Race track a fun place, but tough to pick winners

Life is a horse race, whether you win, place or show, says columnist Jim McGregor.

A group of us went out to Fraser Downs race track the other night just for a change of pace. I only go once a year, so it is always a treat with a bit of excitement thrown in.

The food is great and the crowd is lively, and there is always the possibility of winning a few dollars. However, comedian Danny Thomas describes a race track as “a place where windows clean people.”

You don’t have to be an expert to bet on the horses, there is lots of help available and staff circulating through the crowd will explain all the terms like Exactor, Superfector and Triactor, so even the novice bettor can make an informed decision.

You can buy a program that highlights each horse in each race. It will tell you the owner, the trainer, the driver, how the horse has been doing this season and what the odds are that it will win, place, or show. Armed with all this data, it seems it will be hard to lose any money.

Unfortunately, the horses do not read these programs and rarely seem to finish in any order suggested by the program, which can become frustrating after five or six races. It almost seems as if the system is designed so the track makes more money than the people betting.

In some cases it’s good the horses can’t read the programs, because some of the handicapper’s comments are less than flattering. To read beside your name: “A dismal showing last three times out. Don’t expect too much tonight.” Or: “Moved up to this class this year but hasn’t produced much. Don’t expect a top four finish.” Or: “Outclassed in this field, might do OK if lands a good position on the start.”

However, having a program like this for choosing dates or picking politicians may be beneficial and take out a lot of guess work.

After betting based on the program does not work, you start searching for other clues. I hear that a horse has recently been bought by a doctor so, thinking that is a good tip, I put my money on her nose. When she finishes last, I surmise the doctor was Dr. Ballard.

My partner has picked a winner and as she is celebrating, I asked her what her system was.

“The horse’s name was Viola. My Grandma’s name was Viola.”

I tell her that is not the way to do it. She asks how many times I have won tonight. Where is the science in that?

There are some distractions as the Canucks’ playoff game is showing on most of the screens, and when a cheer goes up from the crowd it is difficult to determine if they are cheering for Swedish Twin in the first period or Irish Dancer in the fourth race.

The names remind me of an old vaudeville joke. A man comes home to an angry wife.

“I found this slip of paper in your shirt pocket with the name ‘Molly Flynn’ written on it.”

He replies, “Don’t be silly, that was the name of a horse I was to place a bet on.”

The next day when he comes home, she smacks him with a frying pan.

“What was that for?”

She replies, “Your horse called today.”

Life is a horse race, whether you win, place or show, it depends not on what people say but on how hard you try. At least that’s what McGregor says.