Saturday, September 30, 2006

My days of freedom are numbered. I go back the TV gig soon. So last week I figured, while I still can, I should take up the offer from Nick at the old job to stop by to have lunch. When I called, he said he wasn’t at the office. He was taking the day off. Why? ‘Cause it’s opening day at the track.

“Really…?” I was intrigued. “It is, huh?”

As I sped onto the freeway toward Santa Anita to join him, I called my friend Epoch who I know loves playing the horses, too. Of course he wanted to go -- he had a few things to do, but he decided the hell with ‘em, stupid job interviews -- so I swung by to pick him up. Guess no one works in this town.

Epoch happened to have passes for opening day -- free parking, free entrance to the park, free program, free Racing Form. Normally, that stuff adds up and cuts into your gambling money. Now we had saved enough to play a few extra trifectas. Which is what I did in the first race I bet.

And sure enough, that nag came in. Brought my ticket to the window to collect on my win. (Song reference, anyone?)

Here’s some gambling references for you: A trifecta is where you pick the order of the first 3 horses: win, place and show. A trifecta box is any ordered combination of 3 horses. There are six combinations; at a dollar each it costs six bucks. Because of the multiple possibilities of the outcome, the payout is usually pretty good, even if a favorite comes in.

I had bet two trifecta boxes and won one, so I thought I had started the day winning a big bundle. The trifecta payed $12.40. Woo-hoo, a profit of forty cents.

Next race, I bet a few exacta boxes. An exacta is when you bet the order of the first two horses. One of the favorites came in second. So even though I won that bet, too, I expected another measly payout. But the other horse in the combo was the longshot, so I collected about a hundred bucks. And I won even more on another race, so it was turning out to be an awesome afternoon.

Even if I hadn’t been winning, a day at the races is always great. Epoch, Nick, Nick’s friend and I were all having fun -- eating, drinking and watching from the infield or the grandstands as the thoroughbreds tore up the turf.

I used to go to the track with my dad. Sometimes to Aqueduct -- the big A -- but I also loved Belmont Park. Things were different back in those days. You weren’t a neglectful parent if you left your kids to play by the pond for a half-hour while you went off to take care of business. Or even if you had a mild obsession with off- or on-track betting. My father had a complex system and was actually a successful handicapper. There’s a famous sportswriter and gambler named Andrew Beyer whose numbers are now used in the paper -- Beyer Figures. My father had created his own numerical rating at the same time, which were about as accurate, but not as famous. I think he just needed a catchy name -- maybe The Curmudgeon Quotient.

The first time Dad brought me to the track, I was maybe about six years old, and while he was working out intricate mathematical formulas, I was picking horses based solely on their names. I didn’t care if the nag never finished in the money; I liked the sound of “Silver Badge” or “Ronnajonna” or “Quarrelsome Bird”. And when I was consistently right -- I picked the winner three times in a row -- the old man decided maybe the kid might have some kinda mojo going on, and he bet on the next horse whose name struck my fancy. Of course, he lost; once money is involved it ruins everything. I think they stole this idea for that movie On the Right Track starring Gary Coleman.

At Santa Anita last week, Nick and his friend had also made some money, but Epoch was struggling. The next race was for maidens -- non-winners. Lotta lousy horses. And some had never even been in a race. How were we supposed to rate ‘em when their list of past-performances included nothing more than half-mile training runs? Epoch suggested we sit out that race. A wise way to save our money, sure, but who could sit through the excitement without gambling? Nick and I quoted the movie Let it Ride in which Teri Garr says, “Why can’t you just watch the horses run around without betting on them?” Everyone at the track laughs at her and Richard Dreyfuss angrily explains, “Because without betting, there is no racing!”

“Gimme three bucks,” I told Epoch. We were gonna split a trifecta box. My strategy? The ol’ childhood trick: betting the horsies with the best names. “Mon’s the Man” had a nice Caribbean sound to it. “Bisbee Slam” almost rhymed with that. And finally, I liked “Their He Goes” because of the (assumingly) intentional wrong homophone.

At the wire… Mon’s the Man and Their He Goes were in front. 2 outta 3. Epoch was amazed… and ever hopeful, since the results were unofficial. “Maybe they’ll disqualify the horse that came in third,” he said. I reminded him the judges would have to eliminate about 4 more horses before Bisbee Slam wound up in show position and we could collect.

I think that put an end to any luck I had had, ‘cause I didn’t even come close the next race. We decided to call it a day before we lost any more cash. Nick and his friend pretty much broke even. I didn’t worry about Epoch ‘cause he typically rakes in the chips at his weekly poker game. But I was still up a lot. In fact, I went home with more than a day’s wage from the TV gig.

Nick had the right idea. Screw the day job. I’m playing the ponies from now on.


Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by