My parents owned thoroughbred race horses for about fifteen years. For those fifteen years, which spanned from when I was in college until they moved to Las Vegas in 1994, the only time I really saw them was at the racetrack. For them the racetracks were Belmont and Aqueduct (aside from an occasional Saratoga Springs or Kentucky Derby… really? Not sure, but I don’t think so to the KD, though SS I know for sure for sure).
Visiting my parents at the racetrack was serious business. They had all kinds of racing forms which they studied in between races. They paid a fortune of money for some special hand generated forms which they picked up religiously every day, like an addict meeting his or her dealer. These numbers were needed to work into their handicapping strategies. Speaking was generally prohibited, unless it was about a horse or an upcoming race.
For me, the betting strategy was simple. I chose horses based upon two criteria:
1. I liked the horse’s name because it had some sort of significance to me;
2. The horse looked ready to run when I went downstairs and looked around before a race.
Obviously I was not taking advantage of the multitude of study guides that my parents found so fascinating, so I had a lot of time to be extremely, terribly, incredibly bored.
My parents stayed for all nine races every day. They rarely left the dining rooms, unless they had a horse running that day, in which case we would visit the horse before the race and then, on a good day, visit the horse and jockey in the Winner’s Circle, where photos were taken.
My parents had a lot of horses. I think they had about twenty at a time sometimes. Their horses lived better than I did. They lived by Belmont and Aqueduct in luxury housing, and ate very expensive food. While I was living on $14,100 a year after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a Masters Degree, their horses were eating delicious fresh meats and fruits and vegetables and I was popping popcorn on the stove of my one bedroom share apartment on the Upper West Side. I was actually jealous of their horses’ lifestyles. I won’t even mention their Bichon Frises, who ate fresh ground sirloin steak every night, nice and warm, with gravy on top.
If you visited my parents at the racetrack you had to eat dinner with them afterwards at 5:15. I don’t know about you, but 5:15 is a bit early for me for dinner. I am not one of those people who wants to go out to eat at 10:30 p.m., but at 5:15 I am usually having a little pre-dinner snack to tide me over rather than dining out in a fancy restaurant. The reasons for eating at 5:15 were simple: the racing was over for the day and my parents did not want to drive all the way home (passing all of their favorite restaurants along the way) only to turn back around and drive back to them an hour or two later.
Needless to say, they didn’t have very many dinner dates for twenty years. Very few people are willing to eat at 5:15 on Long Island six days a week. Why only six days, you ask? Because the track was closed on Tuesdays.
Now maybe you have a glimpse into why they moved to Las Vegas. But more about that another time.