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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Racetrack Excerpt From Johnny Oops

An excerpt from Johnny Oops.

Del Mar has various seating formations, and grandstand levels. The Clubhouse Restaurant, the finest of the restaurants, was on the second floor, but most people stay on the ground level near the track. This day the crowd was huge, must’ve been more than thirty thousand people milling around, shouting at each other, trying to be heard, jabbing their hands in the air, holding up fingers to denote what horse they thought would be a winner, drinking beer at the various grills and bars, and munching on peanuts. The crowd ranged from clean-cut looking people in shorts, to seedy old men in torn sports jackets, sporting panama hats with racing tickets stuck in the hatbands.  The floor was littered with torn up racing forms, losing tickets, and broken dreams. I could smell the nearby ocean as a warm breeze blew up.

We squeezed into a small opening along the rail near the finish line. Before we could focus on our horse, the starter’s gun signaled the start of the third race of the day, a mile long jaunt on a fast track. We strained our necks to figure out where Suckers Delight—number five out of a field of nine was. Henry yanked at my sleeve and pointed him out. Our eyes widened in amazement, as coming from ninth place, our fabulous nag took off like a bolt of lightening when the jockey, Alan Holden, took him wide at the half-mile pole. I never saw a horse move that fast. Don’t know and don’t want to know what they juiced him up with if they did. Some horses just foam a lot at the mouth when they run.

We started screaming, “Go Sucker, go.” Suckers Delight turned all heads by making up an amazing eighteen lengths in the final seven sixteenths of a mile, as horse and jockey melded together to surge magnificently over the finish line, winning by a length and a half.

My heart racing, I was panting and gasping for breath as all my screaming took a toll. Henry pummeled my arm with his fists rapid fire, grabbed me around the neck in a choke hold that left me gasping for air again. My arm was throbbing from his jabs. Suckers Delight wasn’t the only one foaming at the mouth. I think Henry was more excited than me. Everyone around us was staring our way. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. Thanks Jack. You’re a true gentleman. You didn’t forget me.

The scoreboard flickered, went click, click, click and posted the results. Suckers Delight paid the unbelievable long shot price of $102.50. My buddy Henry punched me so hard in his excitement; he nearly dislocated my shoulder. I hugged Henry and kissed his head and then grabbed a total stranger and kissed him too. We did a celebratory dance, jumping up and down, and ran to the betting window to collect our winnings. I held my tickets so tightly between my thumb and forefinger that my hand was getting numb, and the pay clerk had to pry the tickets out of my hand. I won over $10,000. Eureka, I was rich for the first time in my life, or so I thought.


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