Commentary

The art of the long shot

Updated: January 19, 2009, 9:44 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Blink that blank stare off your face and focus on this.

Here are the racing results for Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs for January 18, 2009.

Race 1: Winner, $58.20, $20, $9.60. Place horse, $27.80, $8. Exacta, almost $800, which sounds infuriatingly low, unless you had it a few times.
Race 2: Winner, $16.20. Double, almost $500.
Race 3: Exacta pays $42.40.
Race 4: Winner, $25, $8.40, $5.60.
Race 5: Exacta pays $40.
Race 6: Winner, $15.60, $7.60, $4.
Race 7: Winner $50.20, $17.60, $8.40. Show horse, $12.20.
Race 8: Winner $36, $11.40, $6.
Race 9: Winner, $45.40, $24, $12.20. Place horse, $27.80, $13.80. Show horse $10. Exacta, $1,200, Tri, $11,000, dime Super, $7,650.50. Dollar pick three, more than three grand, dollar pick four, double that.

Suffice it to say, there's nothing in sports viewing or wagering like hitting a long shot at the horse races.

Casino game players memorize odds and stare down punks. Horse players create. In terms of sappy TV, horse players are the "Mentalist" to a casino gambler's "Numbers," those strange ducks.

Early in a thoroughbred meet, layoffs and workouts are sometimes more alleged than confirmed; the first couple of weeks in a meet somewhat off the beaten homestretch, long shots are everywhere.

Here's all you need to know to hit a few.

The right mindset
Great long shot players are skeptical. What could a public picker know that you don't? How to get a simple job, that's about it.

As Confucius would have said, the obvious can be costly, even on the rare occasions when it's right.

A morning line on a horse race is like a Vegas line on a game, it's not a prediction, it's aimed at attracting bets.

Bad morning lines are inflationary when it comes to long shots.

I have known morning-line setters who couldn't find their backsides with several mirrors.

If a conservative nature prohibits you from believing that most of them betting are terrible, get over it.

Speed
Long shots couldn't get a better call than loose on the lead.

The possibility of early uncontested speed is the first thing I look for in a race.

Watching a 20-1 horse steal a race is so infuriating that I will insure a few dollars against its happening in a majority of the cases.

Deep closers attract money from thrill seekers and those who might be a little slow upstairs, themselves.

Inexpensive deep closers can get there once in a while, because they might be running against enough tape to make a mummy  cheap deep closers are frequently the healthiest runners going. I'll play an older 1-for-25 late runner in a $5,000 non-winners of two most days of the week, as the more youthful and lightly raced horses probably came directly from the infirmary.

In high-dollar races, connections could be smarter, and deep closers are seldom able to get around all of the good ones.

Throw out bad races
This gets back to the proper mindset for long shot betting.

Here's what many bad races mean.

Nothing.

Most big prices are preceded by bad races.

Here's the way I look at some bad races. He was beaten by 20, showed first little, then showed next to nothing, and was taken up? Good, that means more odds, if there's something to like about the animal.

Here are terrific reasons for bad races: Bad post, off track, bad jockey, bad luck, bad pace, and, my favorite reason for running pitifully, just because.

Who among us hasn't come back strong after a bad performance or two or three.

One thing you can't justify is a bad trainer. A truly lousy trainer couldn't put a long shot over with a considerable head start.

The worse the race that you decide to forget just because, the less money you are obliged to wager.

Toss bad favorites
For handy, quick reference, a bad favorite is a claiming favorite off a win.

Little happens the same way twice in horse racing because guess what, the field and track and the whole races within themselves are different.

Picking the losing chalk is an invaluable skill, with invaluable meaning valuable; go figure some English.

A good favorite is one that can't lose, which is a little joke.

Embrace high prices
What's worse than big odds chasing you off a winner?

Not learning from it.

Work harder.

Earn more.

This will make long shots easier to play, and, who knows, maybe even find.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.