by Cyrus Rahimi
I never thought much of harness racing, and I really had no interest in finding out about it. The only time I ever thought anything of it was day trips to the casino with my college pals. As we went to the blackjack table we would see these little guys racing around a track in funny looking carts. Honestly the first thing that came to my mind was Brad Pitt in the movie Troy riding into battle. I never really took the time to understand anything about harness racing until I took the escalator downstairs today for the first time.
If you ever want to be thrown into the world of harness racing do what I did, walk in and place a bet. The second you walk in the door you feel the energy. I played sports my whole life and the closest thing you get to that feeling is placing a bet and feeling the adrenaline rush as the horses race around the track. I was nervous walking up to the counter and buying a program, the exchange went pretty seamlessly and I was on my way. I walked through the double doors and was greeted by a host of characters. On the chairs in the shade I saw a group of couples, sitting together enjoying the beautiful day and taking in the races. As I walked closer to the track I saw the more hardcore gamblers with backwards hats and tickets in hand. As I made my way towards the bleachers, I saw they were dotted with senior citizens, young adults, and middle-aged men and women. My favorite group was the yinzers, if you are from Pittsburgh or have spent much time here you will know exactly what I am referring to. These guys were decked out in Pittsburgh sports gear and were arguing about how Neal (Pirates General Manager) was ruining the team, but Cutch (Pirates star outfielder) was going to bring the city a World Series trophy this year.
I approached a man who taught me what everything in the program meant. All I really understood was how to read where each horse had finished in their last race, what the odds for each horse winning the race were, and how much the purse was for each race.
Armed with a very minimal amount of information, I approached the betting counter and asked if I could bet two dollars on the 6 horse to win race 3, and asked if I could pick the 6 horse and the 2 horse to place in the top 2 spots. I was told this was an exacta box bet so I placed it and walked out to the track.
I lost that race terribly and approached the counter again scared to bet, A nice lady told me she bets only exacta boxes with the 1,5 horses no matter what. I thought I would try this and placed multiple exacta box bets attempting to hedge my bets on the race, all of which again lost. My last attempt was on race 5, the gentlemen in front of me explained he uses a random number generator to pick horses. I tried this and picked three horses to finish in the top three using the app he had on his phone. Unfortunately, I lost my bets once again.
As I walked back to my car I smiled and realized I am in for quite a journey.