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April 12th, 2019

A Win is A Win

By: Jonathan Stettin


In these times of most wagering being done off track through ADW’s and simulcasting, we miss a lot of the true day to day racetrack experiences. As someone who went to the track literally every racing day for decades, I can say confidently it was a world within itself with a full cast of Damon Runyon characters, and all the stories and tales that go with them.

Those experiences are hard to explain or share with the new generation of players, even those who frequent the tracks on weekends. Sure, you still have a die-hard few every day regulars, but through attrition and poor management, they are fading away fast and not being replaced.

Playing the races is one of the few experiences where winning can feel like losing. Have you ever singled a horse in a multi-race wager and have it win at a price but you were already knocked out of the sequence? If you bet that horse to win, as I likely would in that scenario, and get your money back with a small profit, it feels like a loss.

If you have ever been alive with two horses to close a pick 6, one paying 50k, the other paying 250k and the smaller one noses out the longer one, you’ll win but feel like you lost.

The Sport of Kings affords many of these scenarios. Fortunately, there is indeed a fair share that tip in our favor as well. At the end of the day however, a win is a win. Be grateful for them.

A term I grew up hearing among hardcore race trackers that I rarely hear today is “bail out.” The once frequently used term that I still personally use, as old habits do die hard, describes being down or losing a considerable amount of money on the races, then winning it back on the last race or sequence. It’s a wonderful feeling, to get your own money back as we used to say. Even if you come up a little short, say winning back $4,700 of a $5,000 deficit, it feels like a win.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have been a very disciplined player for a long time. Unless you're well is bottomless that is a requirement for long term survival and profitability. That said however I have at times done what was necessary to “bail out” as have many of us hardcore players. Some of these stories are true racetrack classics.

When I used to go to the races every day, most with my Dad, I would bet a lot more than he would and a lot more aggressively. On one of those days at the now gone and all but forgotten Calder, I was losing several thousand dollars on the day. I really did not like anything in the last race being simulcasted from Belmont, and I was pondering whether to hit the ATM to try and bail out. While pondering my Dad must have read my face and asked how much I was down.

"You don’t wanna know," I replied. He knew what that meant, and I followed with, "I'll be right back."

"Where are you going," he asked.

I said, "The ATM."

"How much money do you have?"

"$7," I answered, "not enough to try and bail out."

"Give it to me," he said, and I did.

My Dad, who I always called Giuseppe, looked deep into his racing form. He motioned the roving teller Christine over and bet seven $1 superfectas. I did not think there was much hope, and I was sure I should have hit the ATM and handled this myself.

The race went off, and I watched on the small TV on our regular table with a defeated feeling. To my surprise, Giuseppe nailed the super. I don’t remember the horse, though I wish I did, but Jorge Chavez rode him. The superfecta netted Giuseppe almost 8k for the $1 bet. He collected with Christine, gave her $100, took $200, and put the rest on the table and said “never forget the time I bailed you out with $7.”

I never forgot.