Art courtesy of Jen Ferguson
This feature contains adult content intended for mature audiences
Note from author John Perrotta: This blog is the writer’s depiction of an imagined racetrack-based story, an ongoing saga, which includes some of the characters depicted in the ill-fated “Luck” series.
Cast of characters
Marcus - wheelchair-bound since falling from a tree as a child, he’s irascible but sensitive, and his world revolves around trying to pick winners at the track.
Jerry – Marcus’ best friend, a player in many senses of the word, he’s a clever horse handicapper with a weakness for Texas Hold ’Em poker and good-looking women.
Renzo - a sweet guy who’s not that great at handicapping but loves the familial relationship of a group of gamblers.
Lonnie – another good soul who has a load of self-esteem issues and deals with them by trying to be the “cool” one.
Ronnie Jenkins – a veteran jockey nearing the end of a career. He’s a former top rider and Derby winner but suffers from PTSD after a series of spills and wants one more chance with a “big” horse.
Joey Rathburn – longtime jockey agent, he has toiled in ambiguity for years and now has a shot at the gold ring.
Rosie Shanahan – the Irish import, she’s moved up from exercise girl to jockey and is proving she can hold her own with the boys.
Walter Smith – an old-school horseman, he’s come to California with his only horse to get away from bad memories in Kentucky. When the horse turns out to be a real runner, he gets more attention than he wanted.
Turo Escalante – a Peruvian misanthrope, he’s a skilled horseman with a big ego that gets tested when a talented horse with shady connections lands in his barn.
Ace Bernstein – mob-connected “businessman” who has done time for a frame-up, and now he is looking for revenge. Bernstein loves the track and has a dream of resurrecting the sport.
Gus Demitriou – Ace’s longtime driver, bodyguard and confidante. Winning a big slot jackpot fixed by Ace, he’s been the beard for the purchase of a talented Irish colt.
Mike Smythe – an evil mob guy who framed Ace and is obsessed with making his life difficult. Sometimes seems like the devil himself.
Goose – the “fifth wheel” of the Degenerates, he’s a lifetime racetracker who gambles every day and occasionally trains horses. He and Renzo bonded when they tried to claim Mon Gateau.
Bayou Bobby – the short-order cook in the Jockeys’ Room — a perennial wise guy.
Birddog – a shady jockey agent.
Chaz – Renzo’s little brother, done with a stint in rehab.
Moonbeam – Renzo’s waitress girlfriend from the diner.
Naomi – Jerry’s card-dealer girlfriend.
Kitti – one of Ronnie Jenkin’s ex-wives, she’s a former Las Vegas showgirl with a wild streak.
Clair Lechea surveys the dining room of the Intercontinental Hotel as the maître d’ checks his book.
“Mister Smythe said one-fifteen,” she says, “and he’s never late.”
Goose peers toward the saddling area, where the horses are being readied for the fifth race.
“Those folks there are looking for you,” says an usher, “and those over there, too.” He points to two more groups in the walking ring.
“Thanks a lot,” says Goose, as he gets a tap on the shoulder.
“Good-looking horse we got, partner,” says a tall man, introducing his friends.
“Think he’ll win?” says a blonde woman,
“He’s a big favorite, isn’t he?”
At which Goose looks to the odds board and blanches.
Daylight Savings is 4-to-5.
“Sorry, Ronnie,” says Charlie, the Clerk of Scales. “You’re off today. And off until you see the Stewards.”
Jenkins shakes his head.
“Oh, another thing,” says Charlie. “Kitti called from Vegas, said to tell you she’s down to one credit card, make sure you get to the bank soon.”
Out of Luck Blog Archive
Marcus enlarges the video on his monitor, as the horses are loaded in the starting gate.
“Six,” he calls to Jerry in the other room. “Daylight Savings is the six. Probably trail the field.”
“And … AWAY THEY GO,” says Trevor Denman, the track race caller.
Marcus tilts the screen for the run down the backstretch.
“Can you see him?” he says, as the field turns for home.
“Hard to miss, he’s eight in front,” says Jerry.
