If you’re on Twitter and you’re a horse racing fan, you’re probably familiar with Kevin Cox, aka “The Brooklyn Cowboy”, due to his outspoken nature and as a public handicapper for the SARATOGA BETS and BATAVIA BETS website. He’s also the paddock analyst for the recent Kentucky Downs meet. He gave out the $2,250 Travers triple box with his 25-1 top choice finishing second, and a $66,000 ($2 price) pick 5 simply by using his top 3 picks ! He did a 10X Travers day winnings pledge in his column to the Red Cross and having made $31.20, donated $312. Readers jumped on board matching it for more than a grand! He also hit the early Pick 5 closing day of Saratoga meet for $58,000 for a $.50 bet! But what you may not know is Mr. Cox is a retired police officer of the NYPD, was a first responder at 9/11, and was a mounted officer in the Time’s Square section. He was also a former Jockey Agent, and is on the advisory boards for The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and Old Friends at Cabin Creek. If you would like to learn more and/or donate to either charity, email@example.com is the email address for The T.A.A., and 518-698-2377 to contact Old Friends at Cabin Creek. We here at 5Minutestopost are honored that Kevin was able to give us some of his time to get a better understanding of him, his life, and his very candid opinions on issues in the sport.
5MTP: What made you decide to become a Jockey Agent after you retired from the NYPD?
KC: I always thought Panamanian jockeys were the best jockeys around, and it was my intention to go down there, go to the (Jockey) school, and scout them. Which I did through my connections; I’m friends with Larry Jones and Ruben Munoz, and they helped me with that. I had my choice between 2 jockeys at the school, and the one I picked went on to be quite successful. However, the lawyer involved took $5,000 from me, and kept the jockey down there. So I was screwed out of $5K by this guy, and no Jockey. But even after this, i still had it in my head I wanted to be a Jockey Agent, so for the next year or so I represented an assortment of low percentage jockeys.
5MTP: Why did you stop being a Jockey Agent?
KC: Basically it was because the money I was earning wasn’t paying enough to put the gas in my car to do the job!
KC: Hey I’m full of good quotes!
5MTP: Okay then, well now you are a Public Handicapper for a couple of sites, what made you decide on that career?
KC: I’ve been playing the horses all my life, and when you’re a jockeys agent your job is to handicap the condition books. I had done well in the Belmont Handicapping Challenge, where I’d won. So I thought I had a pretty good knack for it. I asked my mother, “You know this(handicapping) is something I really want to do, the jockey agent thing isn’t working out, but in order to do this i needed some startup capital, at least 5 thousand.” Well back then, I couldn’t get my mom to loan me $50 without her wagging her finger at me! But this time, she pulled out her checkbook and said “How much do you need?” and she wrote me a check for $7,000 right on the spot. I should’ve known something was wrong, and I found out a little later she was sick, and she died not long after this. I guess that was her way of helping me pursue my dream before she moved on.
I’ve been reading the racing form since I was about 10 years old, my dad had a stack of old DRF’s from the 70s, always looking for that one miraculous system. I’ve always had a numbers oriented mind, I mean, I wasn’t like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, with shit taped all over my walls in my garage, with strings and algorithms and stuff like that.
5MTP: (Laughs) Ahh, you made me lose my train of thought there for a second. You were on the Esquire TV Show “Horseplayers”. How did that come to be, you appearing on there?
KC: I was at the Belmont Handicapping Contest, and that was a 2 day event back then. And, I saw some guys filming there on that first day. And, I went in there dressed like everyone else, and, by the end of day 1 I was leading, so I approached one of the guys and said “Hey you should be filming me, I’m in first place!” and he gave me the old W.C. Fields “Go away boy, you’re bothering me!” routine. So I was like Son of a Bitch! So I said, you know what? I’m going to come in here tomorrow like the biggest swinging you know what in the room, with my boots and hat. So, I had a game plan i was going to drop out of first place and save my best picks for later. I got back into first place as the day went on, the cameras started following me, they asked me to sign a consent form. Well I won the Tournament, and about a day after, I got a call from the producers , basically saying they wanted to be in the Kevin Cox business.
KC: So, I didn’t pull any George Costanza lines, where he wanted to get paid more than Ted Danson! I came on in episode 3. They filmed a couple of episodes already, slightly disjointed, where they were kind of all over the place. So I came on in episode 3, and I guess I was just a different type of personality from what the others brought, not that the other guys weren’t interesting, I was just a different type of personality.
