It’s Labor Day weekend. The effective end of summer is upon us. Kids are back in school. Night arrives a little earlier each day. Orion is already prominent in the southern sky.
The final races at Saratoga and Del Mar have been run. New York racing heads back to Belmont while out West Santa Anita gets ready for the Breeders Cup. I doubt I’ll make it to the Cup this year, but I’m glad Santa Anita didn’t have it ripped away by the anti-horseracing folks. I’ve attended a BC at Santa Anita, and if the weather is cooperative it’s a great place to hold a marquee event.
My summer was hectic. I have no idea how many summers I have left, and I had a need to take some trips to see the many of the great friends I had made in racing. When Lou Gehrig gave his famous going-away speech, despite having one of the meanest diseases on the planet, he said he felt like the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I think I understand why he said that.
When I got sick I realized how many people cared about me and wanted to see me recover. It’s a shame how blind we can be, until something serious happens. There is no colder slap than the realization that even with amazing medicines, you can only dodge death for so long. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fair or unfair. We came into a remorseless universe, and there is nothing we can do to stop time. We can only take advantage of the time we are given.
And here’s what I did in the summer of 2019.
I love New York City, and I don’t need much of a reason to go there. In June, I went to my favorite big city. I had John’s Pizza, Junior’s cheesecake washed down with with a chocolate egg-cream, and I topped it all off with a trip to the Belmont. July took me to the British Isles. It was an opportunity to be together as a family. I’ll remember it always. It was a great reminder that I really have great, successful, kids. It was wonderful to enjoy a fresh glass of Guinness. Slainte. I like London almost as much as I like New York. There are spectacular sights in both cities and so much to do it could take months to do it. Same thing with Scotland and Ireland. They are truly beautiful countries. We happened to drive by the Curragh in Ireland and I seriously thought about bagging the Cliffs of Moher for Irish racing.
I thought about it, and I realized as interesting and beautiful as some foreign places are, we don’t really have to travel overseas to see great mountains and mighty rivers. What a great stroke of luck it was to be born in America.
After trekking through the best of the British Isles, I spent a week in Saratoga. From the time I was young, the closer I get to the track the faster I want to get there. I could not only see the grandstand, I could smell all the wonderful racetrack smells. I never feel so comfortable and happy as I am at the Spa. It is the womb that produced a lifetime love. It will always be the epitome of racing for me. In a life full of luck, I was most lucky to have Saratoga in my backyard.
I capped off the summer at Del Mar. Here’s my advice. Be careful if you go to that part of California. The scenic beauty, the slapping of the ocean waves, the whole lifestyle might just keep you there for a lot longer than you might expect.
I’m very happy I won a NHC qualifying contest and made it into the big show. It was a great validation of my handicapping/betting ability. Nothing has had the kind of impact on my play that contests have. I can’t stress loudly enough that a contest is a post graduate course in handicapping and betting. This year, at Saratoga there were 38 races I could have bet. I wound up betting 10 and hitting 2. I bet $30 win and a $30 exacta only. No place or show. No trifectas. That may not sound like an exciting way to play, but the two races I hit had an $18 winner and a $46 winner. The exactas were exceptional as you might expect. Instead of betting $60 trying to hit a big trifecta, why not invest it in the simplest bets you can make?
Same thing happened at Del Mar. I watched a few and then popped a 33-1 shot. I haven’t given up on 5/2 horses, but if I use one it will be under a longer price. No more exactas with A over B, C, D, and E, and reverse..
This version of the contest betting is difficult because who doesn’t want to make some action bets. All I can tell you is that I learned how to pass a race. Go get an ice cream cone. Listen to the band playing. Go to the paddock and look at the horses. You can’t play a race to kill time, and you can’t get mad if a horse you wondered about wins. Play solid. Don’t let failure shake you up. Stick with it and find your groove.
I got off on a tangent here. My main point is pretty simple. I may not have a lot of time, so I’m going to fill up my life as much as I can with family and friends. I also hope I can bet horses until my final day.
I do feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I was given so many gifts and abilities. I hope I can continue to share them.