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

Asked if his picks were successful after a few races, John points to his picks in the first race " he'd picked the trifecta.

Some regular gamblers though, aren't quick to spend money on tip sheets.

"I'd say it's about 10 percent statistical and then 90 percent what the horse looks like in the paddock," says Joe Esola, who's barely missed a day of Saratoga racing in 40 years.

Esola, who also goes by "California Joe" and "Handicapper Joe" follows tracks all over the country and teaches handicapping classes in Florida.

Esola, who now calls Upstate New York home, also runs a part-time contracting company called Post Time Construction to help pay for his gambling losses.

He says he puts about $10 down on each race and that he always looks to the paddock area before placing his bet. It's the paddock area where the horses and their owners are paraded in front of the general admission crowd before making their way onto the main track.

"I like to make sure their ankles aren't taped up, that their head is up and that and they aren't foaming or all worked up," says Joe, who claimed to have been down a total of $6 since the start of this year's meet.

Some in attendance don't bet at all. There are plenty of family activities at the track ranging from a kid's area to musical entertainment to a variety of food stands, including the new Restaurant Row, which features a number of downtown's most famous restaurants.

And other bettors aren't nearly as technical when making their picks.

Amateur bettors might bet on a name they like, or on the color of a jockey's silks. Others simply play the odds.

Like Handicapper Joe, Lorraine Christman has been coming to the track for 40 years. But unlike the professional gambler, Christman comes once a year, making the trip from her New Jersey home, to spend the day with her family. Christman, her daughter and three small grandchildren sit in the picnic area under the shade of a tall tree.

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