- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"Where do you see it on a horse?"
"By the head. There's a blooming, very hot, like heat. That horse wants to go."
The idea of spectral flames shooting out of the horses' heads as they came down the stretch was awe-inspiring. Personally, I could see no phosphorescent glow around any of the animals and, in fact, hardly any signs of life in some. And yet the race was a good one. As Harribance had predicted, Treble Hook took the lead. At the half mile he was two lengths ahead of Right N' Bright, which had two lengths on Vern's Destroyer. Until the last few strides it looked as if Harribance had picked them one, two, three. But a beautiful little animal named Jerry's Song, unraced in the past nine months, winner of two races in 30 starts, off at 35 to 1, closed determinedly and passed Vern's Destroyer and Right N' Bright, losing to Treble Hook by a nose.
Still, Harribance had done better than the handicappers. The horse he picked to win had won, his second choice was third, and his third horse was fourth. But he had not bet on his choices. "I changed my own arrangement," he said composedly. "I went to buy Seven to win. I changed. I see Six to win. I said Seven to place. But then I did not buy it."
Why not? According to Harribance, when he went to the window to place his bets, the combined thoughts of other bettors, their silent self-arguments and doubts, their concentration on the names of horses and calculations of odds had flowed through the air like telepathic static. This, Harribance said, made him lose confidence in what had seemed to be certain foreknowledge. "Besides, I am not lucky," he said. "I can tell you, 'Look, that horse will win.' But I will go buy something else. I am anxious to see if luck can beat extrasensory perception."
In the second race, a four-furlong $7,500 claiming race for maidens, Harribance had two $10 tickets on No. 5 to win and four $10 tickets on No. 9 to show. His insights came numerically; he never mentioned a horse's name. No. 5 was Bitter Bubbles, unplaced in five starts. Nine was Special Jason, fifth in his first and only race a week earlier. The other eight horses did not interest him. He tape-recorded his selections and went off to buy his tickets. This time he did not change his mind. The ESP feeling must have been very strong, for he showed no excitement when Bitter Bubbles, running second until mid-stretch, drew away to win by two lengths (paying $8.20) over Special Jason, which paid $3.80 to show. Harribance collected $158, giving Chris half of it.
Harribance says he became aware of his psychic ability when he was a 12-year-old boy in his native Trinidad. He tells of walking home from school one day when he suddenly visualized a schoolmate's mother wearing a new red dress with green stripes. When he announced this he was laughed at. They were all too poor for such finery. But when the schoolmate got home his mother was wearing a dress like the one Harribance described, an unexpected present from a visiting relative. Harribance soon found himself doing similar tricks, though that is not a word he would use, to become popular with other kids. For instance, somebody would ask him to make a "prediction" and he would say, "You have 25� in your left pocket." He was correct often enough to get a reputation.
"I was brought up as a Hindu," he said between races at Jefferson Downs. " America is a scientific community, but Hindus are a religious community. As a very young child I sat with my grandfather and did yoga and meditated. We were told that if you meditated you'd get the powers of yoga, walk on water, see God...."
His father operated a sawmill, a corn mill and a rice mill, and later a grocery store where Sean worked when he was not playing cricket or beating the other kids at cards. He was converted to Christianity, which upset his family, and he further antagonized his parents when he refused to go through with a marriage that had been arranged for him. He had left home and school and was working at the ticket counter of a bus company when he began giving readings at a fee of 502 for five minutes at church benefits, usually telling girls about their future marriages. These sessions became so popular that he went on a county-fair circuit, where he imparted such information to hundreds of clients uncertain about their future husbands. "I am 90% right on love lives," Harribance says.
William Roll of the Psychical Research Foundation in Durham tested him, using hidden photographs of men and women. From an adjoining room Harribance picked the sex of persons from photographs he could not see. Given two choices, the law of probability—formulated by Pascal and Pierre de Fermat in the 17th century—says that if you keep on picking long enough you will be right 50% of the time. According to the Foundation, Harribance got 677 right and 323 wrong in 1,000 trials. In another well-publicized instance in Trinidad, a person unknown to him was brought into an adjoining room, out of his sight and hearing. Harribance wrote down the person's height and other personal facts, adding that the stranger played cricket well. The individual was Charles Davis, who is the West Indies' best cricketer, and the measurements and characteristics were correct.