A perk of this job seems to be the occasional arrival of a tip on a horse.
These tips seldom come from a connection's mouth, which is to say, from a high-dollar owner or trainer. These tips come usually come from handicappers just like you and me. And they almost always come with the disclaimer: don't forget this is horse racing. Few tipsters profess to have inside information, which is probably an oxymoron. Only a moron lets inside information out. Inside information is more like a nervous tic than a scoop. Some inside information could be considered crooked. Who could trust a crook; who wants to be one.
Tips that come from handicapping, or tips that come from the goodness of somebody's heart, that has a clubby feel to it, as regular horse players are bonded by similar desires.
I take $2 and bet the tipped horse or horses in what seems like an appropriate manner.
Time was, I'd put more than $2 on a tip. Then the losses began to create a file. To the best of my recollection, I have never collected a dime on a tip. Inside advice sounds ethical. Inside advice is when the owner of a million-dollar horse says in a public place in a normal speaking voice that his animal should win. But it didn't. Football coaches can make winners. Most can't pick them. Most inside advice is right there on the page. I trust my handicapping over a vested interest.
Not to make a token play on a well-meant tip is to disrespect the sender, it's to trash-talk a voodoo priestess.
Once I flew to another state to bet a tip. The tip was given to a friend of mine who had a small private airplane. The tip was from the owner of a horse running in a maiden special race. The tip was that the horse was training like a champion, not exactly out-behind-the-barn material to be whispered. But this particular owner was something of a sourpuss when it came to talking up his barn. This one has no guts. That one has no heart. No brains over there. Training like a champion? Somebody grab a sextant.
This tip came before simulcasts, or telephone or internet wagering. Pull up a chair, Sonny, and let me tell you about the time when I had to walk a block through 100-degree heat to bet a horse tip with a bookmaker.
That flight to the races in another state was but an hour and change on paper. We took off just after sunrise in cartoon weather, clear skies seeming brighter than reality, yellow sunlight all around.
Then, in another state came the clouds, followed by fog.
As we moved through where a valley absolutely had to be, my assignment was to look for airport lights, and listen. Listen for what, TV sounds inside somebody's condo? I didn't like the listening part. The fog was in clumps. Where it was thickest, you couldn't have seen lights searching for E.T.
Our choices were to wait and look for an opening above the small airfield, or fly on to another tiny strip and miss the Double, which included the so-called tip horse.
So we made some small circles, which felt more like a ride at the Fair than flying.
We flew to a lighter area and found some good visibility there.
The ground and landing strip were father below than I had expected, a good result.
The pavement where we pulled to a stop was extremely clean, as though it had been kissed frequently by passengers.
We rented a car and sped to the race track and watched as the horse ran a spirited third.
The first tip of the new year has arrived.
How could it possibly lose.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org