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A Great Game, But it Ain’t Easy

As of this writing, early Wednesday morning, the Survivor Contest had been whittled down (okay, more like carved down) to 224 players from a starting lineup of over 2600. Now, that’s three racing days, folks, so I have to figure some racing misfortune blew in your general direction.

I can certainly commiserate. In all sincerity, during my long-standing pursuit of horse-playing excellence, I believe I have experienced every conceivable bad beat this beautiful, yet unrelenting sport has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites. I hope they bring back some fond memories for you too.

  • The Riderless Horse-One of the true classics of horse racing. You handicap your eyeballs out and await the perfect heist. Your mortal lock has been overlooked in the wagering and you are about to cash-in on all the sweat and tears you’ve given to the game. Then two steps out of the gate, your jockey is sent hurling to the ground (bruised but not broken), and your chestnut gelding is off on his own. He runs a darn good race, mind you, but they only pay when the rider remains attached to his steed. What’s up with that rule?
  • The Speed Duel-As any astute handicapper can tell you, finding lone speed is one of the strongest angles in the game. Well, you’ve done your homework on pace figures and you are about to participate in the heist of the century. In the field of ten, not one horse other than your “speed ball” has a prayer of reaching the quarter sub: 23. When they spring the gates, you are more than a little shocked when the 0-23, 5-year-old maiden with the sore feet, has suddenly changed tactics and is battling your “lone speed” head-to-head through an opening quarter of 21.4. The gap to the third-place horse is roughly 34 ½ lengths. At that point you swear you’ll never play another horse race again. But of course, you will, because post time for the next race is 21 minutes away.
  • All Revved Up With No Place to Go-Granted, playing a horse who possesses little in the way of early speed, can be a bit treacherous. But you figure with only eight horses in the race, and a more than competent jockey, you might be able to escape an abundance of trouble. Hah! I once bet a horse that might as well have been racing in a closet. In fact, I got claustrophobic just watching the race! This horse was in tight quarters for every inch of the five-furlong race, and of course, galloped out like a champion just yards past the wire. I sought therapy the following morning.
  • The Right-hand Turn-I have little issue with the right-hand turn. In Europe the jockeys and horses make their living making such mundane movements. However, in American racing, left-hand turns are the direction of choice. In most domestic tracks, every horse must learn to master at least one left-hand turn per race. I must tell you that nothing has made me sicker than watching my well-bet horse all-alone on the front end, suddenly turn right, and attempt to enter the grandstand without paid admission. I believe I wept following that travesty.
  • Taken Down-Many of the rules have since changed, allowing infractions that don’t necessarily affect the order of finish to be overlooked. Such was not always the case. I once lost a Pick Six (no jest) when my winning horse (leg four of the sequence) was disqualified for a whip infraction that had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the race. I proceeded to curse every racing official (not recommended) at the racetrack, after which, I was politely escorted away from the facility. I believe I cried that day too.

Okay, I can go on and on, from the sublime (an unfortunate breakdown) to the ridiculous (I once bet an amateur race where the jockey hit the rail six times. I swear, I think he was blind!)

But for every difficult loss, I truly remember so many great winners. Nothing life- changing, yet, but I promise to write about that, if and when the time comes.

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