Many betters look for alibis or scapegoats after losing a serious wager.
But after Starbinia lost the seventh race at Hialeah Monday, plunging readers of the Post into destitution, I could not blame the jockey -- Angel Cordero, Jr. is the best rider in America. I couldn't blame fate -- Starbinia never had a moment of bad racing luck.
I blame my roommate.
While I am not ordinarily superstitious, I do believe in the Joe Btfsplk phenomenon as it applies to gambling. Joe Btfsplk, you'll remember was the little jinx in the li'l Abner comic strip who had a black cloud hanging perpetually over his head. When he walked down the street, large objects would mysteriously fall out ofo buildings and squash anybody nearby.
There are gamblers like Joe Btfsplk and a prudent man would neither want to walk down the street with them nor bet on the same horses. So when Paul Cornman expressed his enthusiasm for Starbinia and said he, too, planned to make a serious wager on the colt, I should have felt some apprehension. For a month, a little black cloud has been poised above Paul's head.
"I remember exactly when it started," he said. "I was betting the Celtics, giving 6-1/2 points to Houston, and listening to the game on the radio. The Celtics were up by 22 when Dave Cowens got hurt and Houston started coming back. The Celtics were still ahead by nine points in the last minute and they missed two foul shots that could have iced it. Then Rudy Tomjanovich hits a three-point basket to beat me by half a point."
A couple days later, Paul got involved in a trifecta race at Hialeah. His 16-to-1 shot was winning the race and his 3-to-1 shot had second place locked up.
Now Paul was rooting for an 11-year-old campaigner named Union Soldier to get up for third to complete a trifecta that would pay in the thousands.
The horse just in front of him, Lou's Craft, was a faint-hearted quitter and Union Soldier stuck his nose in front just a few yards from the wire. Unfortunately, he chose that very moment to go lame. Lou's Craft put his nose back in front and won the photo finish.
The next night, trying a new venue, Paul set out for the Hollywood Greyhound Track to bet a standout in the second race. This time he picked a winner. The dog won by eight lengths -- while Paul's car was broken down on Interstate 95.
A week ago, Hialeah offered a Saturday card that seemed to hold so much promise that Paul knew his fortunes had to change. He was so excited about his prospects that, even after midnight, he could not get to sleep, so he drove to a bar in Hallandale for a nightcap.
He was heading toward the bar when he saw a crowd of people spilling out of it and a melee developing. Fifteen whites were pulverizing two blacks. Paul dashed to a phone booth, called the police, then leaped into the fray to assist the victims.
Within a couple of minutes, the police arrived and the attackers dispersed. Paul went to a hospital to have his assorted bumps and bruises examined and then spent the morning hours giving a report at the police station. While he was away from home all morning, a friend tried to call him from New York to tell him about a mortal lock in the ninth race at Aqueduct. Paul never got the message.
The horse at Aqueduct won and paid $15.40. Paul's horses at Hialeah lost.
Clearly, Starbinia got beat on Monday because a little black cloud was hanging over his head.