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.
Brent’s on the cell phone with his grandfather.
“The place is rockin’, gramps,” says Brent. “Like you always say, ‘Good horses bring a crowd.’ ”
He looks out his office window.
“The betting lines for the first race are 10 deep.”
Marcus and Jerry traverse the parking lot toward the grandstand entrance.
“We’re cooked if Mon Gateau doesn’t make money today,” says Marcus.
“What about Goose’s horse? We have a piece of him, too?” says Jerry.
“Maiden, running in a stakes race … no shot,” snaps Marcus.
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Goose hangs at the periphery of the crowd of owners waiting for Daylight Savings in the paddock walking ring.
“Here he comes,” says Goose, and the crowd turns.
“I think he got bigger,” says Goose.
Marylyn gives Rosie a leg up on Daylight Savings.
“Stay outside … let him roll at the quarter pole,” she says.
“See you in the winner’s circle,” replies Rosie.
Goose watches as the colt gives a buck, feeling good.
“Think he’s getting hot?” he asks the trainer as they file out of the paddock.
Escalante and Jo arrive at the assembly barn with Pint of Plain at the same time as Smith does with Gettin’ Up Morning. The Old Man tips his hat to Jo.
“Good luck, senor,” says the Old Man.
“Same to you, my friend,” says Escalante. “You know my new wife, si?”
Claire Lechea peeks out the window at the rainforest below as she adjusts her eyeshades, ready for a nap.
“Can I get you anything?” asks the flight attendant.
“Everything’s perfect,” replies Claire.
Goose presses the ‘REPEAT BET’ icon on the self-service betting machine, scoops a handful of win tickets on Daylight Savings and blesses himself with the sign of the cross.
“I thought you were Jewish,” says one of his friends in the next line.
“Covering all bases,” says Goose.
On the television, Goose’s ecstatic group poses for their win photo with Daylight Savings.
“I hope she rides our horse just like she did that one,” says Gus, binoculars and Racing Form in hand.
The somber Bernstein merely nods agreement as Gus leaves for the track.
Rathburn and Birddog watch at the paddock rail as the horses stand awaiting the paddock judge to call, “Rider’s up.”
“Could be a big payday for you, Joey. Your jocks on both of the favorites,”
“That’s my life. I’m always either in the outhouse or the penthouse,” jokes Rathburn,
as the horses get ready to move.
At the other side of the paddock, the Degenerates meet their new jockey.
“Ladies and gentlemens,” says a smiling Carlos Crispino, tipping his helmet to Moonbeam and Wanda as he shakes hands with Jerry, Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie.
“I wonder where mom is?” says Renzo.
“Maybe she got busy in the kitchen,” says Chaz, casting a furtive glance at the crowd.
“Go to the front and don’t look back,” says Escalante to the jockey. “I need to take care of the other one, Miguel will put you up.”
Gus chews the corner of his program as Rosie approaches.
“I’ll buy you a hot dog if you’re hungry,” says Escalante.
“Hah, I don’t think I could eat anything right now,” says Gus as Escalante turns to Rosie.
“Let him have the lead, he’s going to go anyway,” says Escalante, indicating Gettin’ Up Morning. He gives Rosie a leg up and walks alongside.
“Let Crispino soften him up on the front end. Then you take it away at the half-mile.”
“No surprises here, jock,” says the Old Man. “Go to the front and maintain your position.”
“Wish we had a better post,” says Jenkins, his brow furrowed with concern. “I’ll have to rush him a bit.”
Goose watches the digital display as the mutuel clerk feeds his last ticket into the machine.
“Holy Crap!” he says when the total appears.
“I don’t have this kind of money,” says the clerk,
“Have to get you a check.”
“No checks, Tommy. Cash on the barrelhead, American money. I’ll wait,” says Goose.
“AWAY they go,” drones the announcer’s voice as the field breaks from the gate.
Jenkins guns Gettin’ Up Morning to the front, gets hung five wide into the first turn chasing Mon Gateau while Rosie hugs the rail with Pint of Plain.
“Perfect,” says Escalante to Jo, as he takes her hand. “We can go to the winner’s circle now. It’s over.”
Bernstein’s on his feet, urging the chestnut colt as he begins his move.
“Come on, big boy,” he whispers to the television set. “One time for daddy.”
Gettin’ Up Morning begins to shorten stride as he reaches the eighth pole, tiring from his mile-long duel with Mon Gateau.
Rosie chirps to Pint of Plain, still under a hand ride as he makes his move.
“It’s Pint of Plain, giving Rosie Shanahan a stakes double,” barks the announcer as the chestnut draws clear at the wire.
“Made us the rabbit,” says Marcus.
“Lucky to be third with those,” grumbles Jerry, “the two best horses on the grounds.”
“Twenty thousand for third,” whispers Lonnie to Renzo.
“Would you gentlemen be open to an offer on that gelding?” says the Irish bloodstock agent, appearing in the aisle next to the box.
“Say two hundred thousand? I’d like to try him at Cheltenham over the jumps.”
“That gross or net?” says Marcus.
“My fault,” says the Old Man, “the blinkers made him too sharp.”
“Sorry,” replies Jenkins. “Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t have held him today.”
“Yep,” says Smith. “He was on that other horse like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”
Gus puts the trophy on Brent’s desk. They’re on speaker phone with Bernstein.
“He’ll win the Breeder’s Cup Turf, gramps, congratulations,” says Brent, “and we broke last year’s number for attendance and betting handle.”
“I’ll bring home the trophy,” says Gus, laughing. “But I might need help carrying it, solid sterling silver weighs a ton.”
Lonnie does the math in his head.
“Two hundred, divided by four, plus twenty from the race,” he says. “We’re even with Monte and each have forty grand left over.”
“Not exactly,” says Renzo. “There’s the twenty thousand I pledged to the Institute for Insightfulness. And the check I wrote them.”
“A value play if I ever heard one,” says Marcus.
As Rathburn approaches, the bald-headed man Rosie’s speaking with shakes her hand and makes a hasty exit.
“What were you talking to Curly about?” he asks.
“He told me to give him a call if I ever decide to go to New York. He’d like to represent me,” she replies as Rathburn blanches.
“New York?” he chokes.
“Gotta go,” says Rosie. “Interviews.”