A very dear close friend of mine, Gary Bouchard,
wrote an amusing short story of how racehorses lose races. I want to
share this wonderfully story with my readers about..............
Everyone knows there's only ONE way to win a horse race, yet owners
always seem to remain overwhelming optimistic that their horse is "the
one". After all, why else would they dedicate so much time, money, and
effort pursuing the sport we love so dearly?
Rather than concede defeat and walk away from the game, they prefer to
shake things off and simply carry on until the next opportunity presents
itself. When you think about it, isn't it so much easier to come up with
any number of reasons why "this" or "that" happened in order to justify
That in mind, a certain "LIST" recently came to my attention I felt worthy
of sharing. However... rather than simply post the List like a set of
boring rules, I thought it much more fun adding a "slight twist" to the
format by rearranging the sequence that seems to capture the very essence
of how owners think.
Besides, who likes reading dumb ‘ol "lists" anyway?
A very dear friend of mine was only a young
lad at the time, when he sat motionless on the fence at Aqueduct listening
to an old race track pundit recite his most profound observations about
Horse Racing. At one point the old man said to young “Bob”... “ya know
son, there’s only ONE way to win a horse race, but there’s a BUNCH of ways
to lose one! Remember that my boy... and you’ll never drive yourself nuts
over this game.”
Bob (affectionately known as “KlatooGort” among close friends) blossomed
into an extensively traveled veteran horseman deeply penetrated within the
sport of Thoroughbred Racing. It seems he knows everybody and every thing.
On one occasion while visiting the Racing Secretary’s office at Pimlico,
he noticed a framed document hanging on the wall. Glancing over at it, he
could see it was a neatly arranged collection of phrases entitled;
“54 EXCUSES WHY OWNERS
SAY THEY LOST A HORSE RACE”
tidbits away in his mind for the moment, Bob turned his attention to
business at hand. Later that day, a need required he venture back to the
barns to seek out a nationally recognized trainer about to run a horse in
the Preakness. Once in his barn, he spotted another rendition of this same
treatise posted in the trainer’s tack room. How odd, Bob thought,
as it triggered a mental recall reinforcing that old man’s philosophy from
years ago. It so inspired “Klatoo”, that he copied the document and
published it on his website for all the world to see.
happened to be in Fort Lee, New Jersey on business. With a lot of free
time to spare,
I arranged to
drop by Bob’s office one day to reminisce and “swap lies” with my old
wonderful occasion to see you,” Bob cheerfully said, popping the cork
from a vintage bottle of the finest French Bordeaux (Chateau
Mouton-Rothschild) money could buy. While pouring me a generous glass, I
happened to notice a document prominently displayed upon his wall. I
sidled a little closer to look it over, and asked, “what’s this?”
Bob said. “I picked it up years ago in my travels. I’m sure there may
be more, but someone assembled a list of 54 Excuses owners use after
they’ve lost a horse race.”
Picking up the
‘78 Bordeaux and moving toward me, Bob further explained; “Considering
all the horse races I’ve covered over the years, it seems I’ve heard ‘em
all. Isn’t it neat? I love it!”
say,” I said, curiosity drawing me back to study the piece a bit more.
A faint grin took control of my thoughts as I mused, “Hmmmm... 54
excuses over the years, you say...maybe more. After taking another sip
of wine, I said “ you know, Bob? This really reminds me of an event I
personally experienced only a short time ago myself.”
Bob said, topping off my glass. “Sit down and relax. Tell me about it.”
Taking a few
seconds to reflect while enjoying the bouquet of such fine wine, I said...
happy to, but I think I’ll change the names of those involved to protect
trips your trigger my friend,” Bob casually brushed off the comment.
So forthwith, I
settled into a comfortable chair and began to relate the story.
month of Sundays ago, I started.... the big day came when a group of
us neophytes headed for the track to see our young budding steed, ANDOVER
FOREST, make his second start against a seasoned field in what seemed to
us a “big time” horse race. We couldn't wait!
The air was
electrified with excitement. Even the kiddies were jumping up and down
screaming with delight... "we're going to see our horsie win today,
Bobby reassured; patting little Mikey on the head.
there! All my partners showed up en force. There was Bill, Chuck, Bobby,
Rich, Jim, Dan, even “Doc” Mike and his trusty two side kicks, Larry and
David. It was a great day; almost carnival-like in atmosphere! Even though
heavy clouds began to roll in as we got to the track, nothing could dampen
our spirits. We were not to be dismayed! After all ...
