Race Rage

What exactly is race rage you ask? Race rage is an aggressive or angry behavior by a spectator or other participants of the horse racing sport. Such behavior might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately throwing useless square pieces of paper in an unsafe or threatening manner onto the ground. Fierce shredding of these paper products do occur in some cases. Threats are not uncommon.

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to go to Turf Paradise anymore let alone place any worthwhile wagers. Recent calls by the Stewards and multiple disqualifications make it frustrating to the Owners, Trainers, Jockeys, and us WiseGuys who love the sport.

I personally have witnessed horsemen and players screaming at the Stewards from below and actually waiting for them to walk down from the catwalk from the Stewards booth and into the grandstand just to give them a tongue-lashing of a lifetime.

At first, for me there was sympathy for them as I watched them walk down the stairs, staring straight ahead seemingly in a hurry to get home. Little did I know, it was their way of handling the race rage they would bring on by the race decisions they made early in the day. Much like an elderly person behind the wheel in the fast lane of the freeway going somewhere between 40 and 45. Eyes straight-ahead, half a pedal to the metal, oblivious to the outside world’s relentless honking and light flashings.

I really felt sorry for them in the beginning but as time went on, I too was feeling the need to let off some of that bad-call steam they seem to so easily deserve. All this time I thought they were the innocents of the intermittent explosive disorder but the facts were becoming clearer and clearer as to who the culprit was of the generated anger.

I one time even chuckled at my wife’s sudden and deliberate scolding from afar, pointed directly at the dilapidated tree house hanging up in the grandstand ceiling. That day, the Gods of the Shack took two of her winners in successive races down and she wasn’t a very happy camper. A 12 to 1 and a 17 to 1. I could say I had never heard her spew the words of disgust as she did that day but that would not be true. I can say I have heard the same words directed at me but it had nothing to do with horses.

Does everyone remember how Goldikova was given a Fast Pass because of her recognition in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup? What were they thinking? Bad on them and bad on me as I had Courageous Cat in the mix. What if you had Gio Ponti, who finished fourth, in the trifecta? Oh, my wife did. Holy bejesus! But I bit my lip that day because I felt sorry for the Gods.

But wait, , , wait, , , wait for it. Now here it is. A breathe-taking Bruce Lee sternum kick like no other you’ve ever experienced. Caught in the act of paying attention to the race. The 2011 Breeder’s Cup Stewards in action. Ta-da!

I wonder what the score was at the Kentucky-Ole Miss football game!

Okay so there is a little disgust in my voice. There ought to be. The last real Friday of the meet and I again let my shields down and went to the track for a late night Friday extravaganza. Live music to boot even though it was some Mexican 4-man band that played the same music over and over all day. That day dawned under a perfect blue sky and by dusk we were giddy with anticipation of the last race of the card and to top it off, it would be under the light. Yes, that’s right, the light. Turf Paradise has only one spotlight and it shines down from a spot above the Gods of the Booth directly on the finish line inside rail.

Well we had our pick. Several of us decided to ride the 9 horse at 21 to 1 and because of our uncanny horse sense, just knew we were going to hit. We pooled our cash, gathered all the vouchers, turned in a couple of weak ticket winnings and placed our sizable bankroll confidently on the soon-to-be winner. Dinner was calling and we would eat like Kings tonight.

As they loaded into the gate, Pink mentioned how he felt like Jay Trotter in ‘Let it Ride’ and quoted, “I’ve done nothing to deserve this anguish.” We all laughed and leaned over the rail, heads turned to the stretch. The Mayor quipped to me, “Hey, move that big head of yours I can’t see the gate.” We laughed again feeling assured of the outcome.

The bell rang, the gates opened and nine axe handles exploded out at super high speed. The seven crossed behind our 9 and cleared the pack on the outside from our viewpoint. I was tunnel-visioned and could only see turquoise. “Looks good, looks really good, cmon, use the &^&%*(*&^ whip!” I screamed. In seconds it was over. They went by so fast the race was a blur and because we were a few feet short of the line we couldn’t tell if the 1 horse beat our beloved number 9. Pink spouts another famous quote of Trotter, “Did I win? Did I WIN? SON-OF-A-BITCH! GOD LIKES ME! HE REALLY, REALLY, LIKES ME! WHAT A DAY! WHAT A FABULOUS DAY!”

Thirty seconds later and Whalah! The tote lit up #9 as the winner with #1 second followed by some others who we didn’t care about finishing third and fourth. I think I vaguely remember the 4 horse being third. High fives were everywhere and Pink even chest bumped a stranger knocking the air from him for a second. Then The Mayor announced the change in the board. “Objection,” he voiced aloud. We turned to see the sign ablaze but no numbers were blinking. The announcer began his speech of distain. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the rider of the eight horse has claimed foul against the rider of the four horse for interference during the running of the ninth race.”

A sigh of relief as it was’nt on our champion. Then we waited and waited and waited and. . . I could keep going on with the waiting but you get the point, we needed it official. Then someone in the crowd said he heard one of the horsemen say, “They’re looking at the nine too.” I just lowered my head and faced the rail. I could feel the heat from the hell above watching us in anticipation and glee of the pain they were about to rain down upon us.
We turned and walked up the apron side by side toward the exit. The announcer’s voice came back on the intercom. I already knew.

Watch the replay for yourself.

After the announcement we all turned back around and walked back to the rail. Spinning in unison, we focused our eyes toward the booth wishing they were hot laser beams cutting out the floor of the shack. The light went off and we could see the announcer leave his position. The rear door to the catwalk opened and one by one in single file three people scurried to the locked gate that leads down to the grandstand. Two men and a woman dressed in suits with the brim of their hats pulled down over their brows hustled down the steps shuffling their little disgusting feet as they walked and disappeared into the darkness of the back stairwell. We knew where they would come out.

Race rage had set in as we couldn’t stop the tsunami of hatred overflowing the apron. Pink partaked in fierce shredding. The Mayor scoffed at the bartender as he tossed the bottlecan of Budweiser in the overflowing cardboard waste can. Together as one, we walked determinedly toward the stairwell opening. A great quote by Aeschylus the Greek tragedian came to mind as we neared the stairwell opening. “God’s most lordly gift to man is decency of mind,” he profoundly said in one of his plays.

But again I knew. Back in 500 BC they didn’t have Stewards to contend with. Chariot jockeys just killed you if you interfered with a wheel or a horse. Even then honor and decency was crucial to the race and the greek trackers expected the perpetrator of the hindrance to be valiant even in death.

We stood silent as we could barely hear the quiet steps of soft soled shoes coming from within and up in the darkness. The cowards thought they were being sneaky by wearing Old Friend men’s loafers with rubber soles. I imagined them holding hands and hunched over as they descended. I could hear Pink as he filled his huge lungs with air. The sound of the steps neared, Pink held his breath.

Decency was about to leave the oval again.

The End

“The best part of life starts at the top of the stretch.”
The WiseGuy

Click here to read more stories in The WiseGuy Diaries

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