If you spend any amount of time with someone that likes to gamble, whether it's horses, poker, craps, or whatever else it out there, you can't help but be amused as the stories of fortune snapped away from their hands by the cruel hand of Lady Luck. It's the nature of the beast.
There is, however, something about bad-beat horse racing stories that seems to take the cake when compared to that of other gambling activities, like poker. I think Steven Crist, publisher of the Daily Racing Form, put it best in a recent post he had over at his blog:
I had my share of bad beats [in poker] too but I don't tell bad-beat stories because they are the least interesting stories in the world and having to listen to them is the leading reason that poker players are among the most boring people on earth. At least bad-beat horseplayer stories have the potential for genuine drama and genuine injustice, like losing a bet because the rider misjudges the finish line or a horse jumps the infield hedge or an alligator crawls onto the track. But every single bad-beat poker story is essentially the same: I had the best hand going in and lost. It happens. Even when you're an 80/20 favorite, you lose 20 percent of the time. Big deal. Get over it. Nobody cares.
He's absolutely right; I can't remember the last time someone told me a bad-beat poker story that didn't end with the other guy having better cards. Horse racing bad-beats, however, are a completely different affair. You may think Crist was exaggerating with his descriptions of how one could lose a horse race, but he's not. Sure, many horse racing loses happen when the horse you didn't bet on noses out the horse you did bet on (and usually the horse you did bet on is like 50-1 while the horse you didn't bet on is the favorite). But then there are the other, more colorful, results.
With this in mind, here are my top 5 ways to lose a bet at the track...and none of them involve the other guy having a better hand.
5. Horse is comfortably ahead in the lane, probably a length clear of the second place horse and less than 50 yards from the wire. Horse all of a sudden for no reason (no whip, no shadows...nothing) darts hard to the outside, completely cutting off the second place horse. I'm not talking about bearing out...I'm talking about practically making a right turn towards the grandstand. Inquiry sign goes up and horse is disqualified.
4. Horse is calmly loaded into the gate prior to the start of a race. Gate opens. Horse takes one step, gets spooked and throws jockey off the saddle. (Jockey was not hurt). Horse was my single in the Pick 4. Yeah...nice.
3. Horse gets spooked by a flock of birds on the backstretch.
2. Bug boy (apprentice jockey) mistakes 1/8th pole for the finish line ...when he's well clear of the field and is then nipped at the wire. (How he made this mistake I have no idea, I mean it's not like the finish line moves to a different spot from race to race. IT'S ALWAYS IN THE SAME PLACE!!!)
And my all-time favorite...
1. Horse is on the lead making the final turn for home and looking like a sure winner. Horse comes off the turn and goes about 20 wide into the stretch....so wide that he hops the steel fence at the top of the lane near the quarter chute. Neither horse nor jockey were injured but, needless to say, horse never comes anywhere close to actually crossing the finish line. I don't know if the horse was in a hurry to get back to the barn or if he wanted to buy a beer at the Quarter Chute Cafe, either way my ticket became a write-off.