His name may not be all that familiar to handicapping contest players. But Victor Mendes Sr. of Boca Raton, Fla., has been part of the South Florida racing scene for decades—wearing a number of hats during that time, including those of jockey’s agent and professional handicapper.
“Calder, Gulfstream and Hialeah were my main tracks,” said the friendly 66-year-old, who has been confined to a wheelchair since the late 1970s due to a gunshot wound. “I’m still good friends with Ken Ramsey. We speak on the phone every now and then.”
The next time they speak, Mendes will have plenty to tell Ramsey. Last Saturday, Victor won $40,000 in HorseTourneys’ first-ever $100,000 event.
Mendes’s victory was the latest in a very long list of horseplaying memories.
“I’ve been gambling all of my life,” said Mendes. “At least since I was 16. I’ll play a little blackjack now and then, but for me, the horses have always been my thing.”
On HorseTourneys, Mendes’s thing has mainly been high-end head-to-head and winner-take-all games, with an occasional foray into the big-field cash tourneys. What does he use to pick his winners?
“I can read the Form with the best of them, but I really don’t look at any past performances,” he said. “I use the sheets.”
“No, no, Vicspics! Vicspics.com”
The Vicspics sheets, now available through the Vicspics website and also the Santa Anita website, assign a numerical rating to each horse based on a proprietary computer formula that Mendes and a partner created some three decades ago. The formula then re-analyzes each horse within the context of today’s race and specifies which horse is a race’s “predicted winner”, which are bettable contenders and which are basically toss-outs. Often times, an initially lower-rated horse will be recommended as a better bet than a higher-rated horse due to race specifics.
Back in the 1980s, Mendes was something of an underground celebrity at the South Florida tracks for his information–which was more private and less well distributed than it is today due largely to the technological limitations of the era.
But the data remains the same and on Saturday, Mendes reviewed the top two picks his sheets generated for the 13 contest races and basically zig-zagged them across the two entries he had secured for the $100,000 game.
“I prefer Pick & Prays because I can put in what the sheets say and go take a nap,” laughed Mendes. “But with live contests, you have to be vigilant. You can’t be taking 8-5 if you’re $30.00 behind. It wasn’t until later in the contest that it started to kick in for me.”
Indeed, Mendes started modestly with just one place collection from the first three races before he started to gain momentum. Sadler’s Joy’s 7-1 win in the Sword Dancer got him pointed in the right direction. And then, somewhat ironically on a day highlighted by a blockbuster Travers-Day card at Saratoga, it was a pair of pricey Monmouth winners that really made the day for Mendes—Feistyloulabelle ($20.60, $10.00) in the 10th and Spring About ($32.40, $13.80) in the 11th.
“The Vic’s Pics actually listed [Spring About] as the ‘predicted winner’ of the 11th,” Mendes said. “My other entry wound up in 16th place, and if I had used that last Monmouth winner on both entries, I would have finished first and second.”
But Mendes wouldn’t allow himself more than a couple of seconds of daydreaming of what might have been. He knows he had a great day, and he loves having plenty of ammunition for future HorseTourneys contests.
“I started playing at HorseTourneys in February, and really appreciate the transparency that’s built into the site,” Mendes said. “My sheets seem to do really well in head-to-head games so I play a lot of those, and I love how, with Pick & Prays, everyone’s plays for every race are clearly shown as soon as the contest begins. When you see that, you know it’s an honest site. And the size of the games—with the top tracks available—makes the site good for gamblers too.”
Mendes plans to play in the next $100,000 HorseTourneys game—now slated for Saturday, October 7—as well as in plenty more head-to-heads. But no matter which games he plays…big or small…head-to-head or multi-player…you know he is going to have his Vic’s Pics sheets close at hand.
“I tell you, I’ve bought two homes and three Cadillacs with those sheets!” he said with a laugh.
South Florida auto dealers take note. Victor Mendes Sr. may now be in the market for another Cadillac.