The Noble Grind

Each day starts about the same. Coffee maker turns on at 5a, and he fires up the computer. He splashes warm water on his day old beard, and begins a close shave for the day. Jumps in the shower, and grabs the clothes he laid out the night before. The coffee is piping hot as he pours it into a Del Mar mug he won in a daily free handicapping contest. He touches an old wedding picture in a faded frame, and settles in to read the results, stories, and begins to handicap. Some would call it going to the office; others call it a routine, and the few who understand his methodical start just smile and nod slowly as they sip their mug.

Robert was a lifetime railroader, and was proud of the 40 years he put in on the job. He has a beautiful family, and they’ve all gone their own ways. One is a doctor, one is married to her job, and the youngest is working on a PhD. That beautiful bride in the faded picture has gone to be with the angels. He looks back on his life with a sense of gratitude and accomplishment. “I’m a lucky man. How many people work the same job all their life and raise three wonderful children? Yep, I’m a lucky man.”

He sits in the back row of the race book and brings a thermos of coffee, his handicapping notes, and a Daily Racing Form. You would probably think he doesn’t have a dime, but that may be a bad wager. His life as a kid was pretty tough, and he had to help provide. “It’s just a way of life, and it keeps me grounded.” Robert could travel, and drive a better car, but he saves and invests for his grandchildren. “I caught the short end of the stick as a young man and had to make the best from life. I take care of myself, eat right and exercise, and live a Spartan lifestyle.” He seems happy and has a method to his madness. “Handicapping is like doing a crossword puzzle or reading a good book for many. I’m not much into TV, and what fun is travelling alone?” I like to come to the track and be around the swirl of action. “I’m a bit of a people watcher, and there are a few I enjoy speaking with.”

His daily routine is to make $200. No more, no less. That’s his daily goal. His bankroll is not a factor, and he never exceeds his daily allotment of gambling money. “My main bets are place and show wagers. You’ll be surprised how many $2.80 – $3.40 runners go unnoticed.” His base wager is $200, and he’ll wait with the patience of stones to make one bet. All during the day you’ll see him writing notes in a small spiral notebook. He describes bad trips,  how runners finished up, and the little nuances the comment line doesn’t print. His study would be better noted as a trip handicapper, and by all accounts he’s pretty good at his craft. “I call it grinding out the day,” as he laughs. “There won’t be any pick-six wins here I’ll tell you, and that’s fine by me.” He has three grand-babies as he calls them, and has over $300,000 put aside. “My kids all did well, and I couldn’t have asked for a better family life. This is just a little weight off their shoulders to help begin the journey.” As you walk by many older players at the track, you see every kind of person. Most are there to kill the time, and some don’t even bet. But for Robert, he is on a mission. His noble grind is something that keeps his mind sharp, and is an extension of his working life. “How many people just fall apart and have nothing to do when they retire? Some try hobbies, and others watch TV. Not me. That’s just a waste of life and I have things to do.”