Cup of Coffee: Fake Winning

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“Dude, it’s not real money.”

And that’s the newest perspective on the New York Post’s annual Saratoga Showdown. Given $2,000 of mythical money (a maximum of $50/day), four handicappers pit their expertise and prowess against each other to see who can win the most (or lose the least) during the 40-day meet. Why they picked me, I still don’t know, but here we are for another year. I had a big lead, squandered it, and now battle it out below the Mendoza Line.

It’s a humbling experience.

So far, I’ve relied on my own handicapping (inconsistent, at best), tips from the Eddie Kenneally yard (terrible), intuition (Always First at $44), notes from turf works (great with Bridgetown, awful with Bonavento), moles from random stables (disappointing),  and a clocker who thinks it’s funny (I feel abandoned).

As I searched for answers on today’s card, my friend Jonathan Thomas, assistant to Todd Pletcher at Belmont Park, reminded me that it’s mythical money.

“Dude, it’s not real money.”

Good thing, I couldn’t handle the stress if it was real money.

Here’s how it goes for today’s card.

First race. Ugh, $12,500 claimers, not my specialty. Ramsgate and King Andrew look tough, Ramsgate still has Robert Frankel on his form. My man Charlton Baker has an entry; hard not to like Surfing Ian with Fingers Lakes jockey Aadil Khan; they have won their last three together. I’m thinking $10 to win and $10 to place on the Baker entry but change my mind.

Second race. Two-year-old fillies, maiden claimers, going short on the dirt. Pletcher has a pair of Repole runners; you know they’ll take money and are probably the winners; Castellano rides one, Velazquez rides the other. Linda Rice booked Ramon Dominguez for her first-time starter Major Molly, but I like her better on grass. George Weaver goes blinkers on but has Castellano off Glackety. Garrett Gomez takes a rare call in a maiden claimer for Seth Benzel. I’m thinking $20 to win on Pletcher’s entry, take the short price and like it, but then change my mind.

Third race. I’m always a sucker for a Juddmonte homebred and ogle over Flourish, who cost me (mythical) money already this meet. Owner Lev Miller told me to beware of Mitigate when she runs back for Graham Motion (evidently Miller reads the Post), well, here she is again. I narrow it down to $30 to win on Flourish and a $20 exacta box with Mitigate, but remember I’m on a budget, make it $10 win and a $5 exacta box.

Fourth race. Another Grade III allowance at Saratoga. Atoned, Bad Action, Giant Moon, Discreet Treasure, Cool Coal Man, Regal Ransom and Timber Reserve make for captivating action but confusing gambling. Discreet Treasure is FTP, first-time Pletcher while Giant Moon already has a win over the track and distance. Still confused. Skip the race.

Fifth race. Got a tip on Arrr Pirates Booty but he took my (mythical) money when third earlier in the meet. Ghosts And Legends should stretch out, shouldn’t he? Linda Rice goes to the turf with Stroke, who is by one of my favorite turf sires, Stormy Atlantic. Peat Bay has a shot too. Bet a $10 exacta part wheel of Stroke with Peat Bay and Arrr Pirates Booty, nah, skip that, not sure what it costs.

Sixth race. For 3-year-olds and upward which have never won three races or 3-year-olds going 6 furlongs on the dirt. Claiming $12,500. I don’t bet Aqueduct.

Seventh race. I quickly narrow it to three horses. Obviously Tuesday for Linda Rice, simply because it’s Linda Rice and Ramon Dominguez on the grass and I might have seen him work. Power Dreams for Billy Badgett, because he’s by a turf sire, had a bullet turf work and made up 11 lengths in his last start. Precious Metal, because he’s trained by third-leading trainer Chad Brown (he loves when you call him that). Bet $10 to win on Power Dreams and a $2 exacta box.

Eighth race. The P.G. Johnson. I get ink fingers studying this one. I like every horse in the race. Got a tip about Will Phipps’ maiden Fancy Point. I love Graham Motion going from Presque Isle Tapeta to Saratoga turf. Pletcher’s Lauren Byrd worked like a good horse, if that’s who I saw work. Hmmm. I only have $8 left? Bet it all on Lauren Byrd and hope trifecta of Pleine Forme, Fancy Point and Lauren Byrd doesn’t hit, because we’re out of money.

Ninth race. Turf sprint. Bet $20 to win on Rice, whoever she’s running. Insufficient funds?

Tenth race. For horses who haven’t won a race on the turf since April, 2010 for a $20,000 claiming price. Is this really Saratoga? Chris Englehart ships Cinder Cone for a return to turf, I’d bet $50 to win . . . if I had the (mythical) money.