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Horseplayers: Life at the Track [Kindle Edition]

Ted McClelland
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This fun and witty exposé of horse racing in America goes behind the scenes at the track, providing a serious gambler's-eye-view of the action. Ted McClelland spent a year at tracks and off-track betting facilities in Chicago and across the country, profiling the people who make a career of gambling on horses. This account follows his personal journey of what it means to be a player as he gambles with his book advance using various betting and handicapping strategies along the way. A colorful cast of characters is introduced, including the intensely disciplined Scott McMannis "The Professor", a onetime college instructor who now teaches a course in handicapping, and Mary Schoenfeldt, a former nun and gifted handicapper who donates all of her winnings to charity. This moving account of wins, losses, and personal turmoil provides a sobering look at gamblers, gambling, and life at the track.

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Editorial Reviews


"Immensely readable account, by a brutally honest writer...a gambler’s book that is well worth a punt"  —The Racing Post

"A delightful memoir . . . McClelland details his transformation from casual fan to obsessed racing geek with humor." —Railbird

About the Author

Ted McClelland is a staff writer for the Chicago Reader, where he writes a popular column called "At the Track" featuring his stories from the racetrack.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1359 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1556525672
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (May 1, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005HF3OQU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,866 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. July 26, 2005
Ted McLelland, Horseplayers: Life at the Track (Chicago Review Press, 2005)

Ted McLelland devotes a whole chapter of this book to a friend of mine. Cool.

The obsessive reader of books on horseplaying (which is a very small group of people; in fact, it may well only contain me) needs to take a break from handicapping tomes and huge books of mathematical formulae every once in a while and read something about the equine and human sides of the sport. The former is less sparsely populated with truly great material, though Jane Schwartz' Ruffian: Burning from the Start, which is finally back in print on a steady basis, certainly fits the bill. The human side has been covered somewhat better, from the academic (John Rosencrance's thoroughly engrossing and entertaining The Degenerates of Lake Tahoe) to the poetic (Bill Barich's masterpiece Laughing in the Hills). Horseplayers: Life at the Track is a fine addition to the literature of the human side of horse racing.

McLelland's book, actually, reads kind of like Rosencrance's, but with a plot and human names (or, in many cases, nicknames) plastered on the characters. You will meet the down-and-out, the desperate, the obsessed, the obsessive, the compulsive, the bum, the mathematician, and others. In fact, you'll meet pretty much every type of social outcast there is. (There's even a religious fanatic, though certainly the most likable one I've come across in print recently.) The one thing you'll lack is a truly well-rounded normal person, but then, the track doesn't seem to attract too many of them. Assuming they even exist. (We all have our faults, yes?) Even if you're not a big reader of nonfiction, if you like your books full of quirky characters, believe me, you're going to get a kick out of this book. And you may even pick up some tips on how to operate at your local track. (Here's a starter: stooping is not a good idea.)
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A galloping good time May 28, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Looking for a fun, fast-paced read this summer? If so, odds are you'll love this book. The author, Ted McClelland, spends a year as part of a fascinating subculture -- people desperately searching for the edge it takes to make a living betting on horses, whether it's searching the grandstand floor for winning tickets that were discarded by mistake, developing a new handicapping system, or just doing what your gut tells you. McClelland introduces readers to the regulars at Chicago's horse tracks, from grifters to whales (big-time betters). The book is much more than a series of character profiles, though, because the characters are McClelland's friends, mentors, confidants, and foils as he searches for his own edge.

I can attest that you don't have to be a horse racing aficionado to enjoy Horseplayers, you just have to appreciate excellent writing. McClelland has a reporter's eye for detail, a novelist's skill with metaphor and character development, and a humorist's wit and sense of timing. He also throws in historical tidbits and wonderful literary references for good measure. It is a truly great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Winning Read September 27, 2005
McClelland's book really makes you feel like you are at the track. It reads like a fiction story, intertwining details on colorful track personalities with the author's never-ending quest to find a successful betting strategy in a year spent primarily at Chicago racing tracks.

