(Originally published in the January 26, 2013 issue of The
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By Eric Mitchell - @BH_EMitchell on Twitter
A filly named Glorious Dancer caused two significant changes in the life of horseplayer Michael Beychok.
The first occurred Jan. 28, 2012, during the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.
Beychok, a political consultant from Baton Rouge, La., was coming down to the wire of the tournament needing to win at least $11 to finish on top. He was running neck and neck with Dave Flanzbaum, who had been leading throughout the second day of the two-day contest but started losing ground down the stretch. Beychok didn’t want to go for a horse worth 10-1 or more because he knew it greatly reduced his odds of success. Instead, he landed on Glorious Dancer, a 3-1 shot in an $8,000 claiming race at Golden Gate Fields.
The California-bred daughter of Roman Dancer offered a better probability of winning and, if she won, would give him just enough in cash. Beychok bet her to win and place.
She won by a nose and Beychok won the contest by $1, the closest margin ever in the 13-year history of the national tournament. The tournament victory earned Beychok $1 million.
The second change occurred about six weeks later when Beychok noticed Glorious Dancer was back in for a tag, this time for $6,250.
“I knew she only had a couple more starts if she kept dropping,” he said. “Then, who knows what would have happened to her?”
So Beychok claimed her.
“The horse changed not only my life—the money she won for me—but also changed the way I think about horse racing,” Beychok said. “I was a bet ’em and forget ’em player. If you didn’t become a sire or a broodmare, I just moved on to the next group of horses. Because she changed my life, I wanted to be sure her life was good for the rest of her life.”
Glorious Dancer went into the barn of trainer Steve Sherman. She raced three more times getting a win, a second, and a third. After her first start for Beychok, he ran her in races with much higher prices to dissuade other owners from claiming her away. Then she came up with a little injury.
Sherman told Beychok the now 5-year-old mare could be rested, rehabilitated, and put back in training, but he added they would always be facing the risk of losing her in a claim.
“Steve said he wanted me to think about it because he realized this wasn’t business to me, it was personal. I decided to retire her,” Beychok said.
Glorious Dancer was shipped to Louisiana and put in the care of the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association that will see if she has a potential second career ahead of her as a sport horse. If she doesn’t, then she’ll live out the rest of her life under Beychok’s care.
Beychok has been a fan of horse racing since he was 15 when an associate who worked in his father’s law firm in Baton Rouge—and had become like a big brother to Beychok—took him to the races. That litigator was James Carville, who would go on to become a political consultant and the lead strategist for U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Carville has recently moved back to Louisiana, and he and Beychok are frequent visitors to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Glorious Dancer wasn’t the first racehorse Beychok has owned. He’s been an owner off and on over the years, and today is the managing partner of That’s Me Stable, a racing partnership campaigning horses in Louisiana.
During the Eclipse Awards ceremony Jan. 19, Beychok was recognized as the Handicapper of the Year. He used his moment in the spotlight to urge all horseplayers to become more involved in aftercare, then challenged all NHC players in this year’s tournament Jan. 25-26 to donate a portion of whatever they win to an adoption or aftercare program. He has pledged to donate 10% of his winnings.
“(Horseplayers) don’t do enough and we should,” Beychok said a couple days after the Eclipse Awards. “We are as much a part of this business as anyone, but all we seem to do is complain. The more we can repair the sport’s image and improve the game, the better it will be for all of us.”