Friday, August 22, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Horse sense: My parents would have loved to own that loser

DebraDeAngeloW

By
From page A11 | June 15, 2014 |

“What an amateur.”

That was my first thought after hearing California Chrome owner Steve Coburn rant and whine after the horse’s disappointing performance in the Belmont Stakes. We all exhaled in disappointment when the chance to see the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 dissolved when California Chrome finished fourth.

OK, you lost. Don’t be such a weenie about it. Don’t you know anything about horse racing? How on Earth did you get that far in the game, dude? If you’re going to rant, rant about your horse being second on the rail going into the far turn, and then the jockey pulling to the outside, four horses deep. Now that’s something to get pissed off about. Fire that guy.

Bonehead.

Sheesh. It’s horse racing! There are no guarantees! That’s why it’s called gambling, not math! You win some, you lose some, and unless you’re very, very lucky and very, very wealthy, in horse racing, you mostly lose some. But when your horse snags a nice little $80,000 fourth-place purse in the Belmont freakin’ Stakes, (on top of $1,417,800 in the Kentucky Derby and $900,000 in the Preakness States) buck up and count your cash.

Besides hoping to see the Triple Crown drought end, I had another reason to root for California Chrome. His trainer, Arthur Sherman, rode my parents’ first racehorse, Hart N Sole, to her first win, on April 29, 1968. She won the second race, six-furlongs in a respectable 1:12:1 at Golden Gate Fields, breaking her maiden by six lengths. The comment in the racing results in the newspaper the next day was “So far out in front, she looked the last horse in the third race.”

My dad bragged about that line for months. My parents were overjoyed. Avid racing fans for years, Hart N Sole was their first horse. Although they were seasoned gamblers, they knew nothing about horses, but both being physicians, they had enough cash flow to take a step into horse ownership. When Hart N Sole won, it seemed like a turning point for my parents. They weren’t particularly lucky people. “Lucky breaks” were things that happened to other people. For my dad in particular, Hart N Sole’s win was one of the best moments of his troubled life.

And then there was that other moment.

Several months later, my dad and grandfather returned from the track after one of Hart N Sole’s races looking like they’d been to a funeral.

“Did she win?” I asked with bubbling enthusiasm.

My dad nodded, silently… sadly.

“She got claimed,” he finally said, his voice choking.

Claimed? What the heck is claimed? He told me that right after they snapped the photo in the winner’s circle, the paddock judge came up to Hart N Sole and slapped a tag with a big C on it onto her bridle: C for claimed. A different horse trainer came up to her, took the reins from our trainer, and led Hart N Sole away to a new barn. You see, in horse racing, every horse in a claiming race is essentially for sale. Anyone can purchase any horse in that race simply by handing over a check. It’s how the game is played. Everyone knows the rules.

My parents didn’t know the rules.

That was their “amateur moment” in horse racing. My father found the new owners and pleaded with them to sell her back. No deal. They wanted her, they claimed her fair and square, and that’s how the racing cookie crumbles. Although my dad was a World War II veteran, I think that was the day his heart broke. His drinking worsened from that point on.

My parents tried to bounce back, and purchased Hart N Sole’s half-sister, Lari Sol, who apparently took after the other half. Lari always finished like the actual last horse in the race. She always looked half asleep, without even the energy to hold up her floppy, droopy lower lip, and eventually became a sweet, patient showhorse for my sister and me.

A whole string of mediocre horses followed Lari Sol, and none of them ever made it out of the “also ran” section. Most ended up as pleasure horses or show horses, one was donated to the UC Davis equine breeding program (look up “Frankies Back” — you’ll find my mom’s name) but the end result was that my parents sunk themselves into non-recoverable debt.

Constantly chasing their first winning horse “high,” money ran through their bank account like a sieve. Their strategy was to get more horses — surely one of them would be a winner. But they kept buying cheap horses, not ever recognizing that it costs as much to feed and train a bad horse as it does a good one — and they had five at one point, and not even a fourth-place finisher in the bunch.

Horseracing ultimately bled my parents dry. Crushing debt, a complete inability to handle their own finances, and my father’s alcoholism and PTSD and all that it entailed, resulted in both of my parents dying penniless, each with matching brain aneurysms.

As I said — “lucky” was something that happened to other people.

So, I should hate horse racing, right? It was a key factor in my family’s self-destruction. But I don’t. Because, ironically, the few bright moments I had with my parents happened mainly at the racetrack. The results were tragic, yes, but the memories are happy. Precious, even. I remember learning to read from a racing program when I was 4. Poring over the racing results every morning in the newspaper, and picking the day’s winners. And standing at the rail, the roaring grandstand behind me, screaming for our horse. We could win!  This could be it! It could happen! There’s a chance!

Or we could lose. Eh, well. Tear up the tickets and try again. I just wish my parents had experienced what it feels like to “lose” the Belmont Stakes — probably like the best moment of their lives.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

Comments

comments

Debra DeAngelo

.

News

No easy task: History buffs still trying to save building

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
DHS musicians back from summer in Italy

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
City to overhaul its sprinkler heads, other water-wasters

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Davis indecent-exposure suspect pleads no contest

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Not-guilty plea entered in Woodland homicide case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Russian aid convoy reaches war-torn Luhansk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Yolo County golf tournament enters fourth year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Putah Creek Council appoints new executive director

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A3

 
Communitywide ice bucket challenge on Sunday

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Parents’ Night Out features Vacation Bible School

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Afternoon tours of city wetlands resume Sept. 6

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Prunes take center stage at last agri-tour of the summer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
In need of food? Apply for CalFresh

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Saylor will meet constituents at Peet’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Event will unveil mural celebrating food justice

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Wolk bill would require reporting of water system leaks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Writing couple stops at Davis bookstore

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Explorit: Final Blast show returns for second year

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A5

Record drought saps California honey production

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
World travelers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Seniors set to stroll through Arboretum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Forum

Weightlifters causing a racket

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
No support for militarization

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

A better use for this vehicle

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Police are our friends, right?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Wage plan has a big flaw

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Bridging the digital divide with computational thinking

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

.

Sports

Giants win nightcap in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Watts likes what he’s seen in keen Aggie DB competition

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Watney and McIlroy struggle at start of The Barclays

By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B1

Light-hitting Cats fall

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Sports briefs: Big West soccer coaches have high hopes for UCD men

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

Rock Band campers perform at E Street Plaza

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Natsoulas to host mural conference

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Yolo Mambo to play free show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘If I Stay’: Existential angst

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11

 
Davis Chinese Film Festival to kick off with 1994 favorite

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

Car Care: Teenagers not driving safe cars, study shows

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
Car Care: Feeling the summer heat? Your car battery is too

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Three-wheeled Elio gets closer to going on sale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, August 22, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6