Okay, so something that I wanted to write about a while ago but never got a chance to:
Way back on November 4th, just a few days before leaving Kentucky for good (well, not for “good”, but you know), I went to Churchill Downs to see the Breeder’s Cup. Despite the name it’s not a drinking container for hetrosexuals, rather, it is a famous horse race.
I didn’t go on a whim, of course, and I didn’t go alone. I was generously invited by Ready Electric who not only did the electrical work for the warehouse, but also features the blandish exterior of the Zappos building in their rockin’ flash intro. They offered the Zappos folks six box seats in a prime spot. Despite asking around to try and expand our social horizons, we ended up bringing the usual suspects.
Now, lest you fail to understand, getting box seats to the Breeder’s Cup at Churchill downs is nothing to sneeze at. Aside from the cost, there’s a lot of Kentucky heritage involved, imposing a fair bit of responsibility on the guests to properly enjoy the all-day event. Not to mention that this was the last weekend the four of us would be together in KY, sniff, sniff. So we decided to go all out.
For the ladies this meant dressing up in their finest, and acquiring some sharp looking hats. For me and my ragged assortment of threads, it meant buying a whole new outfit. Together we made a strikingly handsome group, I say.
So a day at the races… I’ve never been to a racetrack before. The place was pretty much packed with a wide cross section of people, and the mood was like what I’d expect at any sporting event, but it felt a little like old times. Like, you know how I know all about “old times” at sporting events. I think it was mainly just that the grounds and building had a classic early American feel; and though there were certainly a lot of people there, it just felt designed in a smaller world. In any case, I decided to dust off my old gambling addiction and give the horses a try.
I went and bet on the first race — just $10 on the one with reasonable odds (4:1) and a cool name to win. The others put some money down too, and then we went to the box to watch. The race itself was very short and more exciting than I’d expected. Watching those horses thunder by was thrilling, and best of all, my horse won! Right off the bat I turned $10 into $40! Wait, not so fast! I had to go collect my winnings. When I did, however, I found that I must have messed up when placing the bet because I had actually bet on some horse with a lousy name. And I would never do that. So $10 down, and mildly frustrated I sat out of the betting for a couple races. The ladies still dropped some money, and had a few minor victories. They kindly comforted me and encouraged me to try again.
Eventually I got my guts back and I bet again, this time for a horse with slightly worse odds (8:1) to “show”. Now, I didn’t really know what I was doing. In horse racing, the horse either wins (1st), places (2nd), or shows (3rd). So I figured betting on a horse to show meant it had to come in third place. I happened to be out ordering some good ol’ grease happy nibbles when the race was on, and so I watched it on the nearby screen. The horse I bet on came in 2nd, so I crumpled the ticket and placed it on the counter as I was ordering. When I got back to the box, I explained my bet and how I’d lost. Lisa’s eyes went wide as she explained to me that actually I’d won — a bet to “show” wins if the horse is in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. I’d won, but discarded the ticket! I started rambling about how I wasn’t meant to gamble, but the girls convinced me to go look for the ticket since I sort of knew where I had left it. I fought my way through the crowds, back to the grease emporium and much to my surprise, there it was, still crumpled, still next to the napkin dispenser. I cashed it in for a small profit that turned my fortunes around.
I bet several more times (I think there were 10 races total) and I did well. The most exciting had to be the last race, when Lisa and I both bet on “Invisor”, an Argentine horse. Lisa is of Argentine descent, and she played bookie over the phone for her brother and her dad, who happened to be in Argentina at the time. Melody and Charlotte bet on other horses because they did not understand that the only way that the day could possibly end happily is if Invisor won, and who would bet against that?
The race began, and almost immediately Invisor was lost near the back. The cameras train in on the front of the pack, and as the horses cover the far side of the track, you watch them on the big screen. Invisor was completely left out. Our hearts sank. As the horses round the last bend, the big screen stops coverage for some reason, I guess because you’ll be able to see them yourself in a second. When the big screen stopped, Invisor was a lost cause. A few seconds later when we could see them in the home stretch, Invisor had somehow managed to pull out near the front! We freaked out. We stood on our chairs. We screamed and waved our arms around wildly. It was a close one, but Invisor carried the day! And we were happy. So happy in fact, we cracked out a pair of real Cuban cigars that we had been saving for the right moment and we lit up. Talk about living large. It’s all about those special moments, bitch.
Really though, it all couldn’t have gone down any better. Looking and feeling fine, sipping mint juleps with three cool chicks in the Rolex section, and finishing with the big win. The big win basically meant I broke even — covering all my other bets plus the food and drinks for the day. Very respectable.
I was surprised, actually, how much I enjoyed the races themselves. Having been in Las Vegas for almost three years now, I’ve never found any of the gambling to be even remotely enjoyable, forget about addictive. Sure, I throw a dime into a slot machine when family or friends are in town… who wants to be a downer? But I never understood the appeal. Horseracing, on the other hand, was legitimately fun. I think it’s a combination of the fact that you seem to be able to win just often enough to avoid feeling like a total chump, and the fact that you’re not betting on on the wrong side of some mathematical formula that the house has worked out: you’re betting on real life hopes and dreams of the horse and jockey team. It’s definitely got some appeal.
And yeah, the mint juleps probably helped.