Bad Beat Reminds Me ‘Why I Love This Game’
By Dan Tordjman
I strongly considered putting this off. What would it matter if I waited another day or another week before writing this? It wouldn’t change the painful outcome of a race that, more than 24 hours after it ended, continues to send periodic jolts of pain into the depths of my sore gut. It’s true that I could’ve waited a little longer to talk about what I lost yesterday but I decided to make time. If so many people could stop what they were doing to send me a tweet, text or email, expressing support, I could certainly make time.
To be honest, I had no plans to play or even watch any races yesterday. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration. I can’t honestly remember a day in the past two years in which I haven’t watched at least a race. But as far as betting goes, it wasn’t in the cards. All I wanted to do was spend some quality time with my amazing wife.
If you’ve followed my journey from anonymous racing handicapper to anything-but-anonymous writer, ‘capper and a few other things, then you might know that I moved from Maryland to New York earlier this year to pursue an incredible opportunity as a brand ambassador for The Jockey Club’s America’s Best Racing fan-development program. The “job” has taken me to some fantasy destinations- Pimlico for the Preakness, Belmont for the Belmont Stakes, Saratoga for the entire summer- and afforded me opportunities to meet some people I thought I’d only ever see on TV. I couldn’t have done any of it without my wife and, since I live in New York and she now lives in D.C., I try to show how much I care when we get to spend time together – like yesterday.
So there we are, on the couch, a little past noon, when I start to drift toward my phone. I start refreshing my Twitter feed and discover that the usual suspects are talking about the Belmont card. While I didn’t handicap the entire card, I did scan it on Thursday before identifying a few races that could be money-makers. Remember, Sunday was supposed to be a day with my wife. The only reason I even looked at the card was because I’m fortunate enough to be one of the handicappers that posts Derby Jackpot “BEST BETS” of the weekend on America’s Best Racing’s website.
After looking at the card, I zeroed in on race 7, a $62,000 state-bred a-other-than that looked wide open. Since I handicapped the race pre-morning line, I had no idea that #6 Raglin River would be listed at 30-1, or that he’d ultimately go off at 55-1. But if you read my analysis here, it was obvious that I thought he’d present some value and had a legitimate shot to grab a large slice of this up-for-grabs pie.
In addition to race 7, I also spotted a War Front filly named Fila Primera, going first out for Chad Brown in race 8. For my Derby Jackpot analysis, I also submitted an exacta box play in race 9, which included #4 Coolusive, #5 Dyker Beach and #6 Waco. I hadn’t spent much time analyzing race 10.
While I resisted the temptation to play the early part of the card, I started to get the itch by mid-afternoon. My wife had gotten started on something of her own, I hardly know anything about the NFL anymore (that’s what happens when you eat, sleep and breath horse racing, all day, every day) and, on top of all of that, my father began texting me and told me he was thinking about playing the early Pick-4 at Los Al. There were so many signs that I needed to jump in and play a ticket. Who could resist, right?
Not only was it almost time for race 7 and my BEST BET of the day, the race also kicked off the start of the late Pick-4. I briefly discussed a Pick-4 play with my dad and started clicking numbers. Naturally, I started off with Raglin River in the first leg. It was then, and only then, that I realized how inflated his odds were. No matter, I was certainly using him, but the enormous odds did force me to hedge by adding a few other horses in the opening leg. I went with a few I liked, who were also on this selection sheet by Jason Perry on ShapperDaCapper.com. I’d noticed that Jason was having a really good day at Belmont and I strongly believe that a hot ‘capper is likely to stay hot and a cold ‘capper is likely to stay cold. I leaned on his picks heavily in the last leg but decided to go with my own #3 Fila Primera as a single in the second leg and then added four horses I liked in my initial Derby Jackpot analysis in the third leg.
Here’s what the ticket looked like:
As the horses started entering the gate, two things dawned on me: I hadn’t put any money on Raglin River in the race and that I also completely neglected to look at Jason’s analysis in race 9 (the third leg). I frantically threw a couple of dollars across the board on Raglin River and hit submit just a second before the gates popped. My bet on him was in, along with my Pick-4 play.
