As a gadabout journalist and adventurer, I have traveled quite a bit. Not nearly as much as I have wanted to, but I have spent memorable hours, days, months and even years in such desirable locations as Mexico's Sea of Cortez, Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. I have always learned more about life and myself than I have ever taught the population of these countries, although a lot of give and take has gone on. In the Caribbean, I learned about diving for pearls. I danced to reggae music and ate conch salads.
Somebody once said every man should own a boat and a horse in his lifetime. While I have been a passenger on many boats, I have never owned one. Oh, I came close to buying one after winning a poker tournament in Florida, but the deal never came through. As for horses, I wrote a while back on this website about Rincon, a thoroughbred race horse that had been retired because of being blinded in one eye when it ran into a wall while training for a race. Rincon was a beautiful red roan, intelligent and devastatingly fast.
When I started my life as a newspaper reporter, all my journalist friends and I wanted to be like Ernest Hemingway or Damon Runyon. Both were hard-drinking adventurous types who liked to gamble. Hemingway was a robust virile man who was in love with beautiful women. Runyon followed in his footsteps and was also a two-pack a day cigarette smoker that eventually made him lose his life to throat cancer.
Indian Castle Race Track on the island of Nevis in the Eastern Caribbean is one of the world's most unique thoroughbred race tracks. Built and owned by Richard Lupinacci, a retired investments banker from Philadelphia, PA., the track is open for racing about 10 times per year, usually on holidays. It has no starting gate. The horses start their races from the middle of the track and wind up at the finish line. The races don't always start on time. They begin when the horses and jockeys show up. There is a lot of drinking Caribbean rum and Carib Beer and you an smell the aroma of jerk chicken everywhere. Hey, Nevis is an island where the word party means something.
One of my passions is deep sea fishing. I have lived in Florida and the Caribbean and have gone out on fishing boats to pursue that sport. I also went deep sea fishing in Guaymas and Rocky Point, Mexico where some of the best deep sea fishing in the world takes place. I well remember catching a four and a half foot hammerhead shark off the pier in Naples, FL. The shark went out to sea and I bought it for more than 45 minutes before landing the finned mammal. As I excitedly reeled the shark in, the pier master came up and smiled. "Nice catch,'" he said. "Take a good look at your fish and then cut it loose. You can't bring it on the pier. Too dangerous." Darn! I didn't even have a camera to take a picture of the shark. Reluctantly I obeyed the pier master and cut the hammerhead loose.
If you ever find yourself in Guadalajara, Mexico, go to the cockfights. Now there are many things to enjoy in Guadalajara. They have horse races even though the horses may show up an hour late for the race. They have fine food along with tequila, Mexican beer and pulque.. i visited Guadalajara and Mexico City as a guest of the Mexican government some years ago when I wrote for the Phoenix Gazette and People Magazine. I much preferred Guadalajara over Mexico City. The difference is similar to the difference I see between Los Angeles and Albuquerque or Phoenix, which I much prefer. The Mexican Consulate booked a spacious room for me at the Hotel Tapatio, with its cobblestone streets and individual bungalows. They assigned a tour guide and a driver named Alphonso to me. I had recently married and Alphonso, a romantic bachelor, fell in love with my wife.
In every horse race, there are animals that have no business being in the race. The owners choose such a race simply to fill out the field and make the racing secretary happy. Sometimes they run their horse to exercise it for an upcoming race. Whatever the reason, the horse has little or no chance of winning. One of the smartest strategies in choosing a selection to wager on is to define the conditions of the race. Some races are simply not set up for most of the horses to run. A racing secretary, for example, might stipulate that the race is for 'non-winners of any races except maidens and claimers for less than $10,000.' If you find a horse in the race that has won regularly in $25,000 claiming or allowance races, that should be a definite tip-off that this animal is a contender.
