Days After Derby

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The build up was like a giant coaster climbing the big hill. You feel the momentary slow roll stop as you look at the fall that awaits at the bottom. – Then the coaster starts drifting and WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO ! – You are in for the ride of your life. That’s the way the Oaks / Derby weekend feels for me.

It’s not just the up and downs of playing the races. – There are good days, bad days, and ones we’ll never forget. – This Derby weekend had me working at the track. Now most would have rather had the day off, but working at the track when the big races are on tap is a pure day of fun. People came in and out and some dressed to the nines. The stories, the talk, and waiting for the big race had me chomping at the bit.

My work was a double pleasure people watching, seeing the sights and calling the races. Not a bad day if I say so myself. – I enjoy meeting visitors who come up to see me. Some are old friends and others are visitors who ask if they can watch a race. – For me it’s  the best part of the day when someone comes up and gets to see the best seat in the house. I give them the binoculars, let them sit and spin around people watching and talk horses. – Not much better for a kid who once stuffed the entry box at the track with thousands of entries to call a race. – I took booklets to school and filled them out all day long. When my Dad took me to the track I stuffed them in three different boxes. – I didn’t get my name called and always looked to the sky at the announcer’s booth. For me it was the place I wanted to visit. – When I have the chance I always invite guests to share the ride. It’s not half as much fun if you don’t share with others.

On this day I was a visitor of sorts. I was in the company of a different breed of gamblers and the stories of their day. – The big players’ room had a bevy of big time bettors who fire as much in a race as I make in a week. I heard the cheers and jeers about the last race as I walked in to make a small bet between those who were betting as much as my car cost. But I digress. – It was at the end of the day as I gathered up my gear and walked to the car. I passed the big players’ room when a couple of gents were walking slowly to the elevator. They spoke of the bad beat and what cost them a life-changing score. They didn’t look as happy as when they started the day, but that’s gambling. As we were riding down to the parking garage I overheard one player quote a line from the movie Fight Club; “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – I was trying to decide if that was true or just the ramblings of a bad day. But when I saw him the next day I was pretty sure he was just sour.

My buddy in the next room is the camera operator. He’s one of the good guys for sure and loves to make small bets shooting for the moon. He loved his $1 exacta that paid $21 earlier in the day, and when he made a score for $2,000 on a $4 bet earlier in the year I knew he was going to be a horse player. – His energy and happy-go-lucky ways are infectious. Never gets down and always looks up. – In between races he ran downstairs to put $2 in a 50-cent slot machine. Usually he comes up with a good story, but this day he came running back with $1,000 ! – He was laughing and high-fiving the guys and bought lunch for everybody. – The next day we started with $5 and ran in up to $160 in five bets. When he split the money with me he was just as happy as when he nailed the big slot hit.

A longtime friend of mine came to the races and made his bets. He was part of a ten man team who put up $500 each and made some blowout bets. – After his bets were made he came up to the booth to hang with me. We talked about horses, the big scores, and the many handicapping contests we played in together. – Another good guy and quite the handicapper. We talked about my pick who won the Oaks and paid $20 and he asked what I liked about her. “Did you take down the big cheese ?” – “Not really. This has been the least amount I have played on Derby weekend since I’ve been 18 years old.” – When they turned for home in the Derby he needed about five mid-range longshots to close out the pick four. When Always Dreaming drew off and looked like gold, he turned and said; ” There’s only two weeks to the Preakness, Ed !” – Now that’s a gambler. Not crying in his beer but planning ahead for the next score. – It still seems like yesterday when we both went down to Churchill to play in a big handicapping contest. In the first race we both took a big price and both were over 20-1. – As they turned for home our two horses were running together and drew off from the field. – This is the kind of score that puts you in the money right off the bat. – He looked at me and said; “Ed, if I have to lose to anybody here I would rather it be you my man.” His horse beat me by a dirty nose at the wire. But I’ll never forget the honest words of a gambling friend.

We hope you did well on Derby weekend and if you used the top three tier level selections you did pretty darn well. We just hope you were on board. – When our second tier selection ran off down the lane in the Derby, the $11 winner could have been the capper for your day. – As my good friend stated, “there are only two weeks til the Preakness.” But don’t wait until then as Winning Ponies is locked and loaded and ready to get your bankroll in tip-top shape for the next big weekend. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies !