Turf Paradise, Phoenix, AZ, Sunday, March 13, 1994

Turf Paradise 12th. The Buckpasser Handicap (8th running) 1 1/16m. Purse $17,300 [$15,000 Added]. A Handicap for Three Year Olds and Upward.

McChump #2 and I had come out for the day to take a break from Spring Training baseball OD. The sweet scent of orange blossoms filled the air of North Phoenix as we pulled the bad El Camino in past the guard and parked on the backside. Quick trip to the barn to visit his horse. The Budman was looking skittish, but fit.

"I like it when he's getting froggy". (Next out, the Budman wires the field.) We leave the barn and enter the park. Siesta time at the gate - the guard don't care if we got ID or not.

Bad Day at Black Rock. We're getting hammered all day - me, 'cause I don't know a thing 'bout what I'm doing, and McChump #2 'cause he knows too much. Or bets too much, I don't quite remember. And both of us 'cause we're drinking muchos cerbezas.

And I'm thinking to myself, "Yeah, right. This is going to be just like the afternoon we went to see Lite Light vs. Meadow Star on the big screen at Arlington and both lost a ton, and all them trips to Phoenix Greyhound Park and the inscrutable dog quinellas, and the recent trip to Hawthorne, 'when the cash machines were our friends'". And sure enough pretty soon it's the 12th, and I'm just about tapped, and so is McChump #2.

McChump #2's got an ace up his sleeve, though. "There's this horse in the 12th, Layton Hill, that I'm going to bet on. He's got a closing kick you wouldn't believe!" So I look at the TuP program, and here's what his last few running lines look like:

            9 8 9 9 1
1 7 6 6 1
4 7 7 7 3

Yeah, so okay I believe he's a closer. And what does that mean? Oh, I see, since there is a "ton of speed" in the race, "it looks to set up for a closer". Wow. Okay. Makes sense to me.

McChump #2 bets a ton on the guy, and I bet a good deal, for me, and we wait for the race. Time for a break. Over the sinks, and the paper towels, and we're drying our hands, I let McChump #2 know in no uncertain terms: "Hey, dude. Your entire reputation as a horse-racing picker depends on this race."

He's up to the challenge. And likes the "dude" part. And especially "horse-racing picker".

The race is off and true to his line, Layton Hill is four or five horses back at the top of the stretch. No way he'll catch up. The front runner Great Energy with SA Stevens up has a clear lead on the rail, and there's no way anyone's coming up. 'Cept Layton Hill. These long strides, like you wouldn't believe, great gallumping stiff jumps, and there's no way you could figure how this horse was running like that, but he did, about 50 yards at a stride, so it seemed, and he got up up at the wire, and McChump #2 and I were winners. Winners! Lobster dinners! Winners enough to offset the whole day!

It was my best race of all time, because it was the first race of all time that I understood why a winner won. I been hooked ever since.