Freddy Won Big at the Racetrack

My Dad won a lot of money at the Racetrack. He cursed a lot there. Embarrassed me mercilessly but saved my life at the old Arlington Park(before the fire) when as a toddler I almost fell over the balcony in the stands. He grabbed me by the ankle and hoisted me back up during the middle of a race before I dropped a hundred feet down. It sounds crazy, but it helped pay for Tulane. Racetrack people are similarly esoteric subterranean dwellers and sometimes overlap with pool room denizens. They’re just a group of people who’ve decided not to live life “not on the square.” I mean, I’ve had relatives buried with a Racing Form in their hands. I used to have to cross busy streets and highways as a child to buy my father a Racing Form from an old fashioned newspaper stand. He loved to go the track with his buddies Racetrack Phil, Brooklyn Jimmy and Tall Al. He always brought homemade Italian food for the jockeys at Arlington to get a tip on what horse to bet. He often argued with everybody in the VIP room there and had his own daily crew of horse worshippers at the off track in Chicago called "The Mud Bug." He would move to a particular town - be it Miami, LA or Hot Springs- for an entire racing SEASON. He made my friend Margeaux park his car for him when we were only 13 so he could make a bet on the first race at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas(note: he won big money on that race). He "hung" with both octogenarian heiresses in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" pancake makeup and jewels as well as desperate deadbeats with sole-less shoes and only the saddest of stories at the racetrack. Freddy was always good for a"bite" from one of them. He usually had a crowd of sycophant sweators surrounding him, same as at the pool room where people looked for a tip on a race or to hear a great story from one of the underworld's best storytellers. In his later years he enjoyed an annual summer "Boys' trip" to the beautiful and exclusive Saratoga Springs for racing with Brooklyn Jimmy and the last of the Westies where everyone serving them during their hotel stay was generously tipped c-notes. Here’s The Beard after one of his big wins on none other than the #8 horse. My favorite number, of course! We always celebrated in grand style after a big win - Champagne and Escargot! Maybe a new car...You always had a good time when you were flush with cash 💵