Greg "Boomer" Wry, a professional handicapper and veteran track announcer took time to answer our questions. With his signature booming voice, he answered decisively offering his views on handicapping, wagering in a down economy, synthetic surfaces and what he would like to see change in horse racing.
Case the Race: How did you become a race-caller? Does this help with your handicapping?
Boomer: I think it’s a huge advantage. [You at Case the Race] analyze race tapes. For me, I take a video in my mind of what I saw. It’s probably the difference between being a winning and losing handicapper. When I’m watching a horse I’m watching for different things. Did he change leads properly? Did he get a good trip? You can see various body language indicators. You can certainly see the difference between good riders and bad.
Case the Race: What’s your approach to handicapping? Do you make your own figures?
Boomer: I’m not a big figures guy. I make my own odds lines. I’m a very visual handicapper. I wrote a book called BETS: Boomer's Easy to Learn Thoroughbred Wagering Strategies. I’m a big class handicapper. I like to look at opening quarters. How did the race pan out? The opening fraction is the most important fraction in the race. Successful handicapping is about outworking your opponents. I used to be a professional bowler and I strove to be the best at that too… You wouldn’t think about betting me $2 to win at bowling, but when you walk into the track for the first time and make that pari-mutuel bet, that’s exactly what you’re doing: taking on the pros.
Case the Race: Has the down economy changed your wagering?
Boomer: I’m probably a bit more cautious. I think I’ve scaled it down a bit. But I’m a pretty conservative player. I’m conservative in my plays and in the tracks I bet. I demand large fields. I demand the race to be a certain way for me to play. I need perceived value. The more horses there are, the more the money from rookies is spread out. I’m looking for a perfect scenario. That happens about 8-12 times a day. I look at these and prepare two to three days in advance. I run this like a business. I’ve been handicapping since 1977, 32 years – 27 as a track announcer.
Case the Race: Is there anything in racing you would want to see changed?
Boomer: Do you have two hours? In a nutshell, there are three things. One, get the drugs out of the game. There are cheaters. We need to bring integrity back. I believe it is heading in the right direction but it needs to go farther. Several states, including California, have made it illegal to run on steroids. Two, we need integrity in the pari-mutuel pools. [In the Breeder’s Cup scandal where programmers manipulated the system], those guys just got slaps on the wrists. Also, when the odds change during the race it gives a bad impression. The perception is that people are past-posting. We need to make sure that people trust the game. Three, simulcast signals need to be available to everyone! Fracturing of signals in North America has to end immediately. Signals have to be available at every entity in North America. Do away with the needless fracturing of signals immediately.
Case the Race: Have you adjusted your handicapping for synthetic surfaces?
Boomer: Absolutely. First of all, synthetic surfaces have been successful. I’m a critic of synthetic surfaces that aren’t installed properly, but when they are installed properly they have proven successful. (Based on what I’ve seen, Tapeta is the best.) They had to do something. They were breaking down horses. They had to do something to make the tracks safer. People complain about biases related to synthetic surfaces, but there have always been biases in the industry. My handicapping numbers have not decreased because of synthetic surfaces. Buy watching these changes closely as they took place, I was on the cutting edge with my handicapping.
Case the Race: Do you play the races every day?
Boomer: Yes. But I do not bet live races that I call. I think it affects your calling. You want to be objective. I play from my computer 300 days per year.
Case the Race: What are your favorite wagers?
Boomer: Where is the most perceived value? That’s how I select my wagers. The factor I’m looking for is perceived value… which can be any exotic bet up and down the pole. I get cash rewards (rebates) for my wagers when working at home from my computer in the off season.
Case the Race: What’s your biggest personal score?
Boomer: I usually don’t answer that… I had a partner and we hit a twin trifecta for $76,800 at Turf Paradise in the 1980s. We hit it for $24 apiece. You can imagine the celebration that night!
Case the Race: What advice would you give to players to improve their handicapping skills?
Boomer: Outwork your opponents. I am handicapping tomorrow’s Tampa Bay Downs as I speak to you. This is my full time business. [My advice is], if you don’t have proper training, go to someone like me and get it. If you look at the Form a half hour before the races, you are going to lose. If you are not outworking your opponents, you are not beating them.
Case the Race: Care to make an early prediction for the Kentucky Derby?
Boomer: Absolutely none. It’s way too early. Let’s wait until we watch all the prep races have been run, and then decide. Two-year-olds turning three are too unpredictable. Watch the prep races. Then we will decide.
Case the Race: What got you into the game?
Boomer: It was a complete fluke. I was in college at Arizona State on a bowling scholarship. I was offered an internship at Safford AZ. At first, I wasn’t interested in the internship. Of course, I had been going to the tracks since my teens. We went to the old Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. Then, they told me the internship paid $125 a day and I said, "Okay." I started there 28 years ago. I guess you could say I fell in love with it.
Case the Race: Where does the name Boomer come from?
Boomer: I worked at New Mexico State Fair 1987-2005. The first time I went in there, the microphone was on level seven and they had to turn it down to one because I ‘boomed out’ the microphone. That’s where the name ‘Boomer’ came from.
Case the Race: Do you have any stories to share from the tracks?
Boomer: This story has a happy ending. In 1987, I was calling a race at the Wyoming Downs. During the race, the horse jumped over the fence and went into a lake. With the horse struggling, an outrider went into the lake after him. She got the horse and kept him from drowning while still on her horse. It was unbelievable.
Greg "Boomer" Wry is a veteran track announcer, handicapper, columnist and authority in the field of horse racing with 25+ years of experience. His books include, BETS: Boomer's Easy to learn Thoroughbred wagering Strategies and How To Turn Any Racetrack Into Your Own Money Machine (and be just one of the 2% that do). These books, along with instructional DVD, are available from his web site http://boomerhandicapsraces.com/index.htm.