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Horseplayers: Life at the Track Kindle Edition
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What a pleasant surprise! This book paralleled my life in many odd coincidences, and that added to the fun, but even if you didn’t grow up near one of Chicago’s racetracks there is great material here of interest to any horse fan. The author, Ted McClelland includes tales of road trips to other tracks large and small, as well as a lot of material about off track betting at America’s great racetracks.
Ted somehow finagles his editor to give him a one year stake for betting the horses under the premise that he will write a book about his experience. This book is the account of that year and Ted’s attempt to come up with a successful system for handicapping. In the process Ted meets a blind man who handicaps with a numbering system that would confuse Fermat, an ex- Nun who successfully handicaps through her perception of the horses’ willingness to improve, a former college professor who develops a system that leads to paying off the mortgage (and confounding his father-in-law) and a whole cast of characters who live (or try to live) at the track.
The book is full of information on horse racing and gambling but it’s the personal descriptions of the people he encounters that really make the book worth reading. Ted is a gifted writer and he captures and relates the true stories of these people with humor and dignity. Since finishing this book I’ve found some of Ted’s articles and have found them equally well written and I will definitely be buying his other two books.
A good book by a good author.
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.
This book will probably not make you a better horseplayer. However it is a very interesting look at the types of personalities you might find at the horse track and I found it to be a great read.