Shifting Focus…For a Moment
By Nicolle Neulist
I follow an account on Twitter called @dothingsbot. The idea behind the account is very simple: every hour, it posts a thing to do. The recommendations are all self-care measures: take a drink of water. Walk around the room. Take a deep breath. Focus on something different.
Earlier this summer, I wrote about playing what you know. That principle guides most of my play, both in contests and at the betting windows. But Tuesday night, I decided to follow the bot’s advice and focus on something different. This is how I ended up handicapping Mountaineer and playing an online head-to-head contest Tuesday night.
I do not handicap Mountaineer often. Except for the small handful of onetime Chicago horses who turn up, I have not followed any of the runners. As far as the human connections, about the only thing I know off the top of my head is that Deshawn Parker wins a lot of races.
Still the fundamentals remain the same. Just like I do when I’m handicapping a familiar circuit, I sketch out the pace scenario. I identify horses for the course and distance. I try to determine which horses trend a bit faster than the others. I identify horses with upside to improve based on form cycle or changes they are making. I pick apart the conditions, see if anyone is a particularly clever fit, and see if those clever fits have a shot. Finally, I watch the tote board, and adjust my plays based on whether I am getting the right odds.
So, how did it go? Mostly well, though there were a few frustrating moments. I picked a first-time Mountaineer horse in one race, switched gears when the price got too short, and watched as the horse I switched to fell a head short of catching my original selection. Later in the evening, there was a condition book horse who I looked at but decided he was not the same horse he had been. The horse I spurned won by eleven and a quarter lengths at 5/1 odds. My opponent had that winner; my long shot pace play trailed home 23 lengths in arrears.
For the most part, however, it was a successful night of small ball. My contest horses hit the board in five of the seven races, including a pair of winners. Neither of my winners blew up the tote, but neither was favored. I went into the final race of the contest with a $15.20 lead over my opponent, we both picked the same mid-priced horse, and it was over as soon as the gates sprung open.
Winning felt good, of course. But, did shifting gears to the Mountain for an evening work for my intended purpose? I think so. My head feels clearer than it has since before the Arlington Million.
It felt good to tackle something that related to horse racing, but with less pressure than I feel when I am playing my regular circuit. I harbor less expectation when playing an unfamiliar circuit.
Monday night, I went to bed exhausted, frustrated, and in no state to handicap anything. Twenty-four hours later, my outlook is different. That brief change of pace should let me turn my attention back to Arlington and Saratoga with renewed energy, just in time for the weekend’s cards to be drawn tomorrow.
As good as it might be to stick with your specialty most of the time, the Do Things Bot is right. Sometimes, focusing on something different for a moment is exactly what you need to get back on track for the longer term.