Horseplayers: Voodoo Vibes in the Big Easy

Pop Culture

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

As “Horseplayers” enters its stretch run, it’s become clear that on this series it’s Christian Hellmers’ world and everyone else is paying rent.

“The Guru” once again was the star in last week’s episode at the Breeders’ Cup, dominating the camera time with his success at the betting windows and driving his castmates batty with his mind games and odd-ball antics.

In the end, even Hellmers tapped out and finished off the board but so far it’s been the headband-wearin’, kale-chompin’ vegan who has been feasting on the competition.

The penultimate show brought the cast to a tournament on opening day at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and the spotlight initially fell on Michael Beychok, the reigning champ in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship, who voiced his disappointment in being blanked in his bid to earn a seat in the 2014 event.

Next we find Hellmers in the French Quarter with the elder two-thirds of Team Rotondo, Peter Rotondo Sr. and his handicapping buddy Lee Davis. These two made only a guest appearance in the previous week’s Breeders’ Cup show, as they were seen entertaining and giving selections to groups of women in scenes that seemed fitting for Max Bialystock from “The Producers.”

Hellmers, Rotondo Sr., and Davis

After that respite, the show’s resident jesters were back in this action this week as they then join Peter Rotondo Jr. and are taken to a voodoo shop by Hellmers. Rotondo Sr. says he “wants to be cleansed” because there’s a monkey on their back, which probably beats having a chimp on your shoulder.

The younger Rotondo is openly skeptical and doesn’t seem appreciative when the Voodoo Lady blows cigar smoke down his, er, butt. Davis, though, said he felt a vibe and some positive energy, which makes one wonder if he’s blowing smoke up the viewers’ you know where.

We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, the next morning at breakfast Beychok introduces his longtime friend political consultant James Carville to Matt Bernier, the show’s youngest ‘capper. Carville, without blowing smoke, tries his best to instill confidence in the shattered psyches of the B & B boys, creating an interesting sub-plot matching the worth of advice from a man who helped get Bill Clinton elected President against the spells of the Voodoo Lady to see who can deliver more hocus pocus.

We then see Team Rotondo seeking help from the Voodoo gods and some smack talking from Hellmers and his main rival on the show – if there is such thing – Brooklyn Cowboy Kevin Cox to set the stage for the gambling, which starts with Hellmers taking a flyer on a 30-1 to shot in a Churchill Downs race. Not to be outdone, Cox tabs a 40-1 shot in the same race.


Casting dispersions on the value of both voodoo and a political genius, it’s Cox

 who clicks with his pick and grabs the lead much to the chagrin of Hellmers.

Doing their best to surpass Hellmers in the flaky antics category, Rotondo Sr. and Davis use some voodoo chants to improve their luck and wind up butting heads with Bernier on a race at Aqueduct.

This time, the voodoo that they do works and Davis connects on a short-priced

 winner to move up the leaderboard.

Another win helps Davis climb up to fifth, with Cox now fourth, Beychok sixth and Bernier seventh – and Hellmers noticeably absent from contention. Perhaps all this voodoo is his kryptonite.

The last race arrives and Davis, who is fifth, eschews voodoo to seek advice from

 Hellmers, which a rival like Cox might equate to dealing with the devil.

As it turns out, the power of Voodoo held sway as Davis finished fourth – one spot behind Cox – and a wild celebration broke out to congratulate Davis on his feat.Davis, with a spot in the Las Vegas final on the line, opts for a 2-1 shot, who breaks badly but runs well to finish second. With a win and a place bet on the horse, Davis picks up a few dollars but has to sweat out whether he’ll hold off a closer in the field.

While everyone was genuinely happy that a teary-eyed Davis finally pocketed that elusive and coveted seat for  Vegas, the show ended on an even more touching note with Cox visiting the horses at the Old Friends retirement home in Saratoga. There he saw Zippy Chippy, the famed maiden, and spoke about his desire to give something back to the valiant animals who make the game so enjoyable and rewarding.

Cox may have finished third in the contest, but at the end he was truly a winner.

Until next week …

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!