Over the years, I have been extremely lucky. Not to say that I’ve cashed a million dollar powerball winner, or knocked out the pick-six. I came up like many players. I was introduced to the sport by family, and the love has been growing ever since. There were different stages along my journey, and see if any of these sound familiar?
1) You saved some lunch money, cut grass, shoveled snow, or tore apart the couch cushions to build a small bankroll. I used to cut grass as a young man, and would go out with my dad and make $2 place bets. You would have thought the world depended on my 3-1 shot to finish in the top two spots. These were some of the best times for a beginning racing fan.
2) Have you ever taken a job at the track to be closer to the action (and get down some bets)? I started in the parking lot when I was 18-years-old, and it helped me through college. I eventually made my way through the ranks, and once turned down a teaching job to keep climbing the ladder of my first love.
3) Did you ever take a date to the track? Well, about 95% of my first dates have been with the ponies. I figured if they would enjoy a day at the races, there could be a greater shot for love. Only one gal didn’t like her first visit to the track, and five years later I asked her to marry me. Funny how opposites attract. She eventually softened up, and when she didn’t want to go. There were very few objections for my track ventures.
4) How many times have you borrowed money to gamble? I have a few times, but I know the golden rule that borrowed money seldom wins.
5) Have you ever wanted to own a racehorse? Me too… And, I did a few times. Here are a few tips for those who desire the opportunity. 1) If you have other partners, make sure you all have at least two months in advance to pay for the bills. 2) Be sure that everyone has the same vision. 3) Know it is a house payment each month to keep a horse in training. This does not take into account race day preparations which can be around $150 extra. 4) A fella’ asked me how he could get in the game to claim a horse. He had $5,000, and wanted to know what I thought he should do. “If you have $5,000, wait and save up to $10,000. Cheap horse have no where to go but out, and at the $10,000 level you have some options. Cheap horses eat the same as the good runners, but cheap horses are always in need of extra care or time off $$$$$$$$$$. Save your money, go back to the racing office and you can get to know some trainers, and then you’ll start to narrow your focus on a claim or a direct purchase.”
6) Can you remember your first big winner?? How about your worst bad beat?? Here are my lessons, and they still resonate today. My first daily-double was at Latonia Race Course, and I caught Carl Falconer in both halves of the double. They were two five horse fields, and it paid $12. I couldn’t wait to comeback, but the blizzard of 1978 shut down the track for a couple weeks. My first bad beat was on Sprial day many moons ago. I had saved $100, and couldn’t wait to play a 12 race card. I found this runner by the name of Bet on Tiger and wheeled him with everyone. The cost of the ticket would have cost me the remainder of my bankroll, and if it lost I would have my first $100 losing day. So, I left out the longest shot on the board and had two dollars leftover. Well, he won by about 10 lengths at 7-2, and a bunch of long-shots came flying late. I could see this one about 8 wide rolling, and saw it was the one I left out. For that $2 I saved, I lost a $500 exacta.
What are some of your stories? Have you always had the bug, or were you introduced by a friend or family member? Either way, you’re here now, and it’s your turn to show one new person the sport of kings each year. Think of it as passing the torch, and watch their faces when they have that first winner. I’ll bet dollars to donuts they will be hooked forever.