Two years ago, I did something which, by any standards of human conduct, would have to be considered a dastardly deed. I lied to all my friends about a horse.
I have waited for an appropriate chance to redress my sins, and finally I have a way to do it. I will tell everybody what I know about the third race at Aqueduct today.
Both that race and the one two years ago involve one of the rarest, most valuable types of information a horseplayer could ever want: information about a significant typographical error in the Daily Racing Form.
During the spring of 1977, I was enjoying a tremendous winning streak at Pimlico, and many of my race-track cronies were riding on my coattails. But one day, my colleague Clem Florio and I unearthed a piece of information too juicy to share with anyone.
A filly named Spot Two won a maiden race by five lengths in the published time of 1:13 3/5. But the time of 1:11 3/5 had actually appeared on the tote board after the race, and when Florio clocked the television replay with his stopwatch, he found that Spot Two had indeed run in 1:11 3/5. r
When Maryland racing had shifted to Bowie, Spot Two was entered again, and a handicapper who knew how fast she really was could conclude that she was a cinch. I was worried, though, that her odds might be inadequate. The betting pools at Bowie on a midsummer Tuesday are usually very small and my money along with that of a few friends could wreck her price.
So the night before Spot Two ran, I visited one of my regular Georgetown drinking establishments, where the bartender asked, "Like anything tomorrow?" I called him aside, took a napkin and scribbled, "SWORD PLAY 8th BOWIE," and then told him in a hushed tone, "This is a cinch."
I made the rounds of all my hangouts in the vicinity of Wisconsin and M, whispering the name of Sword Play. When I went to the track the next day, I saw a sea of familiar faces.
Sword Play was a legitimate 12-to-1 shot in the morning line, but was bet down to 5 to 1. With this money showing, Spot Two held at a generous 5 to 2. I dispatched one confidant to make my bet surreptitiously, and when Spot Two romped to an easy victory and paid $7.60, I tried to maintain an outward show of dismay over Sword Play's dismal performance. I also had a slight inner feeling of guilt.
That situation is a rarity, because the Racing Form manages to process millions of pieces of information without an error.But now it has happened again.
On Nov. 5, the first race at Aqueduct was run in 1:23 2/5, an excellent time for maidens going seven furlongs. That time appeared on the Teletimer; it appeared in the wire-service recapituation of the Aqueduct results. But in the Racing Form charts, as well as the subsequest past performances of the horses who were in that field it appears at 1:26 2/5.
The excellent real time for the race was verified when the third-place finisher, Arctic Service, came back to win his next start by nine lengths. Today, the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, optimism and Lord Jeffrey, are entered against dismal opposition in the third race at Aqueduct.
Optimism has excellent credentials. He was making the first start of his career Nov. 5, and that seven-furlong race was surely a prep for today's mile-and-one-eighth route. Optimism is bred for classic distances (being a son of Tom Rolfe), and he is trained by Angel Penna, who specializes in preparing horses for long races.
Lord Jeffrey has less inspiring credentials, having run without success in maiden company nine times. But his true time in his last start suggests he should be able to whip the rest of today's field.
Optimism looks like a winner, and the Optimism Lord Jeffrey combination looks like a solid exacta play.
This, I should emphasize, is not a mortal-lock, bet-the-rent situation. An exacta in a maiden race is by nature a chancy proposition, and the odds on it won't be particularly great, even though there will be an overlay because of the typographical error. But racing is more often than not a game of edges rather than certainties. The knowledge that Optimsim and Lord Jeffrey are much faster than most New York bettors realize is an edge worth taking. And this time I won't be taking it selfishly.