Remember when the envelope with your name on it came to the house? You were 5-years-old, and you got mail! You tore it open with Mom’s help and discovered you were invited to Cindy Lou’s birthday party. Oh the fun, the kids, the presents, the cake and ice cream. It was your date circled on the calendar, and you have officially arrived.
We’ve all had many wonderful firsts, and some we would rather forget. You know, like being stood up on a blind date, or being de-panted in gym class. But, I digress. This cold frigid day gets me thinking back to some of my first race tracks visits. I live in the northern Kentucky area, and this was home to Latonia Race Course which later became Turfway Park. My Dad and I would venture out on a Saturday afternoon ( as there was no Sunday racing) and we would catch the last four or five races. On this day, we arrived for the early Daily Double. Big snow was coming to the area, and the tri-state was preparing for the “White-Death.”
The “Blizzard of 1978″ was coming, and little did I know the old man wanted to take in a few races before we would not see any action for weeks. I was just happy to be at the track. He gave me a whopping $10 bucks, and I was going to play all day long. The look on my face was pure ecstasy, and life couldn’t get any better. I made a $2 straight DD in two five horse fields. Trainers were busy getting their runners back to their farms and get supplies. I wagered on a small-time rider by the name of Carl Falconer. Both ends of the double scored, and Mr. Falconer who was a fireman/EMT from Louisville had pulled off a rare feat in his career. The Double paid a sweet $12, and two races later the racing card was cancelled due to incoming weather. The two worst feelings for a gambler are: having no money at the track, and money burning a hole in your pocket with no races to bet. I was on the shelf for weeks just dreaming of going back.
My son and I decided Friday night was going to be our “boys night out” at the races. I printed down my E-Z Win’s, and we were going to catch the last five races. By the time we got there, it was only going to be four live races, and that would be just enough. I taught my son to use past performances to get an idea of how the race is shaping up, and then we decide on how to utilize his plays. But on this night, he didn’t want the old man’s help. We decided we would pull my money and make some $1 exacta box wagers, and bet $2 to win on his top runner. The first event came rolling down the lane and we hit the $1 exacta and had $2 to win on a (3-1) shot. I guess I know what I looked like back in 1978, as my son stood up and raised both hands high in the air. “Dad, I love betting the horses!
I was happy as we were shared the winning moment, and I even gave him the “be a gracious winner” speech I heard years ago. But the boy didn’t need it this night. He went four in a row and three times we had $2 on each of his winners. Notice that I said three winners, and he went four-for-four. I planned on making him a $10 winner, and being able to buy a burger on the way home. We would still have enough to bet the last race and I was price hunting. Gus selected a solid (7-1) shot and I used a two box car runners. The chalk looked suspect and we were going to win no matter what. Well, I made the exacta box, and instead of making our $2 win bet on his horse, I took my (12-1) shot. Right about now I don’t have to tell you what the last 16th of a mile looked like. His runner was drawing away, and my bigger price couldn’t be found with a search warrant. My new track partner looked over at me and said; “I told you Dad, we should have bet my horse.” We had followed his lucky run the past three, and why in the heck I didn’t go one more is beyond my thinking. His invitation came, and he responded with a four-for-four day. Dad dropped his average a bit with a bone-headed move, but I know for a fact it won’t be his last. Welcome to the party!