Weather Clear – Track Fast
The Caliper June 1948 Volume III, No. 2
Willie Winn smiled serenely to himself as he wheeled into the office of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. The sun shone brightly, God was in His heaven, and all was right with Willie’s creditors, for after many months of waiting, his first pension cheque had arrived that very day.
As usual, the office of the Canadian Paraplegic Association was a hive of activity – things were really humming. Yes, indeed! “Honest John” Counsell, president of the Association, sat at an impressive looking desk, humming a little ditty as he poured over “The Daily Racing Form”. At the other end of the room, a pretty stenographer sat at a typewriter, humming quietly to herself as she filed her finger nails. Ken Langford, the legal beagle who poses as secretary of the Association, hummed a dirge-like tune as he read a comic book concerned with the activities of “Captain Marvelube”. Opposite “Honest John” sat the only non-hummer in the crowd, Mr. L. M. Wood, the real power behind the scenes working industrially at a vast pile of correspondence.
After waiting as long as it took you to decipher the above paragraph, Willie cleared his throat nervously and ventured a small:
“Whyn’tchacloseadoor?” snarled Ken Langford without looking up from his comic book.
“Be quiet, Willie,” snapped Honest John, “Can’t you see we’re busy?”
Mr. Wood merely glanced briefly in Willie’s direction and frowned deeply.
Thoroughly squelched, Willie sat quietly in the corner of the room and tried to make like he wasn’t there at all. Finally, Honest John looked at his watch, folded his Race Form, tucked it carefully into his pocket, and turn to Willie Winn:
“Well, what’s on that which you so quaintly call your mind?”
“Oh, nothing, sir, Mr. Counsell, sir,” stammered Willie. “I just wanted you to know that I am a successfully rehabilitated paraplegic, for I am all settled in my new apartment, and my pension checks have started to come through.
“I am going out to Woodbine Race Track to make my usual Spring killing,” said Honest John, ignoring everything Willie had announced so proudly, “and if you wish to make a bundle of hay too, you may come with me, if you promise to speak only when spoken to.”
“Oh yes, Mr. Counsell, sir,” Willie agreed eagerly, lured by the prospect of quick and easy gains, “if you will kindly cash this cheque for me, I will be highly pleased to accompany you.”
Twenty minutes later, with their wheelchairs stowed in the rear of Honest John’s hand-controlled, jet-propelled Studebaker, the pair hurtled through Toronto downtown traffic headed for Woodbine Track. As they careened through the main entrance, Honest John said to Willie:
“Ever make any sporting wages on the ponies?”
“No, sir,” replied Willie meekly.
“Then you’d better watch me closely and do exactly as I do, m’boy. You know, I am an old hand this game, and I am recognized by many as an expert of sorts.” “Oh, thank you, Mr. Counsell, sir.” Willie beamed happily as he envisioned the expansion of the small wad of bills he clutched in a grimy paw.
So, this pair of money-making fools we’re seated at the rail near the first turn, awaiting the start of the first race. Willie’s wad of bills were somewhat smaller, but clutched in his other grimy paw were several little pink tickets and Honest John assured him that these would soon be sold back to the man at the wicked for several bills of larger denomination.
“See, Willie?” Honest John pointed to a large billboard near the centre of the field, “our horse, Complete Lesion, is quoted at 50 to 1 so we will make much scratch.”
“Oh joy!” Willie Winn chortled.
This was his chortle of the day for at that instant the crowd roared:
Down the track thunder the horses, and as they flashed by Willie scanned their numbers eagerly looking for Complete Lesion. Which is our horse, Mr. Counsell?” Willie asked uncertainly.
“Hmm-mm” said Honest John noncommittally. He swung his binoculars after the fleeting pack of horseflesh, then suddenly directed them at the starting gate. “Why there he is!” exclaimed Honest John pointing at the gate. Suddenly, he began to roar with laughter, “why the damn horse drop dead at the starting gate – guess the excitement was too much for his old heart!”
“Heh, heh,” Willie echoed hollowly and he slowly tore up the pretty pink tickets.
And that was the beginning of the bitter end. Under the leadership of the “expert”, Willie was induced to wager money on a five-way, double-reverse triple parlay-across-the-board. The animals chosen by the handicapper, Honest John, were appropriately named. “Tidal Irrigator” tripped in the stretch during the second race; “Spastic” refused, or was unable, to leave the gate in the third; in the fourth event, “Disabled Vet” broke a leg, and “Suprapubic” ran in the opposite direction in the fifth race.
The balance of Willie Winn’s pension cheque was bet on a horse named “Brace Walker”, and as this last named horse amble along far in the rear of the others, it became evident that even Honest John’s ardour was somewhat dampened.
“Y’know Willie,” he said, if they’d hitch a harrow to that bloody beast, he’d at least get to the track in shape for the next race.”
“Yeah,” said Willie forlornly as he brushed at a tear, “but maybe he wouldn’t get around the track in time for the next race. By the way, sir, I hate to be inquisitive but do you mind telling me how you selected the horses we’ve bet on?”
“Well now, Willie,” said Honest John thoughtfully, “we experts use many systems. Now I, for instance, always read the Daily Racing Form before coming to the track. Then I do this.”
Fascinated, Willie Winn watched as Honest John removed a long hat pin from his fedora, closed his eyes tightly, and thrust the pin firmly through his folded program.
“That’s all there is to it Willie” he said. “I pick the horses whose names are pierced by the pin. Damn good system, too, he added thoughtfully. “I distinctly remember having a winner back in 1938 or was it 1937? Of course, the horse was disqualified after the race, but he did cross the finish line before any of the other horses!”
“And now,” continued Honest John “that we have enjoyed an afternoon of sport of kings, I will take you to the Park Plasma Hotel for a drink.”
“Oh, thank you, sir,” Willie was choked with grief and gratitude.
Three hours later, Willie wheeled erratically up the ramp to his apartment. “Willie Winn!” stormed Mrs. Winn, “where have you been and where is that pension cheque?”
“Y’shee honey, it wash like thish,” Willie began.
Will he win?