Sunday, October 09, 2005



So you want to bet on horses and watch the horses run. There are two race turfs, alternating each week with four racing days. All the more than a hundred off-track betting stations are equipped with TV monitors that show the races and the odds-on-board live and direct from any of the racetracks. Will it make you a chronic gambler? No, of course not.

I don't see anything wrong with betting on horses unless one is a compulsive gambler like most of my racing buddies. As a matter of fact, my wife has no qualms on my pastime simply because horseracing - that's according to my dictionary - requires extraordinary analytical skills. For picking a winner involves many factors. One has to consider the adequacy of the horse vis-a-vis the distance of the race, the speed of the horse vis-a-vis the competition, the jockey's style vis-a-vis the liking of the horse and a slew of vis-a-vises that can fill a whole sheet of bond paper, single-spaced using the normal draft font.

Would you believe that the royal family of England loves horseracing so much that when Prince Andrew got married to Sarah Fergusson, the wedding day was set on a Tuesday so as not to disrupt the weekend races? It wasn't called the sports of the kings for nothing and that's one of the reasons why I love horseracing. It endows a touch of class to non-royals like me.

Here, in this part of the planet, the most popular event and also the biggest grosser is the Daily Double. All one has to do is choose a horse in a race then pick another horse in the succeeding race and there you have a Daily Double combination. If both horses win in their respective races, you get rewarded with a dividend. It may sound difficult to pick the right combination but betting on two races is no big deal if one will just follow the tips on the racing program or the whispers of the racetrack urchins or the hunches that may penetrate your innards. I tell you, logic just doesn't work much in this area of endeavor.

Oops. Before I further contradict myself, let me just tell you this little big secret of mine.

It was one fine racing day and I was at the racetrack to watch Real Fast, the best thoroughbred in the land, who was scheduled to race in a few minutes. That was the 10th race of the day and it was a pity that I had already consumed my 100 bucks budget for the day, save for the five bucks in my secret pocket. To make matters worse, all my racing buddies have already left to nurse their broken hearts and empty pockets. With the racing program in front of my face, I was contemplating on whether to bet my last money on Real Fast or just spend it on a stick of fishballs.

It was a tight decision for me to make. Firstly, Real Fast, as always, was a crowd favorite, a llamado in the racing parlance. Secondly, the next race would be dominated by Strong Feet, another crowd favorite, making it obvious that the dividend for the combination of Real Fast and Strong Feet, for the Daily Double event of races 10 and 11, was just a shade above return money. Thirdly, I am a dehadista, one who goes for longshot winners with juicy dividends although the probability of winning is much lesser than the llamado.

It was really a tough one to call and the odds on my mind was fast shifting to the stick of fishballs when the intruding sound of my pager snapped the thin string of my thoughts.
The horse from outer space

"Jogi\Rey, get Blue Bishop and Power Force." I was quite amused because my pager's message was actually a tip for the race that was about to begin. Another thing, who was this Jogi who sent the message? Of course, Rey was my name so the message was for me. But again, who was Jogi? Sure as the horse's manure, it was just a prank by one of my racing buddies.

But before I had made a logical conclusion, I gave my pager another look then glanced at my racing program. It was a very appropriate combination for my five bucks because the estimated dividend on the odds-on-board said 999. A triple nine means a dividend of a thousand or more for a five-peso wager. Not bad for a last money bet. But how could Blue Bishop win over Real Fast? And Power Force, could he hold his ground against the anticipated victory of Strong Feet?

To make the story short, Blue Bishop prevailed over Real Fast and after an eternity of waiting, Strong Feet suffered a bad start, eventually losing by a head to Power Force. I was ecstatic with the 1,335 dividend which was far beyond my usual bounty, much more if you consider my daily betting budget of a hundred bucks or so. After treating myself to a bottle of fruit juice, I wended my way back into the grandstand to wait for another serendipitous message from the generous prankster while satiating myself over countless sticks of the more expensive squid balls.

I wasn't disappointed though. Just right after the parade of entries for the 13th race, my pager sprang to life with "Jogi/Rey, Bet on Mandingo and Private Eyes." It was odd because I was just thinking of dumping Private Eyes. But prank or no prank, this Jogi already gave me a bonanza. So what the heck? Besides, the odds-on-board was displaying a 105 return for a five-buck bet, that's for the combination of Mandingo, a longshot entry, and Private Eyes, the top favorite in the succeeding race.

