More than 300 horseplayers and race fans from around the country gathered at Wynn Las Vegas last weekend for the seventh annual Horseplayers Expo, sponsored by the Daily Racing Form.
The Expo featured three days of panel discussions, handicapping seminars and even a contest to see who had digested the most info.
It was also a time to meet, greet and hobnob with some of the country’s foremost racing authors and handicappers.
In the halls, the cocktail receptions, banquets and meeting rooms, all one had to do was turn around and there was Andy Beyer, Barry Meadow, James Quinn, Steven Crist, Mike Watchmaker, Tom Brohamer, Caton Bredar, Simon Bray, Jay Privman, Steve Davidowitz, Mark Cramer, Lauren Stich, Brad Free, and others.
The Expo started out with the "Handicapping with Pace Figures" panel, moderated by Steven Crist. Tom Brohamer and Randy Moss were the presenters, and they explained their math-based strategies so that even non-engineers could understand them.
In gatherings like this, most of the attendees are players and their ears are always pricked for handicapping tidbits. Brohamer didn’t disappoint as he revealed one of his favorite plays as the horse turning back in distance when his route pace number is superior to the sprint horses he’s racing against.
Brohamer also addressed maiden graduates facing winners for the first time. He said that pace is more important than class, and that one of his favorite "bet-againsts" is the maiden winner with a high final figure and a pace figure that is below-par.
Andy Beyer, famous for his numerous handicapping books, Washington Post columns and his Beyer Speed ratings, probably drew the largest seminar audience at the Expo.
Beyer established some empathy with the audience when he recounted how he needed to change his approach after an unprecedented back-to-back losing seasons in 2003-2004.
"After a rare trip to Del Mar, I felt qualified to write a new travel guide, Del Mar on $1,500 a Day," Beyer said.
Beyer, who for years has advocated integrating speed and trip handicapping analyses, said he needed "more ammo" to pick winners.
The Internet and 21st century technology provided the cannon fodder.
"I think the Daily Racing Form’s Formulator 4.1 software is the most profound innovation in my lifetime for serious players," Beyer said.
The Formulator software has been around since 2004, but it has been fine-tuned dramatically over the past couple of years. It allows online handicappers to click on a horse’s past performance and call up a myriad of "unseen" data and statistics.
For instance, click on the horse’s trainer and you can dredge up stats on his success (or failure) with maidens, first-time runners, claiming races, 2-year-olds, turf races and so forth.
Another tool that has found its way into Beyer’s repertoire is watching replays of races on the Internet. "Being able to see the race is 90 percent of trip handicapping," he said.
One of the more lively seminars took place when Barry Meadow, Gibson Carothers and Steven Crist paneled the Exotics Wagering discussion.
Meadow, as somewhat of a purist who emphasizes value and isolating a race’s most likely winner, said he confined most of his exotic play to exactas.
Carothers, however, said handicapping the Pick Six is a great tool for studying deep into a race. "There are many times I won’t even play the card, but I will use the information to bet individual races or exotics such as the Pick 4," he said.
Crist endorsed playing the Pick Six, but said anyone who bets a "small" ticket, such as $24 or $32 might as well be "setting their money on fire."