I’m what I would call an enthusiastic amateur horseplayer. I absolutely love going to the races, and I love the puzzle that races present, but I don’t put in the time or effort that it takes to be good at picking winners over the long term. Regular winners at the tracks are magicians. Because I’m not a hardcore ‘capper I have to rely on tricks to spot winners from time to time. My favorite such trick is to look in the past performances for a horse that loses ground compared to the leader at some point in the race, and then gains it back later on. That shows a couple of things – the horse is in good enough shape to be ready for a late charge, and he has the heart and determination to pick himself back up when he is down. If a horse has done that at least twice in his last five races then he’s certainly worth a real look.
This angle is especially strong if a horse has regained the lead after losing it. Horses are herd animals, so when a horse fights for the lead down the stretch and then loses it they usually read it as a sign of dominance and they back off. When a horse has the heart to overcome their instincts and charge to the lead again then they are the real deal.
I am a far less enthusiastic boxing fan, but I still like to look over cards as often as I can. The same basic angle applies there as well. I like to see a boxer who gets a knockout or a decision after having been knocked down himself earlier in a previous match. If that has happened twice or more in the previous two years then you have a potentially attractive bet. The same theory applies – the comeback indicates that the fighter is in good enough shape to regroup from the knock down and find a way to win, and he doesn’t get bothered when he literally gets punched in the mouth.
Why am I talking about horse racing and boxing when the Super Bowl is just around the corner? Well, if the Arizona Cardinals were a horse or a boxer then I’d be paying them extra attention. Against Philadelphia these guys ran out to thoroughly convincing 18 point lead, but then they gave up 19 straight points to fall behind late in the fourth quarter. Instead of giving up and waiting for next year, they fought back, drove all the way down the field, and scored the winning touchdown.
That’s not the only time it has happened in the playoffs, either. They opened up an 11 point lead against the Falcons and looked strong. But then they gave up that lead in less than three minutes right before the half. They had the whole half time to stew over the loss of momentum, but instead of feeling sorry for themselves they took the lead back for good less than a minute into the second half.
They also made a habit of coming back from being down. They gave up the first touchdown against the Panthers before coming back to win, and they fought backfrom being at least a touchdown back five more times during the season. These guys are brawlers, and they are headed up by a master competitor. That would make them worth a bet at the track or in the ring, and it just might make them worth a look on Sunday as well.