Take my advice, or don't
About an hour before the first Breeders' Cup race at Lone Star, somebody called me at home and said hang on, Lynn had something to say.
Lynn had this to say.
"Who are you?"
The person who had called came back on the line and said they were in Las Vegas. There was a lot of background noise, people talking, laughing. They were in Las Vegas for a Halloween weekend featuring some gambling and shows at the clubs on the outskirts of town, where it was pretty much always Halloween. He said that he had my Breeders' Cup picks off the ESPN horse race website and was going in with a couple of buddies of his to make some serious money.
"Please wait," I said.
Lynn came back on the line and said she felt luckier that she had ever felt in her life and was going to bet a hundred dollars of some guy's money on my choice in the first race.
Did I know his name? The one who had called me?
I said no, he hadn't given it.
There were some muffled questions and answers in the background.
This is the kind of worse-case scenario that you imagine when you pick the winners of sporting events or horses for an eager public. It's why on television you see people who really know horses picking the favorites time and time again. If you miss a pick, at least you'll of company. When I publish a pick for a race, I imagine a good and honest person betting five bucks that he or she doesn't want to lose. The possibility always exists that a party of four or five is in the Bloody Mary pitcher before breakfast, throwing big bills at a horse and thinking I had just gotten off the phone with the trainer. I bet exactly what I list for others, almost always no more than two bucks per wager on Breeders' Cup Day.
The person who had made the call to thank me in advance for what they were going to win on my picks came back on the phone and I explained to him that I knew more than some about horse racing, and less than others.
We went over some picks listed on the website and I read him the bets that I had made, talk about good service for the company cause.
He wouldn't hear of betting only two bucks. He said their trip was a special occasion. He had come into some unexpected money. He said that he was going to bet in increments of twenty dollars at the very least.
I said don't blame me if he wound up walking to McCarran.
Turns out place bets are among the best to be made at the Breeders' Cup. Everybody goes for the win or the exotic. Chalk winners routinely pay better than even money for the second spot. The people who called from Vegas threw twenty dollar bills all over the first race. I had the horse that ran second and felt fine about the race. But Lynn called back and said they had broken even with my selections. She said they were very disappointed. One member of their party was pretty angry. She handed the phone back to the one who had called originally. He said he had seen in a chat room that ace handicapper Andy Beyer loved Dance Away Capote in the Juvenile Fillies and that the Daily Racing Form's Steven Crist liked Whipper in the Mile.
"Good, call them," I said.
There was no further call-right-back contact from the people who thought that you were supposed to bet $50 on all picks listed on a legitimate web site.
The phone didn't ring until after the Filly and Mare Turf race.
I let the machine get it.
The woman left a message thanking me for touting Film Maker, which ran second and paid $9 on the place and $40-something with the odds-on favorite on the exacta.
She also said she couldn't believe I didn't have an unlisted number.
I appreciate the frank self-evaluation of her party.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org