17 September 2008

Desi Spotting at Belmont Park

Typing up notes and processing archival photocopies day after day can be an uninspiring affair. After a few days of diligently hammering away at this task from dawn til dusk, I decided I needed a break. So when I ran into my high school friend Elwood el Encanto—who just started grad school himself—I proposed an afternoon break.

“Let’s go to Belmont. It’s just a short train ride away and we can be back by dinner to get back to work. Plus, who knows, maybe we’ll actually win some money playing the ponies.”

After a second’s hesitation, Elwood gave in whole-heartedly to the idea of a day at the races. Apparently grad school was already wearing on him too.

“So do you have a system for betting?” Elwood asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah, I bet on one long-shot and one horse with a pretty name.”

Now I know this system sounds like a sure fire way to lose every bet. And Elwood's shaking head said as much. But at two dollars a wager, I couldn’t say that I really cared. Assuming that I put money on every race and that I lost on every horse, I’d be down a total of thirty six dollars for the day. To my mind, that’s a fair price to pay for an afternoon free of my dissertation.

But as soon as I peeked into the program, a new system became obvious: bet desi.

Starting with the number two race, I was putting my money on Rajiv Maragh (wearing blue above) in every race he was competing in. I felt like I had to support this kid. I imagined a young desi boy, being pushed toward a life of electrical engineering or some such, but valiantly standing up, declaring, “Horses! I am going to ride horses.” Dare to dream young man, I said to myself, turning in a handful of bets on this junior jockey.*

I tried to convince Elwood to take up ethnic chauvinist wagering as well, but with four out of every five riders carrying Hispanic surnames, it just wasn’t a system that would work for him.

And maybe it was for the best.

Nationalist gambling turns out to be shockingly unreliable. Brother Rajiv rode in six out of nine races, winning none, although he placed twice. Moreover, I had a serious conundrum in the sixth race when Rajiv was going up against fellow Indo-Caribbean rider Shaun Bridgmohan! (I bet on both.)

But all the same, it was a good day for me. I broke even when a long shot came in so I don’t hold it against Maragh for being a completely under-achieving son of a… Mother India.

*For the record, my imagination was getting the better of me. Rajiv simply follows in the footsteps of his father, a Jamaican horse trainer.


Anonymous said...

Belmont's a pretty track, unlike Aqueduct, which has all the charm of a county jail. And your account reminds me of the time I ran into a friend in our local bar just after he got back from an afternoon at Golden Gate Fields. "How'd you make out?' I asked. "Well," he said, "I broke even, which is good, because I really needed the money."

kg said...

"Nationalist gambling turns out to be shockingly unreliable."

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

Yeah, I always enjoy the trip out to Belmont as a way to get away from crowds. If you go mid-week, there are fewer people in the stands than there are queued up outside the OTB around the corner from my apartment.

kg, I guess you didn't bet on Dima winning Eurovision. Such cynicism is leading to your homeland's decline.