Normally, it's all about the horses, owners, trainers,
jockeys and personalities around here. Today, I want to talk about something a
little different. For me, this is my work. I love it. I've spent 30+ years
trying to figure out this game and just when you feel like your finger is on
the pulse, something goes wrong.
Flatline, nothing works.
Like a bad, nauseating hangover, it makes you want to curl
up in a ball and hope tomorrow gets here before today ends. We've all been
there, in the dreaded slump, right?
It seems every winning ticket gets nosed into a loser at the
wire, jockeys fall off the horse (safely of course) at the break, a winning
ticket gets DQd into a loser over nothing and just when you think your luck has
changed for the better, you accidently entered the order of finish incorrectly.
Personally, I've had every one of those mishaps happen to
me. Sixty-five-thousand dollars went bye-bye on the wrong order version.
As a younger, thinner, more handsome version of myself, some
time ago, I headed to the OTB for lunch to play a pick 4 at Gulfstream Park.
This was before the days of online wagering.
I was around long enough to know how pick 4 math works. The
ticket was supposed to be $54 or maybe it was $72, I don't remember. I tell a
buddy of mine, "I'm headed to the track, do you want a piece of this ticket?"
"Yeah, put me in for $10," Mike said as he pretended to be busy. He was good at
For those of you who never had the great fortune of going to
an OTB in the heart of a major city, let me just say there are all types inside;
some good stock, an occasional celebrity, but a lot of riffraff, as grandpa
One of the oddest things about the OTB was a weird rush to
bet races with 30 seconds to post or so. There would be a long line of
impatient horseplayers, mostly riffraff, making comments under their breath to
put the heat on the person making his bets with the teller. There was always an
uncomfortable pressure. You just wanted to make your bets, get the hell out of
the line, and disappear into the crowd.
The Gulfstream Park pick 4 lunch was no different. Some
meaningless race was a few seconds from post, I was at the front betting a race
that didn't start for another 15-20 minutes and all the down to their last buck
bettors were letting me have it. "C'mon, your race isn't for another 15,
minutes," Hurry up," "#$%^$%^*&^" ( I can't write that here.) You get the
I call out my numbers and races like an auctioneer, gave the
teller my money and he did something unexpected; he handed me change. As I
said, I know pick 4 math. I was confused. I moved off to the side of the line
right as the race the procrastinators wanted to bet started.
All the folks that were in line and missed their bet mumbled
curses at me as they walked by while I tried to figure out what's wrong with my
ticket. My lunch hour is about up, I'll need to catch a cab or run back to the
office, either way I am going to be a little late. Under a time crunch, I
decided to go.
About 1 ½ miles and an uncomfortable sweat later,
I get back to my desk five-minutes late - no big deal - take care of a few odds and ends, check voicemail, email,
that sort of stuff. It's time to see the results of the first race of the pick
4. Bam, the first leg winner was like 70-1 and paid something stupid like $150.
First thought, "I lost, no way I have that horse." Then I
looked at the numbers on my notepad, eyes pop, holy bleep, I do have it.
You can probably tell where the story is going to go from
here. Yep, that's why the teller handed me change. It was the one horse that
wasn't on the ticket. In sour grapes fashion, I hoped, and tried to will with all
my mental might, horses I didn't pick across the finish line in the next three
The longest odds from my selections won every....
single.... leg. When the last race went official, the $0.50
pick 4 (which is what I play) paid a little more than $65,000. My eyes welled
up and I just about cried, still not over it. It hurt nearly as bad as breaking
up with my first girlfriend.
The thing about being a 30+ year horseplayer, I know my
story isn't unique. This is your chance to tell your story and get if off your
chest. Email me your miserable horse racing tale to [email protected] and I'll post it here.
It will be cathartic and make for a fun read.