Insights Into The Inner Workings of Tim Osterman; Reveals His Scores, Bad Beats, & Betting Approaches
We just learned that Tim Osterman passed away. He was a dear friend of Warren’s and I always enjoyed reading his work. Condolences to his family and friends and I am honored to republish Warren’s interview of Tim that occurred in January.
By Warren Eves
Tim Osterman columns have bridged a myriad of subjects for 38 years.
His Osterman Files have been great reads in Today’s Racing Digest.
New Mexico horse owner Bob Larue wanted to know what Osterman’s background was. That’s how this column got life.
“Geez,” Osterman quipped when contacted. ”It’s nice to know, somebody cares.”
“Best scores?” Osterman began. “I did hit a Pick 7 at Golden Gate Fields for $75,000 and a Pick 6 at Hollywood Park for $92,000. Those were the days! For the most part, my style has been that of a grinder trying to turn a profit betting overlays to win. I’ve forgotten all the bad beats. The worst was probably when I played a Pick 3 at Turf Paradise from here in Vegas. I wheeled the first leg. Beat a 2-to-5 entry with a 40-1 shot. Caught a $15 winner in Leg 2 and had a Kent Molinaro-shipper singled in the Phoenix Gold Cup to close it out. He was like 8-1 or something. Came rambling on the outside and lost a photo on a nasty head bob I couldn’t call. I would have got ‘the pool” if he had won. Instead? I got zippo. Typical.”
He’s written hundreds of columns, earning respect from a myriad of factions. Who was the top thoroughbred he saw run in Northern California? And..who was the best horse he ever saw run?
“John Henry came up to Golden Gate in 1984. I, of course, tried to beat him with Silveyville and paid the price,” begins Osterman. ”The best true NoCal horses during my time up there were Soviet Problem(Gilchrist) and Brown Bess(Jenda). Others that come to mind that made an impression on the national stage are: Restless Con, King Glorious, Lite Lite, Pikes Place Dancer, and Casual Lies. Affirmed was the best horse I ever saw in the flesh. I loved that horse. And I’m a big Zenyatta fan, too, but never saw her in person.”
Osterman grew up in Whittier, Ca., the son of a high school teacher who also coached basketball.
On graduating from San Jose State with a journalism degree in 1972, Tim did three years in the U.S. Army.
Osterman became involved with horse racing when he got a job working for Bill Saunders at the Racing Digest. “One of my first jobs was to pick up the program from you in the Santa Anita pressbox,” he recalls.
In the late 1970s he returned to the northern part of California to publish Handicappers Report for Bob Selvin and Jeff Siegel. He would return to Southern California to edit the Digest when Saunders retired.
In 1984 Osterman re-surfaced on the northern California racing circuit he knows so well. He established Handicappers Weekly. The publication was so highly regarded, trainers Jerry Hollandorfer, Jeff Bonde, Lonnie Arterburn, Chuck Jenda, Brent Sumja, John “Mickey” Martin and Bill McLean were subscribers. Tim’s observations and opinions have been a California handicapping staple for some time now.
There was a stint where Osterman owned some horses in the north with trainers Bill McLean and Monty Meier did the training. “They were very honest guys and good friends,” says Tim.
“Bill Saunders was a bear to work for,” Osterman recalls. ”I probably quit six or seven times. But then, he’d play nice and I’d always come back. He was a SOB but he really loved racing. He built the Digest from an idea that started in his garage to something pretty good that’s lasted for nearly 50 years. The most famous member of the Today’s Racing Digest alumni is probably Barry Irwin(CEO of Team Valor International. ”I think I got his job in 1976 when he(Irwin) finally told Bill to go to hell for the last time,” Osterman recalls. “You’ll love this. One of the candidates for the job I eventually got was old “Rah, Rah, Rah” Eddie Burgart, the voice of Los Alamitos Race Course for the past 33 years. Eddie can thank me for his career taking a more lucrative path.”
We posed two final questions to Osterman.
Final Question #1–What do you consider to be the single most important handicapping angle?’
Osterman Answer: “These days I’m more of a class guy looking for horses either dropping in class out of “poor” finishes in fast/productive races or stepping up off good performances in those kind of events. That’s where I can find the kind of value I need to get involved. When handicapping NoCal, I’m always trying to ‘read’ the track and project trips since Golden Gate Fields tends to be heavily biased to the outside more than not. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does work, I can find value in small fields where they just pound BAAAAZE on vulnerable chalk.”
Final Question #2–What is the single most important handicapping app from the pages of Today’s Racing Digest?
Osterman Answer: “For the casual handicapper, the DIGEST fractional charting provides the contenders that can win at a glance. I rely on it mostly when handicapping out-of-state tracks where I don’t do my own numbers. That being said, it’s a publication that’s a true smorgasbord of handicapping info where most users can find something that suits their game plan.”
Never a dull moment when Tim is in horse racing’s arena.