Fred Hill was a tall man in his 70s who wore a Stetson and Larry Mahan boots. I met him in Tucson, AZ. while working as a reporter on the Tucson American, a weekly newspaper owned by Evan Mecham who would later become governor of Arizona. Hill was a businessman who developed desert properties and turned them into commercial ventures. He walked into our newspaper office to buy some advertising space to promote a greyhound dog racing track he was in the process of completing near Benson, AZ. He and I hit it off well. Fred was a jocular, well spoken individual who was related to a legendary baseball player named Paul Dean. When he discovered I enjoyed a gamble, he invited me to be his guest at the track's grand opening 10 days away. 'Who knows?', he said. 'You might get lucky.'
Being a horse lover from the time I was six years old, I have ridden a lot of horses in my time. I started out riding the ponies at Kentwood Park in Western Pennsylvania. Then I moved to New Mexico and rented horses from the Sheriff of Quay County to ride in the high prairie country and to climb to the top of Tucumcari Mountain where two outlaws, Billy the Kid and Black Jack Ketchum, used to hide in a cave to outwit pursuing posses. Horses have brought a lot of pleasure to me. In Phoenix, AZ. I would go to the Skyline Ranch next to South Mountain where my friend Doyle Williams owned a riding stable and a bull riding academy. Doyle boarded horses for ranchers and horse trainers at Turf Paradise Race Track. He knew enough about horses to have taken over the role Robert Redford played in 'The Horse Whisperer.'
In 'The Odd Couple,' author Neil Simon created a couple of odd characters. Felix was fastidious an a perfectionist when it came tomaintaining an apartment. Oscar was the exact opposite -- give him his Daily Racing Form, a beer, and he was happy. It might surprise some horse racing fans that a person doesn't need a Racing Form to figure out the winner of a horse race. Years ago I met a horse trainer at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, AZ. who shared some insider information with me. Red was in his 80s and had ben around thoroughbred race horses all his life. He saw me poring over a Racing Form one day at the track and just shook his head chuckling. 'Son, that magazine won't you help win today's races,' he said. 'Not be along shot.
Pennsylvania is a lush state of rolling valleys, green fields and farms covering the landscape. The state nicknamed 'Penn's Woods' after William Penn is also horse country and is the breeding ground of the harness racing industry. I grew up less than a quarter-mile from a racing farm owned by Leroy Miller who bred and raised harness horses. Leroy attended our church and when he retired, he turned over the reins to the horse farm to his son, Kenny, who went to school with me and my siblings. Those horses were beautiful to watch. My brothers and I hunted small game -- rabbits, ringneck pheasants and squirrels -- in the pastures and cornfields near where the horses grazed.
Horses are marvelous animals. The more I am around them, the more I like them, and I confess that I have been around horses the better part of my life. I took my first ride on a horse at Kennywood Park, an amusement park near Pittsburgh, PA. The occasion was our annual high school picnic at the park. Our parents would buy a certain amount of those orange tickets that were good for rides on the Jackrabbit, the fastest scariest ride at the park. There were rides on the bumper cars, the auto racers, the ferris wheel, merry-go-round, the Leaping Frogs and my favorite -- the pony rides. I would always save a certain number of my tickets for the pony rides. They were more expensive than the other rides, so I would usually wait until the end of the day to use them.
Many small communities across America have a bookie. We had one in my home town of Sutersville, PA., a coal mining town about 20 miles from Pittsburgh, PA. Al was a small dapper man, always well dressed. He attended the local Catholic Church and was generous with his contributions. He operated a store on Main Street. Sometimes he had milk or bread or juice to offer the public, but mostly it was just a storefront where he could sit at a table and smoke his endless chain of cigarettes while exchanging quips with his customers. My mother was a $2 horse bettor. She also sometimes bet on the greyhounds at Wheeling Greyhound Park. She would give me the money and I would walk the half mile to Al's store and place the bet. Once she asked me to buy a half gallon of milk and I went to Al's place to make the purchase.
