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A Psychologist’s Dream Come True

A Guest Blog by Matthew Scott 
 
After seeing the excitement of Union Rags’ effortless win in the Fountain of Youth, I have come to understand a simple fact about horse racing fans: 
 
We are a fickle mob… 
 
Part of what makes this sport so great is that these animals are not machines.  It seems as if its easily forgotten by many that all it takes is one piece of factual evidence to disprove a theory.  But facts are not exactly plentiful in our game. 
 
Let’s use Union Rags’ Fountain of Youth as an example because it’s nice and fresh in everyone’s minds.  Before the race, all the banter was about Discreet Dancer and his 2 previous romps, and Algorithms professional wins in his young 3 race career.   
 
First, Discreet Dancer.  How familiar of a situation was this to handicappers?  He’s a superbly impressive front runner, who won his first 2 races by double digit lengths, and in his third lifetime start, he would be facing Union Rags at 1 1/16 miles.  Poor Union Rags was being set up the same way he was in November… I guess it makes sense the public bet Discreet Dancer as the favorite, not willing to let another “7-1 Hansen upset” burn them again.  We were drawing upon the facts of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile to try and predict an outcome. 
 
Second, there is Algorithms.  Here was the only horse that beat the only horse that has beat Union Rags (say that 10 times fast).  Of course there would be hype.  But hype based on what? The only fact was the tongue twister I just said to start this statement.  As fate would have it, he popped a splint, and we will never know what could have been in the Fountain of Youth with Algorithms. 
 
Now that we know how impressive the win was for Union Rags, many people are jumping back on the bandwagon claiming the 12th coming of a Triple Crown winner.  What in Union Rags’ career shows that this is his destiny?  Sure, he looks the best of his class to date, but where is the fact?  How are we certain?  Trust me, I’m hoping in every ounce of my soul that Union Rags will break the 34 year draught.  But all I can do is hope. 
 
Now, back to Discreet Dancer.  Where are all the people that said he would blow away Union Rags?  Are they too bashful to admit defeat, or are they are back on the Union Rag’s bandwagon?  There’s no reason to feel bad if you backed Discreet Dancer.  He didn’t run a bad race.  In fact, he ran as perfect of a race as you could ask him to.  With the moderate fractions, he set it up perfectly for himself, but that just goes to show that Union Rags was much the best on Sunday. 
 
I wonder what a psychologist would think about all of this?  Is it just as simple as a mob mentality?  We do so much analysis and debating before a race, and then so much justification after.  I think I now understand why my wife thinks I’m crazy for yelling at the TV during a race and emotions I show when its over.  Its something that only a fan can understand.  And I love it.  Besides the excitement of seeing great competition and the extraordinary athletes involved, I think deep down in us all (some deeper than others) there is that little demon that smirks when we get it “right.” 
 
Now, before we take our torches and pitchforks to pillage next Saturday’s Gotham, just remember that the real winner in this road to the Derby will not be a fact until May 5th.  But until then, let the analysis, debates, and occasional smirk continue. 

 

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Older Comments about A Psychologist’s Dream Come True...

Newhart (Dr. Robert Hartley) is a huge Take Charge Indy fan.
Bob Newhart has a bit of a smirk of his face. But I can't quite make out which horse he's predicting is going to wipe that TC floor Clean. Guesses?
Great blog, Matthew! You have captured the mob mentality perfectly, and we're all guilty of it whether some of us want to admit it or not.
Haha:) So True!!
Yes, there is a little demon deep inside me that smirks when I handicap correctly!
gGreat blog. Very true, especially when listening to all the "professional" handicappers who write for the trades. (love the Bob Newhart photo-funny show!))
Nice pic, Bob Newhart!
Matt, I think you got inside my head and said exactly what I have been saying, to myself and to others: Don't fall in love just yet! Wait until a few more "facts" are in. I remember last year...every hyped up minute of the frenzy with Uncle Mo. Love the horse...wasn't his fault "mob mentality" took over....then the TC races with a different winner each race, and favorites were out the window most of the Derby prep season. Not that I don't have favorites, this year I do, and I hope they will do well in their quest and stay safe. But, I wish the so-called experts would listen to you, Matt, and take your advice, and stop regaling about the second coming of Secretariat in Union Rags!! There are many horses vying for the spotlight, very good bloodlines, and just maybe there is a TC winner among them. If Union Rags is it, wonderful, but let's see him in a couple more races and then maybe we will have enough evidence to put both feet in his bandwagon, but until then, I'm enjoying ALL the great races and the run of seeing some really great horses "do their thing"! Even the undercards and the Older Division are providing some great excitement this year. Let's savor every minute this year being a stark comparison and much the better over last!!! Let’s keep some perspective.

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