It is rare to meet someone who really makes a living at the races. We have read books and watched TV series about the colorful characters. But how many do you really know? They are a rare gem to find. And when you stumble across one they leave you believing in the magic.
First, you need to clear your mind. Just because we can understand the data or info in our hands doesn’t make us professionals. After we get over ourselves and realize there are good and bad days. Lets focus on the single element that separates the pretenders and contenders. It is just one word, but it is harder to harness than digging a hole in the wind. That word is patience.
His name is Steve, and he was a racing fan from the first time he walked into that Florida track. He loved to watch and root as a young man with his grandpa. They would travel every Monday to the races, as this was his day off as a butcher. Gramps would have his program in hand and a bevy of hand written notes he kept in a brown leather binder. All week long he would jot down notes for horses to watch, and who had a brutal trip last out. Long before it was cool, Gramps was a trip handicapper. Matter of fact, I don’t even think the word was invented. Gramps would sit all day and smoke cheap cigars and tell Steve stories of big winners. He would make two or three trips to the betting windows, and at the end of the day he would walk to the other side of the wagering area and cash in his tickets. It never failed, and Steve could always count on ice cream for the ride home.
This continued for years, until Gramps took upon an illness. All of those cigars caught up with the butcher and he passed away. Steve was a teenager when he lost his racing compadre. No more Monday visits, and no more tales of the big winners. As in life, time cures most wounds and Steve went on with a normal young man’s life. He was doing well in school and chose the University of Louisville as his higher learning choice.
He was enrolled, and his chosen path was business. The college experience was exciting for the young man. He did well with his studies and had met some very interesting friends. All seemed to be going like clock work until his roommate asked him to ditch his last class and head over to Churchill Downs. Steve hadn’t been to the races in years, and the thought of going back seemed bitter sweet. But he dodged his last class and away they went. As he walked into the huge grandstand he could feel the history and memories coursing through his veins. It seemed like yesterday that he and Gramps were at the races.
The guys all were smoking stogies and trying their hand at picking winners. Steve would walk down to the paddock and patiently read his program. He had chosen a runner in the 7th that had a bad trip and clipped heels last out. This was going to be his one bet as a college man doesn’t have money falling from his pockets. Well, after watching his pals go tapped and turn green from smoking cheap cigars. He made his move to the windows and made a whopping $10 win wager on his 8-1 shot. His horse won by three, and dinner was on Steve that night.
I would like to tell you that he graduated and went on to follow his dream. But one day at the races brought back the racing bug. Steve found his way more and more to the races, and eventually found that school was getting in the way. He started charting races as Gramps use to do daily, and he would make the drive to Churchill, Keeneland, and Latonia. His love would take him all around the country, and he found his true love once again. His patience always kept his average on top, and he was doing quite well after just a few years.
I ran into him sitting in a Las Vegas race book, as he was playing in a contest the very next day. We chatted between races, and he was still keeping detailed notes. I was about ready to leave when he told me I might want to look at a horse in the 6th at Santa Anita. Well, he didn’t tout horses very often, and that was good enough for me. I bet $20 to win, and watched the race from my room on the in-house feed. The horse ran for daylight and paid $22.80. As I went to dinner that night, I thought of my friend and his love that started so long ago. As they cleared away the dishes, the server asked if I had thought about any dessert. Without any hesitation, I looked up and finished my day with an ice cream sundae. It just seemed fitting, and I am sure Gramps would have insisted as the day had come to a close.