It is a cold winter day in Kentucky, and I am looking ahead to the weekend action. As the big races begin to come into focus, I find myself taking that little mental break to reflect back on fond memories. You can liken it to a kid looking out the window in 6th grade math class wondering about anything that is not on the chalk board.
My first stop is a cold winter day when I was just a youngster. Our area had just finished the blizzard of 1978, and racing was once again in full swing at Latonia Race Course. I travelled out with my dad, and he was not having the best of luck on this day. Everything in the world had happened to him as speed would quit, and closers came up short. It was the “get out special” or better known as the last race. He looked over to me as we were watching the horses load in the 6f gate. His words should be etched in the bad beat journal forever: “Eddie, the only thing that hasn’t happened to me was to have my horse lose the jockey leaving the gate.” Well, I don’t think I have to tell you that when Gina Rose came off as soon as the gates opened. We made a hasty retreat to the car to beat the traffic.
2nd stop as I stare out the window. I was an 18-year-old guy working in the ice-cold parking lot. We were allowed to bet, and one day we had a “sure-thing.” My compadre Dick and I ran the preferred parking area, and many big players and horsemen would travel our way. There was a red-hot runner with super speed by the name of Mud in your Eye. He loved to get out on top, and would either wire the field, or quit like he had dropped an anchor. We pulled all of our money for the past few days, and went to the windows to bet this runner. He was 6-1 on the morning line, but was bet down to 7-2. Danny Cox had the call, and he was known to be vicious on front runners. All looked good in our world, and it stood to be a big money night. They were sent on their way going 6f, and he quickly opened up by 7 lengths. They turned an average quarter, and he began to jump out even further as they made the turn for home. Cox was ridding hard, and going to the whip when he had a 6 length lead at the 16th pole. He was 70 yards from the wire with wobbly legs, but was still on top by two. To this day, I have never seen anything like this. If you believe it, he finished 4th, and he must have practically stopped. It was one of the first bad beats I had as a young man, and it still haunts me today when I see runners on the lead. I can still hear my buddy telling me, “Let’s go to the windows, Hoss. This one is gone.”
3rd stop on this winter day has me in school, and it was a “no-nothing-day” where teachers gathered before they would have two days of meetings. Kids were allowed to go the library, gym, or do about anything. I was in the library reading over the entries in the paper, and looked down to see they had a special make-up card that was going to post at 1:00 p.m. – My dad worked construction, and he was rained out this day. As I was deep in thought about who I thought could win, I heard my name on the loud speakers asking me to gather my books and come to the office. I started wondering if they could read my mind and knew I wanted to be at the track. As I made the slow walk up to the office, I turned the corner to find my dad standing there. He looked at me and said, “they changed your dentist appointment, and we have to go now.” I didn’t have a clue, but left with dad just the same. As we jumped in his truck, I said I needed to brush before we left. He then gave me the surprise that were sweet to my ears. “There is no appointment, do you want to ride out to the races?” I smiled brightly, and the idea of playing hooky with my old man was the best way to spend the day.
4th and final stop on my day dream was going to the races with a girl while I was still in high school. I really thought she was the bees knees, and I think I may have been right. We were candidates for a high school dance, and the couple that collected the most money would be crowned as the money went to fund the future dances. Needless to say, two seniors went back to my house and cut open our collection cans. We had $63 dollars, and we were getting excited about going to the track. She was getting paid the next day, and I had two new cans to replenish our money. We had a couple of sodas for the ride out, and the day paid off in spades as we won about $125. We filled the cans back up, and split the winnings. We weren’t crowned king and queen of the “snowball dance,” but we had a good time at the track.
Well, back to the past performances. I am back from my little vacation, and what times they were. I was once asked if I could be anyone I wanted, who would it be? The answer was simple. I wouldn’t be anybody but me. I have had one helluva good time, and it is far from over.