The Man At the Track
ARTHUR NEAD ILLUSTRATION
Horse racing is about the hunch, the odds, the hocus pocus, the hope that something that seems like nothing is actually a good sign, the faith in the right move and the proper moment.
So it was that on the day of the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds we were stalled in the parking lot looking for a space. By the time we got there, four of the day’s 11 races had been run so the lot was already packed for the track’s biggest day of the year. Still, we persisted like a jockey looking for an opening in a crowded race. Then I noticed a man with a slight limp walking away from the grandstand. His direction told me he was leaving; his limp suggested that he might like a ride. I waved to the man, who welcomed a lift to his vehicle that was parked at the far end of the lot. In return I would get his spot. Along the way he explained that he was part of a group that co-owned a horse that had run, unsuccessfully, in the third race. With that he was done for the day.
Since I had a horse owner in my confines, I thought I would take advantage of his wisdom and ask if he had any tips. He hesitated, thought a moment, pulled out a list of the races and then mentioned two horses – one in the 10th and the other in the 11th race. One, he confided, was a Florida horse, and that sounded fast.
When we got to his spot we switched spaces and he was off; for us the day at the races was just beginning
Races five through nine underscored why I had been right to seek help. Where I bet on a favorite, a longshot won. Money on a longshot, and the favorite galloped in.
Finally for races 10 and 11 I desperately looked for professional guidance as I unfolded the man’s tip sheet.
Miracles are anticipated at racetracks. There we were in a crowded parking lot and a man who owns a horse happened to pass nearby. He needed a ride; we needed a parking space. Was this a cosmic moment? Were the stars aligning? Was my totally winless record for that day meant to be so that we could finish strong by comparison? Would there be stories to tell about an angel in the parking lot? I placed the bets.
Somewhere in the grandstands there were cheers and high fives, but not where I stood. Both horses finished last.
Miracles are not always around when we need them, but if there is a law of averages my number has improved. As the man drove way I wondered about his long term ability to pick the right horse. His bumper sticker read “Trump.”