The Hot Line

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 18, 2013 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

Long ago, race tracks had no public phones. There was no such thing as a cell phone, and only the rich and shameless had the two foot long car phones installed. But I digress. I have heard some tales from the dark side about past posting. This is where you would make a call to your bookie, and hope that they would take your bet while the race was finishing. It is a underhanded and plain out wrong, and you could have received a knock in the head if you were caught.


The Track Crew

These are the folks that keep the track surface in good condition. It would be harrowed after each race, and the dirt surface would be ready for the next heat. These guys liked to bet, and one day were approached by a couple of bookies. They wanted to know how the track was going to play, or if the surface would have a bias. All that they wanted was the “inside” info on how the track felt. For this information, the boys were sent pizzas, beer, and tickets to ball games. Not bad for a few country boys that drove the tractors. But after a night of pizza and wings. They came up with a different plan.

The bookies were asking for information, and the track crew were not allowed to make bets. It seemed like a perfect match. They wanted to call and drop a few bucks when they liked a horse. The book-makers agreed, and saw this as an opportunity to make a few bucks, and maybe hear more inside info. When these farm lads got together, they came up with a plan. There would be one stationed at the half mile mark outside the rail. One would be near the 3/8th’s pole, and the other would be in the track crew office by the phone. They had a secure radio system that no other track employees were allowed to access. Radio messages would be called to the office, and only one number was given at the half, and at the 3/8th’s, there was a number and a estimation of lengths on top. The supervisor would have the phone in hand with half of the number dialed. He would call, and if it was close to the post time they would take the wager.

Needless to say this went on for quite sometime and the guys did pretty well. They purchased tools, old trucks, and one bought a fishing boat. The operation was tight, as they provided their info and snuck in a few bets. When one of the bookies passed away, the operation folded up and went the way of the dinosaur. But what a time it was during those years.


The Ten Foot Wall

The racing office had telephones, and you could only use them if worked there, or had a really close pal who allowed you to make a call. It was quite an honor to dial the phone. Around the final turn, there was a large wall that kept the backside out of view when the camera would be showing the race. From time to time you would see a young men sitting atop this wall to get the best seats in the house.

There were three guys working together. One on top of the wall, one stationed near the office, and one inside talking to his cousin who worked in the office. When the horses would begin into the turn, a hand signal was given to the second man who motioned slowly to the man in the office who could see him clearly through the office window.  A call would be made, and some bets would be accepted, and some were not as they were too close to post time. But for the most part, it was as smooth as a fresh shaved face. The plan worked like clockwork for quite sometime, and eventually new faces in the office frowned down on the family re-unions that would take place a few times a week. But when it worked, it was sweeter than candy.

Over the years there have been stories that would curl your hair. The tote systems have complex security, there are cameras everywhere, and the blue collar cheaters are a thing of the past. There is in-race wagering, and you can wager at marked points while the race is taking place. The game has changed in many ways, and yet it is still ten years behind the times. But overall, it is moving toward a level playing field. We are not there yet, but safeguards are making the game transparent. As with many back door deals, we chuckle quietly and glad they’re are not a part of today.