It all happened a few days before Christmas......
|What Andy might look like|
“Who is this from?” said horseplayer Andy Bailey from his San Diego condominium, in response to a letter he received at the door.
It was a subpoena from Mike Potter (“Mr. Potter” to people who don’t know him) of the TOC Bank asking for some of Andy's correspondence over the years of being a horseplayer advocate.
“They even spelled my name wrong on the check,” said Andy.
It was nearing the last straw for young Andy. For years he, like many horseplayers, had to suffer through the nickel and diming, the takeout hikes, the parking and admission increases, the signal fee boosts, the tracknets, the troutnets, the judging, the ancient tote board, the Frank’s, the Daruty’s and the CDI’s. Now he had to deal with this.
He only had one choice. He needed to make the drive from his humble abode to the hills, where Mr. Potter (along with big movie stars like that guy who played Urkel) lived. He had to speak face to face with him.
The Potter estate was a sprawling domicile that housed both Real Quiet and Bob Baffert memorabilia (including the toupee used by that actor in the Mine That Bird movie). After passing security checks, which for the season included several guards dressed like Ronald McDonald toting AK 47’s, Andy was allowed to enter.
Then he saw him; the man with the subpoena’s. He was sitting behind a large desk watching security cameras. He held a cane; a silver cane.
“Step forward” said Mike Potter.
Andy was very scared. He blurted: “Mr. Potter, I am just a customer. I want racing to grow. I want my friends to like horse racing and support purses. I am just trying my best to make the game better. Why are you sending me these legal things?"
|File photo of a McNugget|
As Mr. Potter slowly dipped a fresh, glistening McNugget into a honey-mustard sauce, he said,
“Now, now Andy, you were protesting that takeout hike a couple of years ago. That episode almost made me and other massively rich horse owners take an 18% pay cut at the behest of you. A customer! A nobody. If I were a man bent on payback, I would say it's a dish that is best served cold. “
Andy scratched his head for a moment and said to himself that didn’t sound quite right, but he was not chancing a correction.
“I was just trying to make things better Mr. Potter. The horse racing game has been going downhill for so long we need to do something to stop the slide and hiking prices could’ve never solved the problems.”, pleaded the former minor league baseball star and sociopathic emailer. “Why would you be so mean?”
“Settle down dear boy, “ said Mr. Potter as he tapped his cane, while a scantily clad woman entered, offering Andy a McChicken. “I will not put you through these subpoena things if you work with me. Let’s make a deal.”
Andy did not like the sound of that. The last time he made a deal in California he got stuck having lunch with Vic Stauffer. “Do you want fries with that.... YESSSSSS!!!!!!!”. Sheesh, Vic never stopped. Gosh, that was annoying.
But he decided to see what Mr. Potter had in mind.
“Join forces with me. Myself, along with other members of the TOC are planning an all out assault on takeout rates in 2014”, continued Potter. “We are proposing a 120% takeout rate on all three or more horse exotics. For example – and herein lies the genius - right now there is $250,000 bet into a trifecta pool at Santa Anita. At 20% we only make $50,000. If we increase the takeout to 120%, we can make $300,000! Poof, we make $50,000 more than is in the pool just by changing the percentage. I want you to have my back with your fellow horseplayers to make this a reality. “
“So you mean that if I am at Del Mar and hit a $100 trifecta, when I bring my ticket to the wicket to cash, I owe the teller twenty dollars?” asked an obviously confused Andy Bailey.
“That’s exactly what I am saying. This is brilliant. That extra $20 per customer on that ticket will give us more big purses to spend on expensive vets” said Mr. Potter.
“There are many of us in California,” continued Potter. “We suspend all rules of business or economics when we enter the sport. That’s why many of us pay these exorbitant bills and buy horses for hundreds of thousands of dollars which we don't even know could run faster than an overweight porcupine. You can be one of us too Andy. Join us. Join us Andy Bailey!”
Andy, shocked, stunned and bewildered – some might say like usual – gathered his thoughts.
