“You mean to tell me NOBODY in this BAR knows who won the Belmont Stakes last year?”

So sayeth my eight year old kid

I think I might have created a monster….

For the last couple of years it has been somewhat of a tradition in my local watering hole for some of us to gather and watch the Triple Crown races and make some friendly wagers ( 5 bucks each) on the outcome. These wagers are simple in nature, straight win betting and nothing “exotic” such as exacta’s, trifecta’s and the like. The process usually consists of drawing the horse’s names out of a hat and there is little or no skill involved. This ensures that even those folks unfamiliar with the fine art of picking horses have the same chance of winning as that of any seasoned railbird.

This was one of those weekends that I had custody of my kid and rather than break with tradition, I asked if she wanted to go down to the bar and get some grilled cheese and watch the race. I figured I could visit with some friends, bet the race, feed my kid and all the while enjoy a few libations. Sounded like a plan.

We arrived about a half hour before post time and after exchanging the usual friendly greetings and ordering our food, I inquired as to when the betting was going start. Much to my chagrin, I was informed that since it was such a small field (six horses) that everybody all ready had their horse. Naturally I was disappointed but resigned myself to just watching the race and enjoying the company of my closest friends.

Well, needless to say, my friends sensed my disappointment and quickly arranged for another pool to be started. It was at this time that my kid took notice of what was going on asked if she could “play” too. I explained to her that this was really for adults and that she could watch the race and cheer for daddy’s horse instead. Naturally this didn’t sit quite well with her and she felt left out. It was that I figured “what the hell” and instead of me picking the horse at random I’d go ahead and let her pick. I mean, after all, with the way my luck has been running…..

It was now about 15 minutes or so before post time when she saddled up to the hat, stuck her hand in and drew out a horse. With a caution reserved only for eight year olds, she carefully unfolded the paper and revealed the name of Empire Maker.. Since we had some time to kill, she started asking questions about the sport of horse racing (How long are the races?), jockey’s, (Why do they wear different colors?), and the horses themselves (How do they get their names?).

And then came the killer, “Who won last year’s race?”. My friends and I glanced at each waiting for somebody to respond but all we got were blank stares and some mumbled “I dunno’s”. After a couple seconds of silence, my daughter stood up and blessed us with those immortal words

“You mean to tell me that NOBODY in this BAR knows who won the Belmont Stakes last year?”

Well, embarrassment turned to laughter as we all got a big kick out of her feigned sense of indignation that we, the masters of all sporting events and related trivia couldn’t come up with an answer.

It was now post time and to make a long story short, amongst much hooting and hollering the race was over and Empire Maker had crossed the line first. My kid had just won $30.00 bucks and was happy as could be. I tried to explain to her that it was customary for the winner of the pool to buy a round of drinks for the other participants but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted to know when the next race was so that we could do it again. I explained that we don’t do that sorta thing for all the races, just a select few. She seemed a little disappointed.

It was then that I got the bright idea to invite some folks back to my house where we partook of various barbecued pork products and were regaled with my kid’s account of the race. All in all, a very good evening.

Postscript: Listen, I know that some people would probably take issue about some of my parenting methods. Sure, taking an eight year old to the bar to watch horse racing is most likely never going to make it into one of those well-intentioned parenting magazines. Sure, teaching her a form of gambling might be considered by some to be a bad precedent. Sure, teaching her “bar etiquette” such as knowing when and whom to buy drinks for might not come in handy later in life. But then again, I have my own methods and for the time being, they seem to be working…

Oh yeah, she’s looking forward to spending the $30.00…