Sunday, October 11, 2009

Suffolk Downs, slot machines

One of the decisions I have to make is to take my own work seriously.

Today I did an interview with Harry, part of this long-on-going series for a proposed video and a book about the people who work on the backside of the racetrack. I thought I was done with interviewing, but during this meet I met Harry and Jeff, both interesting trainers on either side of the spectrum. Harry's sort-of-thinking of giving up training, though he will stay working with horses, since they've been part of his life since he was a kid, growing up on a farm in North Carolina. (Or was it South?) When his mother went to work in the fields, he'd pretend he was sick, stay in bed until she left, then go to hang around with the guys and the horses, and leave to get home and back in bed just before she did.

Harry has a very spectacular laugh -- heh   heh    heh, heh, heh. I can hear him coming around the shedrow, sometimes walking a horse, sometimes riding one, talking to somebody and laughing. He's one of the trainers who rides his horses, so he gets a real feel for them. His horses haven't done all that well this meet and he and Jeff are in a race together on Wednesday, so they've decided they won't talk that day, not until after the races. Heh,   heh,  heh. 

Jeff got a cheap horse and has made a lot of money from him. Harry says, "Better to be lucky than smart." He means you can only tell so much by looking at a horse, even if you know a lot. And you'd better be lucky that you've got one that wants to run. Then you can get him fit.

Jeff's a lot of fun and has an interesting take on getting back into training after having a construction business, but he only talked for five minutes because he had to leave for church. He promised that he'll think of things to say and tape again next time.

The track is really quiet on Sunday because there's no training for this meet, a new decision that may be designed to save money. Who knows? 

A lot of people are devoted to Suffolk Downs, have built lives around living near here, have families, pay taxes, etc., etc., all that can be said in the long argument to the legislature to pass a measure that will allow slot machines at the track which will save jobs for a lot of people. As Harry puts it, all the costs have risen and the purses here have dropped. I've been interviewing for four years and that's always been the big concern -- will Suffolk get the slots, will the investment that Mr. Fields made in keeping it open prove to have been the right one?

Of course, there are a lot of arguments against gaming -- all the damage that slot machines will do to further gambling addictions. And I might buy this if the Commonwealth hadn't brought out their own form of gambling -- lottery tickets. I see people who no doubt lead very marginal lives standing at my local 7/11 buying fists full of lottery tickets. Hoping.  

Last week, when a groom was walking a white horse by, I asked Jeff about it. "Oh, yes, a good horse, a great horse, a stakes horse, won a lot of money. They keep him around, walk him, take him up to the track to watch sometimes." Today I asked Harry about that horse and he said, "Yeah, made them a lot of money. They keep him as a pet. He did a lot for them and they're doing a lot for him," and then went on to say that most trainers aren't connected to a farm, don't have any way of keeping any of their good horses around. Harry also works on a farm for a woman who has the space to do this, to keep a horse for twenty years, to give it a good life.

And then he told me another story about a horse that had won a lot of races. It started as a two-year old and after some time, the owner decided it should have a four month break, get out onto the farm, turned out into pasture. But when it got there, it stopped eating, lost weight. After thirty days, they took it back to the track and it started eating. Some horses, he said, they don't want to be put out to pasture. 

So, in my attempt to make decisions, my decision is to work seriously in putting together all this valuable material....................... to stop stalling.

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