Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Forget Giacomo, just call the Guru

Horses are beautifully strange creatures. Those who gamble on the horses are just strange.

So, for a brief 25 minutes on Tuesday, I was clinically strange. (This is different from my everyday life, where I’m 4 degrees before tap-dead-center strange.)

Many a horse race begins with the horse you picked starting off strong. Then that horse drops to the middle of the pack. Then, if you’re lucky, your horse makes a mad dash to line and wins the race by a length.

So, let me get this straight: Starts off strong, fades to virtual oblivion in the middle, then races to glory at the end. Hmmm, add in a six-day cocaine bender and we’ve got ourselves a VH1 “Behind the Music” special.

On this particular afternoon, I entered an OTB. I was there to cash in on the best bet from the eighth race at Belmont on Saturday.

A little recap for you horseheads out there: Saturday was the Kentucky Derby. I had gone to a different OTB with Papa La Monica. He’s retired these days, which is code for “Let’s go play the horses because I’ve got nothing else to do and my back hurts from playing golf yesterday.”

I played the chalk trifecta of Bellamy Road, Afleet Alex and Bandini. My horse luck is more Rodney Dangerfield in “Easy Money” and less Richard Dreyfuss in “Let it Ride.” But I’m an Ivy League graduate, so I decided to hedge my action and played along with the Guru. He liked Exit to Heaven. I like the Guru. So the bet seemed like a good fit.

Well, Exit to Heaven came in third for a nice $5.30 payout. It cost me $6 to bet across the board, so that’s a sweet 70-cent loss. Nice pick, pal.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon.

I was in the neighborhood of OTB so I went in to pick up my $5.30, which promptly became $5 after the OTB took its vig.

With time to kill, I decided to make my money work for me. It was time to reinvest that $5. But what the frig do I know about the horses? Nothing. However, I know a guy who knows more about horses than horses do. Yes, that’s right, I called the Guru.

I flipped through my recent calls database on my cell phone. (I had called the Guru for Derby help, but he didn’t pick up his phone. Plus, I doubt he would have given me Giacomo, even if he is the most Italian guy with a non-Italian last name I know.)

Guru picks up the phone. I’m sitting pretty now.

“Kid, what are you doing, kid?” he asked.

“I’m at OTB cashing in your monster best bet from Belmont on Saturday,” I answered. “What do you got for me today at Belmont?”

“It’s Tuesday, kid, they’re not running at Belmont,” he said.

Great, now I’m a bigger idiot than I was 12 seconds ago. But, I’ve known the Guru long enough for him to let it slide.

“It’s all out of town tracks today, kid.”

“Well, Guru, gimme something outta town.”

“Let’s go to Calder.”


“Kid, second race, we’re gonna go with an exacta box on 6 and 5.”

Hey, works for me. He tells me the name of the horses I’m about to wager my lunch and dinner on. I can’t understand what he said, more so because my cell phone cut off than because he starts every sentence with “Kid.”

I strolled to the window, dropped some cash on 5-6 in an exacta box. I feel like my dad. I feel like his dad. And I’m clearly the youngest person in here by at least 75 years.

I found the television showing the races at Calder and plopped myself down in a chair. Twelve minutes to post.

Five minutes.

Two minutes.

Race time.

Here’s comes the 6 horse, racing out. The 5 horse isn’t even on the screen. Great! Nice pick, Guru. My cell phone is open and I’m ready to call him up and tell him he’s a jerk and he owes me dinner. What’s the use in having a hookup if he leaves you hanging?

Around the second turn, the 6 horse is lagging, the 5 horse is taking a nap in the gate.

Around the third turn, here comes the 6 horse. The 5 horse seems to remember there is a race going on.

Down the stretch, it’s all about the 6 horse. And the 5 horse is making a Giacomo-like run on the outside.
At the finish, it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s the 6 horse in first and the 5 horse in second. Guru is off the hook.

I sat in my chair laughing my patoot off for about seven minutes. I felt great. I felt like a degenerate. I felt like I wasn’t alone.

An older gentleman asked me what was so funny? I kindly responded, “Kid, the Guru strikes again!”

And I still don't know the names of the horses. I don't even know where Calder Race Track is.