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Dana Blankenhorn has written about picking winners in open source that starts with a reference to Secretariat. I love horse racing. I spent two summers in my youth as a hot-walker in southern California for a trainer named Willard Proctor. A hot walker walks horses around in a circle, either just to get them out of the stall or to cool them down after they come off the track. It's the lowest position in the backside of any track. The best trainers still use people though and not machines. Our barn was next to Charlie Whittingham's.

Gambling is what makes racing go and picking winners is always nice, but in reality, the best handicappers wouldn't bet on Secretariat in the Belmont. They might bet an exacta or a tri-fecta, but more than likely, they would stay out of the race. Many like to bet on two-year old races where the horses are unknown, unless you go the track in the mornings to see the work-outs. Many also hedge their bets by 'boxing' - placing multiple bets on a single race. To box and exacta, you pick the best two horses and make two exacta bets. As long as both horses come in first and second, you win the exacta.

Trainers certainly love to have a 'big horse' like Secretariat. Every year they have some horse aimed at the big stakes, but they often make more money on claiming horses. In a claiming race, the horses can be bought for the price stipulated in advance. Trainers claim horses that they think they can move up in class. If they claim a horse for $15k and move it up a class and sell it for $50k or even better, get a stakes win for it, they makes some solid money for themselves. Trainers typically get 10% of the winnings, by owning a claimer, they get a piece of the action.

So, besides enjoying writing a post about a past life (not too much horse racing in Atlanta), what's the point? (Well, it's a bit of stretch.)

I fundementally agree with Dana's contention that opensource projects with companiess behind them are good bets, after all, WiKID stands behind our open source version. But there are also plenty of ways to hedge your bets, the easiest of which is to get involved in the success of the project. You don't have to commit code. You can offer endorsements, write documenations, participate in forums and mailing lists. Essentially, you can hedge your bets and help make a project a succesful - 'claim' the project.

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