Racehorse Days Ride was finished.
And so were Dan Furman’s big tickets at Saratoga Race Course.
Malta resident Furman had correctly chosen winners of the first five races in the race course’s “Pick 6” wager, and needed Days Ride to win the 11th and final race Sunday afternoon. Days Ride was also critical for Furman’s late “Pick 4” play.
But Days Ride, at odds of 6-1, was in the middle of the pack for most of the race. Tiz Yankee and Doc Almon were battling for honors in the finale, and dueling in the final furlong.
“Tiz Yankee … holding on gamely,” said track announcer Tom Durkin, his voice rising with excitement. “Doc Almon’s been at him for a half mile, but hasn’t been able to get by … ”
Then, Furman believes, something supernatural happened. Days Ride made a gallant move — almost like someone was pushing him.
“ … But Days Ride can!” continued Durkin. “Here comes Days Ride … and got it at the wire!”
The horse had come out of nowhere to win the race — giving the 30-year-old horse player the “Pick 6” — and total winnings of $115,000 for the day.
“I hit everything,” said Furman, a sales manager at Nemer Volkswagen in Latham and an accomplished local bowler.
Sunday’s “Pick 6” required winning picks in the sixth through 11th races. Furman also hit the “Pick 4” — choosing the winning horses in the eighth through 11th races; the “Pick 3,” winners in the eighth, ninth and 10th; and the “Grand Slam,” winning on picks made for the seventh through 10th races.
“Then I hit a double before that, the sixth and the seventh, along with an exacta,” Furman said. “The seventh race was a $59 horse that went off at 28-1.”
The “Pick 6” paid $26,446. The “Pick 4” paid $1,338 for each $2 bet ticket, but as Furman had a $100 win ticket, he collected the $1,338 payoff 50 times — good for $66,900.
Furman said he invested about $1,000 in wagers during his Sunday at the race course. After taxes, he walked out of Saratoga with a check for $72,863 and about $21,000 in cash.
“I know it’s not a million dollars or anything, but anything over $100,000, I think that’s a good day,” Furman said.
The big winner thinks he owes some of his good fortune to late best friend Mike Van Buren Jr., who died in a car accident in Moreau on June 29.
“We worked together in the car industry and on our days off, that was our thing, we always went to the track,” Furman said. “If you look on the videos you can see on NYRA.com, the way these horses were winning, it was so weird. It was almost like he was looking down on me and pushing those horses through.”
So Cal was critical to Furman’s plans, and the 28-1 long shot took the seventh race. Kwacha broke away from the pack at just the right time in the eighth and won by a nose. And Days Ride tested Furman’s cardiac strength in the finale.
Furman said his handicapping system involves favorite trainers, jockeys and even horse names. But he knows random chance often plays a part in monetary blockbusters and bankruptcies during a day at the races.
“It all comes down to luck,” he said. “If we all had the answers, we’d all be multi-millionaires.”
As a superstitious player, Furman expects to hit the track a few more times this season. He said last year, he lost money on his first three visits, but was financially successful during his fourth and fifth trips — $13,000 up. For the 2014 meet, he lost cash during his first three betting afternoons, but made the monster score on Sunday. The fifth time should also be fortuitous, according to the Furman luck schedule.
“If I go again, who knows what I’m going to hit?” he said.
If Furman doesn’t catch a break during his next trip, it will almost be OK.
“You hear this does happen,” he said of days when horse players need wheelbarrows to cart away piles of cash. “It’s like one of those things you ask yourself, ‘Imagine if I won that.’ I can actually sit there and say, ‘I did. I actually won that.’ ”