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Time for ‘Thanks’

by Johnny D

November 22, 2017

I love Thanksgiving.

And not just because I’m a staunch turkey advocate. As a meal, that is. Live turkeys are mostly unattractive--so homely they’re cute—like pugs. Appearance aside, I maintain that the turkey is a vastly underrated bird. A clear-cut culinary first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Turkey brings it’s ‘A’ game 365 days a year. It’s as comfortable anchoring the menu for the nation’s most iconic feast as it is stuffing sausage casings. White meat or dark. Leg, wing or breast. Such versatility! Such endurance!

Is anything more soothing than a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers? Talk about comfort food. Smothered in gravy or simply pressed between slices of bread, turkey calls the shots. Grab a cold slice directly from the fridge or nuke it warm. Doesn’t matter. You can’t go wrong. Either way you feast on low saturated fat, Riboflavin, Phosphorous, Protein, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin B6 and Niacin, along with a healthy dose of L-tryptophan – the poor man’s Xanax!

(Editor’s Note: Hate to disappoint, especially during the holiday season, but the post-Thanksgiving meal drowsiness you seasonally experience has way more to do with the three-plate carb convention you’ve ingested and chased with cocktails than it does with tryptophan.)

Some might defend chicken’s inclusion among the pantheon of versatile and enduring bird meals and they wouldn’t be wrong. Many have risen to riches on chicken parts--breasts, legs, wings, nuggets and tenders. Colonel Sanders, Popeye (not the Sailor Man) Church and McDonald, to name a few, have profited greatly from frying fowl. However, chicken’s popularity also is its greatest weakness. As a meal it suffers from commonality. Overexposure. Its versatility is a detriment. Who ever heard of a Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter chicken? Not happening. A holiday chicken is most comfortable as a Memorial Day, Labor Day or Fourth of July feast—sharing the grill alongside hamburgers and hot dogs.

Forgive me, I digress. However, as you can tell, the whole ‘turkey-as-an-underrated-bird’ topic is near to my heart. That aside, there are additional reasons why I love Thanksgiving.

There’s something nostalgic about watching football on Thanksgiving. Probably because it reminds me of when I used to help root for my father’s two-team parlays! One of his most memorable Thanksgiving failures (and there were many) occurred in 1974 when Clint ‘Mad Bomber’ Longley relieved an injured Roger Staubach at quarterback for Dallas with the team trailing the Redskins 16-3 in the third quarter. Longley engineered a rally and, with the Cowboys behind 23-17 with just 28 seconds left, threw a 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Drew Pearson to win the game 24-23.

Thanksgiving football is, of course, as synonymous with Detroit as the automobile. And Dallas has been a national Thanksgiving tradition nearly every season since 1966. Those teams continue to host Turkey-Day tilts and, in recent years, have been joined by a third game. That forced me to modify a decades-old family Thanksgiving tradition: Instead of a two-team parlay I now play a three-team round-robin!

While there’s also plenty of racing Thanksgiving Day--most tracks have earlier first-post times to accommodate players--the real meat of the racing menu is sandwiched (pun intended) within the three-day Thanksgiving weekend from Aqueduct to Del Mar.

The $500,000, nine-furlong Clark Handicap at Churchill on Friday, the $300,000, nine-furlong turf Hollywood Derby Saturday and the $300,000, turf mile Matriarch Sunday are the lone Grade 1 races this holiday weekend. There is, however, an abundance of supporting graded and ungraded features nationwide. Especially noteworthy is turf racing at Del Mar, including a total of seven grass stakes races. On the right-hand coast, as leaves brown, tumble to the ground and make finding golf balls incredibly difficult, grass racing offers an enthusiastic last gasp at the Big A in the form of five grass stakes Thursday through Sunday.

So, in conclusion, I love Thanksgiving because there’s plenty of food, football and racing to go around. Oh, yeah, and there’s one more thing.

Thanksgiving is a time to be especially grateful. For everything.

I’m incredibly fortunate. And I recognize that often.  Sometimes, when I reflect on my bounty, I’m overwhelmed by emotion--nearly moved to tears. Why have I been so fortunate? Gotten so many breaks? Enjoyed such prosperity?

Good health, a beautiful, loving and caring wife, an intelligent, kind and wonderful daughter, incredibly generous and loyal friends and a nearly 40-year career that married my passion to a paycheck.

What else, my friend, matters?

You do. Without your interest in watching and wagering on racing I wouldn’t get to do what I love. So, I think I speak for everyone at Xpressbet when I say: Thank you for choosing to play with us!

Through it all, I’ve tried to heed the following from the opening paragraph of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: 

‘In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’

Ain’t that the truth. Happy Thanksgiving!

Race On!