Bouchard 54 Story
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Bouchard's Story about ------ How He and His Group of Buddies Lost the Race

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.............. 

54 EXCUSES!

By Gary Bouchard

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 our passion?

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.”  

Years later, 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” 

Filing these 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.  

Recently, I 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 friend.

What a 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?” 

Oh that?” 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!”  

“You don’t 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.

“No kidding”... 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...

“I’d be happy to, but I think I’ll change the names of those involved to protect the innocent.”

“Whatever 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.

“About a 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, right Daddy?”

“Can’t miss” Bobby reassured; patting little Mikey on the head.  

Everyone was 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 yards. 

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 a little.

 "You look perplexed,” I said... "somethin’ on your mind?”

Our trainer 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...

"well Hell, 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...

"Well... y’all remember his last race, right?”  Taking another dramatic sip, he went on...

“Well, even though it was his first time out...[27] HE JUST DIDN'T RUN HIS RACE.”

“You guys might already suspect [25] HE AIN'T THE SAME HORSE HE WAS EARLIER 'cause I truly believe [26] HE WAS RUINED BY THE HARD TRACK HE CAME FROM.”

Gary paused a bit to look us all over, and then continued... “but y’all just said... ta hell with it, insisting [3] HE'LL DO BETTER NEXT TIME, HE NEEDED THE RACE."   

The drone of our happy conversations became more subdued as the trainer went on....

"I know you’ve all told me you think [47] HE NEEDS HIS RACES CLOSER TOGETHER, so I trained him hard this time to bring him up to peak form. But I think [44] HE LEFT HIS RACE ON THE TRAINING TRACKIn fact, I really think [45] HE NEEDS A REST!"  

There 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!”

Bobby 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?”

The reply came as a recalcitrant... “yes, of course we are”...

“but I am still a little bothered about what happened last time” said Gary.

"After all...pausing to finish his beer... “I just feel [19] IT WASN'T HIS DISTANCE!" Gary tried to explain.  

"I knew it, I just knew it... we came here for nuthin’!”... asserted Dan.

Bobby turned to Gary, his facial expression a little distorted from a healthy gulp of whiskey, and  exclaimed... "That’s hogwash....everyone knows [23] THE TRACK WAS TOO DEEP, and [28] 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 [15] HE DIDN'T LIKE THE TRACK...so what gives?” 

Turning Gary toward me with a gentle grip on his elbow, I queried...

"We don’t understand, Gary... what are you thinking?”

All eyes were riveted on the trainer. Gary whirled his head a bit to face his other challengers trying to explain, “this is different... that [33] 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.”   

Bill took a menacing step toward the trainer and scowled closely in Gary’s face ...

“Oh yeah, and what's that? Sounds like a lot of hedgin’ to me!!”

Not 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. [1] THE WEIGHT WAS TOO MUCH.

[18] 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 lapel.

"Sure 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.  

Now the 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  [39] HIS SIRE WAS ONLY A SPRINTER!"

Not to be outdone, “Doc”quickly countered with... "you're wrong Bozo, that was his broodmare sire! [40] HIS SIRE COULD ONLY WIN AT A MILE AND A HALF!”

Not sure 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.  

In a mild attempt to diffuse the rising tempo, I piped in to say....

"well hell guys, maybe it'll still work...I just think [52] HE NEEDS BLINKERS!"

That only managed to inspire a sharp retort from Chuck to my left, saying...

"that's a lot of crap, [53] HE RUNS BETTER WITHOUT BLINKERS!" 

A little 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!”  

We were 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.   

As we approached the railing encircling the saddling paddock,

Rich 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.

"Look ...[5] 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 [14] HE WAS NERVOUS.

Before 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 crowds.  

As we 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?”

"HELL NO!” came the unhesitating reply. "You heard what the trainer and the others said!” “Besides, didn't you notice; don't you know nuthin’?”

