Horseplayers in the Carousel

The bottom floor of the Carousel Restaurant was closed to the $2 bettors who go there to eat, drink and be merry.  In their place, the first Saratoga Handicapping Challenge was held for serious horseplayers with $1000 to spend on an entry fee.  Six women and 99 men constituted the registered field of 100 participants allowed by the rules of the contest.

Horseplayers from as far away as Las Vegas sat around the circular open-air setting at tables in front of television sets. For the most part, they remained motionless and quiet as each race unfolded. No one leapt to his feet during a stretch run or verbally lambasted a jockey.  NYRA put on a spread.

“They don’t tip like they’re big spenders,” said Patty Perrin, an English teacher from Schenectady, NY who works summers as a waitress.  The players didn’t look like big spenders either, unless you consider the tie-dyed tee-shirt and matching ball cap worn backwards by player Paul Stath haute couture.

Phil Rosen, the leader in points at the halfway mark, wasn’t typical of the players, or very different. He was a letter carrier from Brooklyn before he retired to Clifton Park, NY, a suburb of Albany.  Rosen shot to the lead when he bet $40 on the nose of Prytania, a horse in the second race of Del Mar that was ridden by Joel Rosario, a jockey he loves. Then he followed that with another Del Mar hit.

The rules require you to play a minimum of five Saratoga races and you’re given two other tracks to choose from. Each player must make nine bets for $20 and one for $40. At day’s end, Rosen’s mythical bankroll stood at $533 - slightly ahead of his two nearest pursuers. He thinks he can win the whole she-bang if he adds $400 to his current total on Thursday.

“I don’t use a computer, nothing like that, just the Racing Form,” Rosen said. “I like the Tomlinsons and betting repeaters,” he revealed, at an evening reception which made it apparent that NYRA was glad to have the horseplayers there.

Picking winners at Saratoga was easy.  Not one of the nine winners went off at more than 7.30-1. Six winners were either favored or the second choice.  The first race produced the most popular winner in Flying Sappho, saddled by Rudy R. Rodriguez. Flying Sappho was also the winner that most caused the horseplayers to scratch heads. The winning trainer, a former jockey, is winning at a 34 percent clip.  When he was riding the horses he trains, he couldn’t win with more than three percent of his mounts.

Tom Durkin sang “Minnie the Moocher” to pay homage to the featured New York Stallion Cab Calloway Stakes, not to lend credence to Perrin’s opinion. Robby Albarado broke his collarbone. NYS Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini reported in with the info that Joe Coffey is the name of the Son of Sam sleuth.

Vic Zast has attended at least one day of racing at Saratoga in each of the last 47 years. He is the author of the award winning book, “The History and Art of 25 Travers.”


Leave a Comment:

Penny pincher

I never tip tellers. They're union workers who make a ridiculously high wage for sitting on their duffs and punching keys all day.

12 Aug 2010 9:24 AM


It was a waitress who complained about the cheapskates not a teller.  Do you stiff waitresses as well?

12 Aug 2010 1:51 PM

not all "tellers" are union.  if they are unionized, different contracts apply for seniority including salary, double shifts, sunday premium, fair circuits (13 days consecutively) premium. Let's not consider insurance.  UNION DUES are high  hence the higher wage for a non-union worker. just because you are a union member work is not guaranteed unless your union seniority number comes up. They do not make alot of money and if they come up short they pay. There's alot of ways to come up short besides gambling out of the box. Anyway, if you win $102.50 leaving the small change isn't a bad idea if you get good service. Especially if it's you lucky window ect. next time you win $502 you'll get paid in 20s instead of ben franklins.  how much do you think they get paid on average?  it's different track to track. you have a misconception of what goes on behind the counter,

12 Aug 2010 2:55 PM

Frankly, I enjoy tipping at the race track as well as my local OTB as it signifies I've had a good day or maybe at least just caught a nice bailout score. I guarantee you it's appreciated especially at the parlor where you know you'll see those tellers again real soon.

While it's obviously a personal decision I say it speaks to class and at least for me, it's important how people see me and what they might think of my character. That's not to say I reward rudeness but if the people are decent to me they will remember how I treated them after a "signer".  

12 Aug 2010 10:27 PM

Did a sportswriter just accuse another group of being cheap?

13 Aug 2010 2:59 PM

Is it or is it not customary to tip a teller if you win a large amount of money? For example if you win $800, should you tip 10% or $80?  That is what I was told last night.

01 Sep 2010 8:45 AM

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