WE were Race
Horse Owners! The hats, the ties, fresh hair cuts....the whole nine
While we stood
around waiting on our race trying to constrain a gradual increase in heart
rate with a number of brewski's, our trainer finally appeared. I greeted
him with a hearty slap on the back and a big “Hello Gary” before
introducing him to the group. After a bunch of “this is so and so”
countered by polite “hello's” and “pleased to meet ya’s”, I
could tell things didn't seem quite right. During a second round of
fermented hops, a little prodding finally inspired our trainer to open up
perplexed,” I said... "somethin’ on your mind?”
took another sip of his golden nectar of the Gods, and said....
"well...actually... there are a few of things I'm concerned about.”
As we toned
down our rather boisterous exuberance a bit, we gathered a little closer
so as not to miss anything when Rich blurted out...
we're goin’ racin’ ain't we... so what's eatin’ ya?”
This time, our
trainer took another long pull on his beer, then said in a slow drawl...
y’all remember his last race, right?” Taking another dramatic
sip, he went on...
though it was his first time out...
HE JUST DIDN'T RUN HIS RACE.”
guys might already suspect
 HE AIN'T THE SAME HORSE HE WAS
EARLIER 'cause I truly believe
HE WAS RUINED BY THE HARD TRACK HE CAME FROM.”
paused a bit to look us all over, and then continued... “but y’all just
said... ta hell with it, insisting 
HE'LL DO BETTER NEXT TIME, HE NEEDED THE RACE."
drone of our happy conversations became more subdued as the trainer went
know you’ve all told me you think
HE NEEDS HIS RACES CLOSER TOGETHER,
so I trained him hard this time to bring him up to peak form. But I
HE LEFT HIS RACE ON THE TRAINING TRACK.
In fact, I really think 
HE NEEDS A REST!"
was another pause in the conversation when someone had the presence of
mind to suggest a refill. Bobby ran off toward the bar when Chuck
hollered out ..."change mine to whiskey!” while Bill seconded
with..."yeah, and make it a double for me!”
soon returned with whiskies for everyone just as I finished thinking for a
minute or two before asking the trainer... "well, we ARE going to run
today, aren't we?”
reply came as a recalcitrant... “yes, of course we are”...
I am still a little bothered about what happened last time”
"After all...pausing to finish his
beer... “I just feel 
IT WASN'T HIS DISTANCE!" Gary
tried to explain.
knew it, I just knew it... we came here for nuthin’!”...
turned to Gary, his facial expression a little distorted from a healthy
gulp of whiskey, and exclaimed... "That’s hogwash....everyone
THE TRACK WAS TOO DEEP, and
THE TURNS ARE TOO SHARP”...
raising his tone as his second Boiler Maker began to take effect.
"Yeah" Jim chimed in... "I also
heard you tell us before that
 HE DIDN'T
LIKE THE TRACK...so what
Gary toward me with a gentle grip on his elbow, I queried...
don’t understand, Gary... what are you thinking?”
were riveted on the trainer. Gary whirled his head a bit to face his other
challengers trying to explain, “this is different... that
 IT WAS
HIS FIRST TIME HE'S BEEN AROUND TWO TURNS!"
Before offering more, the reddening trainer looked down at the floor, and
said softly... "besides, there's something else.”
took a menacing step toward the trainer and scowled closely in Gary’s face
yeah, and what's that? Sounds like a lot of hedgin’ to me!!”
really looking up and a little un-nerved by now, Gary tried to be
condescending when he said, "I'm a little concerned about his
conditions too. 
THE WEIGHT WAS TOO MUCH.
HE WAS GIVING AWAY TOO MANY POUNDS".
“Jesus, what else?” pined Dan, his
eyeballs nearly back in his head. By this time, we were all beginning to
get a little edgy. Small flurries of verbal exchanges grew in intensity.
There was a slight pause in the action while another round of drinks were
quickly ordered. Turning to Larry, Doc said ... "Did you hear what he
said?”... firmly poking Larry in the shoulder, his hand clenching a
whiskey causing him to splash a little of the precious liquid on Larry’s
did!” ... Larry nodded in reply.
"What’d I tell you guys? I told y’all before we even came today it wasn't
meant to be, didn't I?” ...raising his voice a decibel or two.
group was firmly entrenched in asserting their own observations; trying to
reason out their justifications for being there; spewing bits of one‑upmanship
all trying to impress with newly acquired knowledge that comes with Horse
Ownership. Taking a strong tug on his whiskey before emphasizing his
point, David blurted out...“what is he talkin’ about... why should
distance bother him just because
 HIS SIRE WAS ONLY A SPRINTER!"
be outdone, “Doc”quickly countered with... "you're wrong Bozo, that was
his broodmare sire! 
HIS SIRE COULD ONLY WIN AT A MILE AND A HALF!”
what either one of them knew or didn't know, they just glared each down
through thick lenses of whiskey glasses pressed against their lips.
mild attempt to diffuse the rising tempo, I piped in to say....
hell guys, maybe it'll still work...I just think
HE NEEDS BLINKERS!"
only managed to inspire a sharp retort from Chuck to my left, saying...
