You love it and you know it

Toward the last of the local summer horse race meet here, a man who sounded nice enough called and said that he and his wife had been in town for a funeral.

Strangers at the cemetery, who knows what's appropriate to say before or beyond, "I'm sorry."

The man said that the deceased had enjoyed a lengthy and exciting life.

I thought about asking if the caller had the right number. Then he said that he and his wife were horse race fans, as had been the case of the spirited individual just leaving. The man and his wife collected horse racing venues, the size of the facility no matter, as the smaller tracks oftentimes served as the last dollop of color in a pale and standardized sporting landscape.

The man ringing in said that he had read in the newspaper that the horses were running (to give them the benefit of the doubt) in town tonight. He excused the interruption and asked if I had any brief comments that might make their evening here more enjoyable.

Concerning this local racing, think State Fair Meet. Then think smaller. Think County Fair Meet. Smaller, still. Street Fair? About right. Ours is contemporary racing gone bizarre: Fat purses donated by slot machine junkies pursued by little more than family pets in front of crowds that aren't crowded.

And anytime you talk horse racing, you're not talking Fantasy Island Race Course -- the presence of real money is implied. And one person's fun money is another's serious bill. You say with a casual smile that you like the three in the next race, next thing you know somebody has tapped a credit card for a thousand and is betting it on what you wondered aloud.

I said as much to the caller, told him that I didn't feel comfortable spending another's money. I was a stock broker once, slept with one eye open, worked with both eyes frequently closed, as if in prayer.

The caller laughed and said that they were recreational players, couple of bucks, three there; they were in the game as much for entertainment.

The dearly departed, what are you going to do.

I mentioned two newsworthy items about this track, where they sometimes ran quarter horses without having enough room to run a quarter of a mile; talk about color.

First: The shortest sprints, the four-furlong races, start in a chute back by the big water park. On tracks of regular proportions, the inside three or four lanes are considered to be the garden spots, the outside couple or three slots, the weed patch. But here, with the extended backstretch, if you were outside and quicker than the rest, you could get out and over and make what amounts to a U-turn for home before the suckers could exclaim, "What the?"

Next: The Good 'Ol Boy Racing Circuit of the heartland has a surprising number of women jockeys, many stylish and tough and over-looked. The story line on too many excellent women jockeys has read: woman owner, woman trainer, woman jockey. That's changing, one big price at a time. An average male rider on the same horse as a terrific female rider could be 5-1 around here, the woman, 10-1.

Have fun. God speed. Embrace the barbecue. Dodge the fried.

The telephone rang at midnight. There was simultaneous laughing and screeching on the other end.

Had I seen?

Seen what?

I had been improving my mind this evening, at an art show, featuring trees and stuff.

Here was what I had missed.

Race 2 at the local plant, four fulongs.

The winner, Fifi Music, ridden by Tonya Arruda from post position 9: $85.00, $28.60, $17.

Race 6, six furlongs.

The winner, Available Jones, ridden by Tonya Arruda from post position 10: $40.60, $12.40, $13.40.

Race 8, six furlongs.

The winner, Stan's Friend, ridden by Tonya Arruda from post position 5: $5.80, etc.

I told the visitors from another place that it usually wasn't that easy here, and hung up.

Horse racing is one of the few sports where you can take a bad beat without even playing.

Horse players love reading about luck worse than yours; you do, don't you, admit it.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com