Gone, but not forgotten

One day not long ago, I had the Exacta when my horse moved inside and almost clipped the rail and straightened up and came on to win, not by his full nose, but rather by the skin of it. There only one problem. I couldn't find my bet, my ticket.

On those good occasions when I am alive on a pick three ticket with a double-figure horse already having won, my wagering can become frenzied as freaky combinations are covered - dollar here, couple there. First-time starters turn me into a Monkish handicapper, Monk the obsessive compulsive television sleuth who has to eliminate all germs and pollutants and particles of dust before turning on a lamp. I once lost a Pick Six to a first-time starter with bad works, no connections, no breeding, a poor coat and no betting support: there was nothing to promote a rush to the windows for a saver. Ever since, I have a phobia-type fear of first-timers. It looks lame? The jockey seldom works? The trainer is the owner? No workouts? The sire pulls a wagon? Fine, put it on top of some dollar Exactas as insurance on a possible bigger payoff. I wouldn't be surprised if I had, somewhere in the IRS container of lost causes, a $1 box of five first-timers. I know every bet I have made on a race. But in checking the numbers, and paying for the bets, and watching the odds, and covering this and canceling that: The $10 Exacta ticket that was worth more than $300 was gone.

The first thing you think of in a situation like this is nobody is dumb enough to misplace the fruit of his labor, a shining product of one's creativity. So you keep going through your tickets again and again and again; surely it's stuck to the back of another; surely you'd lost the $3 straight tri saver; surely it's in this pocket; surely it's under the Form; surely it's by the window where I made the bet; maybe a fan blew it into a beer bottle; maybe if I got down on my hands and knees under the bathroom sinks; maybe I should have my head examined.

The winning ticket was gone.

On a more pleasant note, this isn't the Dark Ages. At some tracks, it's close. But most places have betting machines, central air and heat, unblinking light and plumbing, basically everything the contemporary handicapper requires.

Tickets are marked, coded. Once you realize that you have played the idiot by losing your winning-bet ticket, you should inform the teller at the window where you made the wager. Which is why you should make an effort to stay with the same teller. When the bet is located on the computer, the ticket can be cancelled. If it hasn't been cashed. Which is why, after looking through your tickets 35 times, you should hurry to the window.

One of two things can happen if you get your misplaced ticket cancelled in time. One possible outcome is good, the other, not.

If somebody attempts to cash a bet that is not his or hers, which is essentially stealing, the ticket can be confiscated and returned to its rightful owner.

But if the ticket is lost and tossed out, or if the person who found it realizes that a hold has been put on the payoff, something terrible happens. Your money probably goes to a horse. In this state, money from unpaid tickets is added to state-bred races at the next meet.

I had bet this ticket at a machine. The machine didn't speak up and say it remembered me and the wager. As I stood looking for it for 15 minutes, doubting I could have been dumb enough to lose it, somebody cashed the winner at another machine before I could get it cancelled.

If you find a live ticket, turn it in. You could be rewarded twice, once by the rightful owner in the form of a tip, and, if you get that far, again in heaven.