Brian W. of Long Beach, CA. writes, 'Dear Latest Casino Bonuses.Com, I have become interested in betting on the horse races. I live just a short distance from Hollywood Park and am planning on becoming a regular customer there. What tips can you give me on wagering on the horses?' Great question, Brian. By the way, I used to live just across the bay from you in San Pedro, guest of the U.S. Army at Ft. McArthur. What tips can I give you on betting on the horses? It isn't easy to beat the horses, Brian. But if you are serious about betting on them, I would recommend you learn the Andrew Beyer Speed Rating System. Daily Racing Forms carry the Beyer Speed Rating numbers.
This weekend is Super Bowl Sunday. It will be celebrated at most gambling casinos around the country in various ways. At Talking Stick and Wild Horse Pass casinos in Arizona, the management will add splash pots of $100 each time a touchdown is scored. Some casinos may pay off customers according to the scores at the end of each quarter. I was a sports bettor for some time but no longer follow the National Football League. Therefore I have no advice on which time you should back with your money in the Super Bowl. My first inclination would be Carolina -- but that is simply a hunch with little to back it. No, I am looking forward to the major league baseball season. That is where the real action lies for me and many of my friends in the greater Phoenix area.
The classified ad in ARGOSY, a men's magazine, sounded enticing. 'BUY THE LITTLE EL PASO HANDICAPPER AND NEVER LOSE AT THE RACE TRACK AGAIN.' Huh? The ad went on to state that for just $4.95 -- this was the 1970s -- plus $2 or shipping and handling, I could be the proud possessor of a handicapping device that would pick winners. I was living in Phoenix, AZ. about a mile from Turf Paradise Race Track. The ad carried a money back guaranteed statement, so I went down to the local post office and sent in my money order. I was working as a reporter for the Phoenix Gazette and my buddy Dave Molina was a copy editor on the newspaper.
There are few things I like more than responding to letters from my readers, especially if a question is involved. Liza -- remember wonderful Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in the race track scene from 'My Fair Lady? -- writes from Naples, FL., 'My roommate and I have been following your column and like your stories very much. 'We recently moved to Florida from Michigan to teach school. We love Naples and the social life, but you make the horse races sound so interesting, we're planning to spend a day at the races at Hialeah Race Track next Saturday. Can you please give us some do's and don'ts when it comes to betting on the horses?'
'I just made a good bet,' my friend Virgil said. Virgil works for the U.S. Postal Service and lives in Phoenix, AZ. He would be considered a $2 bettor because he never goes overboard on gambling like some people I know. 'Really? That's great. And what might your good bet be?,' I wanted to know. Virgil puffed up his chest. ' 'American Pharoah is running today and I bet the horse to win I don't think the horse can lose.' Today is Saturday and American Pharoah is scheduled to run in the 11th race at Saratoga Race Track about two hours from now. Virgil knows I am a poker player with a passion for horses. He wanted to know what I thought of his bet.
Years ago when I lived in a small town named Sutersville, PA., pop 967, there was a small dairyette called Mondo's were everybody hung out. We liked the place because Mondo the owner, was a short barrel-chested Italian with gray hair and a happy disposition. He had a genuine liking of people and he would talk about anything under the sun - especially if somebody wanted to argue. Now I am half-Italian, the other half being Yugoslavian, which is about as close to Russian as you can get. My maternal grandmother was born in the land of Gengus Khan. There were four thins in life that she couldn't do without: vodka, her husband Vassi who was the most skilled carpenter I ever met, a good argument -- and gambling.
Eddie Rack, a professional golfer who was a friend of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and some of the other legends of golf, died just a few days short of his 100th birthday. Son of a coal miner, Eddie grew up poor, but he refused to stay that way. He was born in a small community that didn't even have a name just outside of McKeesport, PA., a few miles from my hometown. He caddied at the Youghiogheny Country Club where my two younger brothers and I also caddied. Thanks to the generosity of the country club set who let him borrow their clubs every Monday -- that was Caddies Day and the kids could play for free if they had a set of clubs -- Eddie turned into a pro golfer who once beat Palmer in a tournament.
16th of November 2018
16th of November 2018
3rd of October 2018
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