Always Dreaming. That pretty much describes me. And it is also the name of the current favorite in tomorrow’s Run For The Roses. He would be a natural “name bet” for me, and he may catch some of that action from me, but that is not where my primary betting interest lies. Always Dreaming is the 5 horse. My betting interest is in the 5 – 10 exacta box.
I am forever tied to those numbers. They are markers for some of the biggest wins and the worst bad beats I have taken. Then there is the mystical coincidence that the two women who I was with for those wins and losses would have their birthdays be May 10th and October 5th. And, of course, they were 180 degree opposites. More on that as the story unfolds, but rest assured, The Twilight Zone is present here.
Throw in horse racing and The Kentucky Derby and I am hoping that I may have the makings of a good story here. Like I said, Always Dreaming. Horse racing is a good place for dreaming. I love it. Everything about it. The sights. The smells. The action. The real stars of the show, the horses.
I got an early start at going to the track. I went with my Papa. Papa was my grandfather on my mother’s side. Papa loved the ponies. He had an egg and cheese stand at the old 55th Street Market which was an early bird biz and allowed him to get to wherever they were running at any of the Cleveland area’s four racetracks in time to make the Daily Double. Yes, there was a time when there were four active racetracks around Cleveland, Ascot Park in Cuyahoga Falls, Cranwood Park, Randall Park and Thistledown. Now, only Thistledown remains. I have winner circle pictures of Papa and me at Randall Park from 1957 and 1958. They are the wall right in front of me now.
Now, all that said, I am not that much of a gambler. A horse player that is not much of a gambler. That is some kind of an oxymoron, if there ever was one. And in my case, put the emphasis is on the moron part. I play name bets, number bets and I bet on gray horses. There is not any thought that goes into those bets. Those are like playing scratch off lottery tickets which is full on moronic. What’s involved in those bets is that I am always dreaming. And there is the exception to the Only Morons Make Name Bets, Number Bets, Silk Color Bets and Horse Color Bets Rule. Sentiment trumps reason. Emotional ties get a pass, not to be mistaken for a winning ticket, which seldom enters the picture. A small price for a few minutes of pleasant dreaming, provided, of course, that you aren’t a moron and only made a small bet.
Betting on horses is different from other types of sports betting because there are more than two teams competing at the same time unlike a football, baseball or basketball game. The legal sports books in Vegas have found the ways they can expand the wagering on those games but not to the extent that horse racing has with its exotic wagering that can have million-dollar payout pools. Betting on horses has a lot more dream quality than betting on a football game from my perspective. And a lot more possible outcomes in every race.
Of course, there is always the flipside to a sweet dream, a horrifying nightmare. They occur more regularly than sweet dreams coming true. This is a sport where many times the outcome is determined by examining a photograph, thus the photo finish. That adds some drama to the dream/nightmare. I’ve been on both sides of that coin. It’s inspirational.
Looking like a winner and I’m wearing a grin.
And then I took one straight on the chin.
I hate to kvetch
But coming down the stretch….
I actually thought I could win.
Then Horse Racing’s Fickle Finger of Fate,
When I was one jump from something great,
Wouldn’t let me close.
I got beat by a nose…..
All it takes for the thrill to deflate.
I’ll have much more to say about Horse Racing’s Fickle Finger of Fate. In fact, it reached out and tickled me while I am sitting here writing this story, but before I can tell you about that, I need to tell you more about the 5-10 exacta. The Birthday Girls bets. The odds of marrying two women whose birthdays were May 10th and October 5th are 133,225 to 1. That is long odds. That’s nothing. Both died from pancreatic cancer. The odds of that happening is 1/10,000 X 1/10,000 = 1/100,000,000. That is lottery odds. I didn’t win the lottery. I have these two angels sitting on my shoulders.
And as previously stated, these two were 180 degree polar opposites and the only thing they had in common was that they loved me which may have the longest odds of all. Mimi was a fun-loving woman with great disdain for accountability. Arleen’s idea of fun was making fun of me and she worked off “to do” lists. Mimi was, “What do you mean there’s no money in the account? There’s still checks in the checkbook.” Arleen was, “Kravitz, if you don’t fuck this up, you’ll never have to worry about money again.” Mimi was, “Honey, I love you so much that it wouldn’t matter if we were a cook and a waitress at Denny’s living in a one-bedroom apartment, as long as we are together.” Mimi is the only woman who ever will say something like that to me. Be assured, Arleen did not. Helene, either, for that matter. Arleen would tell me, “Kravitz, I need some alone time, go hit a bucket of balls.” She also bought me golf lessons.
