“It’s ‘Da 8, Mon!”
Prior to 2006 I had played the races a grand total of 4 or 5 times. They were fun, but I had really no interest in figuring who, how, or why a horse ran the way he/she did.
In early 2006 I had found myself hobbled up from work for about 6 weeks and, after a couple days of being bored stiff, I walked down the road to Stampede Park in Calgary. It was a dark day and I wasn’t crazy about simulcasting at that point. I asked around about when the next live race day was, and it was the next day.
I got to the races the next day plenty early and sat down with an older gentleman (about 75 years old), who proceeded to tell me what seemed like virtually everything there was to know about horse racing. I didn’t even make a bet. His stories were that riveting. As a 23 year old, I’d never seen myself as having a 75 year old buddy, but I did.
We met up a couple times a week throughout January and February. Meanwhile, there were Derby Prep races being run almost every Saturday. He showed me a lot of different angles to look at in the form, but told me one very important tool to use. My eyes. Watch how a horse responds coming home, when he is ahead, when he is behind, and when he gets confronted by another horse.
I started to catch on and get the hang of the game, and I had made some bets and made a few hundred bucks. I was thrilled! The next weekend was the 2006 Florida Derby. I had handicapped the race as best I knew how,and had made my decision that Sharp Humor was the horse to beat, despite everyone talking about Barbaro. He was the morning line favorite and was continually bet on the board. So much so that he was 8-5 at post time.
I was laughing to myself thinking “I’m getting 6-1 on my horse”. I had not yet been too cocky with my skills so I made an exacta box with Barbaro and Sharp Humor. The race went off and Sharp Humor went straight to the front, Barbaro flanking him. A few others made attempts at the top two but at the top of the stretch it was a two horse race. Sharp Humor led, Barbaro passed him, Sharp Humor battled back on the rail, game as ever, but Barbaro eventually took the lead and as Vic Stauffer called that day “remained undefeated on his way to Louisville!!!”
I caught the exacta, but that was quite insignificant compared to the lesson I learned about Barbaro. Over the course of the next month and a half I never forgot that race. I was back at work, and had told myself that I was going to work hard so I could play Barbaro at the Derby.
At that time I thought $100 was as big as anybody should ever bet on a horse to win. I went to the track on the first Saturday in May with $200. $100 for Barbaro and $100 for other bets/beer/food. Over the course of the next 5 or 6 hours, things went well, so well that I had over $2500 in my pocket. With an hour between races on the big day, I had plenty of time to debate with myself over what to do with my money.
I had a few (7-8) beers by then, and the recurring thought of Barbaro winning would not leave my mind. At that point, I made the decision to go “all-in” on him. I was not familiar with how big the WPS pools were on Derby day, so I asked a guy what would happen if I put $1000 on Barbaro? “Would he go down from 6-1 to 2-1?” He laughed. “Bet whatever you like son,” he replied. “Won’t matter with pools that big.”
So, with about 10 MTP I went to the window and carefully counted out $2400. “$1200 to win and $1200 to place on the 8 please,”I said. By this time my liquid courage had taken over and I was nervous, but not like I’d be if I was sober. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. It felt like I waited an hour for them to load.
“They’re off,” I heard. Now my heart was racing. I lost Barbaro at the break and really couldn’t tell what was happening. People were yelling at TV’s and, as the horses came from the backside, I could finally make out a Jamaican man’s voice,”Its da 8, mon.” Barbaro had taken the lead at the top of the stretch and the rest is history.
I was trying to hug strangers, jumping around like a crazy man. Almost in tears, I walked up to the window where I bought my ticket and the lady there was so happy for me. She counted out 100 dollar bill after 100 dollar bill. I left her 2 of them. I had over $10,000.
Being young, and not so bright I spent about $500 buying drinks and carrying on for a couple hours. I took a Limo home, when I lived 5 minutes away. I woke up the next day a race fan for life. I took the money and started my own business that I still currently own and operate to this day. I don’t want to sound over dramatic, but I truly do owe what I have today, at least in part to the greatest horse I have ever seen run, Barbaro.
We thank Joshua for sharing his story! You can follow him on Twitter at, wait for it, @Barbaro1420
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