The "Trainman," a well-known husky individual with a broad reddish face and reddish-gray hair was well-known in the Grandstand at Hollywood Park this past season, and is equally known to the hard-core racing fans now at Del Mar.
Called the Trainman because of his former job, which was to ride the rails for the government as a security guard in train cars carrying mail, he worked for 40 years and then retired with a pension that adequately keeps him in gambling money. What the Trainman is proud of is that in his entire 40 years, although he carried a gun, he never once had to use it.
In any case, going to the track generates the excitement needed by the Trainman, who would find retirement very boring if he couldn't make a bet or two on the ponies, since he doesn't read anymore, doesn't care for movies and only watches the news programs on television in the evenings. What he has stored up over the years from reading a great deal of mindless material while riding around on trains is lots of trivia, which he likes to show off by playing games with his cronies when they get together on weekend evenings.
But since going to the track every day could result in huge losses, if the Trainman were to just wager on his own selections, he has devised a system that usually wins a little more than it loses after a season of play.
The Trainman loves to play the favorites every race, claiming that they at least win from 28% to 33% of their races, which is as good as a newspaper handicapper might do.
But instead of just making straight wagers to win, he combines a money-progression on win and place betting that he continues to bet until the favorite wins, continuing the progression even should he make a profit on the race. Once the favorite wins, he starts over with the first bet of the series.
The sequence used by the Trainman is as follows:
First race: $2 win, $4 place.
Second race: $4 win, $8 place.
Third race: $5 win, $10 place.
Fourth race: $7 win, $14 place.
Fifth race: $8 win, $16 place.
Sixth race: $10 win, $20 place.
Seventh race: $11 win, $22 place.
Eighth race: $13 win, $26 place.
Ninth race: $14 win, $28 place.
What the Trainman likes about his system is that if the favorites don't win as often as he would like, then at least there's a good chance they will run second. And if they do, his purpose in betting to place is to either come out even on his per-race wagering or possibly to make a few bucks.
One of the best sessions for the system occurred on July 23, which was the last day of Hollywood Park's 67-day meeting. Stone House, running in the first race against maidens 3 years old and up, from post position No. 11, jumped into fifth place at the start of the six-furlong sprint.
Although Stone House fell back to eighth at the quarter-pole, he moved back up to fifth by the half-mile marker. In the stretch, Stone House was running third by 1 1/2 lengths and closing quickly on the leader. Just before the finish, Stone House leaped ahead to win by a neck.
As the favorite, Stone House paid $5.20 to win and $3 to place. The Trainman collected $11.20 for his $6 wagered and was ahead $5.20 for the day.
The Trainman also won the second race when the favorite, No Doubles Match, also running six furlongs, started out first from the No. 12 post position and quickly dropped back to third. At the half-mile pole, No Doubles Match was second and then took over first by a head when entering the stretch. He then extended his lead to finish 1 1/2 lengths in front.
Paying $8 to win and $4.20 to place, the Trainman collected $16.40, made a $10.40 profit, and was ahead $15.60 after two races. The Trainman lost 80 cents on the third race when the favorite ran second and paid $2.60 to place. He also lost $12 on the fourth, when All Bets Off, the lukewarm favorite at $2.90 to $1, ran last.
The Trainman then bet $5 to win and $10 to place on the favorite, Chief Runnin Blaze, in the fifth race and watched the nag fade back to sixth at the quarter-pole at 6 1/2 furlongs. Chief Runnin Blaze then moved up to third, took over first around the far turn and entered the stretch running easily. At the finish, Chief Runnin Blaze was two lengths in front and paid $6.60 to win and $4 to place.
For his $15 wagered, the Trainman collected $36.50 and pocketed $21.50 on the race. Being only $2.80 ahead after the fourth race, the Trainman was now winning $24.30. Cutting back to a $6 bet ($2 win and $4 place) after the win, the Trainman won the sixth on Cuddles, who paid $6.40 to win and $3.80 to place.
Adding the $8 won to his winnings, the Trainman showed a profit of $32.30. He wagered $6 on the seventh race and watched as his horse, Dr. Brent, ended up second to pay $4.20 to place. Winning $2.40 on the race, the Trainman was ahead $34.70.
Since he didn't win the seventh, the Trainman increased his bet to $12 ($4 win, $8 place) on the eighth. Petite Ile, the public choice, running 1 1/2 miles on the turf against 3-year-olds and up, took the lead at the start from the No. 9 post position and went wire-to-wire. Although tiring at the finish, Petite Ile held off the second-place horse and won by half a length.
The return for his $12 in bets hit $26 and the Trainman won $14 on the race. With one race to go, he was ahead $48.70. Agiwin turned out to be the favorite in the ninth, a 1 1/16-mile race on the turf for 4-year-olds and up. Agiwin ran fourth most of the way around the track until the stretch, where he made a bold move and finished first by a nose. The horse paid $7.40 to win and $4.40 to place.
Betting $6 after a win, the Trainman collected $16.20, winning $10.20. Combined with the $48.70 already won, the Trainman left the track with a tidy $58.90 profit.
Although favorites are expected to win about every third or fourth race, nothing is certain when horses compete against one another. Despite what the experts say, the Trainman contends that statistics merely bolster history but reveal very little of the future.
Although the system seems to be working for the Trainman, he does worry that maybe on some days no favorite will run first or second. If that occurs, then the nine races would cost him a total of $222, which would be difficult to make up on his winning days.
If so, the Trainman is prepared for that moment. It's like guarding the mail, he tells his cronies. "If the run goes smoothly one day, it doesn't mean that there won't be trouble the next. And if you happen to lose on the ponies one day, it doesn't mean you're not going to win the next!"