Stella at the races

Escaping the humid Washington summer, Stella had occasion to visit Saratoga Springs for a day at the races earlier this month. A couple of years ago, she had developed an interesting betting scheme that was yielding a 15-20% return. The system consisted of betting to win or place on three horses per race, two favorites and a middle runner. Stella returned to see if she could win with the horses once more.

Saratoga Springs deserves some attention. The racetrack, established in 1863, is quite charming.


Its compact size and layout enables one to move quickly and easily from the paddock to the betting booths to the track. The paddock is wonderfully shady and in fact some visitors choose never to leave their deckchairs, watching the races on the TV screens.

Paddock Area

There is a festive feeling enhanced by Dixieland jazz bands and food with race-appropriate names.
Dixieland Band

Racetrack food

It is important to arm oneself with a lucky pencil (provided for 50 cents at the welcome desk) and the day’s racing program. Serious race-goers might study the plethora of information available on each horse and jockey from birth lines to performance on different surfaces.

Racing stats

After a few moments of learning how to read the data, Stella quickly concluded that her powers of visual assessment coupled with a careful monitoring of the odds would be just as effective.

Horse in Paddock

Watching the horses before the race, she is looking for shining physical condition, liveliness, but not uncontrolled energy. The edgy horses never win.

Frisky horse

Stella has rather mixed feelings about horse racing. As an animal rights supporter, she knows deep inside that she shouldn’t enjoy it. And yet, the moment she steps inside the racetrack and sees the horses for the first race parading around the paddock, she is consumed with a rare fervor and excitement, and rushes to place her bets.

Placing a bet

Race One
Bet $2 to win or place on 4/Hirapour and 8/Mauritania
Total investment: $8
Winning order: 4/3/8
Total return $6.60
Cumulative result: Down $1.40

Comment: An exciting race where Mauritania was in second place behind Mark the Shark for the longest time. If Stella had bet to win, place or show (i.e. first, second, or third place) she would have won more. But she picked the winner, so a moral if not financial victory.

Race Two
$3 to win or place on 3/Panty Raid, 5/Mostbeautifulstorm, and 7/Sharp Susan
Total investment: $18
Winning order: 3/4/5/7.
Total return: $22.10
Cumulative result: Up $2.70

Comment: Panty Raid came through.

Panty Raid the winner

Now, Stella has picked two out of two winners, regained the financial advantage, but again, should have bet to win, place or SHOW.

Race Three
$3 to win or place on 2/Keltish Lass and 9/Philanthropy Lady
Total investment: $12
Winning order: 3/6/9
Total return: $0
Cumulative result: Down $9.30

Comment: So, clearly the sun is affecting Stella…for the third time in a row she picks the third place horse, but has only bet to win or place.

Race Four
Stella sits out Race Four in order to revive her spirits.

Liquid Lunch

But her gal pal takes the horns and bets $9 to win, place or show on 1a/Graduating Class. In a thrilling but confusing finish, she believes 1a has won by a nose. In fact it’s 1/Thunderestimate who has won. But thanks to her lucky hat, the bookies mistook gal pal’s bet for horse 1 and she wins $9.45!

Lucky Hat
Race Five
In spite of being impressed by 4/Cuaba and 5/Anxiety, Stella bets to win, place, or show (finally!) on 7/Mrs. Bailey (female jockey – had to support the girls) and 9/Tejida.
Total investment: $12
Winning order: 4/5/7/9
Total return: $6.80
Cumulative result: Down $14.50

It turns out that beer at the races only dulls the intellectual and competitive keenness that Stella demonstrated at the beginning of the day, and supresses her intuitive selection of the winning horses, so she gracefully retires to the Roosevelt Baths for a therapeutic mineral bath in the waters enjoyed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself. Floating in essential oils of lavender, geranium and rosemary, Stella reflects on the errors of the day, the loss of $14.50, the beauty of the horses, and, undaunted, prepares her strategy for next time.

Panty Raid Up Close

14 responses to “Stella at the races”

  1. “As an animal rights supporter, she knows deep inside that she shouldn’t enjoy it. And yet, the moment she steps inside the racetrack and sees the horses for the first race parading around the paddock, she is consumed with a rare fervor and excitement, and rushes to place her bets.”

    This reminded me of Literacy’s stripping dilemma for some reason.

  2. Dave says:

    Yeah, but the trip to the racetrack sounds much more appealing.

  3. G-Lock says:

    I went to school in Albany and yet never quite made it over to Saratoga. Sorry I missed out.

  4. I should have added this morning, Stella, how much I enjoyed this post. Wish I had been there with you and your ladyfriend.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I loved the IRS camera sign above the betting window…

    C’mon, everyone–let’s get Stella to 60 comments, too!

  6. Stella says:

    Oh, I could never hope to match Mr. Fawcett’s comment record. I’m just happy he enjoys being schooled by me.

  7. Stephanie Wells says:

    How come no one has mentioned the rather compelling switch to the third person that Stella makes in this post? Stephanie thinks it’s sort of fetching and not a little intriguing. Care to comment, Stella?

  8. literacy h. dogfight says:

    you *do* make an excellent schoolmistress, stella, if i don’t say so myself. oh, wait, that was a dream, wasn’t it? — a very gooood dream.

  9. Lane says:

    love the hats!

  10. PB says:

    I love the names of the horses. Mostbeautifulstorm. Panty Raid. Keltic Lass. What would I name a xmillion dollar horse that would entice people to bet on them? Actually “Stella’s lovely post” isn’t bad. Honestly though, does anyone know how they come up with them, is there some kind of formula or is it just whatever the owner wants?

  11. PB says:

    just in case two of the very same comments show up at some point in time . . . I have not lost my mind (well not exactly), I am having trouble with my computer and REALLY wanted to comment. after two tries, I give up. with my luck this will be the only one that shows and if that happens, I must sneak in–great post.

  12. PB says:

    see I knew it, damn technology, love it, hate it, love it, hate it.

    OK, I will try again. I was trying to comment on the names of the horses. How facinated I am by them. I won’t go through my whole comment (again in case they show up at some point) but I am curious if anyone knows how they come up with them, if they are by whim or design?

  13. Stella says:

    Stephanie – yes, this is the first time Stella has slipped into the third person, but I suspect not the last. It just snuck up on me as I was writing and seemed right. Maybe it’s something to do with writing under a pseudonym or just writing a blog…I’m both the protagonist and the narrator of my life and the two just split in the process. We’ll see if this ends up in therapy.

    Pandora – in spite of spending the key years of my life (ages 7-12) obsessively reading pony books, I don’t know the answer. My guess is that parental lines are sometimes reflected in the names but that a lot of the names are pure whimsy….

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