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The loan wolf

I hit a $1 quinella for $200 and then loaned a man a hundred-dollar bill, this, at the horse race simulcast venue. The borrower was a successful businessman.

A quinella is not always the mousy bet the cosmopolitan handicappers might have you believe. You take a low-dollar claiming race where you can't tell a 20-1 shot from a 2-1 shot, and you could do worst at the windows than whisper over a $1 quinella box request. Long shot quinellas at tracks in the hinterland are usually worth more than half the payoff of an Exacta. Quinellas involving short-priced horses are wastes of brain power and money power.

The businessman borrowing the $100 went to the smoking side of the simulcast building and carried on with his handicapping.

An hour or so later, I went to see how he Ð we -- were doing. Somebody in the smoking section said that the man had just left, not a particularly good sign unless he was in the men's room, or had gone to get me a thank-you gift for the loan.

I asked what kind of mood the businessman had been in when he left.

The man in smoking said the usual.

Which was?

"Hangdog."

I was directed to the seat where the businessman with my $100 had been handicapping.

A stack of tickets remained. I had a look at them. My $100 had gone for, among other oddities, a number of straight $1 superfectas. I'm pretty good some days at some tracks. But my average number of hits on full-field cold superfectas bets is arranging one horse correctly about half the time. The businessman had played super after super after super, all straight, all for a buck, all cold, all wrong. I went through a dozen tickets before I found one that even had a paying horse in the wrong place Ð one he used for second had run third.

In another stack of tickets, he had bet $5 to show on the long shots in varying races across America.

Moreover, it appeared that he had gone in search of the biggest prices at any track. Twenty to one hadn't been far-fetched enough. Fifty, sixty to one, that's what he had been thinking about.

No show bets had come close to paying off.

The losing tickets were neatly stacked, as though all this had happened before, a hundred bucks worth to the dollar.

A couple of weeks later, I took a deep breath and returned to the smoking section at the simulcast hall and asked if the businessman who had borrowed the hundred was around.

One of the men in smoking said, "You hadn't heard?"

That's not a good thing to hear anytime. At the horse races, it means your money is gone. In this case, that was nowhere near the most distressing news. The businessman had died of a heart attack.

A considerable period of time later, I introduced myself to the businessman's wife in a social setting and said I was sorry for her loss and that her husband had borrowed a hundred at the races before his untimely and unfortunate passing. I suggested that her husband, always the sportsman, would have wanted me to have the loan back; an absence of any witnesses or paperwork for the transaction aside.

She shook her head no.

RIP.

I always think about this story when somebody asks to borrow some money at the races.

It happened again yesterday, a good man, a little overweight, asking for fifth bucks.

I didn't ask to take his pulse or see his medical charts. But I did ask what he would bet with the fifty. He got angry and said he didn't feel comfortable telling me anything as personal as a wager on a horse, even if it was my money.

He left in a bad mood without the cash, then came back after the next race in a worse humor and said what he would have bet had just won.

I said I knew, I had a ticket on it myself. And I gave him $5.

He seemed insulted but took it.

Horses are about the half of it.