At the end of the night, when we realized that we’d eaten as many lobsters as we’d cashed tickets, we could only laugh.
And this was no nine race card. We bet all 11 at the flat track, 13 more at Saratoga harness, plus an array of freelance stabs at Del Mar, Mohawk, Remington, Charles Town, and yes, Evangeline Downs.
I am referring of course to this year’s running of the Degenerate Doubleheader. You can find last year’s account here.
The tone for the day was set in the first sticks race at Saratoga, where the horse I really liked on paper was CONSTANT CONTACT. I had just uttered these words to my partner in crime, Brian Nadeau, “Wow, he’s really travelling a lot better now.” A second later, he pinged a fence and went down. He was OK, fortunately, but we were already in the hole. Il sont patis, indeed.
The Saratoga card was mostly uneventful but really fun. Brian, John, Craig and I commandeered the good table up at the Secret Spot and had a lot of fun handicapping, having a few pops, and talking about how Tony Gwynn 2013 looks like he ate Tony Gwynn 1984. You know, the usual racetrack palaver.
I tossed in with a syndicate who put together a large Pick Six play that didn’t get very far. We mucked around in a couple of online contests with no success, and, of course there was the usual race-to-race stuff. Things were looking up when Winekeeper went about 3 clear in the stretch. . .but then Coal and Ice came and ran her down, and I had a sickener of a beat to rival Mentor Cane.
Hurricane Anthony, the Australian form expert, made an appearance by text. He had loved Hunter Forward during the Saratoga Handicapping Challenge when she fell in a hurdle race. He’d been waiting for her to run back. I wasn’t too convinced and stuck with my paper pick, Edie. Hunter Forward paid nearly $70. Anthony can buy a few shares of Qantas for what he won on that one. Brian and I rushed out of there to make sure we got across the street in time to get one of the tables with a TV.
The least degenerate part of the degenerate doubleheader is the buffet at Fortunes, over at Saratoga Harness. It’s quite civilized. We got a good spot. A woman came around and took bets right at the table. But where we really scored out was the buffet itself. Last night was all you can eat lobster and prime rib. We rounded that out with some roasted fingerling potatoes, mixed vegetables, and a little corn on the cob. Brian went a little crazy for dessert. I think he had two brownies and three pieces of Boston Cream pie. How the dude stays so skinny I’ll never know. The only exercise I’ve ever seen him engage is turning the pages of the Form.
The events of the day had left me in a rough position. It was time to take the walk of shame down to the ATM. Man, that’s a bad enough feeling at the flat track, but when it happens to you at the harness track. you’re really in dire straits. I felt a bit defeated just thinking about the prospect. I had one out. Brian’s pal Dan, who joined us for the second half of the card, actually knows a lot about harness racing. Granted, anyone who knows anything about harness racing knows more than us, but he really seemed to understand the game. He tipped us an 8-1 shot and we managed to cash a ticket for the first time all day. After that we pretty much deferred to him in all matters pertaining to the jugheads. He had several other good tips, we just bet them like muppets.
From there the three of us went downstairs briefly but somehow it was like 90 degrees in the main body of the track first floor. I stopped at a carol long enough to watch the Del Mar nightcap to see a friend block his opponent in a Head to Head on Derby Wars. Man, that’s a nice feeling.
We walked quickly by the door that separates the track from the casino, careful not to even glance in the direction of the twinkling lights. For as degenerate as we might be, and as many tracks and races we might play, under no circumstances were we going to get involved in that nonsense. Even degenerates have standards.
At Joe’s bar up in the simulcast area, we settled in for the last six. Text and twitter tips started coming in. Play the 8 at Remington. The 1 at Evangeline looks like lone speed. Other tips were accompanied by question marks, as in, “the 3 here?” Question marks or no, it didn’t matter. We bet them all, and they all lost.
There was a brief, shining moment. A gentleman at the bar had just been over at The Parting Glass to see At The Post Live. He sat next to an owner who had one in Charles Town. The horse was supposed to be a good thing. This fellow came all the way over to the harness track just to bet and watch. I was excited. This was good DG steam. Not content to bet the thing ourselves, we spread the word around the bar, throwing in a little hyperbole for good measure: DEFY GRAVITY would win the Potomac by at least two lengths.
Just one problem. We’d run out of money again. I winced and reached into to my wallet to procure my bank card and accept defeat. . .and there it was — tucked between a losing .20 cent Pick Three ticket from Mohawk and my growler card from Saratoga Brewery — a crisp $10 bill. I rushed up to the window and threw it on Defy Gravity’s nose. Help me, random Charles Town tip horse, you’re my only hope.
Remember when I said Defy Gravity would win by at least two lengths? Well, he gave up three going wide around the first turn. Now the race was on. Coming for home, we looked like the winner, but Defy Gravity wasn’t quite going by, though it didn’t look like he was hanging on the money either. Brian, an excellent race watcher, saw it first, “Hey, that seven just pushed us out four paths!” We never got by, but we still had no doubt, we had to go up via DQ.
The inquiry sign went up. The objection sign went up. But then we waited. The 7 got his picture taken, but it still wasn’t official. What was happening here? We saw the head on, it was as blatant as could be — he herded us and even made contact. It was like Great Barrington Fair redux. The natives, even the ones not in our little betting “coup” joined in, “TAKE HIM DOWN!” Sure enough, they eventually did, and this prompted the largest roar of the night at Joe’s Bar.
There were a few races left, and we contemplated leaving on a high note, but then we turfed that idea. This was the degenerate doubleheader, damnit, and we were going to bet every race there was to bet. No edge? No problem. We didn’t cash a ticket, but I’m happy to say I never had to make that walk of shame. I felt like LaMotta after the Sugar Ray Robinson fight in Raging Bull. Covered in blood, beaten to a pulp, yes and yes, but racing gods, you never got me down. You never got me down.
Why can’t #5 IT’S HUGE wire the nightcap? Or if not wire, why can’t he get a perfect trip sitting just off? He’s a slight flow move up coming off legitimate trouble last time, he’s run well fresh before. $50 win and place.