Since it takes money to get lucky, three of us went together as a single wagering interest for the Pick Six in last year's Breeders' Cup.
A single Breeders' Cup Pick Six winning ticket paid more than $2 million, another paid more than $3 million. Tough as these races can be -- a $20 winner on the grass is considered short -- it stands to reason you're not going to be a contender with a $100 ticket in your pocket. Big Pick Six payouts attract gangs of bettors pooling their resources in an attempt to steal the pot, so to speak. I have personal knowledge of a well-off group, inheritors for the most part, who put in thousands apiece and went after a gigantic carryover. They caught four favorites and two second choices and shared few hundred bucks with everybody else and his Chihuahua. A great shot is not the only thing that brings a person back to golf. A big win is not horse racing's only chief attraction. Watching somebody slice a golf ball over a cow can be a worthwhile experience; and watching a rich-kid syndicate catch favorites is an all right afternoon, as well.
The way our three-person syndicate was to work was we would each go over the Racing Form and meet early Breeders' Cup morning to check on weather conditions and review once more racing times and patterns and trends from the week before.
Each handicapper/partner was to pick the horses he liked in each race.
We had for this venture $500 apiece, 3 horses a race if that occasion arose.
Going by what transpired over the analysis of the first Pick Six race, it appeared that we might need more than three gamblers with $500. We might need 30. We liked seven horses in the first contest race. It seemed almost like jury duty. Nobody would budge. Humor was absent. More coffee please; six cups, eight, who was counting.
One person was adamant about several horses that appeared to have outside chances of winning. Inside, outside, what's the difference at the Breeders Cup, right? Oddities abound. Here's one. Favorites have won more than 37 percent of Cup races, or, more than usual. The images of all the $50 winners make a person think favorites get up four percent of the time.
Still, at our morning syndicate confab, one player seemed drawn to my throw-outs.
As time and coffee swirled on, it was suggested by the third partner the person with the most winners should get more of the pot than somebody who got in the way. Moreover, if we didn't win, and one of the partners still had a pretty good day, it was proposed that a decent performance on a losing entry should be somehow reward. The second and third place syndicate performers could, at the very least, reimburse the handicapper who had performed the best.
A payoff coming from within the shambles of a losing ticket wouldn't be too difficult to compute -- simply call the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ask for the head of the math department.
The handicapping remained contentious right up until the ticket was turned in a half hour before the first race.
It was more like a negotiation than a discussion. Give you that one in the third. You give me those two in the fifth.
One person walked out when the vote was 2-1 to single a horse.
He called back on a cell and stayed in the partnership, concerned that we might win without him.
We put in a little more than $400 apiece and hit one of six; and haven't spoken to each other all that much since.
Picking horses together is like sharing secrets; three men, no chance.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org