Three Little Words – Surviving the Inquir-sition

By Ray Wallin

There are approximately 470,000 words in the English language. Yet, the perfect combination of three little words can change your day or your life.

Hearing your partner say “I love you” can warm your heart instantly no matter how bad your day has been. After not getting enough sleep, my wife hearing me say “I’ll make coffee” is a sign of love (of both me and the coffee).

Think of the feeling you get when that item you ordered from Amazon is showing as “out for delivery.” How quickly do you feel sick when you hear “that wasn’t chicken?” What about the way of life from the show Jersey Shore, “gym, tan, laundry?” (Side note: the cast of Jersey Shore is not what those of us from Jersey are like; most of those clowns were from New York.)

What three little words can cause a horseplayer to ride an emotional roller coaster?

We’ve all been in this situation. This race is the reason you came to track today. You have a long shot that you know is going to win. You are both anxious and excited as the horses have reached the starting gate.

Your anxiety and excitement grow as you hear the first three little words over the public address system.

It’s post time!

As the horses load in the gate, you can’t help but admire how great your horse, Speedy Sal, looks. He is holding his head high with ears pricked forward. Your confidence is overflowing at this point. But, the next three little words you hear get you excited.

Horses breaking from the starting gate

And they’re off!

Your horse, Speedy Sal, goes right to the lead as you figured. “This is good, hit the opening quarter in 22 flat and we’ll be fine,” you think to yourself as the track announcer calls out “…the first quarter run in 22 and one fifth seconds.” Close enough.

Speedy Sal is still on the lead at the half mile and is controlling the race. You pegged him to be about a length and a half clear and hit the half mile in 46 and change. You are feeling better and better as they turn for home. Plodding Patty is making a move and giving Speedy Sal a run for his money when Plodding Patty’s jockey pulls up a bit and Speedy Sal starts extending his lead.

Speedy Sal hits the wire over Closing Calvin and Plodding Patty! You can’t believe that the betting public missed this easy 8-1 winner that you nailed! That’s when it happens.

You here the garbled voice of the track announcer over the public address system. “Speedy Sal is your unofficial winner … there is a steward’s inquiry,” then a long pause until you hear the rest.

Hold all tickets

Horse Racing Crowd.

Horse Racing Crowd.
Photo by: Ernie Belmonte.

Those are the three little words that cause our stomach to drop, turn our joy to disgust, and taint our good day at the track. You just went from figuring out how much you think that trifecta you nailed is going to pay to thinking about how much this race cost your bankroll.

Seconds feel like minutes. Minutes feel like hours.

What the heck are they looking at that is taking so long? At that point the incident is starting to show on the monitors around the track. You watched the entire race and didn’t see anything.

They show the replay of the turn for home in forward and reverse about a million times at both full speed and in slow motion. You wonder how your ring doorbell camera takes better video than what the stewards get to review.

Suddenly, everyone is an expert.

Rail Guy is pointing to the monitor and telling anyone that will (and won’t) listen “see da way he bumped him, da stewards are gonna take him down.” Last Race Lenny just showed up after the race, give the monitor one quick glance as he flips through a discarded program and mutters “no foul.” Every-Race Eddie, who is already in the hole a couple of bills on the day, had Closing Calvin and is yelling at the monitor “he’s going down, he’s going down.”

You still can’t see any contact. You watched the entire race. You have now seen the turn for home about a thousand times. Why this is taking so long?

Finally, the track announcer says the three little words that make you rest easy once again.

The result stands

Photo by Jordan Thomson

These three little words are met by relief, cheers, and jeers, depending on who you had on your tickets. The inquiry sign turns off and the race is finally official. You breathe a sigh of relief as your hand now holds winning tickets.

However, your joy is short-lived. There are now only 17 minutes until post and you need to hustle down to the paddock and get your spot to see the next horse you want to play in next race. You know Rail Guy is going to talk your ear off about this one when you get down there, but the cash in your pocket is a nice consolation for the conversation you are about to endure.

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