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“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

  • Niels Bohr

THEN (1995):

There never was a better place and time to be 12 years old than New York City in 1970. Besides rooting for the Mets, Jets, and Knicks, I was feverishly testing my brand-new Kel-co Class Calculator on the races at Aqueduct. To my delight, the magical slide rule showed a profit for a month’s worth of results.

The world would soon be mine. On Saturdays I took the “A” train to the races (in those days a seventh-grader could ride the subway alone). Once in a while I forgot about seventh grade altogether and headed for the track on a weekday, hoping to parlay my lunch money into a new baseball glove or a coveted back issue of Superman. Once in a while I even got lucky and made a score. I’ll never forget boxing Ferly and Lucie Honey in an exacta (shortly after exactas had come into existence) and listening to my pocket transistor radio in Spanish class as Harvey Pack came on with his Pack at the Track report:

“The winner, OTB letter G, Ferly. Thirty-nine dollars, sixteen-eighty, and nine- twenty. Second . . . ”

I held my breath: Please be J, please be J, please be . . . “. . . J, Lucie Honey. Six-forty, four-twenty. The G-J exacta returns two hundred sixty-three dollars and eighty cents.”

YES! ONE TIME! YES! I don’t remember much from Spanish 101, but that payoff remains a vivid memory to this day. Not $263.20 . . . not $263.40 . . . but $263.80. I can still visualize the way that glorious G-J exacta looked in black Magic Marker on the result board of the 72nd Street OTB, as I bounded in to collect what seemed like all the money in the world.

Inevitably, I gave back that $263.80 . . . and then some. A pattern developed where I’d arrive at the track with a thick roll of $1 bills and leave with barely enough for a pretzel and a subway token home. My Kel-co Class Calculator had hit the skids, and a frightening realization had slapped me in the face:

Life wasn’t going to be so simple after all.

. . . AND NOW (2007):

Looking back to when Dave Litfin’s Expert Handicapping was first published in 1995, I probably should have voiced my reservations about the title, but I was too thrilled and delighted it was being published to bite the hand that fed me.

Expert sounds kind of presumptuous, doesn’t it? Other than cutting school regularly, and performing basic calculations with horses’ fractional times in The Morning

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