It’s All In The Game, by A. Charles Corotis

Venus. Paris was the judge and Helen of Troy the pawn. Result: the Trojan War. Somebody always gets hurt.

This is all by way of explaining that when I accepted Sam Walker’s invitation to a party at Monmouth Park I was motivated solely by a desire for pleasant and congenial companionship. I had no illusions about what was going to happen to the ten cents tucked away in the corner of my wallet.

First came lunch, and it was very nice, there on the breeze-buffeted veranda. There were seven in our party — that is, Sam’s party — but I might as well have been eating alone. I defy any of the others to identify so much as one morsel of their meal, or even to testify under oath that they ate at all! They were too intent on form sheets, scratch sheets, dope sheets, and pensive nibbling at something long and cool.

Now, I am not one of those to let anything interfere with my eating, and none of my people before me ever has been. So I gave myself up to solitary nourishment and contemplation.

The lot of a waiter in a racetrack restaurant is a hard one indeed. He is ignored as firmly and thoroughly as a tout. No one pays any attention to his entreaties to order. When he brings an assortment of foodstuffs, no one knows what is his: the ham and cabbage, or pickles and ice cream, or fried frog’s liver flavored with prune juice. The food remains untouched except for the cigarette ashes and butts which form a sort of salprunella sauce coating chicken and pie indiscriminately and with fine impartiality.

Well, enough of this digression. Emory Haskell didn’t send me a working press pass to cover nicotinic luncheons. Exciting and amusing as this account of meals at Monmouth has been for all of us, I am sure, duty impels me to the task of reporting the races. It is not a pleasant charge. I hate those horses just thinking about it.

Now, if duty impels, candor compels me to confess that it was no one’s fault but my own that I didn’t win. I had plenty of good advisers. I just didn’t have sense enough to tell them what to do with their advice.

Take the first race. Or did the first race take me? Anyway: “Cookie K is the horse,” confided John Harkins, who makes an avocation, if not indeed a vocation, of studying the habits and habitat of the steenbock. But word of the imminent coup we had planned on Cookie K must have got around. He was scratched.

Leon Todd introduced me to Jimmie Stout’s wife (the Stouts live in Medford Lakes between race meets) so we had to go along with Silk Quest, which James was riding. Harry Willson, who does pretty well, all things considered, came up with Fizzle. And he was! Recurring was Sam Walker’s pet. He placed, at that. Jack McGarrity was positive it would be Moon Dots.

Other hot tips: Bank Drive (Hanford was up); Sir Lionel (he was sent down from New York); Jewel’s Fern one of the Fernandez boys had him); Yalta (a hunch — another peace parley was on); Skidallday (presumably because the name was catchy).

I threw up my hands in despair.

“Since,” I said, “all these nags are sure to win and it is anybody’s race, I will plunge and risk six dollars across the board on the longest shot.”

The longest shot was Number 9 — Pip. Mora was riding him. He went to the post at 70 to 1. He finished at a quarter to 10, in darkness.

The winner: Bunny Hug. Dave Cronheim had him; had tried to give him to Mayor Charlie Gillen and me, but by that time I was surfeited with tips, hot, cold, or lukewarm.

But I had learned my lesson. I was smart enough to profit by my experience. I went sheepishly to Cronheim’s box, apologized for disregarding his advice, begged forgiveness another chance.

He relented. “Number 1,” he said with a knowing look out of the corner of his mouth. That is, the words came out the corner of his mouth, not the look.

Number 1 was Samson D. To the combination window I hurried again, a sawbuck and a fin clutched in my perspiring paw.

Number 1 finished fourth.

“Dave,” I told him severely, “I shall give you one more chance.” And I fixed a reproving eye on the man who owns, half of Newark.

He seemed penitent. “This is a tough one,” he frowned in intense concentration like when he was counting out the two million simoleons to buy the Broad & Market Building “but I like Number 1 again.”

This Number 1 was Boy Blue and Hanford was blowing his horn. But this time I was cagey. I wasn’t putting all fifteen of my eggs in one basket again. So I consulted other advisers.

“Texas Skies sure,” said Jack McGarrity, who had been equally sure of Moon Dots and Ignite in the first two. Neither finished yet.

“I’ve got Stag,” said Johnny Harkins, who turned up. with tickets on Bunny Hug and Pomace, winners of the first two.

“I like Bolog,” said Leon Todd. I consulted my program. Yep, Stout was up on Bolog. Mrs. Stout is a very attractive young lady.

While I was frantically buying win, place, show, and combination tickets, respectively, on Boy Blue, Texas Skies, Stag and Bolog, the horses pranced to the gate.

Toy Fox won.

By now serious consultation was indicated, and we went into a huddle in Box 51, joined by influential outsiders like Morris Goldfarb and Don Connolly, mayor of Trenton, and Les Burdick, on leave from investigating committees.

The consensus eliminated all entries except (a) Blue Moon, (b) Carolina Queen, and (c) On. It was a six-horse race. They finished, in order (a) Sea Fan, (b) Elope, and (c) Tea Deb.

But I perked up when they came on for the fifth race. It was being run on turf. Now surely my luck would change. Grass couldn’t do that to an old lawn-mower like me. Why, I love nothing better than to stretch out on a patch of green clover in the shade of a maple or elm. I’m so pasturable they call me Herb.

Quite a classical lineup, too. Octavia’s Daughter, Nereid, Gallalad, by Sir Gallahad. They presented something of a dilemma, though. Which of the three should I play? Gallahad always was my favorite knight; I felt a sense of loyalty to him. But then, I was on Octavia’s side in her contest with Cleopatra for the affections of her husband, Mark Anthony. However, I never met her daughter.

And those Nereids. Woo-woo! They are among my fabled favorites of all mythology, those luscious Lorelei. Any time I get near the water’s edge, you can hear me calling in a loud, beseeching voice: Amphitrite… Thetis… Galatea… Chloe. No, not Chloe. How’d she get out of that bayou? Of course, this flirtation with the sea-nymphs is all quite respectable, you understand. I am a friend of their ma and pa, Doris and Nereus.

Well, I finally contrived an ingenious combination on win, place, and show, in order not to slight any of the three, and felt quite satisfied with myself.

Palatial Appetite won.

Must I go on with gory details? Suffice it to say that I didn’t have a winner; not one, not even when I was reduced to playing place and show. I seem destined to go through life contributing to bookmakers or their mechanical counterparts. Uncle Sam should permit me to deduct my losses as gifts. Even if Bellerophon brought Pegasus down, the Pallas Athene’s golden bridle and all, he couldn’t beat a turtle six furlongs if I had a deuce riding on his wings. Jupiter probably would send another gadfly to sting him and make him throw his jockey.

I’d better stick to parchesi.


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