Is there any experience in life more exhilarating than to be a gambler on a hot roll?
At the craps table, a shooter may overcome the odds for minutes or hours. But at a racetrack, a handicapper's good fortune may last days and weeks, becoming intoxicating and all-consuming. Because he is engaging in an essentially intellectual activity, rather than abandoning himself to pure chance, he may dare to think that the streak will never end.
During this Saratoga meeting, that thought has crossed my mind. I have almost forgotten what it is like to lose a photo finish, or to see my jockey make a disastrous mistake, or kick myself for a tactical wagering error. My experiences here were epitomized in a $410.60 daily double last week. The first horse won when the jockey aboard the 6-to-5 favorite gave a ridiculously bad ride.My second horse got a perfect trip on the rail and eked out a photo-finish win. A couple of days later, his urinalysis came back positive for an exotic drug.
Such streaks, the good ones and the bad, are a mysterious and inescapable part of any gambler's life. I dimly understand how they happen: self-confidence begets success in almost any human activity. But when it turns to overconfidence, a bettor can start getting careless and subtly bring about his own defeat. The crucial thing to know about streaks, however, is that they do exist. A gambler must recognize them, maximize his profits during the winning streaks and cut short his losses.
When I am winning, I try to monitor my own performance and mental state as closely as a cardiologist monitors a patient, looking for signs that the end of the streak may be approaching. I haven't seen such omens yet, so I will be betting with gusto on Saturday's card at Saratoga. Especially the first race.
Readers wil remember (perhaps painfully) that a week ago I touted a horse named Brasher Doubloon on the basis of a powerful handicapping angle. The Saratoga racing strip had been extraordinarily speed-favoring on a couple of days early in the meeting and horses who had managed to rally a bit on those days had been coming back to win their subsequent starts. Unfortunately, when Brasher Doubloon ran again, a morning rain had made the Saratoga racing strip one of the most speed-favoring tracks I have ever seen and he didn't have a chance under such conditions. But the handicapping angle is still a valid one and it points out a tremendous bet in the first race.
Bold and Stormy ran on a highly speed-favoring track Aug. 2 but managed to rally four-wide around the turn and lose by less than two lengths. It was an excellent performance and a characteristic one for the consistent old gelding. Even though he is facing one of the speed horses who defeated him in his last start, he should annihilate his competition on a normal, unbiased Saratoga racing strip. He is a mortal lock.
Ordinarily, I would be content to cash a big bet on a solid 5-to-2 shot, but these are not ordinary times. So I plan to take part of my winnings from Bold and Stormy and parlay them onto Citizen Doe in the fourth race. The colt takes a subtle but significant drop in class. After finishing third in a $60,000 claiming race for older horses, he moves into a $50,000 event for 3-year-olds and the younger horses are a much weaker group. Citizen Doe's speed figures in New York this season are consistently superior to those of his rivals; he isn't in the mortal-lock category, but he ought to win at a decent price.
The handicapping logic behind these horses, strong as it is, may be of almost secondary importance Saturday. When a gambler in Vegas is holding hot dice, nobody ponders the logic behind all those 7s and 11s.
Step up to the table, folks, and bet this one along with the shooter. I can't lose.