Look a Little Closer

by Ed Meyer

posted on July 28, 2008 in General Discussion, Horse Racing | No Comments >>

The world has a certain order. A world within the world where rules of the 9-5 don’t exist. I have had the pleasure, the opportunity, and the observance of some of the most intriguing people who walk the grandstands, aprons, and paddocks of a magical place known as the track. Here are few of the characters you may meet during an average day.

The Groom – This person is found wearing their clothes from 5 a.m. until they drop into bed. They have a steely look in their eye from the ice cold mornings on the track getting things ready for you and I as we pull up and make a day at the races. They take care of the horses from sun up until whenever. They rub, feed, and sleep with the horses when they are sick. We never see this, as we pull in for the double and grab a cold beer. They go by names of: Crazy Joe, Jughead, Fatboy, and Little Mary. They are the hidden angels who put on the show. They lead a transient life, and know the seasons by which track they are working. Most never have their 15 minutes, and that is OK with them. Just make sure they get their percentage when Chewy Slew hits the board. Then, a big night out, a box of cold brew, and a story to talk about that night.

The Professional – Now, this is a cagey cat. The percentages break down as follows: 70% lose and call it fun. 20% attempt to be smarter than they are and usually go through every dime they can get their hands on. You know the type… They are in the next cubicle across from your row. They look just like you except they owe more than they will ever earn. They are the victim of grand dreams, and the big payday. 5% grind out a living. No noble calling here, but we see them everyday.  They usually book for a while during their life and go by names like The Kid, Big Sam, Home-run Hal, Pick 6 Bob. They are pretty sharp, but they lack a little discipline. They come to the track like a banker going to work. The big 5% are the stories that keep us coming to the track. They do well, keep books better than any accountant, and share no information. Why should they? Hell, they did all of the work…. They have a discipline that can split your side as they wait for the last race at whatever park and make plays that always work in their favor. They walk out of the track without notice. They walk among us and we never have a clue. This is why they get it done. They keep their mouths shut. They know the angles, and have the answer before the test is made. They seem magical, but the only secret is that they have traded in ball games and BBQ’s for this life. Is it worth it? I don’t know. Nobody really does. They catch all of the attention of the track big-wigs. They want to buy them lunch, give them drinks, send them on trips. Anything to keep them there. They know, and so does the track. To the victor goes the spoils, but some do know the meaning of a “free lunch.”

The Hustler – These are the cute named guys who live off of the crumbs thrown to them by the wigs. They ride coat tails for anything, have an eternal sense of hope that they will be taken care of in the end. I knew the best of the best. He was so cool that sheep counted him to get to sleep. He ran for coffee, ran for tickets, lived on the name of the name of the big player. This person can make you feel like a million, and hurt worse for you than anyone in the room. They always bring you back emotionally because they have an angle for you in the 8th race. They are collected, speak in a Sinatra lingo that only the other hustlers know. They speak in riddles, and most are true examples of wasted talent. They turned in the 9-5 for night life, celebrating with champagne at your table, or walking you to your car letting you know we can get ’em the next day. They are as smooth as vaseline on a door knob. They can make you believe, bring you back with confidence, or just hang around for the score. Yeah, the score… A win is a win, and each day is a new opportunity. They are eternal optimists. They keep some alive and hoping, even if for a fleeting moment.  “Save your breath kid, you’ll live a lot longer” was some advice from one of the best hustlers ever. He was right, and I sure will miss him.