Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dead Cert

The blanketed fellow/horse is one Wilko, and today is of course not his birthday. Since he is a thoroughbred his official birthday is January 1st, he was actual born on January 13th, 2002, but I figured that he deserved his place on this list as well.

As you have figured out by now, I am a gambler, I will bet on almost anything, and I have made some pretty goofy bets in my life. I once bet on if the pope would live out the rest of the year, he didn't and I won (I had bet him to croak). One other time, I bet how many seats the Liberal Democrats would win in the British general election. I won, even though I could not, at the time, name one Liberal Democrat in the whole of Great Britain. I don't always win my goofy bets, but they can be a lot of fun to make. However, my one true gambling passion is betting the ponies, and the reason for that has been explained multiple times.

Like most gamblers I am a bit superstitious, and will bet on a "hunch" in a heartbeat. Sometimes these hunches are golden, but most of the time they only result in my money being pissed away, and my muttering that my hunches are mostly shit. This is where our hero Wilko enters the story. It was the 2004 Breeder's Cup Juvenile, and I didn't know Wilko even existed until about 10 minutes before the post of the race. I was there just to gamble on the best day of American horse racing, and he was just some pony entered in the race. He was an outsider, American born, but had done all of his racing in England, and was a 28-1 shot on the board. There was no real reason to think he would run more than 10 feet, and then fall flat on his horse face, except for one small thing.

To this day I cannot explain it, most fellow gamblers sort of understand what hit me that October day in 2004, but the non-gamblers that I relate this story to just look at me like I am a mental patient, and nod knowingly. You see the thing that hit me about 5 minutes before the start of the race was that Wilko, the rank outsider was going to win the race. It was a dead cert, I had, and have no explainable reason how or why I knew this, I just KNEW it. It was as if the gambling fates had reached down, and given me, for the briefest of moments, second sight, and I KNEW what was going to happen. It was one of the most glorious moments of my life, and I rushed to my companion, and breathlessly explained to her that we HAD to bet it ALL on Wilko.

She gave me that withering look that people reserve for the truly demented, and said "go ahead, piss your money away, but I am having no part of it." Well, needless to say, this was the proverbial glass of cold water in the face, and the ugly head of doubt (the gambler's true enemy) reared its head. When faced with her derision (and I have faced a lot of female derision in my life), my confidence waned, and my dead cert began to look like the ravings of a mad man, which isn't necessarily a bad thing except that I was the mad man in question. I didn't quite lose all my courage, and I did still place a smallish wager on Wilko (an across the board bet), off they when, and things were looking a bit bleak, as he got shuffled back to fourth in the far turn, but then MAGIC happened, and Wilko surged past the wall of three horses in front of him (one of which was a pretty good horse named Afleet Alex), and passed them like they were sitting still. That is correct he had won! At 28-1 my horse, my long shot had come in, and the look on my companion's face was of disbelief. That would show her to distrust my dead certs!

You would think this was a happy ending, after all he paid $58.60 to win, and I was clutching a winning ticket, and I cashed it that day. I won somewhere around 300 dollars on Wilko that day, and I was a fan for life. However, the happiness ends there, you see the sad part of this story is twofold. One, that was the last race he would ever win, he raced quite a few more times, and I was there for most of them, giving back the money I had won on him as I watched dismal performance after dismal performance. My faith was shaken but never broken, and I had money on him when he lost his last race, and then was retired to the ever lasting joy of my pocketbook. Secondly, I had wasted my gift. It is one of the few times in my life when I was certain, and I mean beyond a shadow of a doubt certain, that something was going to happen, and I let it slip away. You see if I had done what I should have done that day, I would be typing this from my retirement home in the south of France.

However, I gave into to doubt, and derision, and placed a MUCH smaller wager than I had intended. I was planning on betting the entire GI Empire on Wilko that day, and was dissuaded from it by a "friend." I know I should be happy with the winnings I took home that day, and the added bonus of being able to heap scorn on my friend for her doubting me. But, there remains to this day, and I am sure it always will be there, that "oh, what might have been" feeling. That if I would have had the courage of my conviction, if I had realized that for one brief moment in time, I was a Cassandra like seer, and could predict the future, and placed the LARGE bet I wanted to, I would have been golden. It is a bittersweet moment, sometimes more bitter, sometimes more sweet, but there it is nonetheless.

However, none of this is Wilko's fault, he was my "one shining moment" in my pony playing career, and the fault for not seeing it clearly lies solely with me. So, for that 1 minute 42 second ride into my heart (and then later breaking my heart), for being that one long shot that ever punter hopes for, but rarely cashes in on, Wilko (January 13th, 2002-present), you are my (342nd) hero of the day.

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