Written by: Mike Jocher (@mjocher77)
Having just graduated from high school and summer being upon us, me and my friends Tom an Todd decided to take a trip to the beautiful Del Mar Turf Club to take in some races and the stellar scenery. During this gorgeous day, my worst handicapping nightmare came true, something that I will always remember as the closest I’ve come to a major score.
By the time the fifth race came around I had been working a pretty decent day. I had hit a few good exactas and a fifty dollar trifecta. As my friends and my brother will attest, I am prone to playing singled up place pick all’s, pick 4’s, and pick 6’s on simple whims of fancy and with no real expectations. This day was no exception and, with a very nice carry over, I bravely went to the window and placed my solo shot $2 pick six.
However, on this particular day, through four races I had miraculously hit on each single race. In the ninth an 8-1 shot kept my ticket alive. Standing on the rail I waited anxiously for the pick six will pays to flash on the board. As the tote changed, my heart skipped a beat. My heavy favorite at 2-1 was posting a payout of over fifteen thousand dollars!
My friends were as wide eyed as I was. At eighteen, that kind of money on a bet may as well have been a million dollars. So with the horses coming out to the call to the post, me an my pals positioned ourselves as close to the wire as we could possibly get, our eyes drawn to the tote board again. My horse was the number six, with legendary hall of fame jockey, Laffit Pincay Jr., in the irons. He had gone from 2-1 to 6/5. The real bettors all agreed with me that he was far and away the horse to beat!
As they loaded in and the gate broke, Laffit had the six horse positioned perfectly for the inevitable stretch run that would secure my big win. As they came into the midway point of the stretch, my horse was pulling away from the pack and looking like a sure winner. Just then, the nine horse sprung out of the pack like a rocket. I quickly glanced at my program. This 20-1 morning line with journeyman, Iggy Puglisi, was going to make this much closer than it ever needed to be. But was there any way in the world my man Laffit was going to yield a 5 horse length advantage in half of a stretch?
As they came to the wire, it was basically a head bob fight and, as they crossed, my eyes told me that I had just been nosed off of a big pick six. However, my heart refused to hear any of it. So, I squirmed as the tote refused to list the top two spots and then actually flashed my 6 as the top horse! But that looming “photo” sign was still lit up. It seemed an eternity as both horses approached the winners circle and paced waiting like the rest of us to see who had taken the race. Then it happened, the tote board flipped to “official” and the nine horse was switched from the second slot to the first slot. My heart dropped and, as they posted the photo on the big screen, it felt like salt in the wound. The image showed a fully extended nine horse edging a 3/4 extended six horse by a matter of inches.
My little ticket that “could had been” shattered, along with my hopes. I never forgave poor Iggy (who, by the way ran an absolutely amazing race when I watched the replay, finding a hole and getting every ounce out of this long shot). On the depressing drive home, I called him “the dream crusher”.
Since that day, whenever I was at the track I would get chided by my brother or my friends any time Iggy was on a mount in a race. Anytime he won, I cursed the horse gods like it was some personal insult to me. Six inches cost me fifteen grand but bought me a story that I look back on with a mix of hate and admiration for the sport we all love. Only here can that feeling be had and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We thank Mike for sharing his story! You can follow him on Twitter at @mjocher77!
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