By David Martin

A day at the horse races


September 5, 2019

Horse racing is something I’m not inherently accustomed to.

I’ve heard stories about how great my grandfather was at picking a winning horse, though I’ve come to the realization that most of the luck existing within my family was used up by my grandparents. They’ve always had stories about winning thousands in Wendover, Nev., a lucky night at bingo or a great day at off-track betting. On the other hand, I became so disgusted losing $80 during my last trip to Las Vegas that I stopped gambling and focused on more fulfilling activities -- which generally focused on taking in the sights and eating.

Despite my lack of luck, I have enjoyed spending an afternoon at the Sweetwater County Events Complex for the summer horse racing events. I’m not a devout attendee, but going once or twice has made for an excellent way to end the summer months. And so, with a group of friends and family, I checked out Sweetwater Downs Saturday afternoon.

I have no idea how to pick a winning horse. The race program includes a lot of statistics that are explained, but can still be a daunting read for almost anyone. Despite the looking at all of the information available, with the exception of what the horse ate the night before, I have rarely been able to pick a winner. Race after race, the horses I picked, at best, would finish middle of the pack. Meanwhile, the “betting public” had a good day, with the odds-on favorites taking almost every race.

By the time the last race was preparing to start, I had stopped betting and had resigned myself to simply enjoying watching the horses run the track. With about seven minutes before post, a glance at the odds board across the racetrack caused a spark to flash in my mind. Horse No. 1 had 8:1 odds listed for it. Others had better odds and a few had slightly worse, but that No. 1 caught my eye. I decided to place a $6 win-place-show bet on it.

For the uninitiated, that is actually a series of three $2 bets. One bet for the horse winning the race, the “place” bet wagering it will at least take second and while the “show” bet winning if the horse finishes in the top three.

In the time it took me to walk from my seat place my bet, buy a bottle of water and return, the odds had significantly shifted. That No. 1 horse had suddenly become a 20:1 long-shot bet. I was cursing my lack of luck as I sat down, already feeling defeated minutes before the race was set to start. By the time the race started, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the outcome.

The people in the stands, many of whom seem to have a much better understanding of horse wagering than I ever will, had determined my No. 1 to be a loser.

The race started and I couldn’t tell who was leading the pack. Even as they passed the grandstands the first time, my horse was in the middle of the pack. I wasn’t hopeful for the outcome. The horses rounded the bend and ran the far side of the track -- well beyond my line of sight to tell what was going on. By the time they came back around for the finish, my horse had somehow pulled itself to the front of the pack -- with another just a nose length away from it.

I’m told when they crossed the finish line, my mouth was agape. I was in complete shock.

The announcer, filling time for the results to be confirmed, spoke about how on top of their game the betting public was throughout the day, but had missed on that last race. Soon enough, the results were confirmed, that wonderful No. 1 had its picture taken with owners and trainers and I made my way down to claim my winnings.

For that $6 bet, I earned $61. Including previous bets, the snacks and admission I paid that afternoon, I broke even.

Regardless, I felt like a winner and that’s what matters.

I just wish I hadn’t tossed out the race schedule before deciding to write this column.

I would have otherwise memorialized that horse’s name.


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