Falcon Points

Saying goodbye to an old friend

Ordinarily, this column appears on Wednesdays. But I decided to take a break from bashing Bill O'Brien or praising the Astros to talk about a great sportsman you have probably never heard of unless you spent time at Sam Houston Race Park.

Jerry Mantooth was a huge fan of horse racing. He spent countless hours at SHRP, often betting tracks most people would not touch. He was a fixture and a character.

Most importantly, he was my friend.

Jerry passed away last week in a tragic accident that also claimed the life of one of his workers. John Andrew Satterwhite, or "Andy," who also died trying to save Jerry. I have no doubt Jerry would have done the same had the roles been reversed. It was a terrible tragedy for both families.

Jerry was a fantastic handicapper, but a better person. He had an amazing heart and would do anything for anyone. And he did many things to help me when I was at my lowest point.

Part of a family

I first met him when Sam Houston opened in 1994. I thought he was loud, a little obnoxious and extremely cocky. And then I got to know him. And yes, he was loud, a little obnoxious and extremely cocky. But he also would do anything for a friend, and he had a great view on life.

Long before we made the term "degenerate" a positive on the Blitz, Jerry and several others of us did it at the racetrack. We would often spend seven days a week hanging out and betting on the ponies.

I have spent most of my life around gambling. The closest and most lasting relationships I have had started at the racetrack or poker table. In the early days of SHRP, many of us would hang out at the same table. Jerry and I had some massive scores together. We also had some rough days where we never cashed a ticket. Good day or bad, though, we always had fun.

There is an almost spiritual connection you share in the gambling world. Even in poker, you root for each other, even if you are playing against each other. At the track, we always had a mantra; "I win, everybody wins." If somebody had a big score, they would buy drinks for everyone. It was a bond that was so strong, I made it they key basis for my novel Jesus Just Left Chicago.

We all came from different worlds. But we had so much in common. We loved the rush of winning. The commiserating of losing. But mostly we loved spending time with people who had the same view on life. Yes, we drank. We gambled. But we all worked our ass off at our jobs so we would have the time and money to have that bond.

Positive attitude

Jerry was a landscaper, and his clients were the most important thing. He was damned good at it. And then he would go to the track where we would relax and enjoy the gambling and the company. We took trips to Vegas and Lake Charles together. We played countless rounds of golf together. We played racquetball together. And we gambled together.

One of our best scores came in 2003 Kentucky Derby, when we hit the Pick 4. Funny Cide upset Empire Maker that day, and Jerry had insisted on using Funny Cide on the ticket. I wanted to single Empire Maker. Funny Cide paid $27.80 to win. Jerry also insisted on a 35-1 long shot earlier in the sequence. That horse won as well. We split almost $8,000. He never let me forget who came up with those horses.

I was able to return the favor a year later in Vegas, when three of us split an $18,000 score on a trifecta I came up with. He always forgot about that one.

Regardless, we lived by the same philosophy; work hard, play hard, have fun, enjoy every day, and if somebody needed help, you do it.

Some of you may know I fell on some hard times in the late 2000s after I left the Chronicle. For a brief time I had to live in my car. Jerry called me and told me to come to the track and he would stake me a couple hundred. When I told him I could not afford the gas to make it out, he came and picked me up. I made his money back plus another $500 each that day. He did that for me several times over the next year. I didn't always win. But I did well enough that he always got his money back. When he had a rough spell a few years earlier, I had done the same thing. It always came back to us. I learned that from him, when he took a disabled man who always hung out at the track under his wing and always made sure the man had money. I learned from Jerry to always look out for people when you could afford to do it.

We stayed close ever since those early days. When I married my current wife, I took her to the track to meet Jerry and the guys. They all loved her and made her feel at home while I did the radio show. I knew they would look after her and made sure she had fun. Because that is what we did.

Common bond

One of the best things about my job is our relationship with Sam Houston Race Park. During the live meet, I get to spend a lot of time at the track. I got to see Jerry and some of my other friends quite a bit over the past few years. We would always talk about the good old days and trying to get together for another round of golf or to play racquetball again. We never did, but I cherish the times this year where we made a few bets together and had a few drinks. It was just like old times.

This past meet was the best. I got to see him more than in recent years, and we spent a lot of time together for the first time in a while. He always greeted me with a big hug, a smile and a reminder who had hit that big pick 4 for us.

The last couple months have been rough on Jerry. He lost his only son, and it hit him hard. We talked on the phone a few weeks ago, and I could tell it was devastating. The old smile, the fun loving attitude was gone. I could not imagine what he was going through. We talked about people we have lost over the last few years, and about how important it was to enjoy the people you love every day. But I could tell it rang hollow to him. It made me profoundly sad, but I can't even conceive of what it must have been like.

One last moment

So I am going to remember him from the last time I actually saw him. It was Belmont Day this year. I went out to the track to make a couple bets and go home. I stayed a little longer and had a couple drinks with Jerry and the gang. It was against my better judgement, but in retrospect I am so glad I did. I told him I loved a long shot on the undercard right before I left, and pointed the horse out to him. He circled it, then circled the horse he liked and said he was going to bet a $20 exacta box on the two for old times.

