The Breeder's Cup weekend at Santa Anita brings back memories of my worst losing streak ever, which was no small event.
Everybody experiences periods when they couldn't handicap the video replay. But usually during bad streaks, you come close. A 20-1 shot runs third. A favorite carrying your entire credit card balance runs second. This particular weekend my selections were toxic and should have been handled by robotic arms locked in a sealed clean room and hooked to a betting machine. Halfway through the Saturday card, tellers began shying away when I approached the counter. I went zero for the weekend on bets, minus expenses for a tastefully decadent boutique hotel room with a three-night minimum, minus air fare, minus car rental, and minus pounds of ATM cash, and withdrawal service charges galore.
A tastefully decadent boutique hotel in LA is a small and brightly painted one where at least one halfway famous celebrity died of natural causes in a room, or was murdered.
Santa Anita is the worst place in the world to get caught in a losing streak. It's so pretty. The weather is perfect. Showing off is required.
Not cashing a ticket for two days can change your personality.
After missing a dozen races featuring almost every type of wager imaginable, I made two good-sized show bets and whiffed on both of them.
Moods alternated from sour to fast talking simulated joy.
Every negative gambling element can come into play over a Breeder's Cup weekend.
First off, being at the Cup live is a social event. I was with some movie people on this occasion. Most everybody in LA is a movie person, even the jockeys. Most everybody in LA has also been involved in a multi-million dollar law suit over movie rights. My law suit was for $50 million, $75 million, somewhere in there. It has to do with who owned something I had written and was settled out of court. Four people from our side in this law suit were at my Breeder's Cup table, none of whom were quite sure which end of a horse went around the track first. Being the horse racing "expert," all four newcomers to the races went with my selections, pushing twenties and fifties through the windows like the money grew on trees; which it actually did, I said after losing five or six in a row, money did grow on trees, money and trees both being paper.
After a while, nobody spoke.
As my selections kept breaking bad and experiencing trouble and running slower than they had ever gone before, I began showing everybody my losing tickets like they were fighting scars and at least a little something to be proud of. It was hard to bet $2 if they were risking and losing hundreds. So I had to up my wagers.
The crowds at the windows were such that you had to bet early to keep from being shut out, which would have been heaven-sent.
Two of my guests just up and left without a word.
Being caught in a slump at a high profile horse race event is like teeing off on number ten after having just dumped one in the drink on the hole before. When panic sets in, you revert to old habits. Forget the new feathery golf grip, you take the driver like a Louisville Slugger and swing for the fences. At the Breeder's Cup having just missed four consecutive three-horse exacta boxes, I said that I liked the favorite in the next one and made a big win bet and watch sorrowfully as it broke like it had been dreaming of running on hot coals.
My notes of this weekend have skulls and crossbones in the margins.
The next two guests left before the last race to beat the traffic and to avoid any others who had been following my picks and were thinking about jumping off the top deck.
"Watch this," I said to my wife at the time. "Now that they're gone and will never speak to us again, I'll hit this next race."
Missed it by a mile.
Upon further review, the best Breeder's Cups wagering experiences have been anti-social hard-core handicapping exercises following two or three weeks off all betting to eliminate any bad vibes.
Write to Jay at email@example.com.