View Full Version : "The Interview": Q & A

02-02-2018, 04:17 PM
“Bucko”: “Teach,” how’d you get started in harness racing?

“Teach”: I mentioned this before. I went to a friend’s 16th birthday party. It was late-July, 1958. My friend Brian’s party was held at a Route #1 restaurant south of Boston called Fontaine’s Dickens; it was in the town of Wrentham near the Foxboro line. That restaurant’s been gone now for years. It was located a few miles south of what it is today: Gillette Stadium. In those days, a harness track occupied the Gillette Stadium site; it was called Foxboro Raceway. Foxboro Raceway ran a 60-day summer meet; it was often crowded, especially on Saturday nights. On Saturdays, the track’s parking lot would be so full that patrons would have to park out on Route #1.

“Bucko”: So, how did you end up at the track?

“Teach”: Brian’s father unexpectedly took us there; it was after his son’s birthday dinner.

“Bucko”: What was your initial reaction when you turned into the track’s parking lot?

“Teach”: I was surprised. No one had made mention of it, either before or during the dinner.

“Bucko”: What was your feeling when you entered the track?

“Teach”: Frankly, it was literally: “Love at first sight”. It was like meeting a lovely woman who completely captivated me. An enchantress who “steals my heart”. I was enamored. Awestruck. Mesmerized. I was drawn to that track as if I had just met my “soulmate”.

“Bucko”: What was it that you liked about the track?

“Teach”: Everything. The horses warming up between races. The drivers in their colorful silks. The enthusiastic crowd cheering on the horses. The races themselves. The sound of hoofbeats. Even track announcer Clayt Smith’s calls. The excitement. The ambiance. The atmosphere. It reminded me of times when my parents would take me to an amusement park when I was a kid.

“Bucko”: Did you make a bet?

“Teach”: No I didn’t. I wasn’t ready to “take the plunge”. Frankly, I didn’t know anything about handicapping. I didn’t even know how to read the program.

“Bucko”: When did you make your first bet?

“Teach”: It was about two weeks later, early August. I took a bus down to Foxboro (it took you home after the last race). I would bet a mare named Adios Lucy, $2 to show; she finished 3rd. I made the bet because Brian’s father had mentioned that Adios was an outstanding sire. I collected $2.60. A lot of money for an inner-city kid.

“Bucko”: As you think back through about 60 years of wagering on harness races, are there any thrills that stand out?

“Teach”: Yes. Let me think. There are four that immediately come to mind. The first one took place in 1959 at Foxboro Raceway. I was still a teenager. I remember betting a $2 win ticket on a longshot. I recall the horse paid over $30 (big money in those days). I can’t remember the horse’s name, but I do recall the driver was Mederic “Sonny” Beauchesne, Jr. The second thrill occurred when I was in college. The “hit” took place at Rockingham Park in Southern New Hampshire (“The Rock” ran both thoroughbred and harness meets). It was a gimmick called the: Twin-Tri. I went “partners”. My friend and I had two “live” tickets going into the second-half exchange. One of the horses I bet was called Necy II. The horse popped. We split four “bones” (a fortune in those days). On another occasion at Rockingham I put $10 on a horse’s nose coming out of the outside 8-hole on a ½ mile track. The horse was going off at something like 10-1. As the field breaks from the starter’s car, my horse, the 8-horse, hustles away from his outside post; he tucks in second. All the way around the track, he’s in “the garden spot”. In mid-stretch, he pounces. He collars the lead horse. I’m ecstatic. The horse’s driver was Floyd Colbath. Finally, in relatively more recent times, at Freehold Raceway, Jay Randall is driving a #6 horse named Crux. He’s a price. I’ve got a multi-race wager on his nose. I remember it like it were yesterday. Top of the stretch. I see Randall’s blue and gold silks flying in the stretch. Will he get up in time? A photo. Crux wins. A beautiful hit.

“Bucko”: Teach, after six decades of betting on harness races, do you have any handicapping tips for “newbies”?

“Teach”: My first thought comes from a harness racing book I read when I was in college (I wish I could remember the name). The theme of that book was: “How will the race be run?” The concept says it all. Try to imagine how you see the race unfolding. The suggestion in that book is to divide the horses into three categories. The categories are: front speed (F); even E; and close (C). As you look down the past performances, write down the letter next to the horse’s name that best exemplifies that horse’s running style.

“Bucko”: “Teach,” let’s take this a step further. What do you do with those letters now that you’ve “categorized” the race?

