Commentary

Free losers

Updated: February 3, 2009, 12:31 AM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

The economy has brought us people in alligator shoes comparing prices at the discount store; dimmed down and dumbed down mansions, dark show places with bad landscaping; Lexuses in fast-food drive-through lines; grannies in the pipe sections of home improvement warehouse stores; fur coats in the Wal-Mart aisles; Starbucks deciding to sell grub.

What's next, wagering on the horses on a budget?

I tried to map out a plan like that for you, Playing the Horses on $50 Per Day.

Here's how that went.

After buying two Forms and three programs, a beer, and chips and dip, I bet a $5 Exacta box, a Pick 3, a Pick 4, and some dime and dollar Supers and Trifectas.

The money was gone in 16 minutes.

Playing horses on a budget is like investing in a stock on a budget, it's fine if you're 11 or 12 years of age. But it's not like cutting back while shopping for Ben and Jerry's. At the horse races, it's hard to get by on less. Pinch dollars at the track and they'll leave.

Thinking cheap at the races is a negative. A decent frame of mind is more important in horse racing that with any other form of gambling. That's because eliminating losers, and then picking winners, requires a keen interpretive eye.

So what's a person to do with $40?

The best bet is probably stay home until you get $40 more, you'll feel twice as smart with $80.

Sure, $2 can get you all you need. But sometimes you need to spread around a lot of $2's to get in stalking position. This is not to say a person can't bet smarter with less money than you would like in your pocket. Betting smarter with $40 is focusing on multiple-picks, 3's, 4's, 6's.

So let's check budgeting at the door, and cut back on yard work and cosmetic surgery, and try to make some money.

All a horse player asks is, now and again, something close to an absolute.

Too much race writing is about hindsight and theory.

Each time I pick up a book or begin an article about horse racing, all I ask for is some insight, some foresight, one negotiable angle that might work more than half the time.

Well, here's one: fast works, very fast works in general, and rocket-style works on a maiden first-time starter in particular.

I have come to consider very fast works on young horses to be well worth avoiding.

In the first place, works are usually done against air. In the next place, some are so fast as to qualify for a bounce. And almost always fast works are over-bet.

Two things matter with a first-time starter, breeding, and trainer percentages with maidens.

All you need from a maiden work is something good.

Something too good is unworkable hindsight.

Cut back on what you pay for advice.

Here the hunt for luck is free.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.