Holy Crap! Wait, How Much are You Down?

This was the txt that Mrs. Swifty sent to Swifty after he txted her that he had just won $881 on the classic… and perhaps my favorite thing of the whole two days. No fool that Mrs. Swifty… and she can pick a pony on sight too. She picked Dance Away Capote in the Duda and Kelly’s Landing in Dubai by looking at them. I was bummed that she couldn’t come with us, not only because of her pony picking prowess.

Overall, I always do better either playing from home or at “The Office” (an OTB restaurant in Midtown), but there’s nothing like going to the track. I’ll never forget the thrill of sitting at the top of the stretch of this year’s Belmont to see R2R roar around that corner and take on Curlin & Hard Spun. And while I’m really glad I was there this year, I will be playing from home or “The Office” for next year’s BC.

Swifty and I are good travel pals… we gabbed like giddy teen girls on the party chat line all the way to Monmouth county in our Zip Car. We were hosted by his brother Eric, sister-in-law Mary and their 3 lovely girls Dana, Faye & Gail. They were a pleasure to stay with and we’ll definitely be back to check out Monmouth on an “off” summer weekend.

The middle girl, Faye, strikes me as having the pony picking gene… she’s a horse crazy 7(ish) year old with a room full horse figurines, pictures, blankets and drawings. She also only ever dresses up as an animal for Halloween… why be a princess when you can be an animal?

After a quick local lunch we headed to the track in increasing rain. We had both brought rain pants + assorted rain gear. I would like to note that ponchos are somewhat disorienting, particularly when going to the restroom.

Our seats were out in the open so we didn’t stick around too long. We cased the joint and found a warm, dry not too crowded teletheatre upstairs… we even got seats. The man next to me had a garbage pile waded up in the corner near his seat that consisted of a hot dog wrapper, used napkins and several used “lucky” mustard packages. It’s worth noting that there was a garbage receptacle less than 4 feet away.

While it was nice to be seated, warm and dry, if I’m inside watching races on a TV I’d rather be at home or at “The Office”. This is also how I feel about the Big A, it’s cold + the track is far away & hard to see so I end up inside… this is not why I like to go the track. I can see people spit on the floor and throw garbage everywhere in the subway, but I digress.

At the end of the incredibly sloppy Friday races, I was down and Swifty was even. I allowed myself 20% of my bankroll for Friday and managed to not lose it all, but close! We went to Rooney’s and had a nice seafood dinner, it turns out my Monmouth county colleague was also there on Friday night (I didn’t see him) and he said the prices were jacked up… nice!

While we were sitting there, a table of two nicely dressed couples sat next to us. We were reviewing our A picks for Saturday so we could start to put together our Pick 4s and 6 when we got back to Eric’s. When our delicious food arrived, they all turned around to look at it and asked what we had ordered. Next thing you know we’re chatting about the BC.

They were in from Kentucky, one couple from Lexington, one couple from the Keeneland area. Years of close proximity to bass heavy speakers have shot my hearing in public places so I didn’t catch their names (or half of the conversation). Swifty asked if they were “in the business” and they coyly replied that they own “a few nags”. We actually had a pretty nice chat about the state of the industry, how the media consistently fails to build up rivalries or tell the great stories but chooses to focus on the tragedies.

Back at ye old homestead it was time to get to work. Sadly we had to pass on a TBA get together hosted by Patrick of Handride… I hear a good time was had by all! Swifty still had the last 4 races to handicap and as he finished we talked through our notes. When we take racing trips together, it’s like we’re roommates in college cramming for exam week complete with intermittent bouts of goofing off and giddiness usually accompanied by the question “when did we smoke that dube?”. This time was no different.

Once he finished the Classic, we talked for a good hour comparing AGS and Street Sense… we had already concluded that we both agreed that Curlin was our pick to win, the distance was probably too much for Hard Spun to hold and that if anyone was going to engage HS in a battle before the stretch, it was Lawyer Ron, increasing his chances to not finish well. I’ll do a separate post about this conversation, but it felt like we were preparing to argue a case, going over each positive and negative point, trying to find the differentiator(s) and figure out how to weigh them.

On Saturday between the 1st and 2nd race we were supposed to have our Official TBA Meet Up… as the fates would have it (I blame mercury in retrograde) several folks didn’t make it in time or were in the wrong place. I did have the good fortune to met the stylish Superfecta and her husband. We chatted for awhile, watched the second race and parted ways.

Since it was still raining and our pricey seats were squarely in the elements, we set up shop in the simulcast area near the men’s room on the first floor. This worked well until it started to get a little stinky! We had placed our 16 ticket Pick 4 online prior to leaving and our Pick 6 was only ticket, so I went to place the bet while Swifty decided what he was gonna do for the Juvenile.

I started to tell the agent my 4 horses per race. She totaled it, paused, looked at me and said “That will be $8,192”. We stared at each other for about 4 seconds, “Cancel that!”. In my tired state the night before I thought if we double our money it meant we could double the amount of horses in each race. We quickly refigured our selections narrowing it down to our two A picks for the first five races and all 4 picks in the Classic. I went back to the same woman, with my $256 bet, which had felt outrageous to me until I was asked for $8,192.

The next stop, track food. I took a quick lap and reported back… hot dogs $4, “gourmet” sandwiches $10″. We went our separate ways to grab food and meet in another less stinky location. The crowd was really starting to pick up. On my way to procure a $10 turkey sandwich on white bread, I ran into John Hennegan of the First Saturday in May and his lovely wife (I’m 0 for 2 in remembering spouse names). I had been playing phone tag with Brad so I was happy to at least get to meet one of them for a few minutes! Additionally, I don’t think you can call a sandwich gourmet if it’s on white bread.

After trying out a few different spots we managed to get a decent one in a simulcast area that was right by the door to the paddock. We spent most of the afternoon here, it was about as good as it was gonna get… close to the windows, paddock and an actual little table to spread our PPs out on (now if I had payed more attention to my notes, it might have been a different day).

Another of my favorite moments came in the Distaff when a well dressed woman with a fist full of tickets parked herself in front of the crowd around the TVs. As the race went on she started to gesture more and more at the TV. She was in the full head banging gesture (minus the hair tossing) of one foot forward shaking one arm at the TV during the stretch battle. When it was over, she quickly composed herself and walked away like nothing had happened… well done!

The weather broke before the Turf so we decided to watch the Classic from our seats (or better if we could get them). We ended up in a decent spot in about the middle of the stretch in some bleachers. The parade was right in front of us… and they looked great. All that mishugas was worth it for this, seeing them all together, this close, many of them racing for the last time. It was incredible to hear them run by and see how fast they really run. Their speed and power were so palpable… and thrilling.

It was nice to go out on Swifty’s big win… if it’s not gonna be me, I’m glad it’s him (although ideally it would be both of us). It was also helpful to have the excitement of his win to keep our attention off of the tragedy on the track.

I hope to hell they run Curlin next year… someone made the point that while he’s obviously quite valuable as a stud, the owners are unlikely to get another like him again. Please, please horse racing gods, let us see what’s he got next year!