Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
There is a saying that I have developed throughout my married years (all 1 1/2 of them), and it has served me well. It goes like this: When the in-laws come to stay, go to the track and play!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like my husband’s family a lot. They are great people and it was wonderful that they (some of them begrudgingly) made the trip from Indiana and other faraway locales to Miami to celebrate the Christmas holiday with us on the beach in the sun. But when this family goes places, they like to do things … touristy things. And I adamantly refuse to do touristy things even when I am a tourist, so I adamantly responded in the negative with added emphatic hand gestures when they eagerly inquired whether my husband and I would be joining them on a “duck tour” one beautiful afternoon.
For the uninitiated, a “duck tour” is a tour of a locale, in this case Miami Beach, on a conspicuous, large, colorful amphibious vehicle where they pepper you with historical facts via bull horn while you draw unnecessary attention to yourselves by cruising slowly down a busy street, dodging pedestrians and Ferraris, and around the bay, dodging yachts and manatees. Very James Bond, if James Bond were toting a truckload of pale-legged, Hawaiian shirt-clad, sunburned, camera-wielding, socks-with-sandals folks along on his mission.
After the aforementioned opportunity was placed before me, I suggested as an alternative for the day’s entertainment that we take a fun family outing to Gulfstream Park to watch some races in the sun and maybe win some extra Christmas cash. After all, I had purchased a fabulous new hat the previous day at 50% off, and I reasoned that my new chapeau should not be punished because other people want to know where Gianni Versace oft ate his meals before he was offed. (The News Café. In case you were curious. #ducktourfacts).
This idea was shot down quicker than my own waterfowl tour rejection by all but my husband and his aunt, who both enjoy a good day at the races as much as the next non-tourist. So the three of us and my hat headed north on I-95 to beautiful Gulfstream to have some land-based entertainment and stimulate the economy, while the rest of them were on their own, free to dodge skyscraper cruise ships on a floating tour bus. Whatever, we couldn’t fit all of them in our truck anyway.
Once we arrived at the track, I was happy to see how pleasantly surprised Gunner’s aunt was with the track’s impressive aesthetics. She had never been before, and as an upstate New York-based veterinarian who grew up in Kentucky and therefore had Keeneland Race Course and Saratoga Race Course as her basis for comparison, her expectations were bound to be high. And by all accounts they were met, from the appealing, spectator friendly paddock with stadium seating out where everyone at the surrounding shops and restaurants can watch the horses walk to the festive red poinsettias adorning the outer rail hedge for the holidays.
SCENIC GULFSTREAM PARK
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Wagering-wise, the day was a success. Even though there were no special races on the card, just your run of the mill claiming races, between the three of us we managed to get returns, however paltry, in almost every race. So we were pumped. We also discussed the theory that, if you leave the track with no less money than you arrived with, then you had achieved a day of fun in the sun for free, kosher hotdogs included, and it was therefore totally worth it.
By late afternoon the hubbs and I were at that point. We were breaking even when we decided to wager a few bucks on one last race before we hit the road. After pondering the past performances, I made my picks based on “logic” and my extreme handicapping prowess. But there was this longshot with a fabulous name that I just couldn’t resist putting $2 on to win. So I made my way to the mutuel counter to have a rendezvous with my new best friend. I apologize but I must now go off on a brief tangent to regale you with the story about my favorite mutuel clerk, ever.
I started the day off by placing my wagers with the clerk next to him, had won some money, and therefore had returned to her out of superstition to place my next bet. But alas, her line was long. That was when I heard a voice call to me from one seat over. “Come on over,” it said, “I won’t bite.” Fair enough, I thought. So I tentatively made my way over to the nice, elderly gentlemen who had assured me he would refrain from taking a nibble.
He kindly inquired, “What can I do for you, orange sherbet?” And I stared at him quizzically as this was an odd pet name even for someone I had known for more than three seconds.
“Your hat is great, I love it! It looks like orange sherbet!” he exclaimed, chuckling to himself. And I chuckled to myself and was like, “thanks, can I have a trifecta box on the 1,3 and 7 and $2 to win on the 6,” or something like that. And lo and behold, I had a winning ticket in there somewhere.
DOES THIS HAT MAKE YOU HUNGRY?
So I went back to my new best friend to cash it and to make my wager on our last race before we left. Before I could even open my mouth he said gleefully, “you remind me of my ex-wife.” And I was like “mmmmkay …” with raised eyebrows, and the lady teller next to him, presumably his friend, was laughing hysterically. And then he cryptically explained, “don’t worry, that’s a good thing.” And I was like, “right.” (Best not to ask questions, I reasoned). And then he said, “your hat makes me hungry, it looks like orange sherbet,” and I was like, “$2 to win on Rico Suave, please.”
In case you haven’t figured it out, Rico Suave was my strictly-based-on-his-name longshot bet. He was a plain, slight horse, nothing impressive, and he went off at 40-1. But his name was so perfect. I still have the 1990s jam in my head as I type this. And then he won. After which I went back to my new boyfriend to cash the ticket.
He congratulated me and told my husband he was a lucky man for having a wife that liked to go racing as much as he did. And I was like “puh-lease, boyfriend, I was the one who dragged him here.” And then we bid each other adieu, and I took my $80 and sherbet hat back to the beach for some dinner and a detailed recounting of some duck tour madness.