Goat Patrol and Just Goats

If you’ve ever wondered how much one of those big plastic bags stuffed with empty beer cans is worth, the answer is $25.  

The “goat patrol” provides a public service for NYRA, scavenging the grandstand and picnic grounds, picking up the precious metal throughout the race day and afterward.  Then with the bags full of empties over their shoulder like Santa Claus, they ride their bikes down to the recycling exchange for the nickel redemption.  It’s a way to make a living. Don’t knock it.

The method, in fact, seems considerably more effective, and therefore lucrative, than betting the horses. Professional handicappers at the Spa haven’t had the best of times lately.  Consider these statistics for some of the touts at The Saratogian and the Saratoga Special.

Brien Bouyea, one of six men employed to make picks for the Pink Sheet, has chosen 101 winners from 311 selections, a strike rate of 32 percent. Yet, Tom Law is 73 for 314 (23 percent) and Nick Kling scores with 78 for 317 (24 percent) - very ordinary.

Over at The Power Grid of the Saratoga Special, the leader is John Panagot, who has hit with 85 out of 277 bets – only 30 percent.  Pete Fornatale accounts for 23 percent, merely picking 64 winners from 277 starters.

In the defense of the prognosticators, they are making their selections way in advance of the races and selecting a horse in every race. The tote board coughs up winners at a higher rate than any single human. Selections take on significance when cash changes hands. Hunches perform better than you’d think.  

For example, the “First Lady of the Steeplechase,” Peggy Steinman, accepted several trophies on behalf of her jumper, Dark Equation, for the 67th running of the $150,000 New York Turf Writer’s Cup Steeplechase Handicap (gr. I). It was only appropriate. Wearing a sleeveless tan and white checkered sundress and a string of gumball-sized pearls, the woman of the pink and green accented mansion on Fifth and East Avenues greeted her rider, clad in Kelly green and pink, as if her decorator appointed him for the winner’s circle photo.  

Dose of Reality, the consensus pick, was a near-perfect certainty to lose in the seventh - a 5 ½ furlong dash on the grass.  Over the course of the last two years, the horse breaking from the one post in sprints such as this has lost 65 out of 66 times, 0 for 20 in 2008.  Instead, Easy Ashley took advantage of her and a last minute scratch of the favorite, Dressed to Win.

Facing several maiden 2-year-olds of special promise in the ninth, Be Smart, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, won at odds of 49-1.  Needless to say, the Smarty Jones filly went unnoticed by all who are expected to know these things.  Were you smart, as those who named the horse advised?

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