On Saturday, my son and I went to Turfway Park for some simulcast action. He has never been much of a racing fan, and I never tried to make him one. I thought after he grew to a certain age that he may want to give it a swing. Well, I think the apple may not have fallen far from the tree.
Gus is 12-years-old. If you saw him from a distance he may appear to be older from his height, but as you draw closer you would see that baby face grin. He has never really wanted to go to the races with me. I usually wait until he spends time at grandma’s farm, and then I head over for the day. It has worked out over the years, and for the last two months he began asking me if I won any money at the races… Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Then he would ask ” why not, Dad ?” For 12-yrs-old, that is a pretty good question.
I asked him if he would like to go over and watch some races with me? He looked up with his bright smile and said he would love to. We found some seats, and I met a friend I haven’t seen in quite a bit. He met Steve Caldwell and the three of us sat in the non-smoking section in the race book. I showed him the tracks on screen and where they were coming from. We talked about win-place-show wagering, and he wanted to learn about exactas… The day was off and running, and the Wagering Gods smiled down on our man’s day out. We hit a 5-1 shot at Saratoga, and I took him up to help collect the winnings. He looked at the money, and asked a question that was straight from a horse player’s heart. “How much did I win, Dad?” We walked away and he received ten dollars from our big win. It was not the largest win in history, nor will we make the front cover of the paper. But on this Saturday afternoon, I shared a day with my son that I did a million times with my Dad. It felt good, as he was patient and wanted to learn to read the program. It was like looking in a mirror about 35-years ago.
After a few hours, I bid my friend farewell for the day, and I watched my son reach across the table and shake Steve’s hand like a young man. It was a good day. Maybe one of the best days I have had in years. We won nearly a hundred dollars, and I think he told everyone in the track what he had done. As we walked out, I saw an older man in a wheelchair. He was a strapping man all of his life, and for the many years I worked at the track I used to watch him jog in from the parking lot to make the daily-double. But not on this day. He was being pushed in by his son and was coming out to do what he loved.
This older man looked up and his eyes caught mine. “Stop,” he asked his son. “I want to talk to this man… Ed, how are you my friend? Is this the little baby you use to show me pictures of long ago?” He extended his hand to me, and then to my son… “Nice to meet you Gus, my name is Frank. I have known your daddy since he was a teenager working in the parking lot.” The conversation between old friends lasted a few minutes, and it was then he asked me the million dollar question. “Did you get em’ today, Ed?” Before I could utter a word, my son looked at him and said we won a hundred dollars! ” Great job, Gus! I bet you can’t wait to come back again with your Dad?” Gus just smiled and said he likes the races and can’t wait to come back again.
I bid Frank farewell, and shook his baseball size mitt of a hand. Gus did the same and we started our trek to the car. “Dad, you sure know a lot of people here don’t you?” “Yes, I sure do… I have worked at the track for quite a long time, and over the years I got to know some really good people. Some of the best you will ever meet in the world.” He just smiled as he was pushing his ten dollars deep into his pocket. “Let me know when you are coming again, Dad. I want to come back with you.” These words sounded so familiar, and it took me back. Back to a time when I was that young man looking up at my Dad saying the same words. It wasn’t the money or the winning that really mattered. It was the special time that we shared. It was our place. A man’s place where you could plunk down a few bucks and root your runners home. Gus and I enjoyed our day at the track… We celebrated with a burger and catching a movie. I think this may be a beginning of fun things to come. It reminds me of good times and a thousand stories of bad beats, big wins, and spending time with the guy I admired. Yeah, you could call it a good day all around…