Horse Racing’s Thrills: Pick 5s to Derby Disappointments

The Perplexing Nature of Horseplayer’s Highs and Lows

Being a horseplayer is a roller coaster ride, full of highs and lows that can leave one feeling manic and depressive. As someone who has placed bets on these enigmatic creatures, I can attest to the perplexity and burstiness of this pursuit. Last week, I experienced one of the greatest highs as a horseplayer when I hit my first Pick 5 bet at Canterbury Park’s Northern Stars Turf Festival. It was a wager I rarely make, but this time luck was on my side.

An Unexpected Triumph at the Pick 5

I had delved deep into the races at the Northern Stars Turf Festival, studying Equibase Speed Figures and analyzing past performances of the horses. In my quest for insider knowledge, I came across a video featuring Canterbury Park’s official handicapper, Angela Hermann. Her expertise and familiarity with the local trainers and horses provided valuable insights into the races. Armed with this information, I confidently made my selections for the Pick 5.

As the races unfolded, I resisted the urge to watch them live on my phone app and instead saved the excitement for when the results were official. With each race, my confidence grew as my chosen horses crossed the finish line one by one. After the third leg, when She Can’t Sing emerged victorious in the Lady Canterbury Stakes, I started feeling pretty good. The fourth leg brought another win with Mr. Dumas clinching the Mystic Lake Mile. At this point, I was filled with giddy anticipation because I knew that one of my four horses in the final leg, the featured Mystic Lake Derby, was going to win. And indeed, Stitched, along with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishers on my ticket, secured the victory. The elation of hitting my first Pick 5 was unmatched and joined the ranks of my greatest horseplayer experiences.

A Frustrating Kentucky Derby Experience

However, it is important to remember that the highs in horse racing are often followed by lows. Just 6 ½ weeks prior to my Pick 5 triumph, I experienced one of the most frustrating and depressing moments as a horseplayer – the 2022 Kentucky Derby. As a devotee of speed handicapping, I rely on speed figures to assess a horse’s potential. I analyze each horse in the field, studying their past performances and searching for trends that indicate their suitability for a Triple Crown race.

Leading up to the Derby, everything seemed to align. The horses with the best running styles and speed figures for a modern Derby were the ones I had my eye on. I considered established trends, such as Jennie Rees’ Final Fractions Theory and Jon White’s Derby Strike System, to narrow down the field. However, when the race unfolded, it defied all expectations. Rich Strike, a 350-1 long shot who had largely underwhelming speed figures, emerged victorious.

A Crushing Blow and a Bad Beat

The frustration deepened as I realized that my trifecta tickets had missed the mark by a hair’s breadth. Both tickets had Epicenter, Zandon, and Simplification in the 1-2-3 spots, but they finished 2-3-4 instead. To add salt to the wound, Simplification, one of my long shots, went off at odds of 35.30/1. My potential trifecta winnings slipped through my fingers due to a colt who defied all rational handicapping analysis.

Leaving the bar where I had watched the Derby, I shared my discontent with a fellow horseplayer who proclaimed his intent to bet on every long shot in the future. It was a sentiment borne out of frustration and disbelief.

The Lessons of Manic-Depressive Horseplayer’s Journey

The ebb and flow of emotions in horse racing embody the manic-depressive nature of the sport. As a horseplayer, one can meticulously analyze every variable and construct tickets with utmost care, yet still fall prey to the whims of fate. It serves as a reminder that horse racing is an unpredictable endeavor, where the unexpected can and will happen.

From the elation of hitting a triumphant Pick 5 to the crushing blow of a seemingly illogical Derby upset, each experience carves a unique path in the journey of a horseplayer. It is a journey filled with bursts of excitement and moments of despair, where the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat often go hand in hand.


1. Can you explain what a Pick 5 bet is?

A Pick 5 bet is a type of wager where bettors must correctly select the winners of five consecutive horse races. It is a challenging bet that requires a deep understanding of the horses, races, and track conditions.

2. How does speed handicapping work?

Speed handicapping involves analyzing a horse’s speed figures, which are numerical ratings assigned to horses based on their performance in previous races. Higher speed figures generally indicate a faster horse, but other factors such as race conditions and track biases should also be considered.

3. What are some popular trends in horse racing handicapping?

Popular trends in horse racing handicapping include Final Fractions Theory, which examines a horse’s finishing times in their last race, and Derby Strike System, which assigns strikes to horses based on specific criteria. These trends help bettors narrow down the field and identify potential contenders.

4. How can I cope with the highs and lows of horse racing as a bettor?

Understanding that the unpredictable nature of horse racing is part of its charm can help cope with the highs and lows. It is essential to approach each race with a clear analysis while acknowledging that even the best strategies can be thwarted by unexpected outcomes.

5. Are long shot bets a viable strategy in horse racing?

While long shot bets can yield significant payouts, they are generally considered riskier due to the lower probability of success. It is important to strike a balance between calculated risks and more conservative bets based on thorough analysis and a solid understanding of the horses and races.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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