08/14/2013 12:55PM

Dick Jerardi: Making money at Saratoga no easy feat

Barbara D. Livingston
Orino crosses the wire first in the New York Stallion Series Cab Calloway Division but was disqualified, which elevated heavy favorite West Hills Giant to first place.

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When I walk into a track that I have only been casually paying attention to, my only hope to win money is (a) imagine how a few races will be run and (b) frame a few bets intelligently.

I did both (a) and (b) over three days last week at Saratoga, cashed exactly one bet, and won no money. I was not surprised.

There might be people good enough to walk blindly into a track and succeed. I am generally not one of those people. If I have not followed a meet, watched races, been betting right along, and getting a database of horses ready to win (or lose as favorites), I rarely win.

There are exceptions. I have been to Del Mar three times and won every time. And if a horse named The Barking Shark had held on to win during one of those visits, I would have been seen next in Las Vegas, living in a penthouse suite atop Bellagio.

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I have had my moments at Saratoga through the years, but, with all the maidens and first-time starters in the middle of horizontal bets, it is a bit too complicated for my brain.

I thought I knew something about last Wednesday’s fourth race. Turned out I would have known something if I had gotten a text from my friend Mark Reid before the race and not after it. My horses ran nowhere. Then, Reid gloated about having winner Drum Roll, a horse bred by his wife. Thanks for the info.

I thought West Hills Giant was as solid as everybody else who made him 3-5 in the fifth, the $100,000 New York Stallion Series. I also was certain that Orino would be loose on the lead. Chasing a fast pace in his previous start at seven furlongs, he had gotten tired in the stretch. Now, he was going longer so the assumption was that he would get even more tired. I love horses like that. In fact, The Barking Shark was one of those horses.

What the public misses with those horses is the lead is often easier to attain in longer races and the pace is more moderate.

I went to the windows to box West Hills Giant and Orino in the exacta. Just before I left the window, I doubled my bet with West Hills Giant on top, thinking he would eventually run down the speed.

Orino cleared the field easily, with West Hills Giant tucked in just behind on the rail. It was exactly the scenario I had imagined. I thought jockey Luis Saez rode Orino brilliantly, holding off a challenge to his outside and then moving toward the rail just enough to make life complicated for West Hills Giant.

In the end, Orino held on to win while West Hills Giant, after steadying late, barely held second. After an inquiry, Orino was disqualified and placed second. I never saw the exacta price that way, so I don’t know if I made or lost money with the DQ. I do know it was a very shaky DQ.

This goes back to my DQ rule that states there is no DQ unless it is obvious. This was nowhere close to obvious. In fact, just get rid of stewards and you would not have to worry about good calls, bad calls, or any calls. First horse to wire wins.

Anyway, I won. I should have taken my winnings and declared myself a winner for the Spa. Instead, I invested in the late pick four. I was in the vicinity, but just in the vicinity.

I thought I knew something about each pick four on Thursday. I got two touts from two respected trainers whose names are being redacted to project the guilty. Each of their horses, which I used to build my bets, showed excellent early speed and no speed in the stretch.

After watching longtime friend Bob Levy give a Hall of Fame speech when Housebuster was inducted into the Hall on Friday morning and changing my entire approach when everything came off the grass, I felt really comfortable with the late pick four.

I had no clue in the seventh, a maiden special weight for 2-year-olds, so I took the easy way out with the all button hoping for a longshot. I hated what I thought would be the favored entry of Get in Line and Charming Kitten in the Hall of Fame Stakes. I used two of the other horses. Flashy American looked like a single in the Alada. I had half of the six horses in the 10th.

The first leg came down to a head bob between a 2-1 favorite and a 9-2 fourth choice. The 9-2 was in front right before the wire and right after the wire. The favorite was in front at the wire.

That was an omen. I used two in the Hall of Fame and should have used three. The favorites were nowhere. I ran 2-3, beaten late by an unknown trainer named Todd Pletcher and Notacatbutallama. Why would I consider using Pletcher?

Flashy American won easily. The 10th was never in doubt, but I was out the door without complaint. I gave myself a chance. In this sport, that really is the goal. Then, when it is your turn, it is your turn.