Its hard to put into words the first time the objection sign made the numbers go dark, and your 10-1 shot was placed 3rd. On the other hand, for every thousand bad losers you tossed to the floor. I bet you can recount with vivid accuracy when you signed your first I.R.S. ticket, or the feeling that came over you when you saw the pick-four payouts. They were all in the upper four digits, and you had the field. I bet you can still feel the smile on your face.
I remember when we saved for two weeks to bet Mud in Your Eye at Turfway Park. He was a blistering speedster and had the services of Danny Cox, and was known for gunning a horse to the lead every time. For parking lot guys who had a red-hot tip on a runner, this was our night. Funny thing when you let the right people park close to the door for free. It was on a Thursday night, and he was 8-1. Cox was warming him up with precision care, and his price was the same until they were being loaded into the gate. As they sprung the latch, he was a sweet 5-1. Cox opened him from the break, and was on top by ten down the backstretch. They rounded the far turn and he looked up by 12. By the time they straightened away for the stretch drive, he had an 8 length lead that was starting to dwindle, but nobody was coming. They hit the 1/8th pole, and was leading by three. As they past the 1/16th pole, he had a two length lead, but two runners were starting to bear down. With 70 yards to go he was on top, and when they posted the numbers, he had finished fourth. That was over 28-years-ago…
I was a younger man who had never spent or lost $100 at the track. I was 17, and had taken my $100 bill to play all day. I had a tough day from the first break, and the last race was on the track. I loved a horse called Tiger Man. Jesse Garcia had the call, and he was 9-2. I had $20 left, and wanted to wheel him in exactas. That was going to be $20, and if I lost I would have broke my maiden. So, I used him on top of everyone except the longest shot on the board. He drew off by 5, and never was in danger. When a cavalry charge of big price runners came rolling, I started getting excited… I saw this runner on the outside rail, and the rider was in a workout position and looked to be gaining. When I saw it was the one I left out, my confidence grew. That was before the ten minute photo and they popped up her number. The exacta paid $500, but I still had not broken my $100 maiden, and still had that $2 bill in my pocket.
When you see a runner on top by seven at the 16th pole and nobody coming. You start thinking about going to the windows. When Steve Bass ( Julien Leparoux agent) opened up by daylight, and his price could be seen on the tote board at 10-1. It was going to be a big night, and things were just getting started. I stopped watching the race and started going back to get a beer. I heard the lowest moan from the crowd and assumed that a horse had been pulled up. When I watched the replay of the final yards, Mr. Bass hit his runner right handed and his mount bolted left and jumped the rail.
Anyone who has ever owned a race horse knows why Jerry Jones is a crazy owner. You want to win and you feel like you have a shot every time you run. They wear your silks, and that is like your own professional team. When my horse was running at Hoosier Park during the first Thoroughbred meet, I couldn’t wait to see him get that long stretch at the 7/8th’s track. He was 9-1, and I had him every which way. I had over $400 into the race, and I could have taken him -all-all in the trifectas. But not my style, and I wanted to catch it my way. When he drew off, and paid $20. I thought I had the trifecta. But I was mistaken. It only paid $20,000, and cashing my $50 win ticket just didn’t have the luster. I still think of that night from time-to-time.
Most horse players have wanted to gamble for a living. When I cashed in my 401-k, and had the green light from my wife. I thought the odds were in my favor. I followed, charted, and took notes. This was my second bet and I had been waiting for this runner to hit the turf. Mother Nature smiled on Belmont that day, and I wagered $1,500 to place on this 6-1 shot. He won and paid $14 to win and $8 to place. I cashed my $6,000 ticket and walked to the car. I was only making two or three wagers each weekend. Things looked so bright that I needed to wear sunglasses at night.
As punters around the world make a bet, there will be winning stories and bad beat songs. The track was full of stories, and betting from home has taken away that element of the game. Over the years I have seen players turn millions into thousands. I was there when an old lady who didn’t have a program hit the pick six. – How about the time when I rolled my change the night before, and went out to bet Jamie Bruin on Dance in the Sun. He was scratched for 8 weeks straight that tough winter, and when he finally caught a fast track in early March. His $12 to win seemed like sweet honey when I was cashing tickets at the $50 window. Gamblers have a short memory. The $200 we win today erases the $500 we lost getting there. As a great TV handicapper would say as he ended the day on his long running handicapping show. “Bet with your head, and not over it.” You can catch him every Thursday at 8 p.m. as the host of the Winning Ponies Internet Show, with John Engelhardt.