The obstacles to picking a winner

Here's why it's hard to pick a winner at the horse races.

Updated: February 17, 2005, 6:11 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Here's why it's hard to pick a winner at the horse races.

1. The obvious usually loses. Worse still, you tend to bet more on what's obvious.

2. Unruly tellers. Please don't look at me like that, please don't make small talk, just give me the ticket, okay?

3. Jockey error. Some riders have in their heads clocks running on low batteries. Some don't read the Form, which should be a finable offense.

4. Horses can't talk. Paw the ground once if the reason you're shaking your head is because of pain.

5. Track bias.

6. It's hard to pass on a race. Who wants to risk walking around perceptive without even knowing it.

7. Crooks.

8. Annoying people who ask who you like. I now ask $20 for an opinion on a race. Hear the quiet?

9. People who know something and bet 30 seconds to the post. If you know something, the only way to get to heaven is to bet early.

10. Truck stop service. Please don't stand in front of the monitor during a race or put the iced tea on the Racing Form.

11. IRS forms. Somebody on welfare bets $2 on his or her phone number and hits for $700 and has to fill out government forms. Somebody with millions bets $5,000 to show and wins $2,500 and doesn't have to say boo or sign anything except the bar tab.

12. Long layoffs. Some win, some lose, it has all changed, disregard the cardinal rules.

13. Beggars.

14. Late-runners. They're easy to follow and offer a lot of bang for your losses.

15. IRS audits. As a general rule, you can write off losses not to exceed your winnings. Losses must be documented as meticulously as possible with tickets and the proper notations in logbooks.

16. Bad luck. Equipment falls off. Horse hallucinates.

17. Bad works.

18. Good works.

19. No works.

20. Grass races. Most horses can win most turf races.

21. European form comments. "Proceeded gleefully."

22. Class changes. After you forget all you've ever believe about extended layoffs, forget most of what you've thought about steep jumps or slides.

23. Inaccurate comments about a past performance. Recently I saw a horse banged around as though in a gauntlet. The comment was: "Showed little." It should have been: "Battered."

24. Gutless track veterinarians. Some seem unwilling to scratch anything that can stand.

25. Eerie loneliness that can lead to depression. The other night, I was one of only three people in a huge simulcast joint. I said come on to a big screen and there was an echo.

26. Light penalties to cheaters.

27. Anonymous stewards.

28. Cigarette smoke.

29. ATM machines.

30. Post parades on the television screens. Mind if we see a leg or two occasionally?

31. You didn't bring enough money.

32. Tickets. Who hasn't lost a ticket worth money. I lost a ticket worth $16 yesterday and went through two large garbage cans trying to find it, no luck.

33. Handicapping books. It's much harder to analyze races before they happen.

34. Track security. Would rather be a part of the CSI Miami team. They keep a sharp eye out for people like me.

35. Tips (on horses).

36. Prospective payoffs on place and show bets are not available.

37. Rain.

38. House take. Imagine having to lay out a $3.50 surcharge on every $20 hand of blackjack,

39. Photo finishes. Most everybody I know claims to have won but a third of theirs.

40. A 100-percent return on your investment is often considered to be just terrible. After reviewing some of the obstacles to successful horse handicapping, hopefully finding yourself with an even-money winner will now be more like the rare and joyous occasion it is in the real world.