Monday, April 05, 2004


This weekend I attended the Santa Anita Derby. It was a rather gloomy day, but having experienced the track in the blazing sun I have to say I prefer the coolness. Being a complete anthropomorphizer I tend to think the horses do too. Who wants to run when it's hot and smoggy out. The track was firm and fast so I didn't have to worry about anyone falling down and breaking anything. There were only about 3 maiden races so it was a good day to wager.

The first thing I'll look at when I scan the program is the name of the horse. Dumb I know but it's a place to start. Next I'll see who the trainer is and what jockey is up and finally I'll turn to the racing form to check the Beyer's rating and the workouts. The last thing I do is read what the handicappers have to say. I'm not really there to win I'm there to gamble which carries with it the inherent option of losing. The key to enjoying myself is to never bring more money than I'm willing to lose and a plan to lose it all. This way I'm never disappointed and, if I walk out with even a dollar I consider that a positive.

What I found out this weekend is the downside to having a lot of good horses from top trainers ridden by the best jockeys, is that there are a lot of "close but no cigar" endings. Photo finishes with my heart in my mouth - am I holding the winning ticket or do I have bupkes. Saturday I had a LOT of bupkes. One case was particularly heartbreaking as it was a Trifecta and my horses had finished in first and second, but the last one just didn't get his nose down. It was a photo for third and the picture was not to my benefit. I really wanted to win this particular bet because I had tortured the poor agent that I placed it with.

I had never bet a Trifecta before and I wasn't sure of the correct language to use. Since they now have $1 trifecta bets I discovered I could make three bets for $6 AND switch the order of the horses coming in second and third. Sounds a little confusing? Try placing the bet. When you go to the window you're supposed to make your transaction in a certain order, e.g. $2 on 8 to place. The proper language for my bet would've been, "A $1 trifecta bet, 6 WITH 1, 2 and 1,2". Unfortunately on my way to window, chanting that under my breath it became "A $1 trifecta bet, 6 to win with 1,2 and 1,2" - that makes the bet more expensive. Thank GOD the woman was patient with me. She had to void all my bets and redo them and then it screwed up her machine.

So I wanted to go back and cash out my nice winning ticket and give her a tip or something nice. But no. NONE of my possible third place horses got their nose in the photo. I probably should've gotten up and gone to look at them in the paddock as they were saddling up. There were just too many people at the track that day. The kind of crowd that makes me anxious. You get all kinds at the track and more than usual on Derby day. Especially when KROQ, the local "alternative" stations that used to play the coolest music in the early 80s, but now plays whatever music is made by the music companies owned by it's parent corp - whatever that is, well they're having a microbrew festival in the infield. So needless to say there are many throngs of ham fisted frat boys drunk on beer.

I was desperately wishing we had gotten seats in the turf club, or at least the box section where you're seperated from the rabble (it's the Marie Antoinette in me), but you gotta work with what you have, so I just went back and forth from the window to my seat. The people around us were very nice. There was the man behind me who told me all about his horrible case of gout. His doctor has him on Vicodin for pain, but that's all the treatment he's getting. I recommended accupuncture and as we discussed it the asian woman sitting next to him, who was there with her mother and father and sister told him that her sister-in-law practices accupuncture. She gave him that info. There were two very heavy women in our row - obese really - we had to climb to the row above to get out because they blocked the aisle, they had run the 5K that was held earlier that day and still wore their numbers. They both had very sweet smiles and blue, blue eyes. And right next to me was woman with a pretty severe case of Rosacea - or else she'd just had a chemical peel, but I doubt that - and she wasn't beting money. She was working on her system and showed me the place in the program opposite every race where it gave you the trainer's winning percentage combined with the jockey's winning percentage. It's been working pretty well for her - but c'mon we're talking about animals here.

Every once in a while I ponder whether or not these horses are being abused, but the more I gather facts the more I think not. Thoroughbred race horses are bred to run and are like any other athlete. They are fed certain food and worked out a certain way, every nuance of their personality is examined to see how they run best. They have the nicest accomodations and are pampered in the extreme. They live better than a lot of people in this country. They're kind of like the Hilton sisters. If you think about it the Hilton sisters kind of look like race horses - only I doubt that either of them could go further than 6 furlongs. Anyway there are not a lot of differences between racehorses and any other corporate athlete in whom there has been a lot of money invested. Do they run hurt - yes, if they have a trainer without integrity who'll shoot them up and send them out where they might breakdown. But the same thing happens in football or basketball or baseball. You have the mid-level players who play hurt all the time. The only difference is that the human has a choice and the animal doesn't. Although if your dad is Seattle Slew and your mom is out of Native Dancer I don't know how much of a choice you've got in the matter either.

At any rate, I've made my peace with those questions and I love going to the track, especially when, as happened this weekend, I go home a winner. I took my last $3 and made an exacta bet on the last race - picking three different horses to come in second behind Dynaver who had a 116 Beyers and when last raced came in second to Medalia d'Oro. One of my longer shots came in second and I won $14.90 on $3 - it was so exciting I almost peed my pants! (I won't use the bathroom at the track-eeuuuww). I cashed out and made a 20/1 bet on Rock Hard Ten to win the derby and went home happy.

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