When growing up I spent a great deal of time at horse races. I’ve seen standardbred(harness horse) races in NY, NJ, NH, FL, OH, PA, IN, IL, DE, MI, MD, and Ontario Canada. My father owned pacers and trotters off and on for 20 years between the 60’s and 80’s. Only one of the horses my father owned was anything close to famous. His name was Fast Clip, and my father was one of three owners of this horse. Clip finished 2nd in the 2nd heat of the 1972 Little Brown Jug. The pacing version of the Kentucky Derby. The world record at the time for a 3-year-old pacer was 157.0 at the time for a half mile track. Clip went 156.4 but got beat by a horse called Strike Out who went 156.3. It was some race. Fast Clip won almost a quarter million before being retired to stud in 1974.
The only mention I can find of Fast Clip on the internet is here. A one paragraph mention in a long article about a Fast Clip rival, Silent Majority. I wrote this post last year on Joanne Nickells, the late wife of Fast Clip’s driver/trainer/ part owner/business partner of my father, Bruce Nickells.
After selling his NY based hotel business, Dad did the payroll and bookkeeping work for one horse driver(Jockeys are for thoroughbreds) for about 10 years after his semi-retirement and our move to Florida in 1976.
I’ve been to a great many horse races as you can imagine. The first time I went to the parimuteuls, a track where betting was allowed compared to state or county fairs where no gambling took place, was in 1970 at Monticello Raceway in New York. For the next 15 years I went to races almost every summer with my father, and once I was old enough to pass for 18, races all year long in Florida.
I went in the Navy in 1979. However after my training was done, my first duty assignment was the Naval Training Center in Orlando Florida. For a little over 2 years I would frequently visit my parents in South Florida and attend races with my father. After Orlando, I was assigned to Bethesda Naval Hospital. From there I’d sometimes go to races in Laurel Maryland when my father came to stay with me sometimes after my mother died.
At an early age as you may imagine, I learned to read a racing program. In today’s nanny state, would it be some kind of child abuse to teach your son or daughter to gamble at age 9 or 10? I digress, since I rarely had funds and that made gambling impossible but I’d still try picking the winners. Sometimes while attending races in NJ, I had a friend a little older than I who could place bets for us through an adult.
As a gambler I was never more than a $2 better and I did alright on wagers. I never won much money but never lost much either. If you attend 10 races, the worst you will come out is $20 behind. My favorite type of bet was a Quinella, picking the two horses you thought would finish 1-2 in a race, but not necessarily in order. These bets usually win $15-30 dollars on a $2 wager. I can count the times I cashed these tickets for more than $30 on one hand, the most memorable a $125 winner in the early 1980s.
If you’re going to bet on the horses, Quinellas are a pretty good choice. Narrowing a race down to the best two horses isn’t difficult. It doesn’t pay a whole lot, but your odds aren’t bad at suceeding.
After moving to California in late 1985, my horse race attendance dropped off dramatically. Since 1987, I’ve been to the races just twice. I still follow the sport and sometimes blog about it. Because of other forms of gambling, including casinos, horse racing is a dying sport in the US. Many of the tracks I atteneded as a youth are now closed today or in dire financial straits.
Why am writing this? Beginning next month the Florida Lottery will allow people to bet up to $3 on any one set of numbers they pick in the bi-weekly lottery drawings. I must confess my wife plays $6 of tickets on every drawing, that doesn’t prevent me from saying this new type of lotto wager is pure insanity.
Betting $2 on a Quinella is one thing. Some smart Wizbang reader may be able to tell me the odds of picking the first two horses in a race but not in order. I’m sure it isn’t more than the hundreds to one for a nine-horse race.(Update- In a nine-horse race, a gambler can easily elimiate 2-4 horses from the ones to choose from. Either because the horse’s form is off, they are moving up in company, or their driver is so bad he or she needs a map to find their way around the racetrack. An old joke of my father’s, so you’re really picking from 5-7 horses.) Betting $2 or $3 on a 23 million to one shot is craziness. Florida lottery officials are hoping will fall for this insane gamble in order to raise more revenue. The lotto is a sucker bet, any intelligent person will know that. That doesn’t mean the same intelligent people are dumb to throw some loose change on these tickets every week. A few dollars on the lottery, if you can afford it, I see as no worse an expenditure than spending the money on some other pursuits. Like bubble gum, the National Enquirer, and more clothes for the wife who has so much already you’re getting ready to store your own stuff in the car trunk because there is no where else left in the house.
The people who fall for these sucker bets are those who can least afford it, the poor. The Florida lottery wants to exploit these people’s ignorance to fund state programs. Makes you want to bang your head against the wall or give the Florida Lottery a Knucklehead. I’ve already given them at least one award in the past.
As I so often say, you got to love The Sunshine State.