You’ve noticed it. I am sure of it. If you’ve played the ponies at different racetracks you know what I mean. You see the same characters wherever you go. They may be older or younger, a man or a woman, have a different accent or build, but you’ll find that horseplayers are alike all over.
I am a classic Twilight Zone aficionado. While recently watching Season 1 Episode 25, “People Are Alike All Over”, it dawned on me. In all the time I have spent at the track all over the mid-Atlantic, horseplayers are no different.
The premise of this Twilight Zone episode is that two astronauts are on a mission to Mars. The landing injures one, Marcusson, who is a positive thinker who thinks that people will be alike all over. The other astronaut (played by Roddy McDowall) is much more cynical. Upon the death of the first astronaut, the second astronaut, Conrad, opens the hatch to find that the Martians seem to be human. They are welcoming and reassuring. Later, they lead him to his new quarters that looks like what he would have had on Earth. However, he soon realizes that he can’t get out and when a wall goes up he realizes that he has become an exhibit in a Martian alien zoo. The episode ends with Conrad grabbing the bars, looking up and yelling “Marcusson! Marcusson, you were right! You were right. People are alike … people are alike everywhere!”
Who are some of the characters we find at every track?
Last Race Lenny
Last Race Lenny shows up after they stop charging for admission with only a couple of races to go. He grabs a racing form or program out of the garbage and tucks it under his arm. He’ll likely ask someone, hopefully not you, how the races have gone today. Has speed been winning, have there been any long shots? If you are not careful, he’ll swipe that half a beer you have left, too.
I know you have seen him dashing to the windows with zero minutes to post like he has the cure for cancer! It is a 50-50 proposition that he’ll get that bet in. You know that if he doesn’t get that bet in and it wins, he’ll never shut up about it either. After all, he would’ve hit the trifecta last race… if he had gotten that wager in on time!
The field is turning for home and Joe is ready to ride, in front of the simulcast monitors. He’s not a fine physical specimen by anyone’s regards and weighs as much as three jockeys. Focused on the monitors, he sets down for his ride using his program as a whip which he slaps on his outer thigh like he is going to win the Kentucky Derby … himself! I am sure his verbal cues are helping to guide this one to the finish line!
We call him Bounty Bob since just like Bounty paper towels, he is the quicker-picker-upper. You watch as One-Off Ollie throws his tickets to the floor in disgust, Bounty Bob is picking them up before they can get swept up. He dashes to the self-betting terminal and feeds each one through to see if it was a winner. Occasionally he gets lucky when someone tosses a voucher out with the losing tickets, but it takes a lot of 80 cent vouchers to make a living at the track!
He’s on the rail during the race. He’s in the paddock looking at the horses. He is like American Express, he is “everywhere you want to be.’’ He also doesn’t shut up. He’ll talk about anything and everything if you give him the chance. He is also a self-proclaimed expert on everything, but I am sure that you knew that already. You try not to get drawn in, but if you make eye contact he is your new best friend!
Snack Stand Sally
Unlike other concessions, she runs a tight ship at her stand. She counts out change like she is on an Indy car pit crew. The buns may be stale, but she’ll get you a hot dog and a drink with time to spare for you to get your bet in. What she lacks in conversation, she makes up with efficiency.
Billy the Bartender
You come for the overpriced standard domestic beer, you stay for the conversation! Unlike your favorite watering hole, he can’t give you a buy back since the cups are counted at his concession and a camera is on him. Yet he’ll talk about or listen to anything you have to say. Just remember to throw a few bucks in his tip cup!
You know this guy can’t help himself. He HAS to play EVERY race. He’ll even give another horseplayer a hard time for not playing every race. This is his badge of honor, which is the only prize he’ll be leaving the track with today!
After the race is over he can tell you why the horse won. Of course you should have known to play the fifth-off-of-layoff when turning back in distance today with a new jockey angle. That one is like money in the bank every time, right? This guy has the answer for every race, just not before it is run.
Whether you are a casual fan or make a living playing the races I am sure you have met some of these folks. Who are the regulars that you find at every track or OTB?