A Safe Bet

“The average of 4, 10, and 9 is 7 2/3,” I reported to my racetrack pals. “I don’t suppose there’s a horse numbered 7 2/3?”

The “Visit Arlington Racetrack” entry on my Summer Activities list (“See A Few Choice Words by Anita” entry “Feeling Listless? Get A List”) was dangerously close to being unchecked. One phone call, three texts, and two emails later four of my best friends joined me at the track in early September to remedy that situation.

“You could bet on horses 7 and 8,” someone suggested.

That thought crossed my mind, but it didn’t feel right. I should have kept gathering lucky numbers until the average totaled a multiple.

Twenty-two, the date of my son’s birth, is my lucky number. Since twenty-two horses don’t simultaneously race at Arlington, I borrowed lucky numbers from the train conductor, the vendor who sold me a Sam Adams, and Jackie (my friend’s daughter who called while we were on the train.)

Historically I based my Arlington Park bets on statistics, jockey wins, and recommended Exotics Play of the Day. These tactics never brought in a big win.

This time I employed a two fold gambling strategy. First I bet the long shots. Rooting on the underdog or underhorse seemed noble. Then I relied on gut luck- what felt right. Betting on horses 7 and 8 didn’t feel right.

My silver Irish ring wasn’t so lucky.

To shore up my luck I wore my silver Irish ring the criteria being “Luck of the Irish.” (I wasn’t sure if it would work for me because I’m Polish, but I gave it a shot.)

Uncle Kakee
Uncle Kakee won big at the St. Florian’s raffle, but couldn’t help me out from his afterlife.

To increase my lucky odds, I brought along a photograph of my Uncle Kakee who always won the St. Florian’s raffle. (I attended a Chicago Southside Catholic grade school and fund-raising was part of the curriculum. I sold New World subscriptions, miniature statues of Jesus dressed in velvet robes and raffle chances.) One could point out that Uncle Kakee bought twentyfold the chances compared to the typical buyer thus increasing his probability, but as a seven year old I only believed in Uncle Kakee’s luck.

While twisting my Irish ring and touching my uncle’s photo for guidance I scanned the list of race entries. I chose How Sweet It Is because my uncle liked Jackie Gleason, Call Me Handsome since that’s my pet name for Mike (Significant Other) and Wake Up Joe for my dad’s name. They all lost.

We resorted to randomness.

My cohorts fared about the same. For the last race we abandoned all strategies and embraced randomness. Chris wrote the numbers of the horses on slips of paper, Jill held them in cupped hands, and Barb chose number 1.

Moon Over Cabo didn’t place.

During the train ride home we chatted about the afternoon, a Chicago outing, and meeting for drinks on Thursday.

Later that evening as I slipped off the Irish ring into my jewelry box and Uncle Kakee’s photograph into his frame, I reflected on the afternoon.


The only safe bet at the races today was the friendship I shared.




2 thoughts on “A Safe Bet”

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