THE DARK DAY FILES: Winners, ROI, And A Plan For Saratoga In 2023

As you know, I see the Saratoga all-media handicapping standings as a big deal. I was raised reading the likes of Russ Harris in the New York City papers, examining the pick boxes in every publication, and seeing who handicappers liked on a given day.

It’s why I’ve taken a more active role in tracking this stuff this summer. For the most part, the interest has been there, and that makes me happy.

I woke up Sunday morning, though, to a bunch of Twitter notifications, most of which included the same three letters: ROI.

This is where I need to pause for a few key reminders.

  • I have access to win totals for most of Saratoga’s print handicappers (save for a few in the Times Union, which puts its stuff behind a paywall).
  • The TU (which, again, is behind a paywall) has daily ROI totals for handicappers. The Pink Sheet posts totals each Wednesday (mine stinks).
  • The Daily Gazette and Saratoga Special do not post ROI totals, at all.

In general, I’m going off of data that’s readily available to me as I sit approximately 3,000 miles from Saratoga. What you see when I compile that and post it to Twitter is what I can get my hands on at that point.

I’m not saying ROI is not an important characteristic. It absolutely is, and it’s something every public handicapper should be keenly aware of. If your problem is that not enough handicappers post or publish their ROI totals, you have a valid gripe.

(Note: Saying so is not a knock on papers that don’t publish these totals, nor should it be interpreted as such. The people behind The Saratoga Special, for instance, barely sleep as it is.)

However, a few tweets I saw insinuated (and, in one case, outright said) that tabulating this should be something I do for every handicapper whose win totals I’ve tracked. In a word…no.

In many more words: My Saratoga content comes on top of a full-time job. This summer also included a move and a trip east for a conference. Honestly, it’s sort of a miracle the biggest problem I have this summer is winding up on too many favorites, and furthermore, a lack of data on the part of other handicappers does not constitute an emergency on mine.

What I propose for next summer is a compromise/collaboration of sorts. Public handicapper standings at Saratoga will always matter to me, and if I can do something that resonates with others in the ways public handicapping content resonated with me as a kid, I’m going to do it. It has to be within reason, though, and there are certain crosses I’m just not willing to bear.

I propose an open challenge, to every handicapper at every horse racing publication and/or media outlet that picks every race, every day, for 40 days at Saratoga. I want to provide a one-stop shop where people can evaluate data that matters to them. Some may want winners. Some may want top-three finishes. Some may want ROI. I want all of this included, too, provided it’s made available in ways that don’t require a crazy amount of additional legwork. In addition to being a sucker for things I grew up with, I’m hyper-competitive and love seeing where I stack up against some really sharp people.

Below is what I’m volunteering to do next July through next Labor Day, as well as things I refuse to do out of respect for what’s left of my sanity:

  • I will figure out a spreadsheet format that works and can be accessed by anyone who’s interested.
  • On my own, I will plug in data that’s easily accessible. This means daily Pink Sheet winners and weekly ROI numbers, and whatever numbers I can get from other publications (the Saratoga Special, Daily Gazette, and the Times Union, provided the TU works with me and gives me a workaround for the paywall).
  • I will gladly accept the assistance of volunteers that want to help make this better.
  • I will open this up not just to members of the local media, but to the racing industry at large. Participants must pick every race, every day, for 40 days, and do so in a way where top-pick winners, and top-pick winners only, are publicly tracked by either the handicapper or the handicapper’s outlet. If you want in, contact me and let me know the best way to find your content.
  • I will not pay for content. If your stuff is behind a paywall and you want it included, it must be sent to me independently.
  • I will not do initial tabulations for wins or ROI (though I will double-check if there’s something that merits it). That data has to be available and tracked.
  • Most importantly, other handicappers lacking data will not be my problem. If someone doesn’t want to track or publish their own ROI, in no way is that my fault.

I will gladly be the curator of such an exhibit. However, I cannot, and will not, do all of the work, all of the time, for everyone involved, for no pay, in a futile attempt to satisfy people on horse racing Twitter that would complain about a free lunch. If I’m met halfway, though, I think this could be a wonderful resource that makes all of us better and provides another way to enjoy what happens during the summer at Saratoga.

Speaking of that: Let’s enjoy what’s left of this one, shall we?

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