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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Handicapping Highballs

I saunter into my favorite watering hole, the View, a nice old tavern just around the corner from the Space Station. “Hey Jack, I’ll have the usual,” I motion to the long time friendly neighborhood server. “Goose and Tang, coming right up, SpaceMan.” He chuckles to himself, while I smile and acknowledge the same line he uses every time I come in before fixing me a tall screwdriver in a special pint glass. I glance down the bar from my spot on the horseshoe curve, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited but the faces never change. “So the Triple Crown season is here,” Jack mentions as he slides my ‘driver down the bar in front of me. “You got your Derby horse, yet?” I take a long, slow drag of my drink before answering Jack’s question as if I’m pondering the meaning of life. “Well, Jack, there seems to be three or four horses that seem to be slightly better than the rest, but I like to see where the post positions fall before making any final decisions. Did you know they’re doing a pill pull this year, probably won’t be on TV either?”

Jack moves down the bar to help another patron who just came in for her afternoon cosmopolitan, but looks back over his shoulder and says, “Who do you like again??” I smile as this little cat and mouse game will go on until I tell him who I like and who’s in my trifecta. He finishes up with the young lady who’s waiting for her friends to join her for happy hour, hoping they show up soon as talk of horse racing doesn’t seem to be part of her repertoire. “Doesn’t that white haired fellow with the pointy nose have a bunch of horses running again this year,” Jack asks. “You mean, Pletcher? Sure, he could have six or seven in the gate, thinking this could be his year. I’m usually a chalk eater when it comes to the Derby, Jack, but this year the favorite looks pretty damn good on paper.” Jack decides to loosen me up with a complimentary shot on the house, he’s working me now, wanting more information on what I may be keeping to myself, adding, “How about a long shot, anyone look interesting to you?”

I throw back the shot (a nice bourbon) and decide to give him a nugget or two. “You know, Jack, that it’s a little known fact that they serve over 120,000 mint juleps over the Oaks/Derby weekend at Churchill?” “Yeah, SpaceMan, but who’s your longshot?” I rub my chin and explain there’s still a lot of analysis to do and man, if you’re stuck in that outside gate, there’s a whole lot of work and energy to get into position (unless you're Big Brown, of course). So I give up who else I’m kind of fond of ten days out from the big day. “Jack, I really think Dublin is sitting on a big one. I’m still smarting over his daddy not getting up for second in 2005, as I had him in my exacta with Giacomo. He should be in that 18/1 to 22/1 price range on the tote, so I think he has as good a shot as any to hit the board. The other horse that has my interest is Endorsement who also should be a decent price for the female trainer Ritter.” This peaks our lady friend’s interest, who asks “Will any fillies be running?” "Don’t know yet, ma’am, but one is being considered named Devil May Care. She turns back to her cosmo and smiles. Jack decides to pry further, “Anyone else, c’mon?” “I wouldn’t leave Ice Box out of any exotic bet, Jack, he’s got decent pedigree and that darn Lezcano beats me every weekend.”

Satisfied that he’s pulled the information that he wanted from me, he smiles and asks, “So who do you think the Bills are taking tomorrow night?” Our little game over, I ask politely, “Jack, you better pour me another goose…”

1 Comment:

malcer said...

Nice post,

I share your sympathy for Endorsement as a longshot bet - as well as your sympathy for a nice watering hole and the Cheers theme song.

That said, the idea of handicapping neighborhood bars actually intrigues me more than this year's Derby field. Someone better step up, because right now this crop looks just as bad as Big Brown's, but without BB.


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