Aug 8 2013

Horseplayer Stories – Either I’m A Genius or An Idiot!

Saratoga - Top Of The Stretch

Saratoga – Top Of The Stretch

Horseplayers walk the thin line between Genius and Idiot all the time.  And believe me, I speak from many days of experience.  But, one day in particular stands out in my memory.  It was August 8,  2009 … my son Michael’s 18th birthday and you can probably guess where we spent the day.

Deb and I went up early in the morning to claim some picnic tables at the top of the stretch.  Mike was meeting a group of friends at the track for his “traditional” birthday party and we needed a place for all of them to sit.  It’s the least I could do for him on his birthday you know.

It turned out to be a beautiful summer day at the races, full of sunshine, cold drinks, and good friends.  All was well in the world … except for my handicapping.  I’d like to blame it on the commotion of the day; reserving the tables, talking with Mike’s friends, or maybe too many of the cold drinks.  But, the simple fact was, for 10 races my selections were quite awful.  I could muster no more than a couple of minor cashes, and there was only one race to go.

Neal and Poppy with Hat

Neal and Crazy Poppy

I was not alone – Mike’s friends and my good friend “Crazy” Poppy were all having losing days.  The latter was down to his last $25, and he asked me who my top selection was in the final race.  I looked at my sheet, and on the top was a horse named Tutti Va Bene.  He looked at the board and said, “Ah … he’s 19-1 you know.  And you’ve got him on top?”  I replied, “Either I’m a genius or an idiot Poppy.”  He said, “You’re an idiot!  But, I’m going to bet on him anyway.”  So he bet his last $25 to win on Tutti Va Bene.

Michael and several of his friends jumped on board and bet their last remaining dollars on Tutti Va Bene.  All, except his friend Mackenzie, who decided to bet on the longest shot on the board, Our Montana Dream.  Because she liked the name.

Tutti Va Bene ran in mid-pack until the quarter pole, at that point he swung out wide and as he passed us at the top of the stretch he was still in 6th place but gaining.  Our attention switched to the television screen and we watched as he steadily advanced from 6th to 5th to 4th to 3rd to 2nd … to 1st … winning by 1/2 length at the wire.

We were all screaming and dancing around, and Mike’s friends were thanking me … all except for Mackenzie, who happened to be doing some yelling of her own.  In the excitement of following Tutti Va Bene down the stretch, I hadn’t noticed that Our Montana Dream had finished 2nd at 46-1 odds, paying almost as much to place as our horse did to win.

I asked Mackenzie, “Did you have it across the board?”  She replied matter-of-factly, “Nooo … I bet him to Win, Place, and Show.”  We all had a good laugh as my son explained to her that’s what Across The Board means.

So, for ten consecutive races I was an idiot. But for one final race I was a genius.  And, that’s one of the really cool things about horse racing, it’s that one race that Poppy, Mike, and his friends still remember to this day.

I found out later that Tutti Va Bene is Italian and translates to “All is Good.”  I like to think of that as my personal motto when I’m at the race track.  All is good!

Click here if you’d like to see the results chart for our 19-1 Tutti Va Bene.


The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES (A Favorite Cooler Drink Of Racing Fans at Saratoga)

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

4 comments on “Horseplayer Stories – Either I’m A Genius or An Idiot!

  1. In 1979 my wife and I went to Oaklawn from Kansas City. I had just started my accounting practice, and we didn’t have a lot to bet with. My best bet of the day (I, sadly, do not recall) was in the 8th race. I was a $2 bettor, but as this was my best bet I had budgeted $16 to win. After placing my bet I went back to my seat and found that I had called the wrong number at the window. I immediately panicked, went back to the window and tried to sell the tickets to whoever would buy. Well, no one wanted this horse. I couldn’t watch the race. Not having a large bankroll and betting most of it on a longshot with no chance, was making me physically ill. When the horses were in mid-stretch my wife started elbowing me in the side. I looked up to see my mistake overtake all to win. That mistake made me well over $1,000. When I was in the payoff line a guy asked me how I landed on this horse. I replied, “You have to really study the form”. Such is the life of a horseplayer.

    Kelley Sample on
  2. Sometimes it’s the last second shabby idea that gets you a big score. After spending way too much time and effort and losing over and over on a Santa Anita card near the end of the last meet, I decided I needed to put even more effort into a maiden turf mile and designed several combinations of trifectas. About 30 seconds before the gate opened, without any logic, I threw a first time starter–at over 20-1 odds, over another 20-1 shot and put all the favorites in the third slot. When that combination actually came in and paid 1700 I didn’t know how to react. That bet always reminds me that you CAN make a poorly thought out bet at the last second—not that it should become a practice every race–but it justifies betting like an idiot now and then!

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