If there was such a thing as a Hall of Fame for handicappers at Fonner Park, 88-year-old Gus Katrouzos would be my top
selection for enshrinement. The Greek is good. Sometimes, really good, in an unconventional way.
Even he admits he's been walking around 'lucky' nearly his whole life, and just gets better with age.
According to the senior member of the family who made the Coney Island Lunchroom famous in downtown Grand Island,
"It's crazy! I don't plan on winning at the track. It just happens."
Since Fonner opened it's doors to live thoroughbred horseracing in 1954, 60 years ago, Gus has been a mainstay in the
grandstand, and his only dilemma during the 'early days' was how he was going to scrape up $20 to buy a form and a program and
still be able to wager $2 on every race.
"You gotta play if you wanna win," says Papa Gus, "and bang, bang....when I'm ready to go....crazy, crazy (stuff) can occur."
Along the way, Katrouzos discovered he was blessed with having lucky numbers. Something I've heard alot about but never been
able to cash in on.
Says Gus, "When the kids (George and Kat) were little I started playing their ages, nine and ten, in the (daily) double.
Bang, I hit for $900 one day at the old Ak-Sar-Ben."
The 'numbers' thing has taken on a life of it's own ever since.
This past December, sitting at home because a bad back restricted him from getting to the track, Gus entered a local
handicapping contest and called in his selections to friend Steve Irwin. He and his wife, Kristina, had been celebrating their 51st
wedding anniversary so Gus played 5 and 1 in all the doubles.
Even the wise guys will tell you, "It just takes one."
A 5-1 daily double came in at Hollywood Park paying almost $800 and the elder statesman walked off with the
championship; his fourth contest win over the last nine years, sandwitched around a couple of runnerup finishes.
It gets better.
In mid-January, just a couple of weeks ago, Gus was laid up in the hospital recuperating from surgery, when he got the urge
to bet 8-7 and 8-8, he and his wife's ages. A call to his son resulted in another $2100 payday.
He's not making this up folks. I was there on both occasions!
I've seen Gus pull a program out of the trash, mistakingly bet on the previous days races and win thousands of dollars on
a two buck investment. He thought he was tieing up, "The two girl jockeys," as he relayed the story on how he got it.
Legendary. Unbelievable, yet true.
Hence, Gus' motto on life: "I've been lucky in love and I've been lucky in horses, too."
So, if you feel like you're walking around 'lucky' tomorrow afternoon, why not join us at the track. Another Fonner Park
handicapping contest is planned for Saturday with a 1:00pm starting time. The wagering format revolves around racing from
Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, Oaklawn and the Fair Grounds.
Gus Katrouzos plans on giving it a go but will only be there in spirit, still being hobbled by some health issues.
But he's a horseplayer. "I love it and have never been ashamed to admit it."
I call him a gamer and my personal "Hall of Famer!"