Our Man
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 - by Frank Cotolo

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Of all the people you may feel inspire you in quests of handicapping and wagering, I doubt if actor/director Robert Redford is one of them. Although he was the star in the title role of the 1998 film “The Horse Whisperer” and 1979’s “The Electric Horseman,” any association with racehorses and the iconic movie star are strictly coincidental.

However, last year Redford portrayed an unidentified character sailing alone. When his boat collides with a shipping container at sea and is damaged beyond repair, leaving him adrift with only his will and resourcefulness as a sailor to survive.

The film, “All is Lost,” acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, was written and directed by J.C. Chandor. His screenplay named Redford’s character “Our Man,” leaving the actor with no information about the person played. Unusual in its approach, the script called for Redford to have no details of his character’s life, which would have explained his actions, moods, emotions and trials in the quest of facing his own mortality. As an actor, Redford said he did not create Our Man’s “backstory” as he crafted him on screen.

“It allowed me to fill in my own [backstory],” Redford said. Though he wanted to know what the writer/director had on his mind with Our Man, Chandor was unresponsive to any questions Redford asked about the role. “He was evasive,” Redford said, “in a way that I thought, ‘Well he’s a smart guy. He’s doing this on purpose.’ Then I realized it was all connected to the way he wrote it.”

Here’s the connection between Our Man and the harness bettor: Redford said, “There is only so much you need to know and then you fill in the rest. You remove as much as you can and then you provide a space for the audience to come in … You have to be pretty honest with yourself, with what you’re doing and what’s going on and how you are feeling.”

It is a perfect metaphor.

Try to see yourself as Our Man when you campaign a bankroll on pari-mutuel racing. Forget about your own backstory and any notion that you need more information, deeper analysis about the evaluation of a race. Your audience—the betting public that expresses itself in figures displayed in the pools—needs a space “to come in.” You need to respect their decisions in order to seek ways to disagree with them for profit (survival) or surrender to them (pass wagering—tread water—wait for a better opportunity to play).

Follow Redford’s advice in reference to the character you portray when you face the mortality of your bankroll, as you do each time you play pari-mutuels, because in reality you are adrift, alone in a sea of bettors that have much of the same information you have and the power to drown your efforts, not out of meanness but in the nature of the beast. Redford’s magnificent performance as Our Man should inspire each of us to rely only on our will and resourcefulness as to survive … and thrive.

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The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.