Psychic hot line

`Big Bear' (Kentucky Bear and Big Brown) is word

On Betting the race

May 17, 2008|By PETER SCHMUCK

It's not as if I haven't done my homework over the years. I read Betting Thoroughbreds, which is one of the bibles of horse handicapping, and I've put in my hours at the rail trying to make sense of the Daily Racing Form, and pretty much all it got me was a little lighter in the wallet.

My ability to pick winners at the track ranks right up there with the keen insight I showed this spring predicting the future of Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera, so it would be unfair to the casual horse player for me to make betting recommendations about today's Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

Instead, I searched far and wide for someone much better qualified than I am to size up the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown - all the way to Third Avenue in Manhattan, where celebrity psychic Judi Hoffman plies her art delivering predictions about the comings and goings of America's most fascinating people and occasionally stops into a nearby off-track betting parlor to play the ponies.

Hoffman doesn't claim to be the horse whisperer, but she got a feeling about the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and picked the trifecta correctly, which is no small feat with a 20-horse field. The ticket paid more than $1,600 and got her publicity on The New York Times' racing blog, which chronicled some of her correct celebrity predictions and convinced me that she might be the perfect person to size up today's big race.

"I predicted Eliot Spitzer's downfall," she told me by phone yesterday. "I also predicted that Britney Spears would get a divorce from Kevin Federline, though I guess you didn't need to be a psychic for that. But I was wrong when I predicted on television that Britney would get her kids back."

Judi also was wrong when she predicted the New England Patriots would win the Super Bowl this year, which probably wasn't great for business in New York, but I had to like her honesty when I called her on some of her less auspicious psychic revelations.

"Hey, if I could do it 100 percent of the time," she said, "I'd be living on Fifth Avenue, not Third."

By her own estimate, Hoffman is correct "65 to 85 percent of the time," which is plenty good enough for me, since I can't even predict what I'm going to order at Taco Bell if I'm more than two cars back in the drive-through lane.

"I don't know any psychics who are right 100 percent of the time," she said, "but I think I can do better than the average bear."

Which, not coincidentally, brings us to Kentucky Bear, who was 15-1 in the book the last time I looked. Hoffman woke up yesterday thinking about "Big Bear," which she thinks might be an indication that Big Brown and Kentucky Bear could end up on the winning exacta and trifecta tickets. She also liked Behindatthebar until he was scratched yesterday and has a good feeling about Yankee Bravo (15-1) and long shot Giant Moon (30-1).

"I had a dream last night," she said. "I was feeling pressure. I was thinking, `I've just got to win this.' I was at a party, and somebody told me the middle of the field will win. That could mean Big Brown and Kentucky Bear because they will be side by side in the middle of the field."

Hoffman wasn't ready to be pinned down on the exact order of finish, but only because she didn't want to change the routine that led to her great victory in the Kentucky Derby. She made the pick right before race time, based on some hard-to-explain intuition about the vibe between the horses and jockeys.

"I'm going over tomorrow to the same OTB outlet, wearing the same clothes, the same underwear. You know how that works," she said.

Actually, I have little knowledge of women's accessories, but I get the picture. If a psychic can't be superstitious, nobody can. Hoffman won't be hard to spot on Third Avenue, because everything she was wearing that day was some kind of leopard-skin print.

"I'm into animal prints," she said. "My place looks like a jungle. I'll have the complete outfit, right down to the leopard raincoat, leopard boots and leopard umbrella."

Of course, anyone who knows me knows I'm a skeptic when it comes to this kind of thing. I used to scoff whenever I saw superstar medium John Edward on television because he did this thing where he coaxed the name of a deceased relative out of an audience member by coming up with only the first initial. Maybe it's just me, but you'd think if God were giving the guy the power to talk to the dead, he wouldn't leave him to guess the name.

Hoffman put my mind at ease, however, because she seemed to know a lot about me even though we were talking over the telephone. She knew I was a handsome, caring, giving person with terrific communication skills and several other wonderful talents the world has yet to experience.

It was almost scary.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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