We are part of a tribe — you and me. It’s traditional in a sense, while not being determined by geography or our survival. But make no mistake — the language, mores, and ways we reside within the confines of this tribe define who we are.

We are horse bettors. Gamblers if you prefer – those willing to stake our money on the hope of making it into more money through the four legs of an equine carrying a 108-pound human on its back. An incredibly challenging and mostly unsuccessful endeavor, which feeds our tribal psyche the world over.

As a member of this tribe I know:

  • I will lose more photos than I win
  • A horse’s trip will undo hours of handicapping
  • I won’t celebrate until it’s official
  • I will tip my teller and waiter and then buy my friends dinner, ice cream, a drink, whatever they want when I win
  • Bad rides will bother me, even though I’ve never ridden a horse
  • Scratches at the gate should result in cancelling a wager, if I have time
  • The majesty of the horse – especially up close – is something to behold
  • I will be humbled, maybe humiliated
  • I also will become uncontrollably ecstatic
  • Having an opinion matters, backing one matters more
  • Unlike the real world, disagreements will be settled in about two minutes or less
  • A long shot on top, underneath, for the win or in a multi-race sequence restores hope in the world
  • Winning with friends is always better
  • Winning at the track with friends is the best
  • On occasion we get cheated, get short changed or duped, but we come back for more
  • Finishes almost always make sense after the fact
  • Other finishes defy logic
  • Give me a jock who can nurse a lead, patiently find a seam, get his mount to courageously ride along the rail, and ride all the way through the finish
  • A horse that re-rallies after getting passed is something to applaud, even when it beats me
  • Safe trips for all is always my first hope
  • Horses aren’t machines they all have bad days here and there
  • I love our language – sitting chilly, across the board, breeze, off the turf, won the bob; whatever, it separates us from the harsh world outside the racing oval

For me, the best place for our tribe to congregate and concentrate on is Saratoga, which I don’t need to explain to you.

Photo by Matt Shifman