Why We Love This Game
Written by Anthony D’Imperio
It’s April 2011. I had just finished my high school basketball career and I was thirsty for more competition. My father, Bob, announced all my high school games. He was an enormous influence in my life dating back to the days he used to coach my baseball, basketball, and even soccer teams (he knew nothing about soccer!). I found my itch on what I called channel 602 (TVG) where I would bet against the TV and watch horse races left and right. I got hooked.
There was so much action, and it was so fast paced. By Kentucky Derby 2011 I considered myself knowledgeable enough to place my first real bet on a horse race. Lucky for my father, I had his money in my pocket that day as well. My dad was in Mexico on a work trip so I was in charge of betting on the Derby that day for both of us. I loved Nehro for no other reason (that I can remember) other than the random name and the solid odds. I got in touch with my dad earlier in the day and he said put $5 on a longshot. He mentioned Animal Kingdom, basically because he was mentioned on the NBC broadcast due to his name.
Me, being the professional handicapper I thought I was at that point, decided to move his money onto Santiva, a horse that I felt, at similarly long odds, had a much better chance to be a factor in the race. Long story short, Animal Kingdom won the race with Nehro in 2nd. That gave us both a salivating taste of what could’ve been.
Fast forward one year and it’s Kentucky Derby 2012. My father, again away on a work trip, was adamant about a horse named I’ll Have Another. I believe this is because he thought the namesake was about having another adult beverage (even though it was later revealed to be about a cookie, A COOKIE!). This time I was not going against Bob’s pick. I laid the $10 to win on I’ll Have Another and waited at my house for the race with a couple friends.
As they came around the stretch, I wondered how I let Bodemeister, the horse who I felt was the horse to beat, go off at 4/1. He was way out in front on a very hot pace, but all of a sudden I’ll Have Another came charging. He won going away and Bob finally had a ticket to cash and I had something to brag about to my friends ( I took credit).
Ok, so here’s where the real story starts. The day before the 2012 Preakness my dad and I decided to get Preakness infield tickets to see “our horse” I’ll Have Another. We didn’t know what we were doing. We showed up at 1 pm (way too late!!) to find the infield goers passed out in the grass. Combined, us two were about as smart as the guys who sell tip sheets for 50 cents outside the track. For as far back as I can remember, the Kentucky Derby winner was the favorite in the Preakness. No questions asked. Well, after Bodemeister’s unreal fractions it was no surprise that he was the 8/5 favorite in that 2012 running of the Preakness and I’ll Have Another was on the board at 3/1.
My dad and I felt the pressure of the smart bettors and resisted betting him all day, and then at 6:00, 15 minutes to post time, I lost my dad. I knew were he was. He was in line getting ready to bet everything we had left on the horse that was now our horse. I couldn’t believe it. It made no sense. He did it anyway. My dad and I went outside the infield and went on the fence to the grandstand to watch the race. I swear we were the only people to bet on I’ll Have Another.
There is no way knowing what I know now about horse racing that I would have ever bet against Bodemeister that day. I will never forget that stretch run. Ever. I’ll Have Another got up in the final strides and my father and I went back into the infield to cash our $50 win ticket. $212 is not a lot compared to what we all dream of winning at the track, but I know others like me have stories like this that just absolutely made us fall in love with the game of horse racing. The dollar amount couldn’t have been more irrelevant.
The feeling of my dad and I walking back under that tunnel under Pimlico Race Course as all the Bodemeister bettors filed out alongside us was something I will never forget. To this day, that day with my dad is the single greatest memory of my life. We have gone to every Preakness since and we will go forever. It is the ultimate father-son experience for my dad and I.
As the years have gone on we have added to our crew. First, it was my friends and this year we brought some of my dad’s family. Our group was up to 10 people this year and will undoubtedly continue to grow. It was very ironic that Doug O’Neil, Mario Gutierrez, and Reddam Racing had the favorite this year with Nyquist, the same connections that held I’ll Have Another that third Saturday in May in 2012. Horse racing has brought me and my father closer together than I could’ve ever expected after high school and, for that, I am forever grateful to this sport, and that is why we love this game!
We thank Anthony for sharing his story on DanonymousRacing.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BouncingMarkers.