ZJ Wins

July 22, 2015

Saratoga Jon's Dad Window
The mutual window where Jonathan’s Dad worked for many years. Jon practically grew up hanging around that window as a young boy and teenager.

Today The Sport of Kings affords players more ways and means than ever to come up with selections. In this age of advanced technology you have several options for reviewing information, and a number of areas of information to consider. You have various sources of past performances, speed ratings, workouts, pedigree analysis, and handicapping methods. You have sources of analysis of feet traveled, ground lost, trips, video replays, and even algorithms of betting patterns and winning combinations. It’s almost information overload, but there is a science and skill to this great game so the more information at your disposal the better. This means to have a competitive edge when playing you have to do your homework and put in the time. Rest assured many you are playing against are doing this.

There is also another method of coming up with selections. This involves taking the selections of a public handicapper. Public handicappers have been around as long as The Sport of Kings itself. They have evolved along with the rest of the sport. They’ve gone from wandering around the grandstands and clubhouses of racetracks, to printing sheets sold at the tracks, to providing selections in newspapers and other publications, to appearing on television, and in today’s computer age, to offering their opinions on the internet. You will also find them on social media.

As far back as any of us can remember, tip sheets have been available at the racetracks. I remember as a kid, hearing the calls for Lawton on the bright Halloween orange sheet, walking into Saratoga with my parents, and then seeing them all over the track at the end of the day with their winners circled. There was also Jack’s Green card, The Beard and others. It was and is a part of the culture. They are not for everyone, but they do no harm. Many find them helpful and are loyal to those with whom they have had success.

The internet, social media, and the vast handicapping information available have raised the bar for public handicappers. There are more of them than ever.

The internet, social media, and the vast handicapping information available have raised the bar for public handicappers. There are more of them than ever. Some are free, some charge for their expertise, but if this is something that is for you, my one recommendation would be to find a good one. Yes, like anything else, there are good and bad ones. The fact there are some bad ones should not taint the entire applecart. In any and every profession there is good and bad and public handicapping is no exception nor should we expect it to be. You have good and bad doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, realtors, money managers, and just about everything else. As with anything, let the buyer beware, but that doesn’t mean don’t buy if this is your chosen method to play, or if you simply don’t have the time or expertise to put in to have a fair shot at coming out ahead consistently.

As a professional handicapper most of my life, I can quickly recognize other serious players. By the same token, I can spot equally as fast those who are not beating the game or showing any consistent success. That extends to public handicappers as well. As aforementioned, there are some who are sharp, and others who could not hit water if they fell out of a boat. Zenyatta John is one of the sharp ones. Very sharp. If you do purchase selections, or if you are satisfied with a free selection just about daily, you could do worse than to visit www.pick4win.com, Zenyatta John’s website.

I first became aware of ZJ when I first joined Twitter a few years back. I noticed he was passionate about his selections. He seemed to put a lot of heart and soul into it. He was interactive with his followers and clients, and did not shy away from a losing selection. We all have them in this great game, where one of the few guarantees is we will be wrong more than we are right.

Competitiveness is inherent to this game. John or ZJ as I call him has it. Some may take it as boasting but if you understand the nature of this game, and what goes into a win for those who take it seriously, and play for keeps, it really isn’t. It’s competitiveness.

I thought it would be interesting to get to know a real public handicapper better. To see how they got into it, what drives them and learn some of their secrets. I chose ZJ as I know he’s good, and he is very straightforward. A straight shooter who calls it like he sees it.

John Mooney aka Zenyatta John, aka ZJ, aka pick4win, has racing in his blood. How can he not? He is from Saratoga Springs, New York, the horse racing capital of the world. Being born and raised in Saratoga assures exposure to The Sport of Kings at an early age. It’s part of the life and culture there. The town revolves around it even today with its modernization. As a child, John’s grandfather took him and his sisters to the races. They all got to pick one horse a race and were given a $2 win ticket on it. John’s first pick was a grey horse named Dumbo and he finished first. ZJ wins. He was hooked for life.

ZJ continued his love for the game by riding his bicycle to the track when he was as young as 12. He knew where his grandfather would be, and knew a $50 or $100 stake would be coming his way, depending on how his grandfather was doing. John enjoyed spending the money with his friends and ultimately betting it once he won over a lady teller.

It was not long after this period in John’s life he became obsessed with winning money at the races, and studying the Daily Racing Form as a means to do so. As soon as he opened his eyes in the morning he was off to get the next day’s form. I am sure many of us can relate to this. I know I can. He’d read every story, article and chart. Tuesdays, which were the dark days, he’d study pedigrees. He quickly realized how, in addition to his handicapping, knowing pedigrees of turf runners could give him an edge and a niche so to speak in his game. He continually studied and strived to get better.

