Faded Pictures Hold Beautiful Memories

by Ed Meyer

posted on June 20, 2017 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

The sun beats down on your sweat stained cap. – Not a seat to be found as the place was packed. You had to get there an hour early to nail down a chair. – We used to park in the horsemen’s lot a 1/4 mile away and jog to the gates. – Gamblers are funny. They don’t mind making a $5 bet, but don’t ask them to pay $2 to park. As we jogged to the gate our eyes searched in between cars for a thrown-away program or better yet a Daily Racing Form. Catching the last three or four races was an art. You had to time the traffic,  jog in, and make the admission gates opening for free. As you read you probably think this was a sorry way to spend your time. – What if I told you these were some of the best days of my life ?

Learning to be a handicapper was a long apprenticeship. I started off learning from my dad, grandpa, and my dad’s friend Fox. There were always a bevy of folks with an angle or approach, but these were my professors who taught me the art. I say art because you can’t get it from a book, and won’t learn it from going to night school. – You spent countless hours listening to races on the radio, and waiting with baited breath when a big race would be televised. – Yeah its fair to say these were some of the best days of my life.

My dad taught me that speed was king. He loves to jump out on the hook and play a little game called “catch me if you can.” I attribute this to his athletic prowess on the many fields of game. Once a competitor, always a competitor. He still looks for the early speed and likes to play low percentage riders. They don’t win often but when they did, your could bet your bottom dollar we’d be having a pizza from Burke’s that night. – My grandpa was a longshot player. His skills came from many a weekend at old Latonia as a young man. Plumber by trade, and weekend gambler by heart. He loved to bet the daily-double. Not many gimmicks back then, and if you hit the double you were on your way to a good day. – Fox was a professional man who dabbled in a little bookmaking. Don’t laugh, he put his sons through college matching off our bets for the 10% juice. Fox was a player who loved the sprinter going long, and would make two or three bets from the entire card. He had the patience of a stone, and would wait all day to make one bet. – Patience doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from making that long walk to the car broke a million times. You either learn the art, or just keep getting clobbered. – He gave be the best advice for betting. ” Don’t bet over your head. You’ll want to come tomorrow and if you go tapped you’re out.” – He was right then and right today. Thanks, Fox.

I played with two old bookmakers my dad and grandpa bet with. I was put on a $20 a week limit while in high school, and could call up and make a bet on the radio from Keeneland or Churchill. – This was better than anything you would have imagined. I was one of the guys now. – This went on until I graduated high school and went to work. From then on, it was all on me. – My apprenticeship was about to end and it was time to get in the game or head to the car. – I came up with a novel idea of trying to get a job at night working in the parking lot. – Sounded like a way to make a few bucks and be near the action I loved. – This was the start of a love affair that still holds my heart.

I worked through college, and slowly crept up the ladder. – The ladder is long and the perch is high when you have no real “in’s” to help you along. You either get in by family, or take the road less traveled. – I had the latter, but it was the road that taught me everything I needed to know. – I worked about every job at the track except selling tickets. I guess that may have been a lesson I didn’t want as it would have been too easy to bet. – I stopped looking for teaching job when I was offered a position inside. I ran the parking lot, worked in admissions, became race book mananger, and went on to be player development manager. This took me to on-air handicapping and radio shows in the Cincinnati market. – Long way from my $28 a day parking job, but I never forgot where I came from.

My thinking was if you wanted to bet you had to be there. Watch, wager, and learn. – There was no horse racing channel and simulcast had just taken off. Being at the track offered me a paycheck and evetually a position. – I started by watching others make mistakes. It didn’t help me to win, it just showed me the sure-fire way to lose. I saw gamblers play small, over their head, and everything in between. Gambling is for visitors who came on a bus trip, but making bets was like wearing a tie on Wall Street. In some countries they are called “punters.” I liked being a handicapper. A cerebral dance that wouldn’t interest folks sitting at the 25-cent slot machine.

This all started by looking at one picture. A picture of my dad, brother Don and myself. The three that jogged in together, and had more fun than the law allows. One picture took me on a journey that has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. – I could see the sweat stained Derby Lane cap on my head and look of youth in our eyes. I guess you just had to be there to really understand. – These were some of the best days of my life.