“I need to take some time Mr. Potter”
“That’s fine,” said Mr. Potter. “Run along, and here's a hot apple pie for dessert.”
|TVG's Todd Schrupp|
While driving back to his home, Andy’s mind was racing. What to do, he asked himself over and over again. Suddenly he was passed by a car speeding rapidly. It looked like TVG’s Todd Schrupp behind the wheel, but it was actually actor Ed Helms. Helms cut him off, causing Andy to swerve. Unable to control the car like he could a soft grounder when he was a minor league baseball star, he stormed down an embankment and hit a tree.
Dazed and confused he looked around and saw no one to help.
Appearing out of nowhere was a ghostly looking figure who said “Andy come with me”.
Andy stumbled out of his car with this apparition.
“Andy, I know you’ve called me names time and time again on twitter or via email, but I admire your work. Without you I would sitting at my desk at the New York Times listening to non-denominational holiday music while people talk about yoga and sushi. Your emails make my day. They’re like a jolt of caffeine plunging through my veins after being injected into my neck. The world would be a worse place without you,”
The apparition was Joe Drape.
“Joe, didn’t you hear? My only choice was to join forces with the TOC. It’s the only way I can survive. I can’t do it because my days being a customer advocate would be over. I don’t know if I want to wake up.”
“Close your eyes and come with me” said Joe Drape.
When Andy opened his eyes he was at a party. Everyone was singing and dancing. Little did he know it was a wake - his wake.
“I miss the emails,” said Ray Paulick. “That Andy was a total goof, but he was a good kind of goof, unlike Indian Charlie.”
That made Andy feel good.
“My inbox is now only filled with emails from the DRF asking me to join DRF Plus, Plus, Plus over and over again,” said Tom LaMarra. “I miss that little rascal and those crazy emails.”
Removing the phone from his ear, “ANDY. I LOVE ANDY. ANDY ROCKS,” said Jerry Jamgotchian.
“He always moved like a winner” said Trevor Denman.
“Who is this Andy? Is he a guest at one of our racetracks? I can tell him we raised signal fees; guests don’t have the foggiest clue what that means” asked Christopher Kay.
“Great party, but just be glad it ain’t in Pennsylvania. We’d have to test the punch” said HANA’s President Jeff Platt.
“No kidding, Plattser” said
Penn National’s NYRA's Dan Silver.
“I feel bad for calling him a dipshit” said Dennis.Some other hangers on were afoot:
|Ed at breakfast|
"I'm not sure what's going on here" asked Brisnet's Ed DeRosa while heading to the wing table. "but it looks like a lot of these people would like the new Unlimited Past Performance plan we have at Brisnet ®"
Andy still smiled. Everyone was there for him - well almost everyone - even his arch enemies.
Suddenly, entering the room with puffs of smoke and a trumpeter playing a “Call to the Post” was Andrew Beyer.
“A toast to a great one. Without him there’d be no 14% takeout Players Pick 5!” said Beyer from a large lectern.
“Hear hear!”, roared a gaggle of horseplayers.
|What Joe Drape might look like as a ghost|
“See Andy,” said Joe Drape, “these people all miss you. Without you there would be no emails, no lower takeout bets, no one to watch over the CHRB and TOC and whomever else in California. Takeout might be 120%, the game would die. Bo Derek might have to go back playing B roles in movies like Tommy Boy. An unemployed David Israel might be banished to his basement watching reruns on Hogan’s Heroes on continuous loop. Keith Brackpool might have to take a job with Frank Stronach. Hollywood Park might close. It would be devastating. ”
“To be true to yourself you have to fight the power. ”
Andy agreed. He awoke.
He was at a Christmas party and a bell was ringing.
Paulick said, “every time a bell rings an angel shares a story from the Paulick Report”. The DRF guys sneered. "Ya. With an extra-large synoposis," said Jessica Chapel.
Andy knew it was more than that of course. Joe Drape got his wings. ‘Way to go Joe’, he thought.
Andy was now energized; just like he was when shagging flies in his backyard preparing for a storied minor league baseball career.
He pulled out his
blackberry iPhone and began typing.
“No Deal, Potter...... And I’m eating a Whopper” was the subject line.
He then hit “send all.”
Andy was back and all was right in the World.
To everyone in racing, may you have a Merry Christmas.
And to customers and horseplayers who are working their butts of, trying to make the game of handicapping a better and more popular pursuit while keeping the power brokers in check: A hearty happy holidays and thanks from me, PTP. You are appreciated.