Saratoga County

Saratoga Weekend: Top 10 betting strategies

Our list of Top 10 ways to wager at Saratoga race Course.

Hang around the Saratoga Race Course long enough and you’re bound to hear the story.

The two stock characters are the all-knowing handicapper with a knowledge of horse racing that could pass for a doctorate degree in the sport and his or her friend, so new he could probably be convinced a furlong is a shaggy breed of house cat.

As the story goes, the handicapper uses a complex set of algorithms to pick a wager for a race, taking into consideration everything from the direction of the wind to the distant lineage of the thoroughbreds involved. The neophyte watches this overly complex process with passing curiosity before choosing a wager by seemingly selecting numbers out of thin air.

The handicapper offers dismissive grunts right up until the horses cross the finish line.

Amazingly, the neophyte’s wager earns a big enough payout to require a trip to the IRS window.

The expert’s picks limp across the finish line earning nary a cent.

And so it goes at the race track, where blind luck has been known to trump the odds.

The safest wager, of course, is the one you don’t make at all. But if you’re in a mood to let the money ride, here are a few ways to take any knowledge of the sport out of your game.

1. Follow the experts

Pick up the racing section of the daily newspaper or listen to the picks during the sports segment on the television news. This absolves you of using any sort of racing savvy or horse knowledge in your picks and puts the burden on them.

2. Jockeys

Here’s a quick disclaimer: Picking on the basis of which jockey is riding a horse does bring some handicapping skill into the mix, since these are professional riders who devote their lives to the sport and one who has several thousand wins under his or her belt is probably going to fare better than one who is cruising around the track for the first time.

3. Hot tips

You know a waitress downtown who got a “hot tip” in the sixth race from some big-name trainer she was sitting next to at the bar while she was having beers after her shift. She can’t remember the guy’s name and can’t place his face, but she’s sure the tip is genuine because the guy was “really nice.” When placing an educated wager, these are typically the types of horses you avoid, since there’s no way of telling if that trainer was Todd Pletcher or Todd the Dishwasher from Cohoes.

4. Horse color

The thoroughbreds are majestic creatures that come in all different colors, which means this is yet another way to select a winning one, based on absolutely no basis. Many will naturally gravitate to the one with a dark coat, remembering back to their childhood days of reading “Black Beauty.” The true gambler, however, will always put a few dollars on the roan or palomino horse since they’re kind of rare to see out there. And for those fence-sitters who can’t decide between a shade to pick, there are always pintos or appaloosas.

5. Jockey silks

Unless the diminutive rider decides to slip into some relaxing chain mail at the starting gate, the attire worn by jockeys shouldn’t make any difference in the outcome of the race. But aren’t those shirts pretty? Pick your favorite color or, if you’re feeling unlucky, pick your friend’s favorite color.

6. Horse names

Some of them are serious. Some of them are funny. But no horse name ever won a race by itself. Then again, if a thoroughbred is named “Michael Phelps” or something as unsubtle as “This Horse Wins Big,” perhaps it’s worth a go.

7. Random numbers

So you like the number 2. It has all sorts of meanings. You have two hands. You have two feet. You were born on a date that features the digit prominently and you have a thing for prime numbers. Why not ride the 2 horse all day long? Better yet, if you have a pair of favorite numbers —or if your lucky one happens to be 2 digits long — why not pick a couple of horses?

8. Point and pick

This is a favorite method of bettors who have given up making wagers based on reason, usually after a newcomer in their group lands a superfecta for a $10,000 payout. Just grab a Racing Form, turn to the page corresponding with the race, close your eyes and thump your finger down on a horse.

9. The person to the left

Or the right. Or in any direction you choose. Turn to that person and ask them what horse you should pick. Cut them off if they start rolling through some lengthy discussion about why a given horse is going to win. Tell them you’re simply not interested in, or don’t have time for, a reason. This adds a new element of chance to the thrill of mindless wagerin

10. Grab bag

Take a bunch of poker chips and label them in accordance with the number of horses in a given race. Then simply reach in to grab your winner! You will have to carry around a bag of poker chips and may need to get someone to hold it when you’re drawing them at the pari-mutuel window. But it will ensure you won’t have to spoil your system with even a hint of wagering knowledge.

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