The more the Happy Handicapper fools around with his computer, the easier his horseplaying life becomes.
Right now his favorite e-thing is called "Virtual Stable," found on the equibase.com Web site sponsored by Equibase Corp. of Lexington, Ky., the official statistics keeper of thoroughbred racing.
This feature lets you create an old-fashioned "Horses to Watch" list, including a short comment on each animal you want to keep an eye on.
Then every time one of "your horses" is entered in a race -- usually two days in advance -- you will receive an e-mail alerting you to the date, track, jockey, trainer and pertinent details of the coming race.
It comes in plenty of time to get a bet down at OTB, simulcast facility or other wagering venue, if you desire.
You can also receive an alert whenever one of your horses has a timed workout. And after each race, you can click to a copy of the chart to see how your horse fared.
There's no charge and your imagination is the only limit to its usefulness.
The H.H. likes to use the Virtual Stable in connection with two other free Equibase features: results charts and trainer statistics.
Every few days, he scrolls through the charts of the tracks carried by local simulcasting outlets (OTB, Buffalo Raceway and Fort Erie Race Track) looking for horses that have been claimed by leading trainers. Then he adds them to his Virtual Stable list and waits for word of their next start, or two, or three.
Over the years, he's found that betting on recently claimed horses can lead to some lucrative payoffs. After all, these are horses in which successful trainers (and their clients) have invested real money in hopes of quick results.
He especially likes to find recent claims that did not win the race from which they were claimed. Such horses are eligible to run back in the same conditions (maidens, non-winners of two, non-winners of three, etc.) instead of moving up to the next level.
If you're interested in setting up your own Virtual Stable, all you need is an e-mail address and some free time.
Here are some horses to watch to get you started.
Duck Duck Goose: Claimed for $9,000 at Finger Lakes last Saturday by Carl Baker. Finished last against non-winners of three at 6 furlongs.
Fly Girl Blues: Claimed for $7,500 at Fort Erie by Ralph Biamonte out of a race Sunday where she finished last against open fillies. She's already won four at the Fort this year for trainer Frank Johnstone.
Flying Fleet: Claimed for $10,000 by Chris Tuttle off a second-place Fort Erie finish against open company at 1 1/1 6 miles last Saturday. Just got beat by a neck in 1:45. Tuesday, Marty's Boy, the star of Tuttle's stable, became the third horse to win five races at the Fort this year. He's won a race in May, June, July, August and September.
Forlabid. Claimed at Delaware by Dale Capuano for $10,000. Finished third Sunday against open company at 1 1/1 6 miles. Chart says he "lodged a mild rally inside late."
Open Jet: Claimed for $12,500 at Calder by Fred Warren out of a sixth-place finish against maiden 2-year-olds at 5 furlongs Monday. He bumped a rival at the start, showed early speed and tired as the 5-2 second choice.
Precious Karly: Claimed at Philadelphia Park by Richard Vega for $15,000 out of a seventh-place finish as the 3-1 favorite against "non-winners of two" fillies at 6 furlongs Monday. Vega is No. 2 in the standings there.
Saxon Violins: Claimed by Scott Lake for $10,000 out of an eighth-place finish against open fillies at a mile Sunday at Philadelphia Park. She was 12-1 in that race. Lake is the No. 1 trainer at Philly Park and among the national leaders in wins.
Silver Silence: Claimed at Delaware on Tuesday by Capuano for $16,000. Finished third against 3-year-old maiden fillies at 6 furlongs as 8-5 favorite. Led at top of stretch and tired.
Starlight Gazer: Claimed for $62,500 by Mike Wright Jr. on Sept. 12. Ran fourth at Woodbine over 1 1/4 miles on the turf. She set the early pace and faded.
By the way, Wright is one of 11 trainers with an .800-or-better in-the-money record with favorites at Fort Erie.
Based on a minimum of six starts as Fort faves, the others are Joseph "Red" Johnson, Phil England, Josie Carroll, Lou Capi, Daniel Wills, Wilf Jones, Henry Whalen, Daryl Ezra, Stanley Smith and Rod Cone. Don't ever leave their horses out of an exacta or trifecta combination.
Voluntas. Claimed by Tuttle for $7,500 out of a 10th-place Fort Erie finish against open company at 6 1/2 furlongs last Saturday. Tuttle had him earlier and won with him at 6 furlongs in 1:11 3/5 .
We're OK Now: Claimed for $12,500 last Saturday by Delaware Park's leading trainer, Timothy Ritchey. Finished fourth as the 9-5 favorite against 3-year-old open fillies going 5 1/2 furlongs. Tired after dueling through the first quarter in 22 seconds.