Commentary

Tournament tough

Updated: January 22, 2008, 7:43 PM ET
By Jay Cronley | Special to ESPN.com

Tournament horse race handicapping is pressurized for several reasons.

One, not only do you have to pick winners, you also have to beat all the lucky dogs around you.

Two, when tournament money is lost, it's gone, you can't go to the Monopoly bank for more.

Tournament handicapping requires an altered mindset -- you have to think outside the winner's circle: can't be shy, your bets go public; can't be conservative and string together some of those 3-5 favorites of yours; can't play horses in the tournament that you wouldn't trust with the kid's school-clothes cash. This is the chicken's lament: I won money at the windows but tapped out in the tournament.

Do you have horse race handicapping tournament potential?

True tournament tales are among the richest in sport. When you put dozens of characters in a room, somebody might have to think about stepping over somebody on the floor in order to get down a bet before the wagering closes.

The following happened to me at a big handicapping tournament.

Wagers at this tournament were made at your place at a table; then they were collected and fed to the computers and posted over your seat. There were no mulligans; mulligan, now there's a name for a $5,000 claimer. If you missed getting a bet down by a second, you were given $2 to win on the post-time favorite; which shows how sorry a bet a favorite is in a tournament -- some places, they treat a bet on chalk as punishment.

While hustling to register a crucial tournament bet on a 10-1 horse, I came to a man who had somehow gone down gambling, first to his knees, then to one side.

You be the tournament handicapper. Look over the multiple choices and see if you can pick a winner.

Here is a bit more information. The downed man gambling appeared to be in his mid-50s and seemed soft around the edges, a little jowly and slightly fleshy. He was conscious, but was not volunteering information. No blood was flowing from a gash inflicted by a fellow contestant, a waitress, a teller, or a table edge. His color was fair, shaded more toward pale than glowing. He was decently dressed.

"Last call, get your bets down," the tournament announcer said.

What is the contending tournament handicapper to do?

As is the case with most propositions at the track, there are many options.

(a) Call out to ask if there is a doctor in the joint.
(b) Call out for a relative.
(c) Ask if anybody knows him.
(d) Pray.
(e) Pretend not to have seen him.
(f) Wave a hand in front of his face.
(g) Step over him and run to get your bet down, then seek immediate medical attention.
(h) Lean down and ask him if he's OK.
(i) Lean down and smell his breath for alcohol.
(j) Ask for a tournament official and seek a ruling.
(k) Shout out what you want to bet in the tournament.
(l) Check his pulse.
(m) Drag him out of the way for a second, careful not to jostle his neck.

The correct answer: Is (h).

This lets you know many important things right off, namely that he is alive and is, or is not, aware of where he was and what he was doing.

In this case, the man said that he had simply passed out, had fainted, after he had wagered his last tournament money on a short-priced horse.

I ran to bet.

The man wobbled to his seat.

My 10-1 shot beat his second favorite.

For sixth or seventh.

This can usually be said about a tournament player and his and her environs.

Has character.

Has characters.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com

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