“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.” — W. C. Fields
The opening to the bar across from the racetrack was dark and inviting. I stared into its blackness, waiting to cross the street when an old woman came out, draped in a cloud of cigarette smoke. She looked up and stretched a grin, as if to show off the silver that had replaced the ivory. I smiled back and turned away, stepping onto the asphalt road, hoping the cars would obey the law and stop. As we crossed I looked back, but the old woman had gone. Two young guys, tempting fate, left the crossing crowd and disappeared into the bar. Youth is fearless. I have a fading memory of that.
We made it to the other side and I was glad to pass through the turnstile and escape the cold February air.
Inside we bought Racing Forms and walked to the escalator. The Oyster Bar, off to my right, was about a third full. On one of the tables a dozen on the half shell glistened. They made me wish I hadn’t quit eating them a few years ago. I had given them up after reading a sign in Bill’s Crab Shack in St. Petersburg, which said, “Eat raw oysters at your own risk.” I always knew there was a risk, but when you see it in big black letters it leaves a stronger impression. Still, the thought of a cafeteria tray covered with open shells and their meaty mollusks, splashed with lemon juice and Louisiana hot sauce, was tempting.
We got off the escalator and searched for the elevator, which would take us to the floor where the Jockey Club was located. The elevator doors were shutting when a beefy hand grabbed one of the doors and pushed it back open. Six people joined us inside. We were packed in and one guy got out and announced he would take the stairs. A woman said, “He needs to walk off those Bloody Mary’s anyway.”
After making our way inside the club and locating a beer, which wasn’t difficult, I headed to the buffet for some corn beef, then to our table, high above the fast dirt track. It was time to pick some winners.
After some bush league handicapping in The Racing Form, I went with my favorite number, 8. The horse was Horizon Point, who had even been on the tip sheet our golf cart driver gave us back at the parking lot.
I got to the window and thought about an exacta but instead said, “5 across on number 8.” It was a six-furlong race for maidens and Horizon Point ran well, until the end that is, when two others passed him and he finished fourth. Finishing fourth hurts much worse than coming in last.
In the second I liked Irish Girl but boxed her with Bwana Z, who ran third. Irish Girl won. In the third it was time to catch up so I played four ponies in an exacta. That didn’t work either.
So I went back to the buffet, even though I wasn’t hungry. I filled a plate and finished it all, doing a pretty good impersonation of the “Man vs. Food” guy on The Travel Channel.
At last, in the seventh race, I cashed a ticket. I got back $11.75. Unfortunately, I had bet $12.00, but when they hand you any money from the small window it still feels pretty good.
Oh well, maybe I’ll have better luck next time, which just happens to be tomorrow.