Horseplayers learn to cope with pain and defeat in many forms, but there is one type of setback that nobody can handle with grace. When a bettor is "cold-watered"--touted off a winner by someone who presumably possesses inside information--he usually will want to commit either suicide or murder.
Long after I have forgotten the names of my big winners and losers at Saratoga last summer, I am still tormented by the thought of a cold-watering I received. A first-time starter named Domac's Dream had been shipped from Suffolk Downs for a grass race, and I knew that his trainer, Vinnie Blengs, was a sharpie who wouldn't be making this trip idly. I was preparing to make a semiserious bet on the colt when I saw Dave Goldman, a small-scale breeder from Florida, who had a couple of horses with Blengs. Naturally I asked him about Domac's Dream.
"He's had a lot of shin problems," Goldman assured me. "Vinnie doesn't like him." Evidently somebody liked him--money was pouring in on the colt, knocking his price down to 4 to 1--but I had inside information and so I didn't bet. When Domac's Dream ran like a thief in the night, winning by nearly five lengths, I wanted to kill Dave Goldman.
Fortunately, this wasn't necessary. Fate took a hand and punished him--with a cold-watering so frustrating and costly that even I must feel more than a twinge of sympathy.
"A couple of years back," Goldman recounted, "I had a disaster: my three foals died of different ailments and none of my mares got back in foal. I wanted to have some horses that year so I went to the Ocala Sales and bought two weanlings that I named Working Press and Visiting Press.
"Visiting Press cost $8,100, but she grew into a gorgeous filly. She was a Bo Derek. I kept her at the farm of my friend Noel Hickey, and he said she was the best horse on the farm. One day a man named Mike Bryan was there, looking at the horses, and he saw the filly whistling around. He asked Noel, 'Is she for sale?' A few days later he was handing me a cashier's check for her."
Goldman didn't hear much about Visiting Press after that; the clockers at Calder told him the filly worked occasionally, but hadn't been doing anything too serious or too impressive. But a couple of weeks ago her name appeared in the entries for a maiden-special-weight race at Calder. Goldman happened to be at the track that day, so he went to the paddock before the race to see Bryan.
"How are you?" he asked the owner.
Bryan looked at him stonily.
"Are you pleased with the filly?" Goldman asked.
"Quite so," he said, and made it clear that was the end of the conversation.
Goldman was perplexed. "The guy had chased me all over Florida to buy my horse," he said. "And now he was being damned near rude."
Goldman looked at the odds board and saw that Visiting Press was getting no action; she was 24 to 1. She wasn't getting bet in exactas, either. The breeder had been planning to bet $200 on the filly, but he had to conclude now that this would be imprudent. So he made only a token wager, then watched with amazement as Visiting Press won and paid $49.60.
The next day Goldman dejectedly related the story to Noel Hickey, who listened with disbelief; Bryan, he said, was not a rude man and certainly would have told Goldman if he liked his horse's chances.
"Where did you see him?" Hickey asked. In the paddock, Goldman told him. Hickey promptly made a phone call and when he hung up he was laughing wildly.
"That wasn't Mike you saw in the paddock," Hickey said. "That was his twin brother."
"I didn't know he had a twin brother," said Goldman.
"Most people don't," Hickey said.
"But why wasn't Mike there?" Goldman wanted to know.
"He was busy at the betting windows," Hickey said, leaving Goldman to be tormented for years to come by the bet he didn't make.
Quill Feather, a former claiming horse that had been showing high speed in sprint races, won yesterday's 1 1/16-mile feature at Bowie, by a length in 1:46, after being nursed along early by jockey Mario Pino.