"Anything I Can Cash" - The McChump Story

Prescott Downs, Labor Day, 1995

"Cocktail?" (The traditional McChump greeting)

"Why yes! I believe so." (The traditional response). "By the way, chump. While I'm here you'll have to show me that hand-fishing video."

I referred, of course, to the video that McChump #2 had purchased as his souvenir of Lafayette, LA, in our Evangeline outing earlier this year.

"Okay, we'll watch it some ... sh*t!"

Amazingly, the groovy El Camino which was being piloted by the owner of said video, had managed to take a wrong turn out of Phoenix Sky Harbor and we were now headed for Tempe instead of Scottsdale. An El Camino with a mind of its own - what's next?

"Well, how about McDuffy's instead of JD's?", offered McChump #2. "There won't be any live racing, but they might be showing replays."

McDuffy's had been the scene of many an OTB betting coup earlier this Spring in the "Taste of the Backside" outing. Sounded fine to me.

McChump #2 was wrong, though. There was live racing: dogs. We ordered up a couple large beers and sat down at the bar to watch the dogs on the monitor. I couldn't resist. It was racing. In no time I had a $2 bet on the second favorite dog. Oh no! Bumped on the turn, my dog finished 5th. I tried picking a "fit and ready" dog in the post parade. Oh no! He never fired. It was time for a couple more large beers, and dog racing was getting more and more humorous. We sagely observed that speed was definitely holding with the dogs, and that outside posts were very bad. I tried betting an inside dog that looked fast. Oh no! Second. A patron who'd been sitting next to us at the bar and watching us fool around got up to leave and handed us his program. "Now you guys can really confuse yourselves", he offered. Little did he know - we're dog racing experts when we have a program. Oh no! A fourth loser in a row. I decided that perhaps dogs were not my forte, and we left McDuffy's for an evening in the nightspots of Scottsdale.

I'd learned a valuable lesson, however: Don't Bet Dogs.

Next morning as my friend worked, I pored over Prescott Downs' Saturday Racing Form to see what keen insights I could glean. I continued as we made the long, slow, hot drive from Phoenix to Prescott, where we arrived just in time to miss the first three races. Naturally, those were the three into which I'd had the keenest insight. That didn't stop me, though. I was On Vacation, dammit! I bet $1500 claimers in 4 turn 7f races, I bet simulcasts from Del Mar, and I bet Quarter Horses. I bet 'em all.

At the end of the day, I had learned another valuable lesson: Don't Bet Quarter Horses.

It wasn't all bad, though. McChump #2, in sticking to the Del Mar races, had done quite well. In addition, we'd met up with Cyberspace Racing Team managing partner Toni Richardson and her husband John, CRT partners Ed Bott, Omar Stoltzfus, and Bob Rusden, as sell as future CRT partner Brian Miller. Plus of course all the people that Toni and my friend knew at the track, including CRT trainer Phil Oviedo and my Personal Hero, Prescott Pete, the resident track handicapper. Phil's wife Diane, who'd been running their Prescott string of horses all summer and having a fantastic meet, had a horse entered that day which won its race, and everyone in our contingent got to run down to the Winner's Circle to get in the picture (except not me. Bad luck to stand in other people's win photos). Toni won a nice tri and went wild, and the $2.00 beers (a true value play) kept our throats from getting parched in the Arizona heat. The Mexican Food trailer out back of the grandstand was apparently already closed for the season, so I'm not able to comment on their Mexican fare, but the carvery sandwich I had was ... cheap.

After the races we all headed to downtown Prescott, where the line of bars across the street from the County Courthouse is known, for good reason, as Whiskey Row. At the Palace, Ed Bott entered into a deep handicapping discussion with Prescott Pete while the rest of us continued to enjoy bargain beers and jaw about racing and semi-related topics. When the cheesy band started up, we moved the show down to the Bird Cage, which had an even cheesier band, so then we hit some other bars which I don't seem to remember much about except good company, good music (finally), lots of cowboy hats and droopy mustaches, foosball, and of course, beer. A successful evening, to be sure, and glad I was that McChump #2 had reserved a room right there on the Row within stumbling distance. Biggest fun I've had in a racing town since Lafayette.

Sunday morning broke a little bit bleary, and McChump #2 and I arrived at the track just a tad late, discovering much to our regret that we'd just missed Ed Bott as the guest handicapper on the Prescott Pete pre-race TV show. Dang! Plus I missed betting the first race, into which I'd had mucho keen insight. Naturally.