This is not a book solely for people who like horse racing or go to the track. I'm not a big horse racing fan, but found McClelland's vivid portrayal of life at the track a compelling read, and left me wanting more. In fact, shortly after finishing Horseplayers I read Seabiscuit, and I enjoyed Horseplayers much more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Winning Ticket September 12, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ted McClelland puts cash in the kitty and takes a year to explore the real world of handicapping the races....from the cheap seats at Hawthorne Race Course to the splendor of Arlington Park and at tracks throughout the country.

In Horseplayers, McClelland shares the thrill of cashing the tickets with the nice payouts and the struggles of searching for that one needed winner in the last race, along with the dreams and frustrations of regular fans who find life at the track.

There is the husband and wife who have different handicapping strategies, the railbird with a theory that makes calculus seem easy, the fan who looks for cashable tickets left on counters and the veteran who rumor has it is now not welcome in one facility.

It is a journey away from the million-dollar races, world-class stables and majestic runners adding new pages to the history books. These regulars - who are found with comparable stories at any track - are more at home seeking out that big play with the hard-knocking claimers on a Thursday afternoon than elbowing through the crowd on Triple Crown simulcast days or on bobblehead giveaway weekends in the summer. And Family Days? Forget it.

Though there aren't as many fans going through the gates as in "The Golden Era" of racing, they are as dedicated and have as many conspiracy theories about why that runner should not have stopped in the deep stretch, unless the jocks were doing something - somehow - to fix the outcome.

And that is what makes Horseplayers such a great read; because life is about trying to get that edge, playing the odds and cashing the winning ticket at the end of the day. And if the "sure thing" doesn't hit the board, there is always tomorrow.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
I thought it would be far better.
Published 23 days ago by Roger Hartley
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great, Fun Read
A well-written and interesting look at handicapping and folks who try to earn a living doing it.

What a pleasant surprise! Read more
Published 5 months ago by George Hayward
4.0 out of 5 stars Track truths
Good insights into the people we see at the track everyday. Some we want to be like and some we are afraid of becoming.
Published 16 months ago by John Hurak
4.0 out of 5 stars For more than just the horse lovers
The people Mr. McClelland meets and shares losses and wins with in this novel are very different people that are drawn together by one thing: the day they will score that big win. Read more
Published on July 9, 2012 by M. Kolhoff
5.0 out of 5 stars A look the people who play the track
Ted McClelland's Horseplayers isn't a Hollywood version of life at the track filled with romanticized versions of the always beautiful track and come-and-go bettors putting a few... Read more
Published on June 5, 2012 by Aaron
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty look at the gambling game of horse racing.
I have read my share of horse racing books but none as entertaining as Ted McClelland's Horseplayers. The book follows McClelland ups and downs in 2003. Read more
Published on March 1, 2012 by Ouzo Tower
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely enjoyable trip to the racetrack
I know all these Chicago horseplayers that Ted McClelland writes about. In fact, Bob the Brain was a good friend of mine about fifteen years ago. Read more
Published on December 21, 2011 by Thomas V. Hagerty
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, honest look at life around the racetrack
I bought this book because I am very interested in horse racing and learning to be a better handicapper. Read more
Published on December 6, 2011 by JJohns
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
I found myself enjoying the details as I prep my own bets on the Belmont. He's got a knack for meeting interesting people and sharing something significant with them. Read more
Published on April 9, 2011 by Medici
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding read
For those of you horseplayers out there looking for a good, fun read, look no further. You will relate to the characters and their follies and foibles throughout and you may even... Read more
Published on May 4, 2010 by Eric Houssels
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More About the Author

Edward McClelland was born in Lansing, Mich., in 1967. Like so many Michiganders of his generation, he now lives in Chicago, Ill. His upcoming book, "Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland," which will be released in May 2013 by Bloomsbury Press, was inspired by seeing the Fisher Body plant across the street from his old high school torn down. After getting his start in journalism at the Lansing State Journal, he later worked as a staff writer for the Chicago Reader. His book "The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes" won the 2008 Great Lakes Book Award in General Nonfiction. Ted's writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Salon, Slate, and The Nation.

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