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Uniflo, the No. 8 dog, was a big blue brindle, bright-eyed and eager while marching to the starting box. But when the lid flew open he broke tardily, took a couple of bumps going around the first turn, swung very wide at the final turn and finished fourth, beaten by six lengths.
Uniflo's owner, a long, lean Texan named George Fulton, shrugged and tore up his mutuel tickets. "Well," he said, "that's the way it goes; I keep hoping each time that the dog will run better, but I'm beginning to think he never will."
Somebody in Fulton's party offered to buy a drink. Stepping up to the clubhouse bar, Fulton found himself next to a young couple who must have been standing there for some time, so full were they of euphoria and free advice. The young woman waved her program at him and burbled: "Stop looking so sad. Play the No. 3 and get happy."
"You said it," her husband chimed in. "Play that beautiful, beautiful three."
A No. 3 dog had finished first ahead of Uniflo, paying $6.20, and another No. 3 had won the previous race, paying $30. The quinielas in the two races had paid $21.20 and $97.20. The young couple had their hands full of winning mutuel tickets and $20 bills.
"You see?" said the young woman. "It's No. 3 all the way."
Fulton winked at his friends and said, "I sort of liked the No. 8 in that last race."
The young woman was aghast at such stupidity. "The eight's no good at all," she said emphatically. "I played the eight the last time we were here, and it didn't do a thing."
"Right!" said her husband. "Take our advice and play the three. Say, would you fellows like a drink?"
But George Fulton seemed to have lost his thirst. "That's the way it goes," he told his friends. "They play 'em by the numbers. Let's go down and see how that dog of mine is cooling out."