Sunday's highlights included another win for Diane Oviedo, this time with a horse named Fatih Flash owned by Toni and John, so everyone got to run down to the Winner's Circle (such as it is in Prescott) a second time for the weekend (except not me.) The lowlight of the entire weekend also occurred Sunday, when the worst breakdown I have ever seen in racing occurred just in front of the grandstand. The horse died before the vet could even get to him, people poured onto the track to help the fallen jock, who was taken off on a stretcher, and the race was delared a no contest when the rest of the horses had to pull up to avoid running over all the people on the track. Thankfully, it was announced later the jock was okay. Kind of put a damper on the day, though, and things weren't helped by all the people complaining when the race was declared a no-contest.

McChump #2 did well on the Del Mar races again, and I learned another valuable lesson: Maybe I should lay off betting for awhile.

Sunday evening's program was pretty much a carbon copy of Saturday's, much as I remember, except with less people. And I won more foosball games.

When we woke up Monday morning we decided maybe we didn't want to be driving back to Phoenix with all those drunken horse racing types on the road at the end of the day, so we'd skip the track, leave early, and go back to Phoenix to catch it all at OTB. Quick trip to the track for me to pick up my new AZ owner's license, quick spin north of town to visit with Phil Oviedo and McChump #2's Fool the Experts 2yo, quick stop at some convenient mart for gas, pop, and red hot beef jerky (Pemmican Brand - the brand of champions), and on toward Phoenix we rolled, the groovy El Camino's a/c keeping us cool as ... as ... well, certainly somewhat cooler than it was in the desert at the side of the road.

We were just barely rolling, though. Crawling was more like it. The traffic moving on the Black Canyon Freeway, out in the middle of the Arizona desert, was like Chicago's Kennedy Expressway at rush hour. Except slower. Plus our stomachs were beginning to hint that perhaps soda pop and beef jerky did not a proper breakfast make. We decided to take advantage of a mid-desert hotspot Phil had told us about: the Rock Springs cafe and OTB, just south of New River. So we pulled in to this old weatherbeaten wooden cafe and bar lookin' joint, the kind that still has the old style of Arizona air conditioning (open doors), and sauntered into the OTB end of the place, in the process doubling the number of patrons. Three TV's, one mutuel clerk, a bunch of empty tables, and no, the clerk *couldn't* break McChump #2's $100 bill. Meanwhile, a high stakes poker game went on in the bar next door, with stacks of bills about 3 inches high in front of some of the players. Pretty obvious where rural Arizona likes to spend its gambling dollar.

We managed to find some change, tried some of their world famous food (small world), played a few races (unsuccessfully), quaffed a couple brews, and waited for the traffic outside on the freeway to unjam. Finally it did, a little, and we left to continue our journey back to Phoenix, having just completed a mighty expensive rest stop.

First stop in Phoenix, Turf Paradise, to try and recoup some of the money we'd just left up the road at the small cafe OTB. Our hearts just weren't in it, though, and after three races we just looked at each other and knew it was time to leave. As we headed back down the freeway, McChump #2 observed that at least he still had a shot at some money that day, having bet Da Hoss in a later race from Del Mar. I started looking at the form, and looking at that race, and looking at Da Hoss, and looking at his competition, and suddenly I decided I needed some of that action. So we made a brief detour to McDuffy's, where we'd started the weekend, and I got to make a bet on Da Hoss in the last race of the day on the simulcast card. All's well that ends well, as we both got to cash winners on the last race of the last day of our long Labor Day weekend.

Later that evening, as we sat exhausted at my friend's house, waiting for the hour of my plane's departure to roll around, McChump #2 had a brilliant idea: "Hey chump! Do you want to see that handfishing video now?" So we popped the thing in the VCR, and doubled up in laughter as these goons splashed around in the muddy Louisiana swamps, groping blindly for anything that moved, hauling out fish barehanded when they were lucky enough to grab something, discussing it in the most serious terms like it was a real artform and they really truly knew what they were doing, and all the while this cheesy Cajun music played along in the background (the guy who sold us the tape played triangle on the soundtrack, dontcha know).

"What's the name of this thing?", I laughed.

" 'Anything I Can Catch' - the Handfishing Story", he answered. Then he added, "More like 'Anything I Can Cash', in our case".


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