Friday night at Canterbury Park featured the largest payout ever on a 50-cent Pick 4 ticket, in which the horseplayer has to pick the winners in four consecutive races. Payouts are typically in triple figures, but the chance for a longshot or two coming in can sweeten the pot considerably.
On Friday, the first three races in the Pick 4 were won by horses paying 6-1, 7-1 and 8-1 on a $2 win bet.
Joe Tartaglia, watching the races from his home, was thrilled. His Pick 4 ticket had all of the six horses in the final race on his ticket. So he was going to win. It was just a question of how much. Along with his horse-playing pals around the country, with whom he was keeping in touch on Twitter, Tartaglia hoped for the best.
He got it when Lieutenant Powell, a 21-1 longshot, rallied to win the race. The payout: $31,522.90.
One of Tartaglia's Twitter pals is Star Tribune handicapper Johnny Love, who provided this scouting report on Tartaglia's horse playing skills: "Joe doesn't get intimidated by the favorites, and prefers to play against them, like he did when he singled the 10-1 horse in the Pick 4. If he loses, he loses ... and he doesn't chase his losses. Joe has a good eye for finding a good play . Obviously, he doesn't hit all the time and Joe goes through stretches of bad luck, as we all do.
"But when he hits, he hits pretty big."
Hitting this big required some answers. Via email, Tartaglia answered questions from how he got started to how he celebrated his record payout.
Tell us a about yourself, where you're from and how you got interested in horse racing.
I grew up in New York, and got into horse racing at a very young age. My uncle owned some standardbreds (for harness racing), and my dad was an assistant trainer of sorts, so we'd pack the car on a Saturday morning, and head to Meadowlands, Freehold - wherever the horses took us. My mom would just let us wander the front apron all day, picking up losing tickets. (Kind of gross, I know.) Now I'm married, with two kids (2 and 3 months) that I'm obsessed with, and don't have as much time for racing as I used to. So Friday night's win was a special one.
How much did you spend on the winning ticket? Was that a typical ticket or was there something you noticed while handicapping?
The winning ticket was $120. I wouldn't necessarily call it a "typical" size for me, but when I'm up, I like to take bigger swings. It just so happened that I had the winner of the fourth race, earlier in the card, and was alive to ALL horses in the sixth race to finish the Pick Three, which also happened to be the first leg of the Pick Four. So I knew I had some money coming my way (at least $400), so I put in a good sized ticket.
What was it like watching the 21-1 longshot Lieutenant Powell win the final race? It was intense. I still don't understand how he was 21-1. I thought he had a solid chance of winning. When the race went off, it looked like he was moving well, right behind the leaders in a good spot, but at one point, it looked as though he was going to be stuck behind the horses, and not be able to get out. When he finally got out from behind the horses, it was just a matter of whether or not he had enough time to move ahead, and he did. The hardest part of the whole scenario is that the family was sleeping, and I couldn't yell the way I would have liked to.
Did you watch all four races? When was the moment when you said, "I might something huge here." I missed the first two races, while I was getting my oldest son to bed. The race that was the key one for me, was the third leg, where I only played one horse who was at 10-1 in the morning line. I was able to watch that race, and when I won, I knew I had a chance at some big payouts to finish it up. I had all of the horses in the final race, so I was guaranteed a good payout. I didn't quite realize how good.
Would it have been more exciting to be at the track in person? Or is it easier to watch on the web? In a scenario like that, you'd almost always would rather be at the track with friends - the celebration would likely be pretty ridiculous. While my wife appreciates my love for racing, she's not the ideal co-celebrator. I did wake her up though. Thankfully social media (Twitter in particular) is a place where I've found some racing "family", so it's not a bad secondary way to celebrate.
How did you celebrate? Did you cash out or reinvest? I cashed out most of it, as my wife is looking forward to seeing that check. I'm also a gambler at heart, though, and believe in "riding out the wave" to see if the lucky streak could continue. I also put in a few sizable wagers for my closest racing friends as a thank you for riding the ups and downs of racing with me throughout the years. So we've managed to keep the fun going through the weekend.
Was this your biggest score? If not, would you tell us what it was? This is my second biggest score. In January '18, I caught a Pick Six at Gulfstream Park in Florida for $36,000, so this was close. I guess I've had a decent couple of years.
Even been to Canterbury Park? I've never been to Canterbury, but it's most certainly on my track bucket list now. I love the night racing at Canterbury, especially since becoming a dad. It's a lot easier to look through the racing form without a crying baby and/or Peppa Pig playing in the background.
Tell us about your friendship with Star Tribune handicapper Johnny Love. Like most of my closest racing buddies, we "met" on Twitter. I joined Twitter about seven years ago purely to meet others interested in horse racing and sports. I was able to connect with some great guys and gals who also had an interest in racing, and that's not easy to do in "real life." Johnny was one of those guys. He fit into the group so perfectly - he's quick-witted and funny, loves racing, and just a good guy. He was our link to Canterbury. He's a great ambassador for the sport and for the track, and we basically started playing Canterbury because of him.
Johnny Love (center) and Joe Tartaglia (right) at Saratoga.
We understand you're part of a bigger group that often invests together. How did your group come together? Again, most of us met on Twitter over the course of several months. Several of us were New York-based, and ended up meeting at Belmont Park one afternoon. Before you know it, we had a group of eight or 10 who were just really good people, and good handicappers, so we would just talk about racing. The first time we ever pooled our money together to play a Belmont Pick Six, we won. I think it was maybe $5,000 or $6,000, so we probably made about $400 each, but it was so much fun following the sequence, through email and Twitter, that we kept doing it. There's something about the camaraderie of horse racing that is hard for non-racing fans to understand. Some of these guys came to my wedding - that's how close we became. It was a bit hard for my mother-in-law to understand that we all met online. Her response - "Seriously?" Over the years, the group has had several life events that make meeting up tougher to do, but we're all still very close. I love those guys like brothers.
Who was more excited about your win? You, your racing friends or your family? How did people react? I was definitely excited, but mostly because I was starting to feel like I had lost some of my horse playing mojo over the past year. It's just harder to make the time to study, watch replays, etc. This felt pretty good because of that. But I'm also very lucky to have met some great people through social media. Once my single horse had won, I posted to Twitter, and it's just a lot of fun to get some reaction, with people following along, turning on TVG (horse racing network) to watch the last race with me. The second the race was over, I must have had about 10 texts and several messages, most of which had the common response -- BOOOOMMMM!" It's great to celebrate with the people that know and understand that these opportunities don't come very often. To later find out it was a record-breaking payout was incredible to hear, and made it even sweeter."