“Teach”: Good question, “Bucko”. I look for races where there is a scarcity of one of those categories. Say for example there are six letter “C” horses and only one letter “F”. You’ve got to be thinking, the single front-runner has a shot. Not much early speed. That lone “F” horse should be able to comfortably make the lead and likely go all the way. On the other hand, the opposite can be equally true. A lot of front-runners, but a paucity of closers. Bingo! You’d got to consider that lone closing speed.

“Bucko”: But “Teach,” what about the horse that gets an “E”; the ones that runs evenly?

“Teach”: Another good question, “Bucko”. The “E” is an entity unto its own. I literally froth at the mouth when I see in the past performances a horse who has been running evenly in say the #6 slot who now draws inside into say the #1 or #2-hole. This horse’s even running style now screams out at you: “Track and pounce!” When evenly-running horses show you past performance lines that look like: 6 – 6 – 6 – 6– 4, it makes that horse that much more likely to pop from the inside starting post, sometimes at a price.

“Bucko”: “Teach,” are there any other handicapping tidbits you can share?

“Teach”: Oh, there are several. Where do I start? The driver. I read a book once that said you should be cautious as a bettor of a driver who has a UDR below .300. UDR formula: (Win x 9 + Seconds x 5 + Thirds x 3 Divided by Starts x 9). I suppose it’s like “the Mendoza Line” in baseball, hitting below .200. The best drivers win the most races. One of the things I heed are driver changes and driver preferences. For example: A second or third-tier harness driver is being replaced by a top-tier driver. That immediately catches my attention. Usually, that moves up a horse up, considerably. The reverse is often a major consideration. A solid driver is opting off a horse and being replaced by a driver with a lower UDR. Caution. Then there are driver preferences (this information was not available years ago). A driver may have a choice of two or three horses he can drive in a race. The one he/she chooses would appear to indicate that his choice has the best chance of potentially winning.

“Bucko”: What other factors do you consider when you’re handicapping?

“Teach”: Track conditions. Some horses love the slop; others disdain it. In a nutshell: track conditions can have a huge impact. I read a book once that said that handicappers should be cautious when handicapping for wet tracks. It changes the dynamics. Another book I read talks about treading lightly when betting on trotters. Trotters are more prone to break. I’m particularly cautious with young trotters; they are most vulnerable. Yet, a race with a lot of young trotters does offer the potential for lucrative payoffs. Further, the one-mile ovals, like the Meadowlands, for example, tends to be easier for trotters than tight-turned half-miles such as Freehold. If you’ve ever watched a trotter making a move on one of the ½ mile track turns, you’ll see what I mean; it can be extremely difficult for some trotters. They speed up on the straight and then have difficulty as soon as they reach the far turn. Another factor are layoffs. I’m leery of betting horses that have been away from the races. These away-from-the-track horses may need “a tightener”. Even one week off concerns me. Why are they missing a week? The only time I may make exceptions is when a horse has an outstanding qualifier; yet, even then, I usually “buy insurance” (include other horses as part of my ticket).

“Bucko”: Are there any other words of wisdom?

“Teach”: Oh, so many thoughts. You can be a great handicapper, but you can also lose. It’s how you “condition” your ticket. Are you betting smartly? Ask yourself: “Is my bet profitable?” You should also be asking yourself: “Am I flexible? Do I have a plan?” Personally, I often skip a race or two during the racing program, especially if I feel it’s just too difficult to handicap. Sometimes, I’ll just bet a $2 win ticket, or I’ll bet $2 to place. I try to save my “ammunition” (money) for what I consider the betable race(s); the ones that give me the best chance of winning.

“Bucko”: “Teach,” any final comments?

“Teach”: On a personal note: Consider win limits and loss limits. I have found that when you re-load it can have potentially disastrous consequences. “Chasing” is a difficult thing to do. Sometimes we become irrational. If you’re down, be careful trying to get it all back in one fell swoop. Conversely, I’ve also seen guys make big hits and give it all back. Frankly, I’ve done it myself. Further, I don’t like the comment, “I’m playing with the track’s (house’s) money.” When you win and it’s in your pocket, it’s your money. All races are not equal. Some are more formful than others, and even then… Further, I gamble only when I feel I’m up for it. Finally, although it doesn’t always work that way, I have a goal – sometimes a long-term goal – in mind. It could be an item I want to purchase, such as a sweater I saw in a dept. store. It could also be defraying the cost of a bill I have to pay. It serves to keep me focused. On task. Yet, candidly, it doesn’t always work out. However, the thought helps my mind trained on my handicapping and betting strategies. To, as they say, “Keep my eye on the prize”.

“Bucko”: Any last thoughts?

“Teach”: Keep your wits about you. Keep your head in the game. Tomorrow’s another day!