We have grown use to having the ease of wagering from the comfort of our home, or the seat in our office. But if you are looking for that tonic that gets your sporting blood pumping make plans to take in a day of live racing action. It takes us back to where we all began.
Keeneland has a magical feel. It feels like “Brigadoon” has arrived for 15 days every April and October. Yeah, you could say it is special… You make your way in from the parking area to walk through a paddock that looks like a national park. The best-of-the-best have ridden there. The trainers are like a Hall of Fame fraternity. If you listen closely, you can hear the echoes of past champions being saddled, and thundering hooves driving for the finish.
Today was a different kind of trip. I was playing in a handicapping contest called the “Grade One Gamble.” The contest was top shelf. Some of the best players in the country were on hand to do battle with a nine race card. I don’t play in all of the contests, but this was a special day. A chance at winning big money, and to knock heads with incredible handicappers. For many horse players, this was a dream come true.
Now, if you have read any of my past blogs, stories, or handicapping, you never really hear any complaints or whining. I have never felt that crying was a part of the game. The late-great Pittsburgh Phil once said that, “You should act the same if you have won a million, or lost a fortune.” With that being said, I have couple of bad beats that will go down in my gambling history.
Race #2 at Keeneland was a 6f maiden event. This kind of race that yields a payoff you are shooting for. I fell in love with two horses, and wanted to create a part wheel ticket. One was 5-2, and the other was 21-1. The 21-1 shot was S C Redslegacy, and was shipping in from Oaklawn Park. He broke from the 11 post with Jesus Castanon in the irons. Now, that was not the best post to break, but the price was well worth the venture. As they turned for home, Tattaglia had the lead under the guided hand of Ricardo Santana from Oaklawn, and was on top by a 1 1/2. My runner came rolling three wide, and appeared to look as if he was going right on by. But the leader drifted at the 16th pole and bumped my runner. On the infield big screen, it looked as if both jockeys were tussling a bit. When they hit the wire, Tattaglia had regained the lead, and won by a head. There was a jockey’s objection, and it seemed to last for days. But after 10 minutes, the stewards left the numbers as they had finished. The trifecta paid $1,378.40 with a 4-1 winner. I wonder what it would have paid with a 21-1 on top. Bad beat #1…
The day was up and down, and the last race was on the track. In this affair, you had to wager 1/2 of your bankroll. That was $660 for my account, and I once again fell in love with a nice price of 8-1. She was ridden by Joel Rosario, and he has been on fire all meet long. It almost felt too good to be true. Be My Kitten swung for home five-wide and was mowing down the field like they were tied to the ground. But right behind was Glorious Chant gunning with equal late-kick. As the two hit the wire, I came up a head short of a monster score. Now there wasn’t as much hullabaloo as the objection earlier in the card. But that head-bob at the wire cost this player a big shot at going to Las Vegas… Tough beat #2…
So, I gathered up my items and said my goodbyes. It had been a long time since I had seen many friends, and what a day of action this turned out to be. Perfect weather, a challenging card, and the horse players lament of “what could have been.” I made my way past the huge Sycamore tree in the paddock, and walked past the Dogwood trees in bloom. As I started my car, I didn’t have the bad taste of losing in my mouth. It was something a little different. I started thinking of how I could get back there again in October. The day was tough, but I didn’t have that bitter feeling. Optimism was what I had in my heart. As I began the long trek home, my thoughts turned to the Derby. It is right around the corner, and my thoughts turned to the big day. For me, that is horse racing. The game I grew up watching with my Dad, and the excitement is exactly the same as it was the very first time. Oh, I finished right in the middle on this day. But the hope and optimism of this gambler still looks forward to the next opportunity.