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January 11, 2019

Those Who Know

By: Jonathan Stettin


 

Is a tip ever a tip at the racetrack? If you ask a hundred bettors, I think you might be surprised at the assortment of answers that you get. I’ll come back to that. Most of you who know me know I spent many years going to the racetrack every day, without missing a beat, first in New York, and then in Florida. I’m talking decades. I once broke up with a girlfriend, or I should say she broke up with me because I had to bail on her sister’s wedding. Yes, she was in the bridal party, and it was a big deal. That said her sister chose to get married on the first Saturday in May. I did not miss many days.

For several seasons at the Gulfstream meet my Dad and I sat with a dear friend of ours Joe T., may they both rest in peace. My Dad would always make Joe laugh hysterically when he would ask us if we liked any of the horses we had running with Peter Walder. My Dad, also Joe, would say, “those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know.” They would laugh together, and Joe T. would wave his finger and say, "You are right." Of course, Joe was never cold-shouldered out of any horse we liked, and I spent years chasing pick 6’s with him, and generally I don’t do partners.

Those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know. Interesting. Does anybody ever really know at the races. Sure, there are a number of times a year where I feel I know the outcome of a race, but there are intangibles, as A Raving Beauty showed early in the last Saratoga meet. You can know, but they still have to run the race.

Once I claimed a horse named Am Flippy from of all people The Chief, Allen Jerkens. She had run a big number on the rags at two, and Peter and I grabbed her for $62,500. Obviously, we had some good expectations for her. She did not train as well as we hoped, but we were limited as to where to run her back. We used to win at a killer rate off the claim back then, and she would have taken money wherever we ran. With limited options, we ran back in an allowance race.

I remember walking into the track that day and almost immediately being approached by a well-known race-tracker. The man asked me if I liked anything and I said not especially. He then said he had some good information on a horse. He said he knew the owner, and he was a big bettor who flew in from New York to bet and watch his horse run. I honestly had no interest, and frankly could care less. I do and did my own thing and go by only my opinion. Nonetheless, to be polite I asked who is the horse? Am Flippy he said. Yes, he gave me a tip on my own horse, and he didn’t even know it.

Those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know. This guy obviously didn’t know but he absolutely said. Am Flippy didn’t win that race. She was one of the few horses we never did any good with. Claiming from The Chief, not such a good idea.

One time in what seems like a lifetime ago, a well-known rider who is now a pretty well-known trainer, told my brother Joe DiMaio and I that he loved his horse at Belmont and was going to win this race the next day. The horse ran badly, and we didn’t even ask him, he volunteered the “info.” The next day when I saw him, I asked what happened, he looked at me with a degree of sincerity and disappointment in his face and said I should have read the form. What? Those who know don’t say and those who say don’t know.

If you have spent a degree of time on the backside of the racetrack you learn fast it is different than the frontside. It is a world all its own. Generally speaking, trainers and riders (both exercise and jockeys) don’t like to share insight they may have into how horses are doing with just anyone. Bettors are often viewed as outsiders who don’t understand the backside, and there is really no upside for people on the backside to share what they may know about a horse. Often, they know of problems a horse may have that aren’t public knowledge and don’t appear in past performances. This information is good to have when you can get it, but you usually won’t.

Trainers have a tendency to talk about their horses like people talk about their kids. They may like their horse, and know he is training excellently, but can they rate and rank the competition as objectively as a sharp handicapper?

The most solid type of in the know information at the track, with the exception of knowing who will not win for one reason or another, is when a trainer cheats, and I don’t mean with illegal drugs, or doing anything illegal at all. I am referring to those scenarios where a trainer runs a horse worth 50K first time out for 20K knowing they will jog, and nobody will claim them. Sure, you can catch someone better in there, but for the tag as opposed to a Maiden Special Weight, you probably won’t. If you are fortunate to know about one of those, that would be a real “tip” or edge. Most of us likely won’t know until after the race when it becomes very visible.

Sometimes a horse will overcome an issue that was hindering them, knowing can be an edge, but will you? Probably not but things even out in the long run, as the competition can always be tougher.

Tips, or inside information, is not a prerequisite to success at the races. Can it help, maybe at times but remember, those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know.