By Amy Silverman
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By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
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Yet Badone claims he's not a heavy gambler. "Like everybody else, I've had successes," he says. "I've never, as long as I've lived, been a big bettor. The only bets I ever made I considered big, I lost. So I learned that wasn't my game. I'm what you call a $2 player."
Badone has written two books on handicapping, taught seminars around the country, been a staff tout at racetracks from here to there. All the while, he says, he's considered himself a "consumer advocate." "I've always believed, as an educator, that the horse-racing business was very remiss at educating their fans."
Lately, the handicapping trend is toward "weird intellectuals," in the words of Daily News writer Modesti, technocrats whose homemade software tells them what ponies to pick. Speed Figure-conjuring Andy Beyer, just one example, is a Harvard grad who probably had other opportunities to exercise his genius, but opted for gambling on small-brained quadrupeds instead. "It used to be you could go to the track thinking, 'I know I can win! Just look at these bums around me!'" says Modesti. "It's no longer like that."
A few of the Form's handicappers fit into that category. Not Badone, who's a pen-and-paper man. And not Brian Mulligan, a self-described "stubborn Irishman" known to readers as Sweep. Mulligan, whose nom de cap supposedly comes from a great horse from the last century, is the latest in a succession of expert staff handicappers to use the handle for the paper. He's been Sweep since 1983, and as the Form's Hollywood Park handicapper this summer, he picked eight winners in nine races July 1, which is pretty good. His pick in the fourth race finished out of the money. As quoted in the Form, Sweep explained: "I guess I wasn't paying attention."
Another relocatee from L.A., Mulligan grew up in a "gaming oriented" household, where pinochle was played more often than the radio. As a young man, he worked as an assistant horse trainer back East; later, having relocated to northern California, he worked as a Teamster. Visiting L.A. one summer day to catch a Dodgers game, he caught a Racing Form advertisement for a statistics editor, whatever that meant. "I told my first wife, 'This job is made for me,'" says Mulligan. "I borrowed a jacket and tie, tried to comb my hair and went down there and sold my soul to the Racing Form." Sweep Mulligan, who on his summer vacation took his second wife to Del Mar, thinks of himself as a "situation handicapper," one who bases his decisions more on the various entries in a race than on the speed of any particular horse. "People tend to think that the horses are machines or something, and they're really not," says Mulligan, age 41. "There are so many intangibles, so many different factors that make a race turn one way or another. . . ." Though his picks often jibe with Andy Beyer's numerical one-stop-shopping approach, Mulligan says he thinks there's more to the game than a stack of numbers. "If it was that simple," he says, finishing his fried-chicken plate at 40th Street Grill, "we wouldn't be working for a living."
So it's a myth that a good horse player can make his whole nut on the wagering side of the window? After all, if anyone could, it would be these sharpies. "I guess there are people who do it," says Badone, "but I've never known one personally. . . . It's a terrible lifestyle. It's got to be your whole life! If you can find 100 people who are doing it, probably 95 are single.
"What wife and kids would put up with it?" adds Badone, a family man himself. "Today we eat steak. Tomorrow we don't eat.'"
@body:Daily Racing Form workers are paid about like most newspaper reporters, meaning they're on the same scale as cops, teachers and other underappreciated public servants. Cash is not too flagrantly flashed on 40th Street excursions, so it's hard to tell if staffers are doubling or tripling their paychecks during lunch breaks--or, conversely, if they're blowing two or three paychecks at a pop. The handicappers, a disciplined bunch, seem to pick their spots pretty carefully; whole races fly by without a single Form-funded wager at the restaurant's makeshift betting windows. But the addiction-wary reader might be wondering at this point: Might not all this gambling pose a problem for these lads? Back at the office, editor-in-chief Neil Cook says, Nah. "I've seen some people, especially back in England, who got into gambling problems," he says. "But it's a question of discipline and money management. People on the Racing Form, if they have a bet, they have a bet. It's of no concern of mine. "But if it gets to be a problem . . . I have seen no evidence that it is. . . . All but a few of em are over 21. I expect a certain amount of individual responsibility from people. I don't see that it's a problem. If they want to spend their money at the racetrack rather than buying compact discs, it really has nothing to do with me."