One of his sweetest scores involved one of his favorite angles and strengths. It also involved knowing how to make it count and swing for the fences when appropriate. This is something I have stressed in many of my columns, make it count. ZJ liked a Dale Romans horse going first time turf in the last race of the pick 4. He structured a pick 4 ticket around her, actually singling her in that last leg. She delivered and ran to her pedigree, winning by a nose. The pick 4 which John had came back a smart $5171. John also learned to use his connections and knowing his way around the Saratoga backside to his advantage. A two year old working over The Oklahoma training track once caught his eye and he waited practically the whole summer for him to run. As you will almost always see at The Spa there were some fancy babies running against him. It did not deter John from betting $100 to win on Swig who paid $58.50. Unfortunately he was DQ’d out of a $2500 exacta but hey, it was still a pretty good day. We already know this game is not for the faint of heart.

Then there was Atfirst Blush if he recalls correctly. This one ZJ helped ride home in the slop on one of those ominous sky Saratoga days. He was a first time starter John pegged on his superior off track breeding. As he began his sweeping move on the turn, John began hitting his friends arm with his Daily Racing Form turned into a spectator’s whip. He whipped his friend all the way to the wire. AtFirst Blush paid around $94 to win. A guy standing next to John and his friend asked did you have it? John said I had everything, win, exacta, and pick 3. ZJ wins.

Of course with the good comes the bad and Zenyatta John has had his share of bad beats. Like the time he bet his entire paycheck on a Sidney Waters Jr. trained horse who checked, steadied, and was yanked back running up on heels while loaded, only to lose by a nose under Mike Smith. Tough game this horse racing.

By 2008 John had honed his skills pretty well and was confidant in his ability. He knew he had a knack for the game and picking winners, especially on the grass. He saw an ad for handicapping websites and decided to invest in one. Seven years later he is still here and at it.

Talking horses with Zenyatta John:

What are some of your favorite horses?


Go For Wand – we had a tip on her in her 1st lifetime start, she was so special, one of my worst days in racing when she was taken away from us.

Cigar – was at simulcast for race 1 of ‘the streak’. As he was running down the lane, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe the stride I was watching. Looked around, nobody else noticed. Cashed a big ticket in the NYRA Mile as the memorable streak was just beginning.

Lure – love fast grass horses, I told a cabbie in Vegas to bet “all he wanted” on him two months before his 1s BC Mile, he didn’t disappoint.

Zenyatta – I gave her out as a first time starter on a local handicapping TV show. After she inhaled her maiden field, they dubbed me ‘Zenyatta John’. She was such a pleasure to watch run.


Are there any special angles you look for or favor?

Saratoga has its own parameters for handicapping, there are rules that I’ve found apply here and not necessarily anywhere else. The one I’ll share is, don’t be afraid of using any horse coming off a layoff regardless of the length. Ten months out of the year, I try to judge “who needs the race” returning off long layoffs. At Saratoga, I assume they are all live. Many NY barns routinely put horses away for a freshening and point for Saratoga.

Why do you think you excel on the grass?

I realized as a kid, turf races produce the best monetary returns, so I started studying pedigrees. That was a huge part of the information I craved. Before the internet, you had a big advantage over Joe Average Bettor if you knew this horse trying grass for the 1st time had turf winners in the family. Over the years, I have formed simple rules for handicapping turf races that I adhere too, and they still produce double digit winners to this day.

What’s the toughest thing about public handicapping most people don’t realize?

It feels horrible when I have bad days, not only did I lose money, but I actually cost people money. It took years for me to understand, we all make our own decisions, we choose to gamble, if I have a bad day, we’ll just try and get some winners tomorrow.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Helping people win. It is truly a wonderful feeling to cash a ticket on a nice winner knowing others are sharing in those same riches because they believe in me and what I do. That makes it twice as nice. It is part of why I love what I do.

Weekend Selections

Here is a copy of one of Zenyatta John’s selection sheets. It was from just this past Saturday.

*Click Here for Link ZJ Wins*

We have also included some of the results and pay offs.

*Click Here for ZJ Wins Results*

As you see, Zenyatta John is capable of a mighty fine day.

There are different ways to use a selection sheet. Not only are there multiple ways of playing the selections, you can also use them to compare to your own handicapping if you are still in a beginning stage. If you play from home and just want some comparison, that can work as well.

Being a public handicapper isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work and without question you leave yourself open to be second guessed, often by people who don’t understand the game. There are others who seem opposed to a public handicapper charging for their selections, although I’ve never heard a reason that made sense for it. Anyone is entitled to be paid for their work or expertise. Nobody forces anyone to buy selections and most who do are loyal long standing customers. Despite the inherent competitiveness to The Sport of Kings, we are all really one family even though we play against one another. If you really are all that, lead by example. ZJ does and it’s better for the game.

You can visit his site here: Pick4win.com

High 5

This week’s high five goes to none other than Zenyatta John. He tore them up Saturday.

Low 5

Chris Kay. Once again slights bettors amongst others saying owners are the ones who drive the game. That just isn’t true. One does not exist without the other and Mr. Kay just can’t figure out who his customers are.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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@Tracking_Trips nice call Jon

Howard Eder @bbopjz View testimonials