So, why do we gamble? It's not because we expect to win in the long run. Maybe 2 percent of us do, and the rest play because we get itchy for action. Bucking the odds forever won't show a profit, but it's such a challenging pastime.
A 1970 Bob Dylan album (remember that word, old folks?) has an even older song (Dylan didn't write it) entitled "The Days of '49." Appropriately, it's about the miners who were lured west in 1849 by the California Gold Rush. All of them were in search of The Life-Changing Score, and very few found it. Here are lines from this ballad that sum up the mentality of many who play cards and the ponies:
"There was Poker Bill, one of the boys
Who was always in a game.
Whether he lost, or whether he won,
To him it was always the same."
Those old boys were looking for the world's most precious metal, yearning to dig up the root of all evil. Some of us seek the ultimate killer hand at the World Series of Poker, while others chase the magical numbers on a Pick 6 ticket. We're a strange and foolish species, imprisoned by bad habits and in love with conflict and competition. We yearn to take each other's money and usually succeed only in losing our own.
Oh, these are deep, dark thoughts, especially from someone who cranks out a weekly betting column. You may ask: Well, Mr. Internet Tout, if you possess such bitter wisdom, why do you insist on tempting readers with your visions of the future?
Good question. Well, the checks from ESPN do help finance my horse and poker habits.
And while we're at it, you may be thinking, does he like anything Saturday? Well, yeah, a few critters at Gulfstream and Santa Anita caught my eye and will send me to the nearest OTB. I'm not guaranteeing victory for any of them, but hey, you've got to take a shot, right?
Last week: More aggravation. On a typically frustrating day the picks went 0-for-3, with two of my second choices winning. Don't give up. Never give up.
5th race, Gulfstream, NW3 allowance (1 1/16 miles, turf)
Danaslam has enough speed to pressure likely favorite Touched by Madness, a need-to-lead type who has to go wire to wire. Watershed Event is a strong finisher when he's in the mood, and the likely quick pace could set him up to win at bettable odds.
1. Watershed Event 2. Touched by Madness 3. Pulpit Talk
10th race, Grade I Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup stakes (1 7/16 miles, turf)
Here's a marathon overloaded with closers, so it appears that Gun Salute should get the lead by default. His one negative is he's coming off a four-month break, but Bill Mott is one of the best layoff trainers in history and should have him ready. Gun Salute handles any kind of ground and has back class. A long series of works should provide him with the necessary foundation.
1. Gun Salute 2. Go Deputy 3. Honor in War
1st race, Santa Anita, NW1 allowance, (6 1/2 furlongs, turf)
No races in North America are more fun to watch or more difficult to handicap than the down-the-hill grass sprints at Santa Anita. When a horse shows ability in its first try over this tricky terrain, it usually does better the next time. Courtnall made up five lengths in a fast final furlong three weeks ago in one of these, and there's enough speed to help him out.
1. Courtnall 2. Indian Dreamin 3. Precis
5th race, Santa Anita, maiden special weight (6 1/2 furlongs, turf)
In another downhill grass sprint, Charming Legacy looks like she might be a good thing. In her career debut for Hall of Famer Ron McAnally on Jan. 8, she surged from ninth to second in the stretch over this course and distance. She had a bullet turf work Wednesday and should be ready to fire big. Feel The Rush and No Greater Love look like her main competition.
1. Charming Legacy 2. Feel The Rush 3. No Greater Love