The Price of Admission
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
In Ted McClelland’s outstanding Horseplayers: Life at the Track he offers an insightful look at the travails and triumphs of gambling on thoroughbred racing. The book traces the author’s journey from a curious racetrack attendee to full-on horseplayer. It is a great book for anyone looking for an introduction to racing from the bettors perspective. It is full of interesting insights but one exchange in particular has stuck with me over over the years. As the author was leaving Arlington Park after a rough day at the track his friend said to him: “Oh my God, I can’t believe I lost sixty dollars. I could have bought a new guitar case with that money.” McClelland replied: “People who think money is for buying stuff shouldn’t be gambling.”
If you understand what he means by that, then you might be ready to start playing the races. While some people collect things and spend their discretionary income on “stuff”, others use their leisure time and money to experience things. The list of ways to spend your “fun” money is long but playing the races has an advantage over all others. You could go to a concert, movie, or sporting event but when was the last time you paid to be entertained where a possibility existed that you might walk out with more money then you walked in with? Add to that the excitement and joy of watching thoroughbreds compete and you have the greatest form of entertainment around.
Most people who enjoy investing their money on the noses of thoroughbreds don’t do it to make a buck. Ask any horse player why they play the races and most won’t say because they like making money (the honest ones won’t anyway). The return on investment gambling on racing rarely justifies the amount of time, effort, and energy one puts into predicting the future outcomes of races. Of course, we all like to be right and win a few bucks but, if you consider playing the races a form of entertainment, whatever you decide to wager can simply be considered the price of admission. Even if you lose more then you win (the most likely scenario), the winning days make all the bad days worth it. Some days you might feel like the racing gods are conspiring against you but it only takes one day where everything comes together that will keep you coming back for more. Ask a horse player about their best score and they will light up as if you handed them a $100 bill — that is what the brethren of horse player’s live for.