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Gonna Make Time

by Johnny D

December 20, 2017

Know how everyone complains that the holiday season is too busy? They’re right. My plate’s so full it looks like I just circled a Las Vegas buffet.  

Yesterday my in-box quit displaying the number of unread e-mails and now reads, ‘Enough already.’

Santa’s not the only one making lists. Except I don’t have time to check mine twice. It’s got to be right first time around…or else! 

Guy in the red suit’s got helpers, too. Flying solo here. No reindeer to count on, either. Uber’s my holiday transportation. With my luck, though, it’d probably be easier to summon a reindeer.

Forget ‘Naughty’ or ‘Nice.’ I don’t have time to do ‘judgmental.’ 

My gift spreadsheet has two categorizes: ‘Cheap’ and ‘Expensive.’ And there’s only one name in the expensive column. 

She can have whatever she wants for Christmas…or any other day of the year. Living with me, she’s earned it…and more. ‘Happy wife. Happy life.’ Heard that? It’s true. I should know. This is ain’t my first rodeo. Nor second. Unfortunately.

I’m lucky, though. My wife’s a happy person. Positive. Upbeat. One of those people you just can’t stand. She not only sees the glass as being half-full, but she actually thinks any second someone’s coming by to refill it! 

And that’s difficult for me to accept. I explain to her, “There’s only so much of your joy I can stand!” 

She doesn’t know what it’s like to be a horseplayer. She’s never been beaten a dirty nose for tens of thousands of dollars. She should try it. Then she’d understand why I am like I am.

She’s also never been alive to half the field in the final leg of a pick six, only to see one of the ‘strangers’ win. Like to see her smile after that happens. 

If you ask me, in times like those the glass is not only half-empty, but it’s also about to completely shatter…right after I propel it into the nearest wall! 

Just kidding. I’m not a sore loser. That’s probably because I’ve had so much practice at it. I’m so accustomed to having my horses finish first and third in exactas that I’ve actually petitioned tote companies to develop the wager type!

As my father once advised, “Kid, if at first you don’t succeed…failure may be your thing.” 

The last time I showed a profit betting the races? Well…it’s gotta happen one of these years. It has to. Doesn’t it? I mean, if I live long enough. 

This year there was some positive news for horseplayers. I was as excited as the next guy that the NTRA had badgered the US Treasury Department into revising IRS reporting thresholds for large payoffs and ‘signer’ provisions. 

Those changes, however, have affected me as much as the NFL’s un-criminalizing post-touchdown celebrations. Apparently, a player’s got to actually cash a 300-1 payoff or hit an IRS ‘signer’ or before he can truly benefit. Maybe next year…

Speaking of which…2017 is coming to a close and here’s some of what I remember: 

In 2017, the sophomore class displayed more parity than an NFL Sunday. We had different winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Clearly not as entertaining as a single winner in all three events. We had to wait 37 years for the last Triple Crown winner, but it was worth it.

In the second half of the 2017 3-year-old season, Bob Baffert-trained West Coast romped in the Travers at Saratoga. He was unable, though, to parlay that into a BC Classic win like shed-mate Arrogate had before him. 

The inaugural running of the rich Pegasus Invitational at Gulfstream Park was a 2017 highlight billed as a rematch between California Chrome and Arrogate, one-two finishers in the 2016 BC Classic.  It concluded as a coronation for the latter as the best horse in the world! 

Adding an exclamation point to his title Arrogate delivered an all-time great performance while winning the Dubai World Cup in March. Unwrap yourself an early Christmas present and cue up a replay of that race. Do it now, so you don’t forget. I’ll wait. 

Arrogate lost twice at Del Mar in the summer and then again ‘Where the Turf Meets the Surf’ in the BC Classic. He may have disliked the Del Mar surface but, in my humble opinion, as with all masterpieces, the artist must surrender a measure of himself. Arrogate did that in Dubai. 

Gun Runner, unable to ship from Fair Grounds to Gulfstream for the Pegasus Invitational due to restrictions related to an equine herpesvirus outbreak, served as mere cannon fodder for Arrogate in Dubai in March. From then on, though, their career arcs diverged. Gun Runner, under trainer Steve Asmussen, thrived as an unbeaten juggernaut right through the finish of the BC Classic. When Eclipse votes are tallied he should be a unanimous selection as Horse of the Year.  

For the first time ever, Del Mar hosted Breeders’ Cup and the ‘Track That Bing Built’ couldn’t have performed better. Mother Nature provided perfect weather both days—sunshine and pleasant ocean breezes -- and the competition was outstanding. 

Approximately one month later, eyes of the racing world again centered on the sleepy San Diego track. This time Mother Nature was not so kind and the recently dormant track was rushed into service as a haven for animals and humans displaced by a raging brushfire that had devoured stables at the nearby San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall, CA. At last count, 46 racehorses had died from the fire and at least three humans were either burned, or trampled by stampeding horses during the rescue process.

The response from the worldwide racing community was predictable and uplifting. Supplies, donations and helping hands arrived immediately to aid in rescue and recovery.

Busy or not during this holiday season, I’m gonna make time to remember lost, frightened, injured and displaced equines and humans. I’m gonna make time to thank those that donate to the cause and continue to support the healing process.

Most of all, though, I’m gonna make time to put lists, shopping, wisecracks and losing wagers aside to reflect on the fact that when it comes to racing-people-helping-racing-people the glass isn’t half-empty or half-full…it’s brimming! 

Happy Holidays! And thanks for taking time each week to read this drivel. Also, thanks for wagering with Xpressbet. We appreciate your loyalty. 

Race On!