Tom Ritchie and Brian Wien. Friends for 25 years, Ritchie, 55, and Wien, a 45, who both work in the printing industry, meet in the Meadowlands parking lot in East Rutherford, N.J., to pick ponies. Before the Kentucky Derby the two played eight $1 superfecta boxes (all possible combinations of four horses) for $192. The winning ticket (with Giacomo, Closing Argument, Afleet Alex and Don't Get Mad) paid $864,253.50.
Method "We usually get together on a Friday, sit in the parking lot and eat sandwiches while we look over the races," says Ritchie. "Brian is the racing guy. I just throw around names I like. Eventually he gives in and we go with the names I like." For the Derby, Ritchie says, "Giacomo was inspired by Eddie Giacomin, an old New York Ranger. And we loved Afleet Alex because we heard he drinks milk from a beer bottle. We both love beer."
Their superfecta selection is Giacomo, Afleet Alex, Malibu Moonshine and Scrappy T. Why long shot Malibu Moonshine? Says Ritchie, "My friend Big Ted was a liquor salesman and he was always pushing that Malibu rum."
Mark Madden (below, left), a 53-year-old trucking exec who plays horses regularly, met with his daughter Lisa (below, right), 29, and her boyfriend, Alex Corrado (below, center), 44, at Freehold ( N.J.) Raceway.
Method "We picked two horses each and played a six-horse box [a $360 investment]," says Madden. "My daughter picked Closing Argument. She had a good feeling about it. [Lisa claims to have heard a voice in her head saying, '... and it's Closing Argument down the stretch!'] Alex picked Giacomo because he's big on Italian things and he thought the horse was named after [the composer] Giacomo Puccini. A nice mistake."
Preakness Pick "You've gotta like Afleet Alex," says Madden. "I would not go to Giacomo again. That's all I can share. I can sell my tips now." As for Lisa, she says, "Maybe Scrappy T. I just like the name. I haven't heard any voices yet."
Chris Hertzog, a 39-year-old Phoenix firefighter, spent $100 on quick picks at Turf Paradise racetrack. Hertzog thought he had misplaced his winning ticket, but it was eventually recovered by teller Brenda Reagan, 41 (top, with Hertzog), to whom Hertzog later gave $25,000.
A computer randomly generates quick picks without considering a horse's past performances. Says Hertzog: "I didn't know who Giacomo was. I don't think I knew any of the horses' names."