5MTP: That brings up a question I hadn’t originally thought of but, do you think you get looked at differently by fellow horseplayers and fans because of your, different persona?
KC: Listen, a lot people who approach me, once they get to know me, they’re like “Ya know, I thought you were a real asshole before I met you” , I guess watching me on Horseplayers they got that impression. But, once people get to know me, they realize I’m not as bombastic all the time as it appeared on there. Not that everything on the show wasn’t 100% real, because it was, but at the same time I’m not ALWAYS like that. If someone, like the other day for example, a few people contacted me on Twitter wanting to know if I could meet them while at the track. So, I certainly don’t mind doing that, anything to promote the sport whether it’s something like that or my charitable endeavors. Now, just this morning, a father and son approached me about if they could have a photo. So, as I got ready to get in the picture with them, they handed me the camera. They wanted ME to take a picture of them, they didn’t even know who I was!(Laughs)
5MTP: You mentioned the handicapping tournaments, which you’ve won a few in your time, what type of tournament do you prefer playing in?
KC: The Tournaments I prefer are like the one I just played in a couple weeks ago at Saratoga, where everyone’s picking from the same small pool of races. When you play a handicapping tournament online you most always are playing from the same group of races as everyone else. I feel like, if you put me in the exact same pool of races with everyone else, I have an edge right off the bat. What I don’t like is, like how they have it set up in the NHC Finals, they have say, 7 different tracks, and you have to pick 5 of your own races or an assortment of races. I don’t like to have to spend half of my time deciding on which races to pick. I’d much rather have that decided for me. Less is more for me.
5MTP: When I talked to Marshall Gramm(co-founder of Ten Strike Racing) a few weeks ago , he said his favorite type of tournament was the live bankroll ones because they felt more like actual betting than others..
KC: And I don’t like those, I don’t like those because those tournaments are geared towards those with deep pockets who can afford to lose a lot of money. Or they can work in teams, people that do maximum amount of entries and have 5-6 partners, they can afford to lose a couple of thousand. I can’t , my car just hit 166,000 miles, so I can’t afford to just blow away a couple of grand.
5MTP: You make an excellent point, I hadn’t considered that..
KC: I always make excellent points!(laughs)
5MTP: Well, you certainly have so far! What advice would you give to someone new to a tournament, and how to approach them?
KC: If you can’t afford to lose the entry fee without feeling the pain, then don’t go in the tournament. You can’t go into any tournament thinking or worrying that it’s real money. If you’re thinking about what bills you gotta pay, then you’re already half-beat. That’s the most important part, that you have to have the indispensable cash to play that tournament. And you have to play fearlessly. There are times to play cautiously when you’re on the leaderboard, but generally, play fearlessly. Don’t even think about the money.
5MTP: Those who follow you on Twitter know that you’re a big fan of DRF FORMULATOR in your handicapping. What is it, you feel, that separates Formulator from other Handicapping software and/or databases?
KC: I like it because it has so much information, I call it the racing form on crack, basically. But you get out of it what you put in. For example, if I put a stat out there, that a trainer is .. 4 for 7 doing a certain thing with a horse, people may say, “well that’s such a small sample size” , but, that stat is probably based on 5 or 6 different parameters.Think of it like those old videos of how a baseball bat is made, where they whittle it down, and whittle it down until you get it where you want it. And that’s basically what Formulator is; a big block of information that you can whittle down until you get something that looks right. And, you can see by my stats I’ve beaten the takeout over 3 1/2 years. If you can do that as a public handicapper, you’re doing a good job, because takeout is so high. Formulator has helped for a good chunk of that success.
5MTP: Besides Formulator, what other handicapping methods do you use?
KC: Formulator is my 2nd method, my number 1 method is adjusted Buyers, Beyer Speed Figures, but I do my own figures, I tweak them according to track conditions, the field, stuff like that, you can’t just use straight Buyers, you have to trust yourself to know when the number may not be right. Plus the adjusted Buyers are easier to use for bigger fields than Formulator, whereas with Formulator it takes a while to whittle a field of 10 or more down to 4-5 horses, you could spend an hour or more on a race.
5MTP: You hold yourself very accountable, both in your columns and on Twitter. Most Public Handicappers only talk about their winners, why do you let people know when you’ve also not been doing good as well?