Just twenty bucks, I said to myself. But my hand fished out a fifty bill and my greasy mouth didn't refute the teller's query that I was betting all of it. You see, fifty bucks is almost half of my daily betting budget and it is just customary for a small-time bettor to shiver on a big money bet even if the weather is warm.

The horses were already off and running when I got back to the stairs of the grandstand so I hastily went to the nearby TV monitor to witness the live action and also to see for myself whether the mysterious message would be true to its words. Mandingo, my horse, was a far fourth favorite. He was on the lead at the first turn, running astride with the top favorite named Spoiler. The pacing did not change until the final stretch when Spoiler, steered by an apprentice jockey, made her final bid by the rail, moving by a horse length ahead of Mandingo. But Spoiler spoiled her chance for a sure win when her rider took a spill right before the finish line. Sorry, but a horse with no jockey couldn't win.

The next race was expected to be dominated by Private Eyes, the other half of my combination and the outstanding favorite, who was about to hand me another thousand in winnings. It was a wire-to-wire run for Private Eyes, who clearly dominated the rest of the entries.

My wife ignored the painted grin on my face when I entered the house. I couldn't blame her though for she was not used to seeing me counting my winnings. But she paid me some attention when I shoved the two 500 bills on her hand.

With a little excitement, I picked up the phone to call up my racing buddies. One by one, as I had expected, no one admitted committing the 'beneficial crime' and so as to avoid the traditional profit-sharing by a winner, I did not elaborate on the matter anymore. Keeping it to myself for a while, I suppose, would do me a lot of good.

Jogi's messages came early the following racing day. The first one arrived the very moment my body passed the turnstile of the racetrack entrance. It was for the Daily Double of races 2 and 3. The next message came right after the running of the 4th race, that's when my racing buddies started to make fun of the paged messages. Eventually though, all five of us, including the skeptical Oscar, wagered a considerable amount on the combination sent thru my pager for races 5 and 6. The last of the messages reached me in time for the 12th race.

Of the three tips on my pager, two won, pushing my total winnings for the day to the four thousand mark, almost double that of the previous day. But I was less than satisfied because the one combination that didn't win was the second one, upon which my reputation, as a decent person, depended. My racing buddies, all four of them, smirked, scoffed and sneered, short of calling me a prankster myself.

It was a terrible letdown for me despite the dividends I collected for the last of the tipped combination, giving me enough reason to imply that this guy Jogi was already making fun of me. There's got to be a deeper reason for him to do that thing to poor me. But the amount of money I took home was no joke so how could I say that it was all a big prank? And how could I be a poor me?

The next day, it was a rainy Monday, I rang the paging company to inquire on the phone number of my callers the previous day. The guy on the other end of the line was courteous enough to facilitate my request but I was really disappointed upon learning that all of Jogi's calls came from a pay phone, from different pay phones at that, in different parts of the metropolis. I tried the numbers anyway but some were busy and not one was answered.

The following Tuesday afternoon, I was preparing to leave for the race track when my pager sounded. The message was confusing enough but I tried to hold my patience as I read it three times in a row. "Jogi/Rey, sorry for the bummer last Sunday. Get Reddy Red Queen and Aloha then tell your friends to bet on Reddy Red Queen and Sesame."

So far, it was the longest message sent by Jogi. Also, it was the most confusing one, telling me to bet on a combination and for my friends to wager on another. It's clear as daylight that Jogi was playing some kind of a game on me, no, on us. And the most logical thing to do in that kind of situation was to defy logic and follow the instruction of the message.

I called up Oscar and told him about the mysterious tip on my pager. All I heard was a dry "a.. a..." from him but I was sure that he would bet on Reddy Red Queen and Aloha for the first Daily Double of that racing night. By the way, I intentionally didn't tell him all about the other combination, that is Sesame, for I was the one to bet on that. In other words, I followed the reverse of the instruction.

At the racetrack, I only saw my friends, their indifference included although lessened, after Reddy Red Queen's number was posted on the official list of winners. Carding, the most shrewd among us, showed me his hundred-peso ticket, in waiting for Aloha. Since Reddy Red Queen was a far third favorite, the combination with Aloha, the top favorite in the succeeding race, would yield 40 for each five-peso bet. That's a cool 800 for Carding's ticket.

