favorites get robbed, they get mishandled.

Losing long shots get embarrassed; lose a 30-1 shot, you're talking to yourself.

The psychology of gambling -- the fear of losing alone -- moves the average horse

The lengths to which horse players extend themselves to play favorites can be painful.

Take these Breeder's Cup main track races, quick, before they take you to the ATM.

One of the key elements of horse race handicapping has always been and will always be a practical evaluation of the racing surface. Here, at Santa Anita, the surface is comprised of stuff. Synthetics. Bad news, handicappers: this surface has been running extremely fair, and as much like actual dirt as you are apt to find outside the earth. Quality speed does not always stop halfway down the stretch, as though happening onto quicksand. The front half of fields running on Pro-Ride are preferred. Uncontested or high-quality speed is not to be discounted and can be occasionally played to the end.

The heavy favorite in the Classic is likely to be Curlin, who has never run on fake dirt, worked well on it, sure; and I hit 300-yard drives right down the gut on the practice tee. Curlin has been off the dirt once, on grass, and ran as though allergic.

Here is what I have come to notice about racing surfaces: Rain matters. Grass matters. Bias matters. To assume Curlin is going to run as well on synthetics as he did on organics sounds a little like when they said there was absolutely no doubt oil would hit two hundred bucks a barrel.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.