We lived lifetimes in the short time we had together. Mimi and I took care of two of her grandchildren for eighteen months when her daughter went to Iraq in 2003; they were in the first and third grade when we got them. I had just turned fifty. We were living in an 1100 sq. ft. house built in 1920. We loved every minute of it. Arleen got me through a three-year ordeal of having a jaw reconstruction. I can’t imagine having to go through that without her.
So here I am with these two very different angels perched up on my shoulders. I need to make something clear here. How people view life after death is a matter of faith and personal choice. I choose to believe they are on the other side but also very close by. So, close, that I can feel their presence both separately and together. So close… they can play some supernatural game and make a 5-10 / 10-5 exacta happen. In my overactive imagination, I see them up on the 5 & 10 battling hard in the stretch trying to be the one that hits he wire first. There is whole sitcom of what goes on between them going on in my imagination every day. Why shouldn’t I believe it? Didn’t Clemson win on the last play of the greatest college football game ever played and didn’t I not only experience the joy of being an alum, but also cash a 7-1 prop bet? Those things happened. Long odds. However, I did not give the girls credit for Clemson. I do, on the other hand, truly believe they can fix a horse race.
Mimi’s birthday was May 10th. She is the 5-10 side of the box. Arleen’s birthday was October 5th. She’s the 10-5 side. If I am playing horses and I see races with ten horse fields or larger, I am playing a $1 5-10 exacta box. Cost me $2. I’ll pay $2 for a sweet daydream that only lasts fifteen minutes; a daydream about those two angels getting the 5 and 10 to the finish line 1-2, no preferred order other than the obvious longer odds on top.
I’ve hit a couple. The last and biggest was just hit two weeks ago in Vegas. We caught a 10-5 for $162.00. The five was 20 to 1 and the 10 was 7 to 1. No way Arleen was letting me cash a 5-10 with the 5 coming in at 20 to 1. Nope, she got the 10 there on the last jump. I’m not crying about $162 for a buck, but if the 20 to 1 gets there, it’s three times as much. The first was also in Vegas. My first trip after Arleen died. She was just starting to get a feel for “intervening” in my life. I hit a 10-5 exacta in the second last race I bet after three straight days of all day playing. The 10 came in easy. At 1 to 5. I barely got my $2 back. Arleen was not one to encourage my horse playing. We were at Sam Houston for a night out with some friends. We were in the paddock looking at the horses and there was a first time lasix just crawling out of its skin. I told her that this horse, at 10 to 1, was either going to win or come in last. She threw down $10 to win. It won. She happily cashed her winner. But there’s more to that story. My buddy and I split a trifecta box that came in and paid $1500.00 for a dollar. We were excited. Chest bumping excited. Arleen was not.
“Ok, you two knuckleheads calm down. Every one’s looking at you. You’ll never make it to your cars. And you two idiots better not even think for one second about coming back here and doing it again because this was a one-time only.” That’s Arleen.
Not Mimi. Mimi loved playing the horses. She lived very close to Del Mar and she was there making bets for her husband all the time. She could read a racing form and she also knew her way around a horse. She grew up on a horse farm. She was a good paddock picker. She wasn’t afraid to take a chance. She married me.
So that is why I bet every 5-10 exacta box when I am playing. Sooner or later the moon and the stars are going to align and a “signer” 5-10/10-5 is going to come in. A “signer” is this – “in 1978, Treasury was trying to make sure that windfall gambling profits didn’t escape detection by the IRS. It chose to define a big win as one that returned $300 or more for each $1 wagered. Under today’s rules, a winner must complete IRS Form W-2G if he hits a 300-for-1 payoff and collects $600 or more. If the payoff is $5,000 or greater, the IRS withholds 25 percent. Thus a player hitting a pick six worth $10,000 will collect just $7,500. That trifecta I mentioned earlier was a “signer.” One came in while I have been sitting here. Of course, I didn’t bet it. A 30 to 1 on top of a 10 to 1 in the ninth at Churchill Downs. Came in 5-10. Paid $932.20 for a dollar.
Tickle, tickle. And when you are getting tickled by a Fickle Finger of Fate, regardless the circumstances, it usually comes with some irony or insult to injury or some other “utz” from The Dark Side to amplify “the agony of defeat.” This was no different. I’m sitting here trying to write this essay and I have TVG, the horseracing network, on behind me. One of the studio commentators had been touting the 10 before the race. He sees the results of the race and exclaims on live television, “Oh my God, I’m nauseous.” I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Better than crying.
But I don’t cry about things like losing horse races. I save my crying for important things. And then I dry my tears and keep on keeping on….with a couple of angels on my shoulders.
By the way – Always Dreaming, the 5, won the Kentucky Derby. The 10 failed to fire. What a surprise!