At a national handicapping tournament , with one minute to the post, a male contestant in line collapsed.
There was no indication of a problem developing, no change in complexion, no stagger, just a handicapper down, the man seemed to have wilted where he stood.
It’s amazing in a positive way just how few people pass away at the horse races, passing away being a softer and sillier way of saying drop dead. Fist fight, sure, throw up, routinely, fall through the bleachers, of course: But in all the years I have been going to the races live and in person, and lively on the screens, I have never seen anybody DQ’d forever more, tap out into eternity, or, in other words, drop dead. To my way of thinking, showing super seniors surviving Photo after Photo — rotten ride after pot-bellied trainer — this would make a great house ad.
Somebody at the handicapping tournament said the man had just fainted and stepped over the fallen warrior to get down a contest pick before the gate bell.
When the contest race began, those who had been shut out of the race pulled the man away from the windows so he wouldn’t be stomped under a stampede when it came time to collect.
If you handicap long enough, you will discover that the road to the windows is sometimes strewn with what outsiders might consider to be atrocious sights and behaviors.
My contribution to bizarre runs for the money occurred one afternoon last week. I live in a land of extremes that has given rise to a new weather reading, the Insanity Index. When the difference between the high temperature and the low temperature within a year’s time is more than 120 degrees, you begin to go goofy. When cabin fever extends over two seasons, you’ll do almost anything to get to the horse races.
Last week it snowed almost two feet. Here’s the way they handle snow removal in the place where I live, Tulsa. They send workers to the through streets with Pixie dust. It feels like railroad ties are under secondary street snow and ice. This morning on the way to work, three ten-year old boys dug me out three times, $10 each times. I’m like a cottage industry. They followed me halfway downtown. “He’s getting stuck again,” they called gleefully to pals.
I drive a Saab. Why? Well, when it’s 72 degrees, it’s a lot of fun.
On two feet of snow and ice, it handles something like a leaf.
With the Insanity Index at an all-time high, and as I was slightly stuck between home and the simulcast joint, with the Racing Form in the passenger seat, and with a horse quadruple circled in four colors, meaning it looked lovely, I had to make a decision: home toward peace and quiet, or on, through thick and thicker, toward the simulcast venue?
The race with the horse I liked was on the grass.
We need to talk briefly about turf races.
I could stand a hand.
Most handicappers are prone to specialize. Many feel the most comfortable with a certain kind of race. Some swear by grass races and love the way the good ones run back to their final fractions; often like quarter horses, fastest wins. The problem I have with turf races are as follows: Where are the $5,000 claiming events? The fields are fuller. The breeding is better. The jockeys are better. Lots and lots of horses are racing fit. Many might win. Whereas a turf race is pleasing to my eye, it’s not so much the case with my finances.
I have a feel for but one angle in turf racing, speed. Hardcore gate-rocking ears-pinning whip-using eyeballs-to-the-wall speed.
Pick which horse might sneak through on the rail?
That’s like trying to predict a penalty or a turnover in football.
That horse should rocket to the lead alone.
Now THAT’S turf handicapping.
Most horse players look for the classic closing moves of turf racing, the wide sweeps past all those pooped.
So to get to the windows to play a speedy one on California turf, one with a morning line of around 30-1, I had to drive through a snow bank. A snow drift. This barrier extended across a parking lot. I parked atop a hill and walked to the drift and found its lowest point, which was about four feet tall and about that deep, soft snow for the most part. I made sure there was no fire hydrant inside and knocked away as much as the snow as possible. What was the worst that could happen? I could get stuck for the ninth time this week. And the long shot would win on the lead.
So I blasted on through to the other side, as suggested in the Jim Morrison tune, broad-sliding toward a post, spinning, steering into the skid, honking, snow flying, feeling something like a pioneer for other race fans suffering from the Insane Index of unhealthy temperature spans, as a huge snow bank hole behind me showed the way to the windows.
Where the speedy horse broke, of course, on top and flew to a lead at monumental odds.
Only a few simulcast players had braved the storm, one guy who looked like he had slept there, a teller, a couple of people who lived nearby and had probably walked.
The favorite caught mine late, can’t have everything. We ran a simple second. The Exacta should easily pay for what I seemed to have knocked loose up front under the car, something rubbery.
The man at the handicapping tournament had in fact only been woozy and hopefully lives to handicap a thousand more races.
Originally Posted on ESPN