I accidentally pulled off a masterpiece of a scam.
With another friend joining us, my wife Beverly and I headed to horse country in Kentucky.
Somewhere just across the Kentucky state line I realized I had left my billfold at home. Some people would be upset about that. Not me.
No billfold meant no driving and no paying for anything. Four days of someone else taking care of everything. It’s was a thing of beauty!
Part of our journey was to catch the last day of the spring horse racing season at Keeneland race track just outside of Lexington. Bev and I had visited that beautiful facility before and had vowed to return one day to bet on the horses.
So there we were. But with no money of my own, I was what’s referred to in tax lingo as ‘a dependent.’ And somebody wasn’t going to give me a lot of money to lose on the ponies.
Didn’t really matter. We’re not much for gambling and being only the second time at a race track, neither of us know much about how to bet on the horses.
That doesn’t mean I’ve never made money at the track, though.
Gather ‘round, children for a sadly true story that will leave you shaking your head and probably liking me a little less.
Dateline: Ruidoso Downs/Ruidoso, New Mexico
I had never been to a betting track for horses but was intrigued and somehow convinced our group to spend an afternoon there.
It was a blistering hot day, to the point of being miserable. Probably because of that, the crowd was light and payouts were pretty small.
Compounding the misery, roughly halfway through the day’s races none of us were winning any of the $2 bets we were making.
But I remember this well:
Race #6 had just concluded, and I had concluded it was time to lose a beer, so I went to the boy’s room.
Standing at the urinal, I noticed all the disappointment laying on the floor. Apparently, people holding losing tickets as they hit the restroom simply dropped them on the floor when it was time to hold something else.
The ticket right at my feet caught my eye. It was for the #6 race just run, and it appeared someone had picked a winning trifecta.
In case it needs explaining, a trifecta is a bet on three horses to finish in the top three. A straight trifecta means you pick specific horses to finish 1st, 2nd, & 3rd. That can be a pretty handsome payoff..
This ticket was a trifecta box, meaning the bettor had picked the top three finishers but in no particular order. It’s a popular bet because it allows leeway for the order in which your top three picks finish.
The downside of the box is that it doesn’t pay out as well as a straight. But it’s still a win.
Finishing my own business, I bent down to take a closer look at the ticket.
Horses #2, 3 and 8. That’s what I remembered as the top three in the just-completed race. I’m guessing it had fallen out of somebody’s pocket.
Now, you can only imagine what the men’s room floor is like underneath a row of urinals. It ain’t pretty and it ain’t dry.
I didn’t touch it, instead stepping outside to double-check the numbers on the board and confirm the winning horses.
Yup, that was them.
I thought about it a few moments, taking into consideration that it was a ‘box’ so the payoff was not going to be all that rich, especially on a day when there’s weren’t many patrons attending the races.
What I really hoped was that the original owner would come back to the bathroom to see if he could find his lost ticket. I would show him where it was and see how he handled it. But as a couple of minutes passed, the ticket just laid there.
Free money… Money just laying there… Waiting on some fool to rescue it from its sea of nastiness.
Yeah, I did.
I grabbed a couple of paper towels, picked it up and took it to the sink, rinsing it off before patting it as dry as possible with more paper towels.
Then I washed my hands. I washed my hands 40 times, then I washed them again. There simply was not enough soap to wash off the shame of my deed.
But whatcha gonna do? Leave a winning ticket laying there?
I finally determined my hands and the ticket were clean as they were going to get, and I headed to the window to collect my payoff.
To the window clerk I explained the wet ticket as the result of my excitement of having won, spilling my drink during the celebration.
She smiled politely and handed me my winnings. $36.
I didn’t tell anyone in our group about it until we were in the car and on the way back to our house. Everyone was pretty grossed out. Especially, my poor wife.
But poor because she didn’t win no money! Loser!!
Although, it can be argued that I was the loser. To this day, she still doesn’t like holding hands with me.