- Gamblers are fickle people, both in racing and otherwise, and keeping their attention can be tough when they’re in it for their betting money and not because they are truly interested in the sport or the horses. I recently read a 1988 interview of the late Dunbar Bostwick, who said what a shame it is that bettors “don’t give a damn about horses,” and he couldn’t be more right.
Maybe it was true some of the time in 1988, or 1948. Horse racing 'gambling' was the only game in town, so it attracted plenty of people who "don't give a damn about the horses", I am sure. But it's not 1988. Most of those people are playing Keno or stuffing quarters in a slot machine. The people I know who attend racetracks and bet on horses from home or otherwise, care about them just fine.
Mike Beychok is a gambler alright. He won the national handicapping championship a couple of years ago on a $6,250 claimer who won the last leg for him at good odds. He thought she showed such fight in her win, and that he 'owed her something', he claimed her, and not long after retired her. "I figured this was a great opportunity to do what I thought was the right thing and make sure, regardless of how she finishes her career, that she would be around for as long as she could be," he said.
I sat on a panel several years ago with a 'gambler'. He decided to dabble in the ownership game. He bought two fillies. When I asked him why he didn't like a gelding I thought was a good buy he said "I'd be worried about what happened when I lose him. If I buy a mare that's well bred I plan to breed her so she can have a good long home".
Jim and John, Woodbine regulars and some of the biggest gamblers at the track, recently had a mare pass away of old age. It was one of the few horses they've owned. They took care of her each month writing a check from when they bought her until when she passed. They were city boys who didn't have a farm. When they bought her, she probably didn't know she'd end up so lucky to be owned by 'gamblers'.
How about Dana Parham. He's the biggest gambler in North America - likely. He knows every trainer with magic potion or one week turnarounds as a matter of course; that's his business after all. Does he choose one as an owner to 'make more money'? No, he chooses someone on the up and up with no questions surrounding her.
Some 'gamblers', and I am one of them, won't bet or watch steeplechases because we cringe each time a horse goes over a barrier. I'm afraid for their safety, whether it's something to be concerned with or not. We just are. Some gamblers are so upset when they see a horse breakdown, they turn off the races and can't watch the rest of the card. Some gamblers abhor whipping and in harness racing, when a hock shot comes on their charge, they'd like to give the horse the same opportunity with the driver.
Those are anecdotal of course. But maybe the 2,000 or so 'gamblers' that filled out the HANA questionnaire wanting raceday meds looked at don't care about horses, either? Maybe they "don't give a damn about the horses"? I don't think so. 74.5% of them answered in the affirmative, and in survey after survey these hard core 'gamblers' want racing cleaned up, uniform penalties, and checks and balances on the people who are racing our four legged friends.
Meanwhile, how about the industry insiders? Some care, for sure. But there are some with immense power who block change at every turn. Whether it be vet reporting, lasix, meds or anything else, it seems.
I don't know too many gamblers who are the way Mr. Bostwick described. Maybe I don't get out enough and just aren't looking closely. But I do know one thing: Don't be so quick to dismiss those nasty gamblers as non-caring. They're not the ones blocking change.