Exclusive Book Extract

This is the second part of our exclusive extract from American form analyst and punter Susan Bain’s book Signers, the story of her successful betting exploits with husband Ed Bain (www.edbain.com) in the US.

Mark Cramer has seen me wager and he tells me that there is a certain amount of inspiration involved, the type used by a jazz musician to improvise on a tune and combine various rhythms and harmonies.

Not being into jazz, I cannot say if Mark is correct. I recognise, humbly, that the luck element plays a role in such scores. But I also know that if the player is not prepared with prior study, knowledge, analysis and self-confidence, he will not be able to profit from a lucky convergence of circumstances.

The next morning our friend, Paul Sumpter, came to visit. Ed had hired him to do the cosmetic repairs to our house. Ed answered the door and was telling Paul that he was thinking about doing more than simple cosmetic repairs to our new house, that we would like to replace all the painted molding with oak, drywall the walls in each room to eliminate the spider cracks in the plaster, and he went on and on with our huge plan.

Paul replied, “No problem, all this can be done, but what happened? Did you hit the lottery or something?” And then Ed opened the door of the bedroom and showed him all the hundred dollar bills laid out on the bed.

Life moves in cycles, with good times and times when things are not so good. When you are in an up cycle, you can expect that you will experience a down one. Yet, when you’re self-employed or your entire income is self generated, as Eds is with racing and mine with the recycling business, you tend to maintain a positive attitude, for when times are tough, you can feel that the good times will return.

During our positive run, we knew it was important to set ourselves up, so we spent over $70,000 cash to remodel our home in a most stunning way. We purchased our furniture from Italy, bought beautiful oversized area rugs, and installed new computers that would be impossible to fill with business records because we each knew that our home-made business cycle was not going to last.

Before we spun into the inevitable negative succession, we had reached a comfortable level of wealth, thanks to racing and thanks to recycling. I knew we were riding the high part of the cycle, but I failed to see the negative turn coming in my recycling business and could not conceive that bad times in recycling would have an impact on our life in racing.

Ed and I had decided to keep my recycling brokerage company small enough to be able to work from our home and not have the need to hire any employees. We handled a lot of what are referred to as industrial customers, companies that produced large volumes of recyclable paper. Once these contracts were set up, they basically ran themselves. I took care of our day-to-day operations, but Ed would intervene when necessary, and he did so willingly.

In the late 1990s we had an arrangement with Georgia Pacific, a well-known paper mill with a plant in Big Island, Virginia. We would sell them hundreds of trailer loads of recyclable fiber on a monthly basis. Our product saved them millions of dollars per year. I had been involved in the recycling industry since 1981, observing the unprecedented rise in consumer demand. I watched the manufacturing sector of this business change recyclables as a filler item to nearly complete consumption of recyclable products.

Recycling primarily feeds off of recyclables. It sounds like a good concept, except quite often, when the supply is great, it dictates a decline in the prices paid. Rarely does the demand from the manufacturing side exceed the supply. However, when this does occur, the prices paid to the consumer for recyclables will rise.

Such was the state of things during this time. In my previous experience of such market dynamics, I had always benefitted quite well as a supplier. Basically the manufacturers which in our case were the paper mills, were at the mercy of the market. This meant that in order for them to run recyclable products through their mills, they were required to pay top dollar. This also meant that the only way the paper mills could reduce the cost of their raw materials was to find a less expensive substitute product, produced with the same quality. This is where our company came in.

With my extensive years in the industry, which also involved being a buyer for a paper mill, I had an exceptional knowledge of the very products that these paper mills could use. Ed and I thought ahead, and we had set up a niche for ourselves that involved supplying such alternative quality products in such times when companies wanted them.

We gave this particular mill a verbal exclusive to this product because they assured us a home base no matter what the conditions of the market might be. However, we later discovered they had no understanding that we had planned ahead and previously contracted all the supply sources, that we were basically the only ones who could geographically supply this inexpensive, quality product.

This created the problem that we had never envisioned, for this mill simply could not understand that this specialty grade could not be found just anywhere. It seemed like every other supplier in the world had asserted that THEY could offer the same quality and the same product. In the end, when it was too late, this mill learned that this was not the case.

Ultimately, we got caught up in their learning process and, as a result, we lost almost all our money. In addition, we took out a $50,000 line of credit on our home to “do the right thing” and paid all of our suppliers, believing we would be reimbursed. Before we knew what hit us, all that money was lost too.

When we were doing well, I used to count Ed’s money daily and if he had less that $2,400 on him, around three days’ worth of bets, I’d write him a cheque to replenish.

If he had more than this, I would take the overage. Now, all of a sudden, we couldn’t replenish. Furthermore, the negative influence this was having on us also had a huge impact on our ability to make correct betting decisions. Ed went through another 16-race losing streak. Since Ed averages four bets a day, this streak seemed to go on forever, and it happened to hit us at the very time of year when Gulfstream, Santa Anita and the Fair Grounds were running, historically the period when we did our best.

Now my cushion was gone. No money from recycling and no consistent wins from Ed’s bets: our essential bread and butter. Our ship was sinking, or should I say our house was sinking because our $50,000 line of credit was up for its yearly renewal, and the house was the collateral.

