Several years ago I had a free Southwest Airlines ticket that expired at the end of February. The President’s Day weekend was the perfect excuse to get away for three days, and I settled on New Orleans.
After consuming several beers the night before I was scheduled to leave, I called the airline and changed my destination to Little Rock, Arkansas. And by Little Rock, I mean Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Sure, I could get hammered on Bourbon Street, but I could get just as drunk at the race track. And my weekend could be spent playing exacta boxes instead of trying to decide if the chick sitting next to me was actually a dude.
I landed in Little Rock around 10 AM, and paid a cabbie $75 to drive the 40 miles or so to the track. He stopped by his office to get his paycheck and said, “I think I might spend the day at the track myself.”
Saturday at the track was fairly uneventful. I made several trips to the windows in between beers, and managed to show a slight profit for the day. And then I stumbled back to the crap-hole of a motel where I was staying.
Now, I knew that my friends and family wouldn’t appreciate my change in destinations. So, whenever one of them would call, I would say something like, “Yeah, I’m drinking a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s.”
They were on a need-to-know basis, and certainly didn’t need to know I was spending the holiday weekend playing the ponies.
Before I left for the track on Sunday, I reserved a spot on a shuttle bus for the following morning. The shuttle would take me to the airport in Little Rock for $20 cash.
At the track, I got my ass handed to me early. Bombs were closing from the clouds and paying inflated prices. I made a trip to the cash shitter and withdrew the daily maximum amount.
By the time the tenth and final race came around, I had $60 left in my pocket. Common sense should have told me to hold back $20 for the shuttle ride. But I had a good feeling about the number seven horse – Vivid Reality.
I walked to the window and told the teller, “$30 to Win and Place on #7.”
As I made my way through the grandstand on the way outside, I wondered what in the hell I had just done. If the 3/2 chalk didn’t light the board, I would be hitchhiking to the airport.
And they’re off…
I couldn’t watch the race, so I lowered my head and listened intently to track announcer Terry Wallace. As the four year old and upward fillies and mares turned for home, he said the two words that every horseplayer wants to hear describing their horse – “drawing away.”
I cashed the ticket for a little over $100, and left the track. I thought about staying for the Santa Anita simulcast and the evening card from Southland Greyhound Park. But I decided against tempting fate.
Besides, I needed to come up with some good stories from my weekend in New Orleans.
A little more action please.