"that's a lot of crap,
 HE RUNS
BETTER WITHOUT BLINKERS!"
shoving and intense glares began to ensue when the trainer stepped into
the middle and said..."boys, boys, boys.. calm down. It's time for us
to go now... it's getting close to race time!”
grateful for the reprieve much to the relief of the kids who were getting
a bit nervous looking upwards to their adult counterparts for reassurance;
only to be pushed aside and ignored. Stepping outside, it was apparent
that it had been drizzling for a while since we first arrived. But
nevertheless, we began to shuffle off toward the saddling paddock, but not
before stopping for another “MAN’S” drink needed by all.
approached the railing encircling the saddling paddock,
looked up and exclaimed... "Oh my God!!”
"What's the matter?” shouted
Bobby, as everyone’s panicking eyes darted about in unison trying to
discern the cause for alarm.
THE CROWD SCARED HIM !” ... Rich
yelled while shoving his glass in Andover’s direction; slopping a sizable
daub of whiskey onto little Mikey’s head who was clinging to Bobby’s pant
leg in front of him.
"Yeah, yeah...I see it! Bobby
agreed. It seemed obvious even to our semi-blurred vision now, that
 HE WAS
anyone could react, the sound of "RIDERS UP" thundered over the din of the
crowd. People began to dissipate as Jockeys mounted their horses before
venturing outward toward the track. Our group was now becoming even more
filled with anxiety fueled by Kentucky's finest bourbon. Some appeared to
be leaning against one another for reassuring comradery, or perhaps were
in need of a little steadying so as not to stumble too visibly amidst the
made our own way through the clubhouse toward the track, via refueling at
the bar of course, Doc turned to David and said... "saaaaay.... ain’t
you gonna get a bet down first?”
NO!” came the unhesitating reply.
"You heard what the trainer and the others said!” “Besides,
didn't you notice; don't you know nuthin’?”
Doc could only say looking befuddled.
"Can’t you see...it's started to rain?”
David said, waving his hand about in the air
as if blessing the place. “Any fool could see
 HE WASN'T
WEARING HIS MUD CAULKS, let
alone that 
THE JOCKEY DID NOT FIT HIM!”...
“And another thing...shaking his head in frustration...
 HE HAD A BAD
POST!” “No sireeeee, Bub....
no bet for me!”
with their assessment they were doomed, David with Doc in tow, quietly
sipped on their freshened drinks while joining the others at the rail. The
horses were nearing the gate. We were now guzzling down our most recent
refill in an attempt to stave off what seemed a mountain of pent up
anxiety. You could almost hear aloud our inner most thoughts...
“horsie” was about to race}
broke the silence. “Oh Jeeze, I can’t stand it anymore” he
at that moment, all of us took a deep breath and braced ourselves for what
was about to happen. Worked into near frenzy helped by ample “liquid
courage”, we could only stare toward the far side of the track where the
horses were mulling around by the starting gate. One by one, as the
assistant starters began to lead the horses into their respective stalls,
a squeaky voice from amid the group yelled out... “Oh no ...did
you see that?” Jim pointed... “I can’t believe it... look...
HE WAS FRACTIOUS AT THE GATE.”
was intense with apprehension. It was definitely white knuckle time, no
question! Just when everything seemed to be taking an eternity, a sharp
voice crackled over the track’s intercom..... “Aaaaaaaaand they’re
us seemed to exhale at once. The pungent smell of good whiskey permeated
the air about us. Kids fingers were interwoven through the holes of the
chainlink fence as they began to shriek since it seemed appropriate that’s
what kids do best anyway. A split second later, Chuck pointed across the
track screaming to us comrades... “Did you see that? The son of a bitch!
“THE ASSISTANT STARTER HELD HIS TAIL!”
don’t think so” came an immediate
correction from Larry to his right, giving Chuck a sharp backhand across
his chest. “
THE JOCKEY WAS ASLEEP WHEN THE GATE OPENED...
that’s why 
HE WALKED OUT OF THE GATE!”
think Larry’s right!” cried David
above the roar of the crowd.
“DAMN!” I shouted...
HE SHOULD HAVE GONE TO THE LEAD!”
jumped in by yelling “what’d you expect...
THE JOCKEY ALMOST FELL OFF,  THE
turned out, we were all wrong. It just so happened that
 THE JOCKEY
LOST HIS IRONS as
 HE WAS
KNOCKED OFF STRIDE COMING OUT OF THE GATE.
didn’t help matters any either, when 
ANOTHER HORSE CLIPPED HIS HEELS
and  HE LOST A SHOE.