Notes scribbled across my official program–Mark Casse had to like the effort he got from Toolpusher in race five on January 23 at Oaklawn Park. The four-year-old colt went to his nose at the start. He was still fifth entering the first turn outside one. Toolpusher then pulled Enrico Da Silva up between foes early on the backside and they were lapped on the leader It’s A Bad Rapit before the second turn. He was still at the throat latch of It’s A Bad Rapit entering the lane but lost his punch late. He should do well vs. similar with a fair break next time out………………Sometimes it’s hard to explain a big run and that would be the case when Ingrid Mason saddled Midnight Eclipse to win the featured allowance race at Oaklawn Park on January 24. The sophomore filly, who had finished fifth in her last Hawthorne start, raced wide the opening half-mile and made an impressive sweeping run to lead off the top. Midnight Eclipse kept to her task late and galloped out nicely. It was her first win facing prior winners. Maybe it was the case of a filly wanting to race after spending some time on the sidelines. Mason’s filly showed only two slow half-mile breezes. It could also be a case of taking to the Hot Springs oval………………I’m only monitoring maiden claiming races at the Fairgrounds but I have noted the emergence of a little known jockey named Alexander Reznikof. His seat on a horse ain’t pretty, but the end results sure as hell are. He’s been teaming with a trainer named Pavel Vaschenko and they have been “white-hot” as I noted in one of my chirps on Twitter on Jan., 25. It might be a good idea the next time you see Vaschenko has a horse in to give it a long look. This guy knows what he is doing……………….Smiling Charlie was a disappointing fourth in race six at Oaklawn on Saturday, Jan., 25. Fourth into the turn he never kicked it in and had absolutely no finish under a rousing ride. We liked his debut second on the 12th. Maybe they brought him back too soon……………..It’ll be interesting to see what Steve Asmussen does with Zayat Stables‘ Molly Z after her 5th place finish when dropping to maiden $50K from a straight maiden race at the Fairgrounds Saturday. Don’t be overly critical of the three-year-old filly’s finish. She left from post one and went in to lose at least a 1/2 length. Then she swerved out to bump Peaceluvncupcakes crossing the gap and lost another length. Molly Z was sixth about 60 yards away from the barrier and began lugging out. She then had to be checked into the turn. When Molly Z comes back I’ll be using her in the exotics for sure. Most likely she’ll surface in a maiden $50,000 claimer, but only Asmussen knows……………..Some days leave you shaking your head. We had a day like that on Sunday, Jan., 26 when four “playbacks” simply did not run to expectations. Hickory Grove, who earned an asterisk, lead the list of four. The leggy runner simply failed to fire as expected…………………………We reviewed the fourth race for $16,000 claimers over and over on the 25th at Oaklawn and did not use Now and Zen. Trainer Brad Cox reached in and took the gelding who nearly made our “playback” list. He left post two and went inward to brush Blue Canoe. Fifth early he skirted up the rail and then knifed between foes to vie with the leaders. Off the top Now and Zen was between horses and gave way in the last 60 yards. We think if Now and Zen draws a post away from the rail he should run well for new trainer Brad Cox who took the grey from Cody Autrey. Now and Then owns a pair of wins over the Oaklawn oval………………..Late this week we learned Pat “Break All Rules” Valenzuela had announced he was not going to ride any longer. Those of you who have followed our rants over the years know how we feel about this no class once great rider. He’s been one of the worst examples of representing a sport as one could find. P Val broke more rules than the likes of Steve Howe of baseball fame. Former California bloodstock agent Bob Cass once said: “Pat Valenzuela gets more out of a horse going around the turn than any rider I have ever seen.” And you know what? Cass was right. The only problem is he was classless, using his outward personality to stay inside the racing circles far longer than ever should have been the case. We have reason to believe California owner-breeder John Harris, who once served on the CHRB, had a lot to do with P Val returning to ride in California. This is a rider who once hijacked a taxi cab outside Arcadia Liquor only a few furlongs from famed Santa Anita Park. Not only did he not deserve to return to California, he should have been banned from the sport years ago. So let’s hope we’ve seen the last of this phony. When he used to point to the sky after a win I wanted to put my finger down my throat. This guy turned his nose up at rival riders in the room who played by the rules, and he was given far too many chances. The other thing I could never figure out was how some of the trainers continued to give this sad case of a person mounts. See ya P Val. Hope you disappear from view…………………….Apropos became a two-time winner at the current Oaklawn meet in the featured American Beauty on Jan., 25. the five-year-old mare posted a good FF(final fraction) of 12.18 but after I watched the head-on shot of the horses chasing her to the wire I was left less impressed. Boss Barney’s Babe lugged out early and in the run down the backstretch, then she drifted out while widest late coming to the line to save second in a photo. Ms Anna Destiny, racing at Oaklawn for the first time, was four-wide and lugging out down the backside. Once in the lane she was spanked both right-handed and left-handed and was third. She did gallop out okay after the wire but I did not put any of these distaffers on my playback list……………There are certain handicapping rules one should always follow. It’s not a good idea to get too high on a good run when as horse leaves the maiden ranks. That being said, I can’t help myself. If new trainer Lon Wiggins doesn’t get too aggressive I liked the graduation run of Sammy’s Bandit when beating $16,000 non winners……………….Graduating ugly. In doing the video of race two on Jan.,26, we noted the not so pretty way the winner Road To Reality carries his right front. It was a maiden $25,000 claimer and the only one in the field we gave consideration to for making our list was Guska Mon Shoes. The Arkansas-bred left from post one, dipped inward crossing the gap, before scooting up the inside to get in the fray. Guska Mon Shoes kept to the task at hand and was gaining on the winner near the wire……………You’ve already heard my praise for young turf writer Ryan Goldberg who lives in New York. He just finished another masterpiece for TDN titled: “The Contemporary Rise Of German Bloodlines:” Sub-title: “How the forgotten cousins of European racing became the toast of international stud books, and the family that helped to pull it off.” Monty Roberts, the famed Horse Whisperer, is part of Fahrhof lore according to the lengthy feature. He talks about Roberts’ 23rd year at the farm where he works his magic with the young horses. John Gosden was the trainer who suggested they contact Roberts way back and it’s been a marriage that has worked wonders. You gotta take time to read this in depth piece by Goldberg.