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Tuesday, 17 June
Mild Horses

This Saturday, my friend C. celebrated his birthday, and what he wanted to do was go to Emerald Downs, the local horse track. That none of us had ever done any horse race betting ever before was no deterrent; neither were our agonized reminders of his last birthday, where we all went to Las Vegas and C. lost, in order, his sobriety, all his money, and finally his consciousness. No dice; C. was adamant: "I want to be broke and drunk by 3:00 PM!" You have to admire his will. We went.

Getting up at the unearthly hour of 11:00 on a Saturday wasn't much fun--in fact, it was like being lashed by an angry octopus--but we had a duty: to make sure C. coughed up next month's rent on the ponies. We got there at around noon and met everyone--of course--in the bar "Champions," a name that fooled nobody, least of all the other patrons, who were in no way reminiscent of any known form of championship. They were almost all men, lint-trap grey, and all clutching complicated-looking racing forms on which they scrawled heiroglyphics in the margins in between drags off their cigarettes and pulls off their drinks. I never could read anything they had written, but by their demeanor, I can only assume they were personal reminders to themselves: "Don't forget! You're scheduled to lose this race! Post time at 2:05." "Continue to alienate family with profligate drink and catastrophic life decisions." "Weep piteously in bathroom."

We clutched our $2 "Racing Form Lite for Ridiculous Newbies" and wandered out towards the track, opting not to pay for the "Grand Admission" seats, or whatever they were called, as the entire privilege seemed to consist of the fact that you were slightly higher than everyone else. It was a lovely day, so we all sat down with our drinks--Bloody Marys to start, of course--and began the long process of losing all our money, acting like dolts, and achieving heroic, multihued sunburns. Most of us were dressed in typical actor high fashion: khakis and t-shirts. Some of the guys tried to capture some of that Southern Gentleman at the Track feel, but having neither white suits nor bushy moustaches nor the knowledge of where to procure mint juleps, had settled on the rather more unsettling tactic of wearing gaudy Hawaiian shirts and unpocketing other affectations like cigarillos and straw hats. This had the net effect of making us look like the aftermath of some terrible cultural collision site, like a Tongan Airliner crashing into a Taco Bell in Chinatown. At one point, my friend K. donned a pair of ghastly sunglasses--dubbed the "J-Lo glasses"--and put on the straw hat and munched unconvincingly on a cigarillo. "You look like Hunter Thompson's corpse," I told him, and he let his jaw slacken convincingly. "Perfect," I said.

Presently, the races began. The tiny, toylike jockeys were bedecked in the usual awful bright, silvery, geometric-design outfits, looking exactly like Teletubby prostitutes, and jabbered with the horses, who looked prepared to eat the little morsel-men. We all scrambled to bet, and ran up to the sour-faced people at the betting counter. We were, of course, embarrassingly dumb and trying way too hard to affect an air of knowing, well, anything. We emphasized our words strangely, hopelessly feigning routine: "I'd like FIVE DOLLARS on NUMBER FIVE in the THIRD, please." Big toothy smile. "To do what?" "What?" "To do what? Win? Place? Show? Not be eaten by cougars?" "Ah . . . yes. I would like it to come in third. Or better than third! Ha!" Terrible. Here's another one I liked: "I'd like to bet the two-dollar exacta in the fifth, please." Pause as I take in a flat stare. Finally, the response: "What horses?" I hadn't gotten that far; I desperately pick two at random, noticing later that one, I'm pretty sure, immediately died two steps out of the gate.

We employed a time-honored betting strategy, you see, one used by amateurs since the dawn of the sport: we picked horses with funny or weird names, which are abundant in the slightly aphasic world of horse racing. The first race had a horse named Matlock, which was too tempting for many; when the cheering erupted in the home stretch as the horse actually raced to a win, it was like being in a stadium filled with thousands of Abe Simpsons. "MAAATLOOOCK!" Needless to say, I did not bet on him. Another favorite of the day was a horse called, inexplicably, Vanna Whitesox, who was exactly as beautiful as the game show hostess and as awful as the baseball team. I lost five bucks on some legless toboggan named Toobusytocall before finally declaring myself Toostupidtobet. Certainly the racing forms were no help: they were filled with the kind of pompous declarations of purest bonehead opinion that anyone who has spent time following sports is familiar with: it was all sportscaster-speak, which is to say, utter horseshit. "EUCLID'S CHUNDER raced very well her last time out, and will certainly make a spot in this race." Which turns out to be a horse that was raised on the low-gravity rings of Spacepost Gamma, and who instantly succumbs to four broken legs on Earth's killing surface. People who make their livings by opining about the outcomes of sporting events are cheerful sociopaths, inveterate lying drunks, and leather-palmed jerkoff artists. They should all be put to the sword.

But having said that, we had a blast! As you might infer from the less-than-mighty examples given, nobody was betting anything like real money, and we lounged and drank beer and cheered pointlessly. 3:00 PM rolled around, and C. was, happily, broke and drunk. Not to mention radioactive: C. has a shaved head, and the sun was roasting his skull like a ham. We left, and then we made the worst bet of all, the one that would destroy us at day's end: we asked C. where he wanted to go for a meal. Would C. pay off with an inspired suggestion? We waited breathlessly. C. gaily declared, "Let's go to T.G.I. Friday's!"

Nope. Lost again.


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Comments

so your saying horse racing equals drunk, sunburnt, broke people with no inspiration.

sounds pretty acurate to me.

Comment number: 003134   Posted by: pretty_paranoia on June 17, 2003 08:50 PM from IP: 203.30.34.219

My friends and I used to kill the occasional Friday evening at Hollywood Park playing the ponies, placing two- and three-dollar trifecta bets with outrageous odds -- figuring if we lost, we only lost two bucks, but if we won, we'd win TWENTY-FOUR WHOLE DOLLARS. We never did win.

Sport of kings. I think sport of asses would be more correct.

Comment number: 003135   Posted by: stennie on June 17, 2003 09:37 PM from IP: 68.164.68.212

HORSE RACING?!?! HORSE RACING?!?! I'm all about the Greyhounds, myself. And, like you, I always bet on the most outrageous name, with one exception. I always, ALWAYS, bet on the dog that takes a dump on his way onto the track. I figure, "Wow! That dog is, like, a pound lighter than he was a minute ago! He'll run like the wind."

For some reason, that logic has never carried me to a victory of more than 5 dollars.

Comment number: 003136   Posted by: KOTWF on June 18, 2003 06:45 AM from IP: 65.194.128.194

But weren't most kings asses?

Comment number: 003137   Posted by: Bet on June 18, 2003 08:17 AM from IP: 205.242.228.4

T.G.I. Friday's ROCKS!

Comment number: 003138   Posted by: Patti on June 18, 2003 09:29 AM from IP: 65.206.64.66

At least one gem in every post. Today's was "Teletubby prostitutes". God bless you.

Comment number: 003139   Posted by: abby on June 18, 2003 10:29 AM from IP: 4.33.84.212

Have to agree with abby on that one. I'm picturing it .... delicious!

Comment number: 003140   Posted by: anna on June 19, 2003 01:15 AM from IP: 212.136.78.25

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