Nevertheless, the Jockey held on for dear life; his knees pinching
Andover’s withers with all the strength he could muster.
was losing it. He grabbed both his ears, and with eyes and mouth agape, he
just stared at the action on the far side of the track before screaming
 HE STEPPED
IN A HOLE”!
up in the heat of the moment, Larry again corrected by shouting back over
his shoulder, “No he didn’t... 
HE JUMPED OVER A HOLE IN THE TRACK!”
all beside ourselves. The race was beginning to unfold before our eyes as
the tension became incredibly overbearing. We couldn’t seem to focus; only
push and shove each other for position against the rail. It seemed obvious
to our thinking, that 
THE EARLY PACE WAS TOO MUCH.
Andover was definitely in trouble; wasting precious energy since
 HE WAS
TOO CLOSE TO THE EARLY PACE by
now. We were convinced nothing could save us!
were beginning to accept our fate since
 THE JOCKEY DID NOT RATE HIM.
Andover was “done for” was all that loomed in our minds.
glanced over at Gary who was fixated on the race, peering through his
binoculars when he could only surmise... “Guys, it looks to me like
HE WAS CLIMBING, NOT RUNNING!”
Gary shouted... “Wait!! What’s this? I don’t understand it ...
THE JOCKEY HIT HIM LEFT HANDED
when I specifically gave him other instructions!”
THE JOCKEY SHOULDN’T HAVE HIT HIM
at all”... growled Chuck, who’s face was beet red and gnarled into
continued to scold... “I told him once if not a dozen times
HE NEEDED A STRONGER HAND RIDE!”
“Damn it!” was the last thing Gary was heard to say before lowering
his glasses and turning away to look up at the overcast sky.
somehow, Andover Forest managed to find his stride so it seemed. By this
time, we were a mass of babbling idiots; jumping to all kinds of
conclusions. Someone quickly pointed out,
HE WAS TRYING TO BEAR OUT ALL THE WAY”
to our dismay since
HE LOST TOO MUCH GROUND ON THE OUTSIDE.
It was obvious the Jockey had to do
something, but  THE JOCKEY
MOVED TOO SOON which was another
mistake since  THE JOCKEY HAD
TO TAKE HIM UP.
“Christ!” belched Chuck.“Look
at that s.o.b. now! 
HE WAS TRYING TO GET IN ALL THE WAY
when the Jock should know better
 IT WAS TOO DEEP ON THE RAIL.”
“Jesus, we’re finished!” Bobby
agreed with Chuck.
started to get the dry heaves as Andover neared the ½ mile pole, convinced
THE JOCKEY MOVED TOO LATE citing
GOT PINCHED BACK AT THE TURN.”
Then just as Andover began to make a charge for home,
 HE WAS
BLOCKED IN THE STRETCH.
enough at this point! We were completely devastated and couldn’t bear to
look anymore! Larry and Doc could only hold each other, tears
streaming down their cheeks. Rich and Bobby just hung on to the rail,
staring at the dirt as if praying to the almighty “white bowl God”.
beginning to feel dizzy, so I closed my eyes and leaned against Dan to
prop myself up on whiskey wearied legs. Dan just stood there and didn’t
flinch. He was stone motionless, like a Cigar Store Indian; mute with
shock. Jim just made a mock gesture of “throwing in the towel” and turned
away. All this time, Bill kept staring on in agony, holding his breath
nearly the entire trip until at last he needed to gasp for air. Bill
snapped his head around to look at Chuck when he heard him say, “We’re
done now, Goddam it...he’s all used up!
 HE SPIT OUT
his back to the race, Chuck threw his glass against the pavement
shattering it in disgust before collapsing with his back against the fence
knowing the race would soon be OVER!
quickly as the crowd noise elevated to its crescendo, it faded to a dull
hush as the horses crossed the wire. You could see dozens of people
tossing “betting slip confetti” into the air while others jumped up and
down or ran to be first in line at the windows.
us? We were totally spent.... completely exhausted from our efforts. We
just hung there in various positions of repose when the tingling of Gary’s
cell phone suddenly brought us somewhat out of a stupor.
“Congratulations!” Kevin barked from
the other end. “You must be real proud of yourself!”
 HE JUST
DIDN’T RUN HIS RACE TODAY.” Gary
quietly responded, watching the horses pulling up on the far turn before
returning for unsaddling in front of the grandstand.
are ya talkin’ about,” Kevin
shouted. “I caught the race on simulcast. Everyone should be going crazy
you’re right about that, Kevin,”
Gary responded, glancing over at us in bemusement before cutting Kevin off
with, “It’s a long story and I gotta get Andover now. Talk at ya later!”
clicking off the phone.
puzzled, just staring into his cell phone saying aloud to himself, “what
does he mean... he just didn’t run his race today... I don’t get it?”
looking up at the TV monitors...
son of a gun just won!!”