For those of you who followed my blog when I was writing for another racing Web site, you may recall a couple of my popular "tough beat" posts. You know, those betting nightmare stories that come around every so often - getting nosed out on a huge ticket, taken down on an objection, locked at the window, etc. You seasoned handicappers know what I'm talking about.
We'll, I haven't had a "tough beat" for about two years - until last Sunday. And no matter how many times it happens or how long it's been since the last one, that sick feeling afterward never changes. It's like getting punched in the stomach. Here is my latest nightmare...
Sunday, June 15. I'm enjoying a nice day with my family and friends at Churchill Downs. It was a fairly uneventful day for most of the seven-plus hours we were there. It was the day after the Stephen Foster, so the live card was fairly weak. Most of my time was spent in the simulcast area.
I was able to hit a couple nice exactas throughout the day, but all in all, I was treading water. Maybe up a few bucks. Somehow I was able to convince our whole party to stay until 8 o'clock, but by that time it was pretty slim pickins. It was about 15 minutes until we had to leave and I turned my attention to one of my favorite smaller tracks, Delta Downs.
Race 4, a $10,000 claiming event for older Quarter Horses going 330 yards. I'm usually not a big Quarter Horse guy, but when you have 15 minutes left in the day, I'm not picky. Anyway, because I was looking for a big score I decided to take a few shots at the superfecta. I spent about 10 minutes handicapping.
I immediately threw out the 2-1 favorite and turned my attention to the second choice, Malories Warrior, who was 3-1. I liked his PPs and he was breaking from the rail, so I decided to key him in my $1 super. I settled on a $1 super 1/4,6,9,10. The ticket cost $24.
Malories Warrior went gate to wire and won for fun. No problem there.
One of the four horses I played under Malories Warrior was the 6 horse, 11-1 shot Ossun Jewel. He was second pretty much the whole way and though laboring near the wire, he held on clearly for the runner-up spot. Again, no problem there.
My final three horses are where things get tricky - and where my heartbreak begins. I decided to use Achievements Best (5-1), A Silent Rebel (42-1) and April de Oh (14-1). Like I said, I was looking for a big ticket.
You know how these quarter horse races go - they are over before you blink. But what I do remember is Achievements Best broke fairly slowly and was flying late from post 9. I was fairly certain he got third. April de Oh (4) was also in contention the whole way but was fading near the wire. I was pretty sure he was not in the top four.
From what I could tell the fourth spot was between either A Silent Rebel (10), who was also near the back of the pack and made a late bid on the outside, and Dale Lee (3), the only horse I didn't have in there. Dale Lee was near the front the whole way but was tiring in the final yards. It was very tight for fourth.
I turned to my friend and said, "I might have this." He watched and said it was too close for him to call. Then that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling you get when you know you might be sitting on a big ticket came over me. I waited anxiously for the replay.
From the naked eye it looked as though Dale Lee got a nose up for fourth, but still, I waited and hoped. And then the results came...
1-6-9-3-4-10. I didn't have the 3. My stomach sank.
It sank even more when I saw the payouts. The $1 super returned $2,228.20. And that was with 24-1 Dale Lee in fourth. If 42-1 A Silent Rebel gets that fourth spot, it pays even more. I missed a lottery ticket by "this" much. I didn't stick around to see the photo, but I did torture myself later that night by looking at the charts. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth spots were all separated by only a neck. The next day I watched the replay. Here it is if you want to share in my pain. Click on June 15 and then Race 4.
Like I said, this is not the first time I have been nosed out of a huge ticket and it won't be the last. I've also had my fair share of big ones go my way and that's what keeps bringing me back.
What also keeps bringing me back is hearing "tough beat" stories from you guys. The last time I posted one of these it received tremendous response. I heard a terryifying tale of a person losing a $75,000 Pick 6 ticket because a jockey fell off just before the wire. Someone else wrote me about the time he hit a $14,000 trifecta but accidentally threw the ticket in the trash. It was one nightmare story after another. I immediately realized I was not alone. I also realized that somehow sharing our heartbreak with each other takes a little bit of the pain away. After all, we're all in this together.
Okay, so let's hear it. What is your "toughest beat" ever?