“Huh” 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 [35] HE WASN'T WEARING HIS MUD CAULKS, let alone that [43] THE JOCKEY DID NOT FIT HIM!”... “And another thing...shaking his head in frustration... [2] HE HAD A BAD POST!”  “No sireeeee, Bub.... no bet for me!” 

Content 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...

{our “horsie” was about to race}

Bill broke the silence. “Oh Jeeze, I can’t stand it anymore” he bellowed.

It seems 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...[46] HE WAS FRACTIOUS AT THE GATE.”   

The air 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 off!” 

All of 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!

[48] “THE ASSISTANT STARTER HELD HIS TAIL!” 

“I don’t think so” came an immediate correction from Larry to his right, giving Chuck a sharp backhand across his chest. “[49] THE JOCKEY WAS ASLEEP WHEN THE GATE OPENED... that’s why [50] HE WALKED OUT OF THE GATE!” 

“I think Larry’s right!” cried David above the roar of the crowd.

“DAMN!” I shouted...[29] HE SHOULD HAVE GONE TO THE LEAD!

Doc jumped in by yelling “what’d you expect...[42] THE JOCKEY ALMOST FELL OFF, [31] THE SADDLE SLIPPED!”  

As it turned out, we were all wrong. It just so happened that [34] THE JOCKEY LOST HIS IRONS as [11] HE WAS KNOCKED OFF STRIDE COMING OUT OF THE GATE.

It didn’t help matters any either, when [24] ANOTHER HORSE CLIPPED HIS HEELS and [32] 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. 

David 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 out...

“I think [51] HE STEPPED IN A HOLE”!

Caught up in the heat of the moment, Larry again corrected by shouting back over his shoulder, “No he didn’t... [6] HE JUMPED OVER A HOLE IN THE TRACK!” 

We were 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 [4] THE EARLY PACE WAS TOO MUCH. Andover was definitely in trouble; wasting precious energy since [9] HE WAS TOO CLOSE TO THE EARLY PACE by now. We were convinced nothing could save us!

Yes, we were beginning to accept our fate since [8] THE JOCKEY DID NOT RATE HIM. Andover was “done for” was all that loomed in our minds.

I 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 [16] HE WAS CLIMBING, NOT RUNNING!”

Then Gary shouted... “Wait!! What’s this? I don’t understand it ... [36] THE JOCKEY HIT HIM LEFT HANDED when I specifically gave him other instructions!”  

[37] THE JOCKEY SHOULDN’T HAVE HIT HIM at all”... growled Chuck, who’s face was beet red and gnarled into a knot!

Gary continued to scold... “I told him once if not a dozen times [38] 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. 

But 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,

“Look, [20] HE WAS TRYING TO BEAR OUT ALL THE WAY” to our dismay since

[10] HE LOST TOO MUCH GROUND ON THE OUTSIDE. It was obvious the Jockey had to do something, but [12] THE JOCKEY MOVED TOO SOON which was another mistake since [41] THE JOCKEY HAD TO TAKE HIM UP. 

“Christ!” belched Chuck.“Look at that s.o.b. now! [21] HE WAS TRYING TO GET IN ALL THE WAY when the Jock should know better [17] IT WAS TOO DEEP ON THE RAIL.”

“Jesus, we’re finished!” Bobby agreed with Chuck.

Rich started to get the dry heaves as Andover neared the ½ mile pole, convinced [13] THE JOCKEY MOVED TOO LATE citing [7]“HE GOT PINCHED BACK AT THE TURN.” Then just as Andover began to make a charge for home, [22] HE WAS BLOCKED IN THE STRETCH.  

We had 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”.

I was 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! [30] HE SPIT OUT THE BIT!

Turning 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! 

Just as 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. 

As for 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.

Hello” Gary answered.

“Congratulations!” Kevin barked from the other end. “You must be real proud of yourself!”

“Not exactly Kevin, [54] 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.

“What are ya talkin’ about,” Kevin shouted. “I caught the race on simulcast. Everyone should be going crazy about now!”

“Well 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.

Kevin was 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...

“The son of a gun just won!!”

 GO FIGURE!