KC: I always said that if I got this kind of job I would do things differently from other handicappers. Be outside the box. Write the column as if I’m speaking WITH you in a bar,,,not down TO you. I try to jazz it up with movie clips & quotes, and brutal honesty. While other public handicappers win about 30% of the time, my batting average has been 20% for nearly four years now because I eschew playing favorites whenever possible, and as a result have steadily beaten the takeout over that time, including having a $210 on top winner this past winter at Gulfstream–that’s going right on my tombstone! When I started, I created an original “Beatable Favorites” category and the readers loved it. We usually find one or two horses a day that we dislike, and have beaten the grain there since we started. Now these days you’ll here “Vulnerable Favorite” said a lot on TV, which is cool. I believe in TOTAL disclosure with my results in the column, as I believe I am the only Public Handicapper who leaves ALL his ROI stats up there ALL year long ( and over 4 years ). If you’re taking the time to read it & bet, you deserve to know when I stink!!
5MTP: How do you go about determining a “beatable favorite”?
KC: It varies. Either I don’t think the adjusted Beyer is high enough to deserve favoritism, or there’s a bad Formulator stat.
5MTP: One thing you’re NOT a proponent of is Lasix in racing. Explain, what you feel, are the detriments of long-term use of Lasix?
KC: It’s weakening the breed. It’s weakened the breed entirely. Our horses have become dependent on it now. It’s amazing, years ago our horses over here were running 20, 30 times a year. Those horses overseas, they’re doing just fine without it. Either we’re the only country in the world getting it right, or the other 99% of the country is. And it would be hubris to think that we’re that smart that we’re the ones who are getting it right and everyone else is wrong. Plus, another reason I don’t like it is because it can be used as a masking agent for other drugs, you know you have these “miracle trainers” out there, that when add they add lasix to what they’re doing, they can use it to hide some other things they’re doing as well.
5MTP: You’re also very passionate about horses not only on the track racing, but especially after their career is over. You’re on the advisory board for The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and Old Friends at Cabin Creek. What can the tracks and the industry in general do to bring awareness to aftercare?
KC: Look up “Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit 2016”, go to the last 20 minutes, where they had an “open mic” session and I gave an impassioned speech, I was just there to give support to my friend Jack Knowlton. But I gave a speech saying racetracks should give 1/10th of 1% of all the handle to aftercare. Also, I said 1/10th of 1% of every claim and sale should go to aftercare as well. Because, no one’s gonna feel it, noone’s gonna miss that small amount, but it’ll add up to a substantial amount of money. And, if that could happen, and that money is doled out properly, that could help with my next idea; a National Racing Commission, headed by a Czar. A Czar with all powers , because right now you have too many jurisdictions out there, and everyone has their own set of rules. So, one national commission, one set of rules. That way things get more concise. I very rarely ask for money for these charities, because people eventually get tired of looking at you with your (expletive) hand out. That’s why I promote the charities in my column.
5MTP: And for the Horseplayer or racing fan, what can they do to help? Is there a place they can donate?
KC: Well that’s easy to do, just get the email addresses for these charities and people can find out there. (NOTE: The email address for The TAA is : firstname.lastname@example.org , the phone number for Old Friends at Cabin Creek is: 518-698-2377 contact these charities providing such a selfless service to our former equine heroes and see what you can do to help.)
5MTP: Finally, and it seems like I ask this question of all our guests, but what one thing, or multiple things do you think the industry can do to better itself and help grow the sport?
KC: National Commission, no race day medication, stiffer punishment for trainer violations. This guy Biancone, he injected cobra venom in his horses, and he’s just been granted his trainer’s license by Kentucky. The 1/10th of 1% given back to Thoroughbred Aftercare as I mentioned a bit ago. Staggered post times for “A” level racetracks. I’ve been on this for over a year, and they just said on the Jockey Club Roundtable the other day that tracks are losing around $200-400 million in handle per year because they have post times running on top of each other. The Czar for the National Commission, my vote for Czar, I’d be Assistant Czar, but my vote for Czar would be Corey Johnson, who owns Kentucky Downs. He’s one of the most respected and knowledgeable men in the game. Stop pricing people out.. on everything. This is the only form of gambling in the world, you can be down $60 before you make your first bet, after getting your racing forms, admission, food and soda. Lower the takeout rate. Keeneland is supposed to be a fan friendly track, but they just raised takeout. Reduce the racing schedule. You know other countries, like Australia, they work with each other on race dates and post times. These tracks here are like a pool of piranhas trying to eat each other instead of working with each other. Raise the scale of Jockey weights. They’ve been using the same limits for what seems like forever, you know the average human keeps growing. Raise the weights a couple of pounds, give these jockeys a break.
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