Welcome to your new track Moose

August 29, 2017 3:08 AM
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Characters abound in the gambling world. At least they used to. We’re not so sure any more, but then we don’t hang out at sportsbooks and racetracks like we once did, so it’s hard to say.

However, we definitely remember the characters we have met over the years, and one who rated very high on our list of all time good people was Prince Nagim “The Moose” Moosa.

Moose, or Big Moose as some called him, once told us he was descended from royalty and his father was a gypsy king in Romania. Was it true? Hard to say as there was a twinkle in his eyes when he enlightened us on his heritage. But then, there was always a twinkle in Moose’s eyes. We don’t remember a time in the 40 years we knew him that he was anything but happy and upbeat.

We first met Moose at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans in the office of Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe, the track’s publicist and a renowned handicapper, who was a character in his own right, always wearing one black sock and one brown sock, but that’s a story for another day.

Moose was a cab driver, although he referred to himself as a transportation executive. Whenever he wasn’t on duty he would assume the position of personal chauffeur for Black Cat. He always used his cab but never ran the meter. We’re sure a little handicapping information and a season pass to the track were all the payment Moose wanted as he was an avid horse player.

He was also a bit of a prankster and on one of our trips to The Big Easy while riding in the cab with Moose and Black Cat, Moose gave me a wink and a smile and casually reached over, putting his hand on the cab’s lever as if to push it down and start the meter. Black Cat, who had been engrossed in the Daily Racing Form immediately shouted, “What are you doing!?” Moose very seriously explained he was behind on fares for the week and needed to make up for it. Of course the meter remained off, but the ensuing banter between them was as good as any Abbott and Costello routine.

Moose was also a flirt. He loved the ladies and was not shy, freely handing out compliments. When friends asked why he never got married he replied, “I want to enjoy being with all the girls. If I get married I have to stick with just one and deprive all the other ladies of my charms.”

But horses were his first love and remained so right to the end. He went to the race track daily for many years. As he got older and transportation was more difficult he settled for a nearby OTB parlor on weekends. And even when he took a bad step, fell and broke his arm about three years ago he made sure someone brought him a Racing Form each day. “I need to keep up with my horses,” he told us. “That way I’ll know who to bet when I get back to the OTB.”

He was scheduled to go to the races on Saturday, July 29, but told the folks at St. Margaret’s Daughters Home where he resided that he was a bit tired and wanted to take a nap first. And so, at the tender age of 96 Big Moose drifted off to sleep and on to the Big Race Track in the sky.

Rest in peace my friend, we’ll sure miss you.

See you around town.