Photo by Yausser on Flickr
What would life be without action?
Not worth a damn, if you live for the Pick Six and your name is Jimmy “The Hat.”
“The name of the game is action, my friend. Action is the drug, the elixir, the buzz. Guys got to have the action, the juice. Without it, life seems pointless,” said Jimmy “The Hat” Allard, a professional horseplayer in Southern California.
Allard, a former small-time actor and boxing promoter, is the featured horse-betting wiseguy on the “Jockeys” television series, which has been airing on Animal Planet over the last several weeks. And watching him on TV got me thinking, just who is this cat they call Jimmy The Hat?
So I found a few stories about him through Google and noticed that Horseplayer Magazine wrote a feature on him in the March/April 2009 edition.
During my research, I found that Jimmy The Hat hit the Pick Six more than 200 times and is the only known gambler to win with tickets that paid more than $1 million in three consecutive years, according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story by Larry Lee Palmer.
Allard, a dapper dresser — who likes designer Italian shoes, leather jackets and Derby hats in the style of 1930’s — is an extremely likable chap. A big part of his edge is that Jimmy The Hat has access to the barn area and he’s friends with jockeys as well as top trainers like Bobby Frankel, Bruce Headley, Adam Kitchingman, Vladimir Cerin and Jeff Mullins.
“If I see something or have a question about a horse, I have no problem discussing it with them,” Allard told Joe Kristufek of Horseplayer Magazine.
He also is aware that some trainers will be less than truthful with him or avoid answering his questions all together. So in Allard’s business, it’s essential to have the instincts to separate fact from fiction.
Allard is also in the paddock every race, often with trainer Kitchingman, studying racehorse body language, which helps him eliminate lame runners.
During his interview, reporter Palmer of the Seattle P-I walked with Allard through Santa Anita and the gambler was greeted with smiles and friendly chat from staff members like waitresses and maitre d’s.
But not everybody thinks Jimmy The Hat is good for the game. Bill Nichols, a former racing writer for the Press-Democrat , of Northern California wrote on March 9 that he emailed the Santa Anita publicity department recently inquiring about the potential conflict of interest Allard may have by associating too closely with jockeys and trainers. But Santa Anita officials defended The Hat.
“Jimmy Allard is friends with everyone at the track. He’s appreciative of jockeys and the danger they face daily. He’s the guy with an opinion who is well-liked, respected and owes no one. I wish we had another 10,000 of him here every day,” a Santa Anita publicity department rep wrote.
Allard rose to prominence in 2002 when he organized a class action lawsuit stemming from the Breeders Cup Pick Six scandal. Several employees of Autotote, the computer company that processes horse bets, conspired to tap into the computer system to take home the $3.1 million Breeders Cup Pick Six prize.
Allard believes that it was not an isolated incident.
“The idea that they only did it once was ludicrous,” Allard said in Horseplayer. “The government didn’t do anything about it, and neither did anybody in horse racing. The guys like myself, who split giant jackpots with those guys for nine years, all got screwed.”
Not only does Allard bet for himself, but his telephone rings throughout the day with other horseplayers seeking his opinions and trying to buy a piece of his Pick Six ticket.
“I got a stable of guys (who) want to know which entries I single in races, what I think of track conditions, what certain trainers say about their horses on the day of the race,” Allard told the Seattle P-I.
Allard considers himself a horseplayer, not a gambler. Southern California horse owner Don Stanley told me that one time he showed The Hat a football wagering ticket while at the track and Allard scoffed at the notion of betting NFL games.
In 2008, a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune followed Allard around Del Mar on a day with a $5 million Pick Six pool caused by numerous carryovers. Allard bet 25 horses on his $4,032 ticket, but he was not one of the 59 winners who collected $60,499.40 each.
Allard takes pride in knowing that he has developed a way to get a significant information edge on most of the other horseplayers. However, he needs to have the confidence to bet insane amounts of money to make it all worth while. One of his favorite sayings comes from trainer Brian Lynch “money lost, nothing lost; confidence lost, all lost.”
Racing fans admire Allard and often tell him that they dream of living the life of a professional horseplayer. But he knows that few people have nerves hard wired enough to handle it.
“Try walking out of the racetrack four or five days in a row stuck $30,000 with your stomach tied in knots, and you tell me how much you’d love to do what I do,” he told Horseplayer.