“THEY’D HAVE TO SPROUT WINGS TO CATCH HIM,” exults Trevor.
Lonnie, Renzo and Chaz are stunned, left speechless as Daylight Savings crosses the wire ten in front of the next horse and riderless.
“I’ve never seen that happen,” says Lonnie, “a guy go to the whip and fall off when he missed.”
“Why would he hit the horse when he was so far in front?” asks Chaz.
“I guess he just got excited,” says Renzo.
The Track President’s sweating as the FBI agents help him and his secretary pack documents into banker’s boxes.
“We’ll take those computers, too,” says an agent, taping the boxes shut.
“And we need your name, address and contact numbers,” says the other agent to the secretary.
“Surely,” she says. “Anything else?”
“Brent Bernstein’s office, where would we find him?”
“Down the hall, third door on the left,” answers the secretary. “But he never showed up this morning.”
As the horses circle the walking ring, Lonnie flashes Escalante his most charming smile.
“How you been, Mister Escalante?” he asks.
Escalante stares at him like he’s an idiot.
“Ask me about the horse, don’t ask me anything else, okay?” snaps the trainer.
“Here comes Rosie,” says Renzo to Chaz, “she’s our jockey.”
“Pretty cute,” says Chaz, straightening his tie.
The Old Man is mixing feed for his horse when he sees a stranger coming down the shedrow, followed by a vet with an endoscope across his shoulders.
“The trainer around?” asks the man.
“That would be me,” replies Smith, “who’s asking?”
“Seamus Leary, Emerald Bloodstock,” he says, extending his hand.
The Old Man declines shaking with his oat and molasses covered hand.
“I’ve a check here for you, and one for your agent,” says Seamus, “pending a satisfactory vet report.”
“Oh you do, do you?” replies Smith.
Mon Gateau strides out an easy winner, leaving his pursuers in the dust.
“Marcus was right,” says Renzo,
“Sixty percent of a fifty thousand purse.”
“Plus ten thousand, for these,” says Lonnie, brandishing tickets. “Makes up for what we lost on Daylight Savings.”
Monte appears, a pair of goons in tow.
“Hello, boys,” he says. “Time to square up.”
“We woulda broke even if it wasn’t for those half-a-points,” says Renzo.
“Yeah, we almost broke even,” says Lonnie.
“True,” replies Monte.
“Almost … but with the vig’, it’s sixty-eight thousand, payable right now.”
In the test barn, Goose and trainer Marylyn watch Daylight Savings cool out.
“The Handicapping Gods … first time they screwed me that way,” he says.
“I saw a 10-pound bug do that back in ’83,” she replies.
“Yeah, that was me, the only race I ever rode,” says Goose.
Jo’s arm-in-arm with Escalante as he holds Eduardo’s hand while a photographer snaps the winner’s circle picture.
Chaz smiles broadly between Renzo and Lonnie, their faces frozen in fear as they stare at Monte and his boys, lurking at the gate.
From the rail, Rathburn flinches when Rosie does a Frankie Dettori-style flying dismount, to the delight of the crowd, but immediately falls to the ground, grabbing her ankle.
“Now what?” he says to himself.
The lobby of Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, Ky. is crowded with arriving travelers as two men approach the security checkpoint.
Bowman, the lawyer, hands the man in the black hat a folio.
“Everything you need to know,” he says.
Chaz passes a small pipe to his mother.
“You’re the greatest, ma. My headache feels better already,” he says.
She holds up a hand to decline, then reconsiders.
“Maybe I better, I think I may go for gelato again.”
Big Guy and a buxom brunette are holding down a booth as Ronnie Jenkins enters the grillroom, stopping to sign an autograph before he joins them.
“You don’t look so hot, Ronnie,” says Big Guy. “Sit down here with Tammy from Miami … she can cure what ails you.”
Gus wrings his hands, silent as he studies the doctor.
“We’ll bring him out of the coma tomorrow and hopefully he’ll come around,” says the doctor, “ but I think you should notify his next of kin, just in case.”
“Great,” replies Gus. “I’d love to if I knew where he was.”
© 2013 John R. Perrotta