Print and Go Back ESPN.com: HorseRacing [Print without images]

Monday, January 10, 2005
Updated: January 13, 6:31 PM ET
When talk is the cheapest

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

"I had that one," he said.

You should have seen it. It was bad standing, bad walking, bad jogging and bad sounding.

It was bad looking.

"No," I said.

"Yes," he said, grinning some but not enough.

If somebody actually had this one, he would have been all teeth.

He would have been hugging people.

This one paid $30 and a bit to win by the margin of a big sigh from me. It would have paid $40 until somebody touched it late. If you can live with yourself and sleep nights after taking advantage of inside information, fine, see what happens when the money runs out.

"How'd you have it?" I asked the one who said he had it.

The only way I could have had it would have been if somebody gave me a ticket with the number 9 on it for my birthday.

"I like the connections" he said. "And the way the race set up."

"Oh please," I replied.

The "connections" had big beer bellies and were batting about .050 as a team, and the way the race "set up" was barely -- some heavily taped cheap claimers almost needing to lean against the pipe to stay up in the gate.

At every race track in the land, there's somebody who had the most recent unbelievable winner.

Usually it's a man.

Usually it's a price.

Usually it's the same man.

Hardly anybody says of something that pays $3.80 for the win, "I had that one."

Usually it pays $30 and up and doesn't figure in the least.

It's the not figuring part of the picture that can get to a person who didn't come close to having the winner.

A funny thing, funny-odd, not funny-ho-ho, about the person who just had the one that paid $40 and looked like a sore loser in the paddock is that this guy never has any money to show for it. He always has it and a cup of cold coffee, that's all, no fifties.

He never goes right to the windows.

He just stands around having just had it.

"Let me see," I said.

You can only take so much of another's genius, announced after the fact by the proud possessor of all the skill, himself.

"See what?" he asked.

"The winning ticket,"

I don't know what people who say they just had the winner expect of you, envy, obviously; at least they don't want a loan. My new policy is if you had the winner and I didn't, and if you tell me without being asked, let's see it. Let's see the winning ticket. It's not like I don't trust you. Or, as the United Parcel Service spokesman says in the commercial: Yes it is, in this situation, I'm not a trusting person at all.

The man who said he just had the winner looked surprised and asked why I wanted to see the ticket.

I said for good luck.

He said he had already cashed it. "Then let me see the money."

He said not now, he had to go look at the next race.

I nodded.

He nodded.

He hasn't had an unlikely winner since.

Bystanders have rights.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@go.com