Horseplayers can be particular. Some have their preferred circuits to bet. Some may have a preference for a certain pen when handicapping. Others have to work out the whole card the night before. But all of them might be hard to find a present for if you don't love, or know, the game as much as they do. Here are five suggestions that might open some doors and bring some smiles to the horseplayer in your life.
1. A Betmix subscription.
Betmix is a handicapping software developed in just the last year or so by Dave Williams, whom I interviewed earlier this year. Simply put, Betmix is a fascinating piece of software that enables a user to handicap a horse race using any combination of a number of factors that the user may weight in importance according to his own preference. I know a few handicappers who have taken the time to research and develop their "mixes" that have totally abandoned using any kind of PPs. I am probably too set in my ways to do that. I need the comfort of the BRIS program, but I use Betmix in conjunction with my old methods and have found my way to several longshots I don't think I would have had without it. Betmix is sold by monthly subscription, but there are daily options, and free races daily, as well. I heartily encourage you to consider giving a handicapper in your life a gift subscription because one thing that Betmix does, is that it works without bias. And if that handicapper in your life has been experiencing a slump, by chance, Betmix might make an even better gift. Also, Williams cares very much about the software and the site and is exemplary with customer service.
2. A Derby Wars Gift Certificate.
Derby Wars is an online horse-racing contest site. It offers an array of contests to accommodate any budget, with entry fees ranging from $4 to $475. Most contests follow the NHC bullet format, where a contestant makes win-place bets on a single horse in each of a range of races ranging from six to 12. Some contests allow multiple entries. As a seasoned contest player, I find Derby Wars to have the most elegant format of the contest sites that are out there, and their customer service has also been very impressive in the two years that I have frequented the site. One thing that is wonderful about Derby Wars is that one may parlay cheap tourney entry fees into real money. There are several stories of people who have invested $25 bucks in a qualifer, won a token for a big dollar game, and then won that game for thousands. Currently, new depositors get $20 free with a $100 deposit, and $10 free with a $25 deposit.
My wife started a tradition for us a few years ago. One wall in our house is all framed pictures of horses that have keyed big scores for us. Pictured above are Court Vision and the late Turallure (RIP, you beautiful thing) doing battle in the 2011 Breeder's Cup Mile. Turallure keyed the trifecta and super for us, and helped us to the biggest single race score we have ever had. Hence, my bride bought a photo of him from Horsephotos, which is one great site, even just to peruse. It is easily searchable, and the prices are great. I encourage you to adopt our tradition, because I will tell you one thing - I can't go by that wall without stopping to consider the awe, and what, alien majesty, of the equine form in motion.
4. Blood Horses by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
This may not only be one of my favorite books set in the scene of horse racing, but it may be one of my favorite books, period. My father was ill in the hospital, and a portion of this book was excerpted in Harper's. As I sat there reading it at my father's bedside, I instantly became enthralled with it. Perhaps because it is not only an interesting history of horse racing and Kentucky, but also a poignant tale of a son and his sportswriter father (who, when asked by his son what moment stuck out to him in his sportswriting career, was surprised to hear his father answer that it was covering Secretariat in 1973 "That was...just beauty, you know?"). It isn't a book that is going to add any angles to a handicapper's angle arsenal, but it will speak clearly to anyone who really loves the sport, and the people and horses involved in it. People bandy about words like "transcendent," but this book is.
Okay...so this isn't necessarily horse racing related. But I would say that most horseplayers are throwbacks of a sort....the type who are unafraid to wear a newsboy hat and a vest with jeans, or maybe even wax a moustache. And once one has accepted the fact that the four-blade monstrosities that are all the rage now might not exist to give a smooth shave, but well, to sell four blades where only one sold before, it gets one thinking about the fine, old way men used to do manly things like shave. I sport a beard most of the time, but, even so, necklines have to be done, and now that I have switched to the safety blade razor like the one I watched my father use in my youth, I am a convert. The trick is to make sure you buy your horseplayer an assortment of single blades so that he might find which suits his skin. Check out Shaving101 for more info and some reviews of razors that might do the trick for the horseplayer in your life.
Merry Christmas, fellow Stretchers! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!