June 26, 2006

Just realized it but Wayne Whebby’s excellent FEELIN FRISKIE is indeed the Artiscape colt originally named ARTER DUER which sold at Harrisburg in 2004. Oh well at least we didn’t name a stiff after the honorable squire of Peninsula Farms.

Back then we didn’t consider ourselves GAMBLERS. Rather we were HORSEPLAYERS that dabbled on horse racing via the pari mutuels and/or distinguished gentlemen known as turf accountants who were readily available in most neighborhoods. The services of the latter were mainly utilized when one could not actually get to the racetrack.

Can still remember the sheer exhilaration of approaching Roosevelt Raceway with its bright lights, traffic tie ups, tip sheet hawkers, and never ending streams of humanity pouring out from the fleets of buses- cascading through the tollgates into a bustling area where every night resembled a microcosm of Times Square on New Years eve.

Those people were horseplayers and it was a fraternity you earned your way into. “Hey kid get the hot dogs” the middle aged driver of the neighborhood shuttle car would insist and gimme a 5-3 double two times on the way back. For that he slammed a tenner in your hand. This meant four bucks went on 5-3 before you even thought of punching your own combo. You obtained the frankfurters from the remaining $6 and made sure all the leftover change was returned intact. You did not pocket it. It was not a tip. Since rookie inclusion in the carload up was a privilege, being dispatched for hot dogs was the appropriate and expected rite of passage.

The same faces inhabited the same areas night after night. It was a way of life. Everybody had favorite horses. Certain horses got bet religiously regardless of whether they figured or not as segments of the crowd had virtually adopted them. We would never miss a night when favorite horses were racing almost as if we shared in the ownership. Over the years we probably churned enough on “favorite” horses to at least approximate a down payment.

Guys would heatedly debate the respective merits of the metropolitan center fielders Mickey, Say Hey Willie and The Duke as if they knew them personally. Immediately after the free-for-all the dialogue switched to Overtrick, Cardigan Bay, Tarquinius and Meadow Skipper, as they too were larger than life. Before them it was Adios Butler, Bye Bye Byrd, Widower Creed, Tar Boy, O’Brien Hanover and Speedy Pick.

Then there were those times we left the track with empty pockets save for two dimes needed for the 20 cent toll on The Meadowbrook where it veered into the loop. (Yes the same toll plaza where Sonny C got whacked) However if a favorite horse won, it was consolation. As a rule the group winner was always good for the obligatory nightcap “coffee and” and if no one won, we’d all pool our loose change and make do..

After all there was always tomorrow night and if we won big, GAM WAH awaited!
If we broke even there was always the Texas Ranger.

Was it just the mere impressionistic exuberance of youth or were those times really as magical as they still seem to this day?

And if it were just the illusionary exuberance of youth than it is indeed lamentable that so many generations of contemporary youth have never and will never get the opportunity to ponder just that question.

Yeah Toody Barasch! Lets have artichokes for Jamin, a goat for Kracovie and a visa and safe passage through a South American shooting war for Thomas Atkins. Those were indeed the days,

Racing commission in Delaware looking to emulate Ontario by random spot testing. Someone said that could impact a “right to privacy”. Duh… don’t the fans have any rights to a fair shake?

Bob Marks



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