Back from my self-imposed exile to post a remarkable night at the windows

by Garnet Barnsdale

People that know me well found this column which detailed my frustration as a bettor, a bit comical because many consider me a “lifer”, which is only a slightly less offensive way of calling a gambler a degenerate.

As it turns out, I lasted exactly a fortnight, which may have caused some dismay to those making side bets that set an over/under number of 14 days, because they all ended with a push.

Anyway, I returned in full force this past Saturday at Woodbine Mohawk Park and the night had several interesting turns, twists, triumphs, missed opportunities and a conclusion that could have been an alternate ending to one of my favorite horse racing-themed movies.

Being that I was leaving for the track at about 45 minutes to race 1 and I live 35 minutes from the track, I wasn’t taking any chances on missing the Pick 5 because I liked the sequence, and was fairly confident in my Spot Play in race 4, Imsporty, who I felt was very live based on what I had seen in a couple of his recent starts and the added bonus that he was being sent out by Carmen Auciello off the claim which is a deadly angle.

When I arrived at Mohawk at 5 minutes to post and was looking at the track handicappers’ Pick 5 plays, I noticed that my single in race 3 – last year’s O’ Brien Award winning two-year-old trotting filly – Kadabra Queen – was missing from their tickets. She was scratched. It was decision time. Do I let it ride and live with either likely chalk Smoke And Mirrors or Illusioneesta as a single? I wasn’t that confident in either, so I cancelled my tickets and re-bet using four horses in that race.

You can probably guess the outcome. Everything came in exactly as I would have wanted had I stood pat and I would have cashed the $917 Pick 5 for $1.60. Instead, I cashed it for 40 cents, a difference of $1,100. Still, considering how my month of April went, this was a massive improvement – especially considering that Imsporty won the 4th like a champ and paid $12.40 and I had put $40 win on him. When you consider that I scratched into the winner of race 3, I had selected all five winners in the Pick 5 on top, and so despite being up $600, it still stung a bit.

I had a feeling also that the best was yet to come, and I wasn’t wrong. My top pick in race 6 won and although I had only bet two small Pick 4 tickets, both were live for a total of $3 to my Best Bet, Shades of Bay, who I spotted flying his last 1/16th of a mile the week before and who I was pretty sure could wire his field if he left. The best part was, he was 10-1 in the morning line. Sure enough, Trevor Henry blasted Shades of Bay to the front and despite drifting out almost far enough in the lane to high-5 me on the way by, my Best Bet coasted to a 1:49.2 score and I cashed $1,431. I was up $2,000, but considering I had doped out seven top pick winners in a row and the Pick 5 and Pick 4 ice cold, it really could have been $20K if I cold-punched them for a few more bucks.

Still as Trotter said many times in the movie Let It Ride, I was having “a very good day” and live in the late Pick 4 off my singled Best Bet that paid $14.

Race 8 came and went and I had eight top pick winners. Now, I had thoughts of sweeping the card on my mind and (eventually) getting my tombstone inscribed with: “This schmuck picked every winner on 5/19/18 at Mohawk Park.” I mean, no matter how much was wagered, that is every public handicapper’s dream.

As fate would have it, my 2nd pick, McWicked was a razor-sharp winner of race 9, but that was actually better for the Pick 4 ticket that I had split with my son, Ace, because he beat favored Easy Lover Hanover, which meant higher Pick 4 will pays. We were live with 6 of 10 horses paying between $770 and $2,100. I was feeling invincible, just like Trotter leading up to the final race in the movie.

Alas, this great game has a penchant to slap you hard at the exact moment you have it all figured out. When Bob McClure guided External past Nascar Seelster just before the wire, he deprived us of winning an additional $1,500, and no, we didn’t hedge.

Still this was one of the best nights of my lengthy handicapping/wagering career, even if it did turn out to be Let It Ride with an alternate ending. Although my 14-day break was refreshing and recuperative, I was reminded about how, despite some warts, this is still the greatest game in the world, and yes, I am a lifer.