I felt good from the break, as the 3/5 favorite Leroy Jr. broke a step slow and was rushed up early to challenge the pacesetter. I kept my eye on Raglin River, who was rating patiently behind under a nice hold by Rajiv Maragh. The horse looked loaded and it helped that the horses in front of him battled it out up front in a half mile of :45.21 and three-quarters in :57.1. He took the lead and held off Archer Hill late to win at the ridiculous price of 55-1! It was an awesome feeling and it felt even better to know that a few people who followed my Derby Jackpot picks hit, as well. (Watch the replay of the race here)
My only thought at that point was that if I could get Fila Primera home, I’d be in prime position to make a huge score, alive to four horses in a seven-horse field in the 9th and five horses in the 10th. Incredibly, Fila Primera won and my wife, who usually ignores my race watching, had by this point gotten into it too. She was excited and I was excited. My dad texted me. He was excited. It looked good as we headed to the third leg.
I generally don’t like when the track ‘cappers select the horses I have to win but for some reason, I was hoping to hear them boost my confidence going into the 9th. To my surprise, Andy Serling and Jason Blewitt both liked #1 Crafty Dreamer. I clicked over to ShapperDaCapper and noticed that Jason Perry had him listed second in his selections. As someone who follows the New York racing circuit pretty closely, I’ve always respected Crafty Dreamer. He’s an honest horse and missed by less than a length last time he faced similar going this same 7 furlongs. How could I have not added him to my ticket?
My brief panic passed and turned to optimistic excitement as the horses approached the gate. I remember thinking, I can’t wait to see these will-pays. Why did I have to let my mind go there? The horses were in now and I was alive to my Derby Jackpot picks of #4 Coolusive, #5 Dyker Beach, the heavy favorite #6 Waco, and long shot #7 Scam. Words couldn’t possibly do justice to the drama that unfolded next. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, just watch the replay.
After Crafty Dreamer closed an impossible amount of ground in the final 100 yards and dashed my dreams of a major payday, I sat and stared at the screen and repeatedly uttered the words “no… no… no….” It might sound dramatic but I was genuinely in shock. My wife, who never gets worked up – and that’s saying a lot, since she always has to deal with me – was in shock. My dad texted and couldn’t believe what had just happened.
When Freudie Anne – who I naturally had on my ticket – won the finale at 6-1, the Pick-4 for $2 paid $37,368. That’s $9,342 for 50-cent. Clearly, the payout for Scam, the horse I had on my ticket who got beat by a head at the wire, would’ve been significantly higher.
Now to the moral of the story. It isn’t about a losing ticket. It isn’t about looking back and contemplating what could’ve happened. It’s about what actually unfolded next. I sent out a tweet with a picture of my losing ticket, lamenting my “loss”, when the responses started rolling in. Here’s a sample of some of the messages I got back:
Sure, it was a tough loss. A bad break? Perhaps. But was I really unlucky? Did I have any right to complain about losing? I’ve thought on a number of occasions that I should write about the power of social media in connecting horse racing fans and horseplayers. Yesterday made me realize that I should have done it sooner.
A lot of people, friends in our horse racing Twitterverse, sent me other messages commending me for handling the beat with class. I’m not sure that I was totally classy, here behind my Twitter account, but I can assure you that I’m grateful beyond anything I could actually express. I’m grateful for racing, for all of the people I’ve met over the past few years, how this site has grown and the community that has grown from it. That means a lot to me and is a constant reminder that I’ve got too much to be thankful for and no right to complain about losing, not when this game has given me so much.
In addition to support I got yesterday from so many horse racing tweeps, I’ve also become close friends with a group guys known as the #ECS. I consider them among my best friends and I met them by talking horses on Twitter. I’ve developed relationships with jockeys, trainers and owners. I’ve become friends with the most incredible racing fans – who always prove even more incredible as human beings – from Toronto to Texas. Loss? It’s hard to feel any when you get the kind of responses posted above, along with so many more in direct messages and text messages. I have no complaints. My only regret is not having written this sooner.