The Warriors of the Tracks: The Gamblers

Suffolk Downs, July 2016


Suffolk Downs, as we all know, is going to close down soon.  When, exactly, no one really knows.  So, the fans, the horses and their connections, and the gamblers…we go.  We go to enjoy what will be the last days of thoroughbred racing in New England.  Suffolk held a six-day meet in 2016; two in July, two in August and two in September. Big, big crowds of people!   There’s scuttlebutt about a new track being built somewhere in Massachusetts; we shall see.  I hope so.  Every day, I hope along with thousands of others.

The July meet was very hot.  So, we sat in the grandstands, not too far up to avoid the sun.  On the end of the aisle, near one of the staircases.  A decent sized crowd was there, not packed, but a good showing.

As one race ended, I could hear, not far behind me, some disapproval about the outcome of that race.  Happens every race.  Boom, bang, commotion… A man, (obviously a gambler) came tumbling down the stairs from behind me, not sure from how many rows up.  He was rolling sideways, every which way.  He stopped because his body slammed into the railing. There’s nothing but concrete and steel in grandstands. Thank God for the railing; the huge windows were all wide open, and I think he might have gone right out into the food trucks!

He immediately stood up.  He was a slight man, probably somewhere in his 70’s, with one arm already in a sling, and a program clutched in his other hand.  I ran over to him, asked if he needed help, asking frantically if he was ok.

“No, I just lost a shitload of money on that race!”  Much more cussing; not hard to imagine the lingo.  He didn’t appear to be drunk.  (I can smell alcohol a mile away.)

“Do you want me to get help?” (And, I was really panicking for him.)

More cussing, lots more.  He wiped off his clothes a bit and proceeded to the stairway.  Loudly, the swearing continued. I watched him fly down the stairs, and proceed into the crowds somewhere on the main floor.

He was a hardcore gambler, for sure, but something inside of me admired that tough bird, a rare and fading breed… they’re still around, at the tracks, but they’re not making any more of them, not like that.











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