Horseplayers: Life at the Track

Overview

Nearly $16 billion is wagered every year on Thoroughbred horses. But only 2 to 5 percent of horseplayers turn a consistent profit. Is it possible for a reasonably intelligent, normal guy to actually make a living at the racetrack? Ted McClelland takes us on a yearlong journey to find out.

A wildly diverse cast of horseplayers kindly adopts McClelland and teaches him an array of techniques for playing the ponies. There's the intensely disciplined Scott "The Professor" McMannis, ...

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Horseplayers: Life at the Track

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Overview

Nearly $16 billion is wagered every year on Thoroughbred horses. But only 2 to 5 percent of horseplayers turn a consistent profit. Is it possible for a reasonably intelligent, normal guy to actually make a living at the racetrack? Ted McClelland takes us on a yearlong journey to find out.

A wildly diverse cast of horseplayers kindly adopts McClelland and teaches him an array of techniques for playing the ponies. There's the intensely disciplined Scott "The Professor" McMannis, who uses a complicated formula to calculate speed figures; Creighton R. Schoenfeldt, a cranky gentleman who devotes practically 24 hours a day to studying the odds; "Bob the Brain" and Steve "Stat Man" Miller; and dozens more hustlers and high rollers who sacrifice their lives to betting at the track.

We join McClelland on his fascinating year of exactas, Daily Doubles, racing forms, and colorful track patrons, as he seeks to acquire the elusive skills of a professional winning horseplayer while betting his book publisher's advance during daily visits to Chicago's Hawthorne Race Course and Arlington Park, off-track betting facilities, and other tracks around the country.

Horseplayers affectionately records McClelland's all-consuming passion with horse gambling. He schools himself through devout and obsessive study of speed figures and horse and jockey statistics, reading books written by the pros, trying different betting and handicapping strategies he picks up from the horseplayers, and in the end, he achieves a sort of horseplayer wisdom.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McClelland, who writes a column on horse racing for the Chicago Reader, took a year off to learn about horse racing and gambling. Though he was introduced to the sport as a young boy by his father the reader can easily see that the author is an outsider trying to fathom the sport's inside secrets. Here he introduces us to all the regulars at Chicago's Hawthorne Race Course and Arlington Park and shows how horse racing can become more than a passion. In fact, it can become an addiction. This book will best be appreciated for its humor and insight even by those who have had little experience at the racetrack. It echoes the hilarious Thirty Tons a Day by baseball showman Bill Veeck, who made a glorious but futile attempt to master the world of horseracing.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Chicago journalist spends a lively year playing the ponies. You can make a life at the track, but you can't make a living," says McClelland, a columnist at the Chicago Reader, as he sets out to prove himself wrong. Spending ten months at Illinois tracks both seedy (Hawthorne) and bucolic (Arlington Park), he studies the art of wagering. He bets on maidens (horses that have never won), the chalk (the betting favorite) and suckers (horses that repeatedly finish second, leading bettors to believe the animal is due for a win). McClelland learns from personalities both inside and outside the paddock: there's curmudgeonly Creighton Schoenfeldt, a devotee of a handicapping program called All-Ways, which ranks every horse "according to its speed from the gate, its class, its workouts" and its finishing kicks. And there's mild-tempered Bob the Brain, who, in the late 1970s, was one of a group of horseplayers making a living wage at the track. (That streak ended in the early 1990s, when the Racing Form began publishing speed figures each day.) And there's also Omar Razvi, a cab driver and gambler who buys a filly named Sassiness with his winnings. After months of "betting like a eunuch," McClelland decides to go from tightfisted to two-fisted, and triumphs-for a time. He finally discovers the "secret" to winning. It isn't in predicting the horses' behavior, it's in predicting how other gamblers will bet, and exploiting their mistakes. Amusing, opinionated, rambling and filled with a dizzying array of handicapping formulas-in short, everything a horse-racing book should be.
From the Publisher
"Immensely readable account, by a brutally honest writer...a gambler’s book that is well worth a punt"  —The Racing Post
 

"A delightful memoir . . . McClelland details his transformation from casual fan to obsessed racing geek with humor." —Railbird

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556526756
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 634,245
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted McClelland is a staff writer for the Chicago Reader, where he writes a popular column called "At the Track" featuring his stories from the racetrack.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
How Gambling Saved My Life 1
1 The Blind Man and the Hustler 15
2 If Wishes Were Horses 27
3 Professor Speed 49
4 First Your Money, Then Your Clothes 63
5 170 Large 87
6 Derby Day 95
7 Travels with McChump 107
8 The Rebel Enclave 131
9 The Stat Man 147
10 The Late Great Eight 155
11 Omar and Lucky 169
12 Men Betting Badly 177
14 Eureka? 191
15 'Seabiscuit' Jockey Nearly Trampled 203
16 The Gold Club 211
17 The Twenty-Five-Dollar Horse 217
18 True Adventures in Gambling 223
19 Bob the Brain's Big Score 239
20 The One-Eyed Man Is King 249
A Racetrack Glossary 257
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