Saratoga track attracts diverse crowds of gamblers, entrepreneurs, fun-seekers

When the crowds cross Union Avenue and approach the gates of the track, they are swarmed by the tipsters who make their sales pitches.

Zack Chapman, 20, of South Glens Falls, sells "The Edge," which is touted as Saratoga's only local tip sheet, a claim that may or may not hold true.

Chapman said he and his cohorts, mostly college-aged kids wearing bright yellow T-shirts and money belts sell a combined 200 sheets per day for $2 to $5. Picks from "The Edge" use a computer program, which compiles previous performances and workouts to determine which horses are most likely to cross the finish line first.

"We're the only sheet that's honest about how we've done the day before," says Chapman, who's in his second summer as a salesman for the paper. "It's been around for 30 years."

Chapman said he only knows his boss by the name Jim the Edge. Mr. the Edge serves as handicapper, owner and sales team supervisor. Chapman said his boss sells his sheets inside the gates, just outside the clubhouse.

"The Edge" isn't the only track character with a nickname. "Brother John," who looks like a long-lost member of the band ZZ Top with his white beard, dark sunglasses and leather jacket also sells a tip sheet for $2.50.

Brother John, 60, says his sheet, "The Jewel" is based on a book he's writing about a woman with the ability to travel in time. John's original artwork of the woman, named Jewel, graces the cover of the tip sheet.

But John doesn't insist that his picks are the culmination of supernatural visions.

"I make my picks using The Daily Racing Form, I just use the psychic thing to get people interested," said John. "I don't make much money off of this, but I use it to promote my art."

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