Apr 3 2013

Betting On The Grey Horse

One of the really fun things about a day at the race track is you can make it whatever you want it to be. There are NO RULES. Unlike other sports; where you HAVE to sit in your assigned seat, you HAVE to purchase food and drink from vendors, and the only place you can wander is to the bathroom and back.

Neal and Poppy with Hat

Neal and Poppy at Saratoga

At the racetrack; you can get all dressed up (including that very special hat), sit in the clubhouse, and bet on the Grey horse.  You can put on your shorts, fill up the cooler with drinks and sandwiches, and find a nice spot under a shady tree.  You can wander the grounds, soaking up the atmosphere (and a nice cold beer) while you watch the horses and people. Or, you can combine some of the above like my friend Poppy here; wear the hat, skip the clubhouse, find a nice picnic table in the sun, and wander about looking for the trainer who is wearing a tie. (A story for a future article).

With that said, while you can have fun visiting the racetrack a couple of times a year … wearing the hat and betting on the grey horse, it’s probably going to wear thin after that.  It’s hard to remain interested in something you’re not connected to or really understand. Or as Carmine Falcone says in Batman Begins, “You always fear what you don’t understand.”

Imagine for a moment you went to a baseball game without any prior knowledge of baseball.  You’re an immigrant from East Cnorky, and they only play badminton.  You see these guys scattered around this so-called baseball diamond, but only some of them are actually in the diamond.  The others are wandering out in the field, which explains why you hear them called outfielders.  As the game progresses, you hear the announcer say “the bases are loaded,” “it’s a foul ball,” and “it’s a suicide squeeze play.”  And you start to wonder about the player safety in this game.

But you pay attention and start to notice patterns; like people cheering whenever someone hits the ball.  Though you’re not sure why players sometimes stand on the little white bag on the field after hitting the ball, and other times they return to the hole in the ground from where they had sprung, occasionally throwing down their wooden stick.  And you’re curious why the players are always spitting.  No-spitting seems like a good rule, and it might keep the ball from getting foul.

Home Plate Welcome

Photo by Kevin Harber

After a couple of hours you sense the excitement in the crowd growing.  There are three guys standing on the little white bags, the fans are standing on their feet and wildly waving their towels and cheering. The pitcher throws the ball, the catcher catches it, and the umpire shouts Ball Four!

Now, despite the fact that the man with the stick did not hit the ball, the man on the third white bag trots home, the crowd goes wild, players run out onto the field, and the games is over. And you’re thinking, “What the heck?” You’re excited, because everyone else is excited, but you have no idea what just happened.

Let’s return to the racetrack.  The announcer says “It’s now post time.” The gates open, the crowd comes to life, you hear the horses thunder by as everyone is shouting … and you’re cheering.  Why?  It’s because the grey horse won the race.  So you high-five the guy next to you, who’s also shouting, and pumping his fist, and then he says:

“That’s what I’m talking about.  Uncontested speed, best angle in the business; drop into Maiden Claimers; and cutback from route to sprint.  Easy pickings!”

He walks away, waving his winning ticket overhead, and you think to yourself, I thought it was because the horse was grey.

Wearing the hat, people watching, and betting on the grey horse are fun things to do (once or twice a year).  But if you really want to become a fan of horse racing, there is so much more to learn … and enjoy.  If you stick with me, I’ll show you.

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

3 comments on “Betting On The Grey Horse

  1. Hey Neal, I used to go to the races and just bet on the Grey horse. But, after attending one of your seminars a couple of years ago, I’m a lot more comfortable now at the racetrack. Your teaching style was fun and was truly based on your experience. I look forward to learning more thru your website.
    Your friend Poppy looks like a real character. Maybe I’ll run into you at Saratoga this summer.

    • Thanks Ed. I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the materials on the Website, since they originated from my seminar materials. But with the change in medium to web pages, I can add so much more. And a few stories as well. Hope to see you at The Spa.

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