I learned, or maybe I just re-learned it for the hundredth time, that what scares people beyond anything else is never being heard. Is having to realize that you spent 20, 40, 80 years on this earth, and no one once listened. And really, the problem isn’t that people don’t have things to say. It’s that we all have so much to say, that we forget to sometimes just shut up and listen. Some stories from the track

I asked an older gentleman how I should have played my exacta bet. For those who don’t know, the exacta is playing first and second in a given race. I had bet that the win would go to Rags to Riches. As a hedge, I bet that the exacta would be Curlin-Rags to Riches. The older gentleman explained that if I had boxed my bet, I would have paid the same money, but won much more. Lesson learned. Or so I thought. This gentleman had 7 teeth on his upper gum. I asked him how often he came to the track, and he said everyday. He told me a tale of three of his “personal” friends who came and lost $5,000 every week betting on horses. But it wasn’t a story about betting, but apathy. Imagine how much $15,000 a week could help this man. He just sits there and watches a nicer house, better food, higher quality medicine get thrown away because these guys have the money. “It doesn’t matter how bad it gets out there,” he says, “In here they do whatever they want.”

Or another gentleman from the Ukraine who tried to explain to me that if I bet 8-5-3 on every race, that I’d come out a millionaire. I didn’t ask him if he was in fact a millionaire, but I knew he wasn’t. I asked him his strategy. He gave me the history of every jockey in the 9th race at Hollywood Park today. “I used to bet on him, and he’d win every time. Not anymore. Now he can’t even place.” His thick accent took getting used to, but it was easy to see that he just wanted someone to understand why he lost. He lost because he couldn’t rig the game as well as the winners do. But he always had 8-5-3, and I sat and watched with him as that trifecta won him $52 for a $2 bet on his last race of the day.

These guys, and many more like them, come to the track everyday and know more about horse racing than I might learn in a lifetime. And all they want to do is share. They think that if someone remembers their ideas or their strategies they become immortal. And maybe they’re right, maybe that’s the closest we’ll ever get. All I know is that I’m going to start watching for 8-5-3 winning combinations, and hope that old Ukrainian becomes a millionaire.

Oh yeah, and my horse won the Belmont Stakes making me a cool $10.60 for a $2 bet. Very nice.