After moving through these stormy times, Ed suddenly seemed to be in the eye of the storm. With the serenity he is known for, he said, “Why don’t you put $100 into your YouBet account and bet on Santa Anita today?”

Ed is possessed by a strange inner awareness of exactly when to tell me to bet. In these flashes of Ed’s strange vision, I usually hit big. By this time I was averaging 10 signers a year. In 1999, when the dark business clouds were emptying out upon us, I continued to bet regularly, through the week, in the evenings, and just about every possible moment when I wasn’t involved in the negative wave of recycling.

I was aware that I was betting a lot in order to get my mind off the recycling business. Though we were only in February, I already had six signers for the year, yet none were significant enough to get us out of our jam.

It was Wednesday, February 24  when Ed suggested that I bet Santa Anita. There was a pick 6 carryover, so I took a look at the card. Ed and I had played pick 6s in our past, yet neither of us had ever hit one, though we had five out of six so often that we considered this the standard for the play.

The card started with a Vladimir Cerin-trained horse out of Dixieland Band, ridden by Chris Antley, who at the time was Cerin’s go-to jock. I had bet the horse to win and I also bet a dollar pick three. When race three arrived, which was the start of the pick 6, I was down to $80 in the account. I had plotted out a pick 6 wager that cost $72. After I made the bet I had a nagging worry about a Ron McAnally-trained horse that was running on the turf in Santa Anita’s seventh race.

Ed had just manually completed some stats that involved trainers and their go-to jocks. Chris McCarron was on McAnally’s horse. I went upstairs to check with Ed to see if the McAnally-McCarron combination was one of his big stats. Sure enough it was. With only $8 left in my account, I had to carve out a saver bet that would feature this McAnally horse. I ended up singling four races. Reanalysing the trainer stats, I decided upon two horses in the two remaining races, sat down, and hoped for the best.

We had Direct TV and were able to pick up Fox Sports West 2, which showed the last two races at Santa Anita. By the time the McAnally race came up, I had hit the first four races and was alive on both the $72 ticket and the $8 backup ticket. Ed and I finished dinner and went upstairs to watch this race. Gilbou, the McAnally trained horse, won at 8/1 and I was left with one horse and one race. I had singled the horse Good Fellow Robin because he was owned and trained by low percentage trainer Thomas Ray Bell II and Eddie Delahoussaye was in the irons.

After years of playing Santa Anita, rumour had it that the prima donna (referred to as Eddie D) would not stay for the last race unless he felt he had a winner. This jockey factor, coupled with the fact that Bell was an “owner and trainer” who needed to hit, led to my decision to stand alone.

The cliché of the “nervous wreck” fit me perfectly in the moments leading up to the last race. I knew that five out of six was usually a signer, but I also knew that the winner of every race had been a double-digit payout but for one.

If I were to hit this pick 6, the payout would be an amount that our bank would take notice of. Enough to save our house.

To avoid driving Ed crazy, I stopped pacing the floor and went downstairs to wash the dishes. I wanted so badly to say to Ed, “If we hit this, our troubles were over”, but if I said so I feared I would jinx the win. I never knew until this moment just how superstitious I could be.

Ed had to come downstairs to tell me the horses were loading into the gate. By the time we arrived in front of the TV, they were off. My horse took the lead and seemed to be going fast. “Too fast,” I thought to myself. When they reached the turn Eddie D seemed to be sitting still, as if he didn’t need to ask the horse to go. Ed had always said to me, “If the jockey is still on the horse on the turn, you have a shot, if he’s all out, you don’t”.

I looked to Ed for confirmation.

“Eddie’s stock still, isn’t he Ed?”

“He sure is. He’s frozen.”

We both watched him pull away. Just when I thought we were in the clear, another horse came flying around all the others and was moving fast on to Good Fellow Robin. I hollered, “Come on Finish Line!” and Eddie D and Good Fellow Robin crossed the line first!

When the official sign was posted, I started to hyperventilate. I got a cramp in my side and slumped over. A whole lifetime passed by while waiting for the payout to come up on the screen: skydiving, paper mills, home improvement, wild stabs at the pick 4. Kurt Hoover appeared on the screen. “Well,” he exclaimed. “The pick 6 paid really good. There were three winning tickets, each for $88,411.”

I wept. We had just hit our first pick 6 and no one in the world knew but us, that we had just saved our house. It was too late to drive to Bethesda and go to Pines of Rome. Instead, we got on the computer and pulled up my YouBet account, clicking on balance. It said we had “$67,000 after taxes”.

Ed needed to hear this out loud, so he phoned the YouBet betting number. The lady asked for the account number and Ed rattled it off. Then came the password and Ed responded as if he were speaking to a child, nice and clear. The operator said, “You have $67,000.” Ed responded, “Doesn’t that sound good?”

The operator congratulated us. Since our money was in Pennsylvania, Ed asked for directions so we could drive there the next day and pick it up. Now all we needed was to make sure we had enough for the gas.

We drove through a blizzard to Meadowlands, Pennsylvania and picked up $67,000 in cash, handed to us in a brown paper bag. We used the money to pay off the line of credit on our house and we invested the remainder in the stock market. We bought shares of YouBet.

Signers by Susan Bain is available from Altiplano Publications at www.edbain.com.

Click here to read Part 1.

By Susan Bain