A Cup of Coffee--Wednesday, August 22, 2001

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

I'm no handicapper, have never professed to be, nor do I ever really care to be. I wouldn't pick up on an inside rail speed bias if I was on it, only balls bounce in my book, and horses were made to ride not bet.

But I do like to visit the mutuel window when I'm at the races and find it entertaining to handicap a race when so inclined. My Attention Deficit Disorder usually keeps me from studying the Form too hard (very similar to my education experience).

In the next two days, I'll bring you the handicapping game, "You Better, You Better, You Bet."

The venue is Saratoga Race Course. We'll spend today, introducing the contestants and tomorrow going over their selections for Thursday's card, nine races, and a fortune in waiting.

Here's the players:
You got three guys. One's a handicapper. One's a horseman. And one's a tourist.
Joe Bettor.
Joe Horse.
And Joe Idon'tknow.

They're here to handicap the card. Well, one will be handicapping. One will be thinking or at least feeling. And the other one will be guessing. Listen to who you like.

Joe Bettor is a numbers guy. He's got more sheets than the Holiday Inn. He'd forget to put his pants on if he didn't leave his billfold in the front pocket. He walks down the streets thinking about exacta payoffs.

He had one wife, she left him after realizing that he got a bigger kick out of laying odds than...you know. He's a handicapper by trade. Rarely even comes out to the races. Likes the atmosphere of a betting parlor. Calls horses by numbers. Wouldn't know the color of Point Given but will tell you the show pool of his last race. Joe Bettor wakes up everyday and thinks he can beat the racetrack. When he wins, he thinks he's smarter than the track and everybody in it. When he loses, he thinks it's a conspiracy.

Joe Horse is a horse guy. He's trained horses, galloped horses, bred horses and bet horses. He'll combine some innate knowledge of the breed with a
little good old horse sense with a brief look at the Form, mostly for tips at freshness, breeding reference, or class checks. He recognizes health in horses, can see presence in a horse's eye, and roots for the horse. He is tempted by lightly raced horses, suckered by horses that look like they're coming to the race well, and can only bet horses trained by horsemen he respects. Joe Horse loves turf racing, hates the fast fractions of 2-year-old races, and comes only for the horses. He'll watch a month's worth of races without making a dollar bet. He loves the paddock. Jots down, "Long pasterns, OK, weak, not bad, great shoulder" over each horse's name in the program. And really can't be relied on for anything a day before the race. He makes selections in the paddock and on the way to the start, not on paper the day
before. But he'll give it a shot for the paper's sake.

Joe Idon'tknow comes to the races once a year instead of going to an amusement park, a ball game or a swimming hole. He loves the picnic area. Worries more about how many beers are left in the cooler than he does how many horses are in the race. He's got a couple of kids with him, a couple of old college roommates. The only takeout Joe Idon'tknow cares about is Kentucky Fried Chicken. He won't pay three plus bucks for a Form and reads the program over the shoulder of the guy in front of him. Likes to bet but it may as well be the crap table in Atlantic City. He picks names, bets birthdays, goes with pretty colors. He leaves happy, win or lose, because his intelligence (in his mind) is never questioned. Joe I Don't Know wants to have enough money at the end of the day to buy a beer at Bruno's across the street and get up in the morning.

All three make the racetrack world go round.
Joe and Sally Bettor.
Joe and Sally Horse.
Joe and Sally Idon'tknow.
That's the who's who. We'll be back on Thursday with each player's betting scheme for the card.

We tried to get Joe Bettor, Joe Horse, and Joe Idon'tknow to go to dinner and discuss the races. Couldn't agree on a place.
One went to Siro's, one went to Sperry's, and one went to the Raceway. Just guess.

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at sean@thesaratogaspecial.com or telephone at 518-581-1947.