Race track security forces usually chase away touts, pickpockets and assorted undesirables so they don't separate customers from their money before it goes through the mutuel windows. But yesterday Bowie Race Course opened its 36-day fall meeting by inviting the hustlers in.
The track helped Mattel Electronics promote its $100 computer, the Horse Race Analyzer, by running the Woody's/Mattel Purse and letting the company stage a media luncheon and a public demonstration of the device.
The Analyzer performed quite respectably, picking three winners out of seven selections, but Bowie was hardly the place for Mattel to try this hype. sWith its high price tag, the Analyzer is clearly aimed at gullible members of the Bloomingdale's crowd, and they were not heavily represented at the track yesterday. People willing to suffer the indignity of being at Bowie are by definition hard core horseplayers, and their questions at the public demonstration showed that they perceived the Analyzer's many shortcomings.
"Does the computer take into consideration track conditions or track bias?" One bettor inquired. "No," the Mattel man said, "You have to use your judgement."
"What about shippers coming from a minor track to a major track?" somebody else wanted to know. "Well," Mattel man said, "to the computer an allowance race is an allowance race, whether it's run at Belmont or Timonium. It's up to you to make the determination...."
These factors -- whose existence the Analyzer does not acknowledge -- happen to be the crucial ones at Bowie now.
Horse players know that the toughest time to handicap races is at the start of any new season, when animals who have been racing at different tracks are thrown together, and there are no convenient lines of comparison among them. Nevertheless, there are some guidelines that may prove profitable in the coming days at Bowie.
Bowie's strip is usually uniform at this time of year, but yesterday front-running horses who got to the inside part of the track had a significant advantage. Stretch runners who attempted to circle the field could rarely win. This may have been a one-day phenomenon, but until there is evidence to the contrary bettors should keep looking for horses with early speed and inside post positions.
Most horses at Bowie have shipped in from Delaware or Timonium, and handicappers are apt to misevaluate these two tracks. Local bettors have traditionally thought of Delaware as a "major" track and Timonium as "minor", but this perception is now wrong. The quality of racing at Delaware continued its annual decline this year; fields were often small and uncompetitive. The claiming horses there were no better than at Timonium.
Certain horses from each track are apt to be deceiving to Bowie bettors. Delaware has much more liberal medication rules than Maryland and horses who succeeded at Delaware may be less effective when deprived of their drugs. Handicappers should look for horses who ran well without drugs at the Bowie summer meeting.
Timonium became extraordinarily fast during the last two weeks of its meeting, and horses there were recording deceptively fast times. Because Timonium is traditionally a speed favoring track, some horses were scoring wire-to-wire victories that look impressive on paper but should be discounted at Bowie.
These are the sorts of considerations that go into intelligent handicapping.
A horse player cannot circumvent them by pressing a few buttons on a computer. a