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Happy Thanksgiving!

by Johnny D

November 27, 2019

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. And, by extension, the day also launches my top-ranked weekend. By stroke of pure genius, Thanksgiving always lands on Thursday. Convenient, don’t you think? Unlike other holidays, Thanksgiving doesn’t occupy different days of the week in seemingly random fashion like alien targets in a video game.

Thursday, as we all know, is dutifully followed by Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The four-pack forms a perfect stretch, in this case, collectively known as Thanksgiving weekend.

The day following Thanksgiving has a proper name: Black Friday. That’s because it’s the day when merchants hope to push earnings ‘well into the black,’ signifying a successful holiday season. That’s fine, I suppose. But haven’t we already mortgaged Christmas with commercialism? Must we sell out Thanksgiving Weekend, too?

This Saturday and Sunday don’t have established nicknames and go by generic labels of Thanksgiving Saturday and Thanksgiving Sunday. The day after the weekend has a proper name, though, and it’s also sales related. We call it Cyber Monday and, while it hasn’t been around all that long, it’s grown up fast. Predictions are that someday it will eclipse Black Friday in total sales. Already has in my house.

Name another weekend on the calendar that spans four consecutive days with two of the four boasting proper names? You can’t. Two come sort of close: Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. But only on rare occasions do either of those celebrations enjoy four-day runs. Thanksgiving manages that yearly, with rave reviews.

If there are better eats than a leftover plate of Thanksgiving food, I haven’t tasted them. Seriously, I’ve experienced all sorts of international cuisine, but I’ve never sampled any of it while on the couch, in my pajamas and slippers, in front of the television watching football and handicapping horse races!

Thanksgiving. The mere word waters my mouth. It’s a feast. Says so right in the brochure.

Thanksgiving also is family time--when we gather to share love for each other, or to feign a close approximation. Sometimes, Turkey Days go sideways. What should we expect to happen when we gather, in a room overheated by an actual fire, with a group of sweater-wearing relatives and friends, dizzy from ingesting alcohol, tryptophan, coffee and sugary baked-goods, while harboring competing ideologies fueled by decades of pent-up resentment?

Don’t know where you spend this holiday, but I’m at my mother-in-law’s place for the feast. And she does the holiday proud. Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, biscuits, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, apple and pumpkin pie. My brother-in-law, who’s been around the clan nearly as long as I have, is a young, sturdy fellow capable of devouring a Fred Flintstone-sized steak in one of those roadside joints, thereby getting it for free. Great news this year is that he and the wife have gone vegan. Besides improving their health, the switch means that there will be even more leftovers for yours truly to doggie-bag! I absolutely love Thanksgiving leftovers…and I don’t have a dog.

Del Mar has cancelled Thanksgiving Day racing as a precautionary measure in anticipation of a rainstorm. This Turkey Day, the turf won’t meet the surf. That’s too bad, on several levels. I get why they’re doing it. Still, I’m disappointed. Normally, I advance wager and then, at my mother-in-law’s, watch the races on my phone. It serves as entertainment and as a suitable diversion from conversation with the wife’s family. Well, that and plenty of vodka.

This year, according to the heart doctor, no vodka! And now, no Del Mar, either. Thankfully, at least, I can anticipate an uptick in leftover volume to make up for it.

Still, by darkness Thanksgiving night, the only one at my mother-in-law’s dinner table to have had a more trying day than me will be the turkey.

There are so many things for which I am grateful. In fact, my world is an embarrassment of riches. Not the financial kind, you understand. I’m a working stiff, relying a bi-weekly paycheck. But I’ve got way more than money. I’ve got people I love and those who love me. Multi-decade friendships from coast-to-coast, forged over a nearly 40-year racing career—half on the racetrack in various capacities: publicity, racing official, jockey agent, tip sheet operator, etc.—and half in the Advance Deposit Wagering game—Youbet and now Xpressbet. Racing’s been good to me—calloused my baby fat with tough-love and given me a grandstand-full of amazing experiences.

Overall, this has been a challenging year for racing and, particularly, for the racetrack I love most—Santa Anita. It’s impossible to be thankful for what happened there last winter. However, what I am grateful for, as it relates to 2019 racing, is that out of the mess stories have emerged about dedicated people who work with racehorses and treat them better than family. I knew they were there; good people who work long hours for not much money partly because they want what you and I want—better lives for our children—and partly because they care about the animals. I hope the spotlight continues to shine on those who live to groom, ride, train and feed horses--backstretch workers, jockeys, trainers and owners. I’m also thankful that out of an awful situation came heightened awareness regarding veterinary inspection and track condition and maintenance. Great change often requires a significant catalyst.

Personally, 2019 has been a bit of a troubled trip because I had two heart procedures--January and November. And for a guy who hates doctors almost as much as slow horses, that’s tough. No big deal, though, really. I’m fine and so much better off than those with serious health issues.

I’m grateful for my wife Gail. We’ve been together 20 years and, every time I complain about losing a tight photo, she reminds, “You used up all your luck when you met me.” And she’s right! She’s the best in so many ways. She knows me better than I know myself and loves me double on days whose names end in a Y.

This year, though, I’m most grateful for the healthy birth of my granddaughter. It’s been one of the most emotional experiences of my life. She’s absolutely amazing and I wish I could share the love, joy and anticipation I feel each day because of her. Words fail. And for a guy who’s attempted to put them in a somewhat cohesive order for 50 years, that’s saying something.

Thank you for reading this, and for wagering with Xpressbet. I work with some wonderful people and we appreciate your business. When it comes to playing the races, you have choices. We’re happy you choose Xpressbet. From our families to yours, we wish you a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

Race On!