By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
Win, lose or draw, Jack Nicklaus probably has done more post-round television interviews than any golfer in history. One of those had a big influence on my life, as a person and a horseplayer.
Leading the tournament at the time, after a birdie-filled day when many other tour players seemed lost, the Golden Bear said something to the effect of: “It’s great to have a game plan, but you’ve got to be able to adjust. Things change on the golf course and the players that can make the adjustments are the ones at the top of the leaderboard.”
I’ve got my handicapping rules and stick with them pretty faithfully, but once in a while, when something changes, I kick them to the curb. Like everything else, sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s not so good, but in the long run, taking Jack’s advice has been profitable for me.
When I put out my public handicaps, what you read is what I like. I don’t save the good ones for myself and put people on the chalk so I can get a better price. But it is important to remember that I ordinarily make these selections a couple of days out and things can change dramatically in 48 hours. Usually, I check the weather forecast and plan for track conditions, but “the weatherman is a lousy handicapper,” as we all know.
My analysis of the 2012 Summit of Speed stakes was pretty good, if I say so myself. I had the winner of five out of the six races listed on my sheet, with the lone miss coming in the Smile Sprint Handicap (G2) when Gantry romped home an easy winner over my pick, Indiano.
Gantry had spent the early part of his career in New York, going through his conditions in the care of Michael Hushion. Shipped to the barn of young, up-and-coming trainer Ron Faucheux, he won three stakes in-a-row in New Orleans before finishing a respectable third behind Shackleford and Amazombie in the Churchill Downs (G2) on Derby day.
How did I leave him off my handicap?
He was an out of towner. It has been my experience, having attended the Summit of Speed the last five years, that the Calder horses have a tremendous advantage. As a matter of fact, local horses had won seven out of the eight graded stakes in the last two years. A shipper from middle America, Gantry got the redline.
Things changed on Friday morning.
It seemed like everyone I talked to was discussing Gantry and how good he training. “Who?” I asked when told about him the first time. I was very high on Indiano and until then, never really had shipper Gantry on my radar.
In discussing the race on our Saturday morning Equine Forum show, I talked about, “the wise-guy horse,” and how the whispers were out. After scratch time, as I formulated my pick five and pick four tickets, that bullet :47 3/5 workout over the Calder surface on July 1 began sticking out like a sore thumb – indicating he liked the surface and had been in town for at least a week to acclimate to the oppressive south Florida humidity. I decided that it would be prudent to include him, even though it was going to double the price of my ticket.
It was the right adjustment.
Gantry beat Indiano on the square and I hit both the pick five and pick four instead of ripping up my tickets.
That little adjustment made Saturday evening so much more enjoyable, as my wife and I celebrated my score at Luca Bella in Aventura and later had Manhattans with friends, in a penthouse overlooking the Atlantic, the moon over Miami shining on the waves.
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