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Horseplayers: Life at the Track Paperback – May 1, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Playing the horses is a rough way to make a living. I found McClelland's book to be too long as his frustration was repeated. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Kindle Customer
I think the author's experience at the racetrack for a year mirrors the experience of many horseplayers, including myself. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Kindle Customer
McClellan captures the seedy essence of any OTB in America in a remarkable Fashion. It goes beyond racing and examines human nature.Published 12 months ago by jonathan young
I enjoyed the book. It tells of different characters at track and how they got the perfect system to get rich.Published 15 months ago by jerry mcconnell
A lot of the truth about betting on horses. Shows some of the dark side of this game. The best description of this work is that: "If you want to beat this game, you will have... Read morePublished 16 months ago by John Myers
A well-written and interesting look at handicapping and folks who try to earn a living doing it.
What a pleasant surprise! Read more
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 on April 23, 2013 by John Hurak
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 morePublished on July 9, 2012 by M. Kolhoff