I left, and was halfway home when he texted me to tell me we won big. My horse won, his was second. It was our last bet together, and it was a huge win. I planned on bragging about whose horse finished first for the next few years.

I won't get to do that now. But I will not delete the text, either. At least I will have that.

Jerry Mantooth was an amazing person, and more than a friend. I loved him like a brother. I'm sad he is gone. I'm reminded again to enjoy every day we have on this planet. To remember the good times. To be a good degenerate. To help people who need it.

I wish I could get one last smile and hug from him, just to remind me of that.

You probably did not know Jerry Mantooth. But if you are a Blitzer, you would have loved him. He was one of us. And hopefully now you know a little more about him.

More than anyone, he deserves that.


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The Breeders' Cup races will be Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita. It should be an entertaining two days. There are only a few races I really like; due to work commitments and the World Series I have not been able to dive in as deeply as usual. However, I will throw a few opinions out on each race.

Friday's races

These are all pretty wide open. Keep in mind there are a lot of evenly matched horses, so shopping for prices is critical. So that is the approach we are taking:

Race 5, BC Juvenile Turf Sprint

A'Ali is an intriguing European runner who will be a solid price (6-1 morning line). He has had only one bad start at a slightly longer distance. Europeans tend to have an edge in turf races, and this guy is worth a play across the board or maybe an exacta wheel up and down with the field.

Race 6, BC Juvenile Turf

Probably a pass race. No. 12 Arizona will be the favorite and looks pretty tough. There might be more value in No. 13 Fort Myers, who finished just behind the favorite at Ascot in June. Might be worth a weighted wager, with more to show and place than win. Something like $10 to win, $20 to place and $40 to show.

Race 7, BC Juvenile Fillies

Another I will likely be passing on. If you must play it, maybe take No. 4 British Idiom, but the price will likely not be good enough to warrant a play.

Race 8, BC Juvenile Filly Turf

The Europeans should have this one covered. I like the idea of keying No. 3 Shadn (10-1) first and second with all the other Euros in the exactas - 1-5-6-8-9-14.

Race 9, BC Juvenile

No. 5 Scabbard offers the best value after a troubled second against the favorite, No. 1 Dennis' Moment last time out. No. 9 Maxfield will take a lot of action as well. Could easily come down to the 1 and 9, but 8-1 on the 5 is too juicy to pass on.

Saturday's races

The main event, with some really competitive races featuring some of the best horses in the world in the latter part of the card.

Race 4, BC Filly Mare Sprint

I like No. 4 Come Dancing, but the price will be pretty short, although Covfefe will take the bulk of the money. We are going to key the 4 first and second in the exactas and tris with 1-3-8-9 as we will go closer heavy in a speed-dominated race.

Race 5, BC Turf Sprint

Pretty much throwing darts at a board here. I do like the 1 horse at 5-1 and might look at a 1-all all-1 exacta play.

Race 6, BC Dirt Mile

Omaha Beach will be the heavy favorite off a nice win over the surface at a distance shorter than he wanted to go against an excellent sprinter. Hard to get around him, but I will throw in the 1-2-4-7-8 in boxed exactas and tris and hope for the best.

Race 7, BC Filly/Mare Turf

I like No. 9 Villa Marina quite a bit in here. Her only off the board finish of her career came at a much longer distance and she still was only beaten two lengths. Will play her across the board, and will also use her in exactas first and second with 1-2-3-4-7-8-12.

Race 8, BC Sprint

Mitole will be favored, but we will take a shot against him. The only time he was in a race with a sub-22 opening quarter, he faded in the lane. Shancelot all but guarantees that fraction. The key horses will be a pair of long shot closers, No. 2 Hog Creek Hustle and No. 7 Whitmore, who appears to be rounding back into form and tends to show up in big spots. So the exactas would be 2-7 with 1-2-3-4-6-7-9.

Race 9, BC Mile

Another I have very little clue on. Lucallan across the board is worth a play but not worth a big investment.

Race 10, BC Distaff

Midnight Bisou, who ran at Sam Houston earlier this year, has been a win machine in 2019 with seven wins in seven starts. She will be tough here, but this field is loaded. Would throw her in exacta and trifecta boxes with 3-5-6-9-11.

Race 11, BC Turf

Bricks and Mortar (9) is the favorite and has five wins in five starts this year, but this might be longer than he wants to go. The 5 and 10 horses might be viable alternatives, but don't expect much value. Probably pass on this one.

Race 12, BC Classic

No. 11 Code of Honor has been in sharp form and always fires his shot. No. 8 McKinzie is the favorite and has never been worse than second in seven starts at Santa Anita. Hard to get past those two, but if you toss in long shots Owendale (3) and Yoshida (5) you might get a price. I will also key the 11 first and second in the try with 3-5-8 with all in third, and 3-5-8 with 11 with all.

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