The cheering of my friends were in unison when Aloha, a gray filly, streaked past the leaders on the first turn with Sesame running last. I had mixed emotions because Sesame would win me two thousand in dividends but it would definitely lose me all the remaining friendship I had with my racing buddies. My heart began to beat faster when Sesame overtook the other entries one by one, catching up with the tiring Aloha and winning by the tip of his nose at the finish line.

All was quiet in the forefront and I knew that I had lost the treasured friendship forever. But it turned out to be just a product of my imagination. I was surprised to see them coming towards me, from the collection booth, with smiles on their faces and the traditional profit-sharing from their open palms. They all had placed a second bet on Sesame!

Right there and then, I calmly accepted my faith of becoming a toy to this Jogi. Oscar insisted that I had told him, on the phone, to place a protection bet on Sesame because Aloha was just a little over 95-percent sure of winning. That was a lot of crap because as I said, I deliberately held that piece of information. Then it dawned on me that Jogi may have played with the telephone line while I was talking to Oscar. But it was a silly idea to pursue.

The following racing days became more thrilling for my racing buddies maybe because our winnings far outweigh our losses. Come to think of it, the messages on the pager always have that fifty-fifty chance of winning and my friends have that knack for playing with the odds. The tip wins now and loses the next or it was the other way around. Simple? Very.

But I and my investigative nose just couldn't take the anonimity of the mystery message sender anymore regardless of the system that my racing buddies had devised. What I did was very simple too. I bought a cellular phone and traced each call to my pager. With the way my winning ways were going, I could very well afford the cellular phone’s expensive monthly charge.

Still and all, I failed because each time I would return the call to the originating pay phone, I would experience a loss of signal on my portable. Uh, oh. That was the time I noticed that someone, I mean, a real someone was playing a not so nasty game on me. But I persevered on returning Jogi's calls.

After several months of raking in thousands of bucks in winnings every week, I had the time of my life with that wonderful message that flashed on my pager. "Jogi/Rey, call me up at your cell phone number now." It was kind of weird, really, to ring up Jogi on my own cell phone number! It may be the best practical joke I had read in years but I knew that I just had to go against logic. So I obliged without hesitation.

Jogi's voice was cool and bedroomy. His unusual accent and twangy English gave me a hard time but I managed to hang on to the conversation. He said that it was the first and the last conversation between us and he only did that, relenting to my wish of knowing the truth, because he was getting fond of me. My, the guy was beginning to like me. And, gosh, he was real.

That fateful call changed my attitude towards life and everything. I made a firm resolve to be insensitive to some matters that are beyond my control - to just let sleeping horses lie in their state of hibernation. That adage was an original of mine, mind you.

The good old wife seemed to appreciate my new sense of direction and my officemates showed their liking towards my dedication to my job. To sum it up, I was a changed person, for the better, that is.

For the meantime, my racing buddies and I are savoring the glory of winning in the races. Each of us net around a thousand or two in winnings every week for the ten to fifteen tips we get from my magic pager. The funny thing is the way the tips get to work. Aside from the fifty percent probability of the tips as a whole, more often than not, the predicted combinations work against our expectations. Suffice it to say, we can manage by going against our hunches. Simple? Very, and rewarding too.

About this guy Jogi, he wasn't lying when he told me on the phone that he likes me because the tips keep on coming. It seems to me that Jogi is enjoying the game at my, no, at our expense. But what the heck? We can fight back with our own frivolities by confusing Jogi with our likes and dislikes regarding the horses that are slated to run for the day. Get it?
The horse called man

By the way, I hadn't told anyone about my conversation with Jogi because I wouldn't want to be branded a lunatic for that out of this world idea just wouldn't sell. Who would imagine that Jogi's messages come from outer space? Yesiree, from a far away planet and not so long ago. And who would believe that Jogi and his fellowmen, or should I say fellow species, have that equine look? Yes, they are horses with more horse sense than any of us. That's the reason why I didn't use the lowly pronoun "it" for the horses in the racetrack, to give a little respect they deserve. So all Jogi wants is just to get even with us, lesser mortals, who are fond of playing with horses, the reason why he is playing with us now. That is well taken.

With our newfound winning ways, I am fervently hoping that Jogi would continue sending tips (that is now thru a cellphone text message). But in all honesty, I am expecting an end to all of this madness. I prefer the quiet life where I could bet on the horse I like but winning is more enjoyable for my racing buddies and maybe for me as well. There is... Oops, that's my cellphone sounding again. Let me see, hmm. Now, who wants to bet on Silver Lining and Pocahontas?

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