The Short Money
From: Jack K. Sparks Hillbilly Number One El Platano Blanco
To: SGT Sparkes, Michael FSC 1-327 IN REG 1ST ARMORED DIV Somewhere Overseas
Spring is breaking across Minnesota; however, we aren't experiencing it fully because the good Lord has seen fit to extend old Martinmas into damn near May. Unfortunately, Mother Nature's roulette wheel always lands on Black around this time of year as she ushers in all of Summer's shortsighted pursuits. Chief among these are man's search for sustenance from the feral fauna of the land, and, man's search for the big score from an endless procession of glue factory nags at Parimutuel windows from Santa Anita to Belmont.
This is where the story both begins and ends though, Michael, because these days are always fogged over with a green cloud called Demko. The world is full of bad ideas, and the Kentucky Derby has always been one of them. The Kentucky Derby at a track roughly 600+ miles North of Churchill Downs is borderline ridiculous.
The fact is, the REAL Kentucky Derby is full of the worst kind of people, from the very rich to the very stupid to the very rich and stupid. These people often have too much money and a warped sense of "the finish line." A bad day for them either consists of an hour not wearing silk, or an hour having not fired a shot in anger. Sobriety is a luxury.
Transpose this ill conceit to a wind torn suburb belched from a set of highways and roads designed and built by a colony of inbred chimps from a long forgotten Medeival zoo. Couples named George and Martha show up at this event in matching denim Mickey and Minnie Mouse varsity jackets bought ten years ago, "when the kids were little" on a terrible 4 day weekend in Orlando. They'd throw the jackets away, but in a crowd like this, it's good to mark yourself with something familiar. These strays are surrounded by slovenly drunks named Chip and Chaz who read one Hunter S. Thompson article in a Journalism 101 course and decided that a lot of alcohol in a public place is the functional equivalent of living the high life. These people are 50 kinds of dumb.
But I'm not going to plead immunity from prosecution. I have my own vaccuum of intelligence and it all begins with the 651 area code. This man calls me every year to begin the descent into evil...horses, strong drink, and money I don't have. Somewhere during the unholy abortion that is my friendship with one Paul J. Demko, he convinced me that it is possible for man to predict the performance of beast and profit from the enterprise. But this is folly. We are the beasts.
And then he goads me, annually, into this contest of words full of equine nonsense.
But we don't have time for this. James Scully had to wipe off his tip with his own dirty sock after watching Big Brown work out this morning, which is good for scumbags like Demko who will box him in an exacta with the field with money they stole from of a passed out drunk sleeping it off under the Cracker and Cheese table at Liquor Lyles the night before. This is money ill spent, because the returns will be even, and given his proclivity for strong drink, and misguided bets on Maiden Sprints featuring the local hippodrome, Demko will go home poor.
Between the rails, on the dirt, the Kentucky Derby rewards WINNERS. And there will only be one winner this Saturday, a great grandson of Seattle Slew named Pyro. This balls out bastard ran a semi-circle around the field at the Risen Star Stakes and then did it again at the Louisiana Derby a few weeks later. His poor showing on the Polytrack is a rope-a-dope, and the dopes are eating it like dessert.
But Big Brown can't be totally discounted. He'll have just enough gas to finish second, a half length ahead of a Sheila named Eight Belles, followed by Colonel John and Gayego or Monba. Yes, for the losers, this will be the Super Hi-5, a sucker bet that will build the latest, most depraved "executive suite" at Churchill Downs in less than a year. These are the crimes that never go reported, especially in states like Kentucky.
I weep for humanity Mike. Stay safe and sit on your helmet.
Ad astra per aspera.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.