A Unique and Flawless System

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A Unique and Flawless System
My first 15 years at the racetrack were mostly spent with my grandfather and there were more than a few days where we took a good and solid beating.

Systems and angles that had been highly successful over the years would sometimes come up empty during a particular card and you got that old familiar feeling that it just wasn't going to be your day.

But having a bad day at the track is fairly routine among daily players, and on most losing days, we'd realize we were tainted and head home early.

But occasionally, my grandfather would be relentless in his quest for a winner and we'd cruise the clubhouse and grandstands at Aqueduct or Belmont looking for fresh information or a hot tip.

He had many old friends who were former owners, trainers, and jockeys and sometimes we'd stumble upon a good tip and get bailed out.

His main man when searching for information was a former track maintenance worker named Scott. "Scotty," (as he preferred to be called) was a childhood friend of my grandfathers and the pair lived only a block apart. Scotty was long retired from being a racetrack mechanic but still did car repairs on the side to keep busy and earn some wagering money. He claimed that most of his customers were current jockeys and trainers, so he always had the latest and hottest information.

Scotty seemed like a cool character who had a slew of unbelievable stories. He seemed quite upbeat and happy and he'd always end the conversation with a belly laugh and a rather hard punch in the shoulder. His hands were arthritic and somewhat gnarled and bony, so when he chipped you in the shoulder, the pain seemed to run down your arm and you felt it for quite a while. Scotty's parting routine made him a hard man to forget.

When I first encountered him at the racetrack, I was a ten-year-old who thought this entire concept of fishing for a tip seemed like some version of the "French Connection." Scotty seemed mostly invisible and he was never just hanging around watching the races. You always had to ask around for him and after the messages made their way through a network of degenerates, a seedy character would find you and say, "Scotty will meet you under the tote board in ten minutes." The mysterious ex-mechanic man would then magically appear from the shadows of Aqueduct, sometimes with a small posse accompanying him.

I must admit, it was pretty exciting when we conjured up Scotty, as you never knew if he'd give out a 30/1 live longshot or the favorite but he always seemed to have one locked and loaded to give out. Like most tips, some would pan out and most would not. When we did receive a nice winner from him, my grandfather would seek him out (he was much easier to find after producing a winner) and toss the old guy a few bucks. Everyone went home happy and smiling and the tipster of Queens was declared a certified, national hero.

But as I got older and saw more of Scotty's antics, I noticed several red flags. For one, he was never out in the open hanging out, like most daily racetrackers are unless he gave out a winner. After a winning race, he'd hover around with an "I told you so" attitude until he got his tip and then disappeared back into the darkness. But when his tip ran up the track the man was nowhere to be found.

One day I was at Aqueduct with Granddad and we just received a hot tip from Scotty. I had just turned 18 (the legal drinking age in NY at that time) and was killing time in the bar. Scotty had given us the #7 horse in the upcoming race and as I drank my beer it occurred to me that he had given us the #7 horse the last few times he tipped us.

As I turned around to check the odds on the tote, I noticed a rare out-in-the-open appearance from Scotty. He was speaking with a man a few years my senior and when they were done talking, Scotty disappeared as usual and the man walked into the bar and pulled up a stool.

"Scotty give you the 7 horse?" I asked. "He looks good."

"No, not the 7, pal," he said as he leaned forward as if to tell me a secret. "But he says the 2 is a mortal lock. He got it fresh from the trainer's mouth this morning."

Those words were very familiar. At the end of every one of Scotty's two-minute tip sermons, he'd end the conversation with, " I got it fresh from the trainer's mouth this morning."

As I sipped the last of my beer, I fully realized Scotty was a scam artist and we had been bamboozled for many years. It seemed he had a foolproof system of giving out every horse in every race to countless people and of course, he had given the correct horse out to a few believing souls and expected a cut of the winnings.

It now made sense that he was such a hard guy to find and only showed up in a particular area where he had given out the winner and then bustled away after reaping his bounty.

As I thought about what a genius this man was, I also thought about the many black eyes I had seen him with over the years. Sure, black eyes were no big deal around the NY horse racing circuit and I even sported one once in a while. Yet, I found it quite odd that a 70-year-old man would have so many shiners.

I asked my grandfather if he fell a lot or perhaps was a boxer.

"No, he doesn't fall or box but, he does have an eye condition," he said. "The eye condition is that he keeps finding a fist in there." It all made perfect sense now, except for one thing. My grandfather was a street-wise former bookie who spent his days on the mean streets of Brooklyn, Queens, and East NY.

How could I have possibly figured this scam out before him?

When I confronted my grandfather about Scotty, he laughed hysterically. He explained that he knew about the scam for years but Scotty was a good friend who had a lot of problems.

He had a cancer-stricken wife who was in long-term hospital care and a drug-addicted son who was in and out of jail, courts, and rehab. He had a stack of medical and legal bills and had severe arthritis throughout most of his body. He wasn't able to work on any cars or even drive and hadn't in many years. He desperately needed some form of income and this provided a little something, without the risk of losing money.

When I asked my Granddad why we would support a con artist and then actually wager on the horses he gave us, he replied: "The way we were running today? Anyone picking a number out of a hat could do much better. Scotty has it rough. He decided it's easier to take a punch in the head once a week than to do a brake job on a car. He can barely walk or even hold the racing form as it is."

As I thought all this over, I was in amazement that Scotty never, ever missed a day at the track and he somehow pulled this off at the same arena every day for many years.

This legend went home a winner from the racetrack daily without ever having to make a wager.

Scotty had the perfect system, minus the black eyes.

Author: Peter Monaco 

Photo: Freepik

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