Uncle Mo Was Scratched!

May 10

Or: Where Is A Bookie When You Need One?

KentuckyDerby11 All bets were off. My horse, the endearingly named Uncle Mo, was scratched the day before the Kentucky Derby, leaving me scratching my head and hedging my bets.

I settled on Archarcharch, the horse so nice they named him thrice, and Pants on Fire because the jockey could have become the first woman to win the Derby.

Alas, Pants came in seventh or eighth (after third, it really doesn’t matter), and Arch3, well let’s not talk about it.

Luckily, I never got to bet. I have one of those cool green OTB cards, but Off Track Betting went out of business. What are the odds of that. I mean, really! They ran a gambling AKA  “gaming” operation and couldn’t make money? Whatever you call it, the chips — cards, dice,  dogs and horses — are always stacked against the player, not the house.

One New Year’s Eve, many moons and a few husbands ago, I sat next to the manager of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Murray the G.  Murray, who knew that my husband, not I, was the high roller, pointed around the luxurious room, leaned in and said, “Listen, Honey, we didn’t build all this on winners. Stick to the slots.”

And yet.

RouletteWheelPixRouletteWheelPixGambling is fun.

Once in Vegas, I was winning at roulette (a real sucker’s game) and decided to place all my ill-gotten gains on Number 14. It hit! For 5 G’s! Not Murray the G’s, but 5000 smackeroos. That is such a rush. One you don’t forget. What you don’t remember is how you managed to blow it all before the night was over. It is not for nothing that we have the expression: Easy come, easy go.

Some wins do stay with you, literally. I once made $600 on the Derby and bought a great purse with the dough. It’s my Kentucky Derby Purse (get it?) and I still use it. Another year, I popped into an OTB and plopped down an uncharacteristic 100 across the board ($100 each to win, to place and to show,), betting on a horse whose name resonated with me. Was it Editor? Paperback Writer? Future Blogger? Something like that. Anyway, the horse won, so I went across the street to PC Richards and bought the TV set that still lives in my den.

My worst gambling experience . . .


Involved bringing others down with me.

Dominic The Doorman served as my bookie (and lookout) when I lived on the Upper East Side, having lost Vinnie the Bookie, who became an insurance agent, which should tell you something.

My husband, Harry The Horse, had developed a System, with which he was losing significant sums of money because he was cheating on it. The idea was to narrow down possible winners in a race to three horses, based on their record, the jockey, the track conditions, and Other Factors, perhaps including pork belly futures. You’d pick one of the three and bet it to win, place and show, with the most money on show. Ex: $10 to win, $10 to place, $20 to show. You would almost always come out even, sometimes way ahead, and over time you’d be a winner.

But he got carried away (the curse of gambling) and laid big amounts on one horse to win. And lost.  I, on the other hand, liked the sound of this System, and started using it.

It worked! In a short time, Dominic and the other doormen began to notice that my small bets were winning on a consistent basis. One year, I won on the Derby and the Preakness, so by the time Belmont rolled around, the entire staff of 200 East 64th street was counting on me to double their paychecks.

The Long Shot Sometimes Wins . . .

By then, however, I was bored with quietly winning a little at a time, and decided to play a long shot, a horse named Teddy Bear or some such silliness who went off at 50 to one. I warned Dominic that my $100 bet was purely a hunch, but of course he didn’t believe me. Well, you guessed it. The horse not only didn’t win, but is probably still running. I lost the bet, the good will of my doormen, and worst of all, my street cred.

Oh well, life goes on.

I tried an online betting site for the Derby on Saturday, but they asked for my age (the nerve!) and my social security number (no way). OTB never treated me like that; I’d rather go betless.

Lucky thing, since I obviously didn’t have a clue about this race. The winner was Animal Kingdom, and he was never even on my radar. I could say, “I was looking at that horse,” because that’s what you always hear at the track or OTB, but it wouldn’t be true. I didn’t consider that horse, or Nehro or Mucho Macho Man either, the second and third place winners.

GirlAtPianoThe only other horse I was “looking at” was Shackleford, the name of my piano teacher in the second grade. He (the horse) came in fourth,   although he did lead the field for a while.

I have no idea what became of Mr. (Forrest) Shackleford, and I never did learn to play the piano. But that’s another blog.

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