Genuine Risk finest Derby story of all

Apr 22, 2008 7:00 PM

Getting Rich with Saber by Richard Saber | With the 134th running of The Kentucky Derby just two weeks away, a conversation started with some old horse buds of mine on who we liked.

A few glasses of wine later, the conversation turned to some of the crazy things that happened in our younger days when we actually went to the racetrack because that was the only place you could make a bet. Well not the only place, but you had more fun collecting right afterwards if you had a winner.

After 30 years some of these stories just grow and grow. My first trip to Louisville was one to remember. Being that a few of my memories were in my beer drinking days, a lot of it is foggy.

I do remember the great Secretariat won the race en route to the Triple Crown and that I bet on the horse that ran second since the great (Laffit) Pincay was riding him. I had one of the best times of my life, even as we had our car towed away. We all decided that if possible we would never miss another Kentucky Derby, which succeeded for the next 20 years.

Starting with that Secretariat year, we would make a $2 bet on every horse in the Derby. That was before 20-horse fields and we would keep the ticket as a piece of memorabilia. Well it was May 3, 1980 and we were partying all week. On the sun swept day of the Derby, after a champagne breakfast, I started to dabble into some mint juleps.

If you are gambling, I suggest pass on not only the mint but also the bourbon. The good thing I did was getting to the betting window early and putting my two bucks on all the horses running in the 106th running.

After that, it all gets hazy.

They ran the race and, after all the screaming, the great filly Genuine Risk won and paid $28.60 for a $2 bet. That was a nice payoff for the year 1980, especially after spending your last $3 on another mint julep. I pulled the ticket out of my pocket and was heading to the window to cash when my friends Lenny and Fay ripped the ticket from my booze-soaked hand and saved it for me.

I still have it along with several others, including one on Seattle Slew. Going to the Kentucky Derby was great in those days because the "Average Joe" could actually afford to go and have a few dollars left over to bet. Now with the huge crowds, the expense, massive security and no more beer drinking, I will just stay home.

My other tale was about my early days at Waterford Park, now Mountaineer Park. Driving from Steubenville (Ohio) it was about a 20-minute shot through Weirton, West Virginia up old Route 2 and hope you didnít catch a train.

Well there were three of us and I was the driver along with Sal in the back seat handicapping the early double. The train came and Sal was getting anxious because he was sure he had the double nailed. The train passed and we speeded the next four miles to the track.

As we were pulling in, Sal started to have chest pains but through it all he handed me a piece of paper with $2 and said put my double in. I pull in front and my other buddy jumps in the back to check Sal, who is looking purple.

I get to the window just in time and get our doubles in. I watch the race and Salís horse wins the first race for fun. I run out to give him the good news and see how heís doing. I tell my buddy we won the first ask how Sal is doing. He says the only good news is that he is alive in the double.

Now I think thatís a true story, but time takes its toll on the memory.

Next week we will be covering the Kentucky Derby, I wonít be in Louisville as I didnít have the extra 5k to go and was afraid to ask the boss, who had already ponied up the dough for my last trip to the Fairgrounds in New Orleans.

Hollywood Park opens this Wednesday so donít forget the website and get all my daily picks. We had the huge superfecta (it paid $13,000) this past Saturday at Keeneland in the Lexington Stakes.