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Despite losing, following SJ Fair ponies is a lot of fun

There’s a reason they call it gambling

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Despite losing, following SJ Fair ponies is a lot of fun

Jason Campbell and Jagada Chambers hold their breath while awaiting the photo-finish results of Race No. 6 at the San Joaquin County Fair.

VINCE REMBULAT/The Bulletin


POSTED June 17, 2010 2:53 a.m.
Despite losing, following SJ Fair ponies is a lot of fun.

In the end, the best jockeys in the world couldn’t have prevented what both Bulletin sportswriter Jagada Chambers and I figured were sure things in our own minds.

With fellow reporter Vince Rembulat holding what both Jagada and I were assumed our winning tickets and our bragging rights, nothing seemed to fall our way during the designated sixth race Wednesday at the San Joaquin County Fair.

In that sense, we both walked away losers.

With $20 a-piece wagered on the race – each with our own strategy – one of the longshots on the card up and decided it was his turn to bask in the warm glory of the Central Valley sun.

It ruined both of our chances, deflated both of our egos, and once again proved to us why it’s considered gambling in the first place – no matter how good you think your system might be, it’s still up to the horses themselves and the jockeys that ride them that determines the order that they finish.

I had hoped to use this space to openly brag about how my studying of the workouts and past performances and personal wagering system cashed in the golden paycheck – one that would have been used to throw the entire Manteca Bulletin office a luncheon party.

But instead, both Chambers and I were witness to how random horse racing can really be, especially on an unfamiliar track with jockeys that you don’t know by name.

Unlike traditional gambling where you’re playing against the house, betting the ponies is based on a pari-mutuel system – the money that you win comes from those who wagered on the horses that lost.

And I can unfortunately say that there were some people walking out of the fairgrounds Wednesday with some of our money in their pocket.

Now it would be easy at this point to bask in the horror of defeat, or describe how much it hurt to see hundreds and even thousands of dollars slip between your fingers because one thoroughbred decided that he wanted to have the day of his life.

The truth is, however, we walked back to the car laughing and smiling – still high on the adrenaline as those thousands of pounds of hooves round the corner and hit the home stretch. Even if it isn’t your horse in first place, or your exotic bet that pays off, the entertainment value alone makes it worthwhile.

I hadn’t even sat down in my seat yet when one of the members of Plain Broke Stables – the anonymous group that sent me two tickets and a parking pass two years ago to enjoy my first live racing experience with them – approached me for a friendly embrace and brief chat.

It almost seemed like I couldn’t even turn around without running into somebody that I knew from somewhere, which overshadowed the races themselves with good old-fashioned conversation and catching up that you can expect at places like the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.

So at the end of the day, while it would have been easy to see that all was lost, the experience itself proved to be not only rewarding, but also worthwhile.

The people that we sat around in our comped box seats couldn’t have been nicer, and laughter and excitement seemed to be the order of the day.

Some might think that I’m trying to sugarcoat something that I believed so highly in winning, but the truth of the matter is that it really was an afternoon well spent, among friends both new and old, and if that costs $20 then it’s money well spent.

As for the showdown with Jagada Chambers – we’re not quite done yet. The date hasn’t been set, but you can’t end the World Series or the Super Bowl on a tie, and I don’t expect that this is going down in the books as 0-0 either.

Maybe I learned a little bit today about how you can’t always expect what is supposed to happen to happen, but that golden payday on a race is still coming.

Well Jagada, we’ll just have to figure out where and when. We’re a little bit wiser, a little bit more attuned to the attitude of the track when attending together, and how on any day just about anyone can get up on that home stretch and win.

But it’s far from over my friend. Far from over.

Until next time.

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