I remember an inquiry I had had to sweat out at Saratoga many years earlier. I had bet an 11-to-1 shot $10 to win. He crossed the line first, but when the jockeys came back with their horses another jockey claimed foul against my boy. I had chased after him and finally caught up with him outside the hearing room. He was an apprentice, 19 years old, and was waiting there nervously for the chance to tell his version of the story. His face was exactly that of a boy who had been caught smoking in the school bathroom; now he was waiting to see the principal. He was the dumbest boy in school, so he tried to look defiantly innocent, and he came off looking guilty of things he hadn't even done yet. His boot heel tapped uncontrollably. I asked him if he thought he'd be taken down. "Me? Take me down? Never. How can they? For what? There was no trouble out there. Not a bit of contact. They can dish it out, but when you give it back they cry like babies." (They were certain Latin jockeys, and the italics were his.)
"Well, I hope you stay," I said.
"You can bet I will," he said.
"I have. There's just the formality of a hundred-dollar payoff."
They took his number down, placed him last and gave him a 15-day suspension for "herding the field" at the head of the stretch. I wanted to wring his neck. He had much the best horse that day, too.
I was thinking back on that, when suddenly the track announcement came: "After viewing films on this race, the judges have disqualified number four, Lady Pitt, and placed her second for interference with number two, Natashka, through the stretch. Now the race is official, the winner is number two, Natashka...."
Rocco tore up his tickets angrily and looked menacingly at Sophie.
"How much do I win, doll?" Sophie directed the question to me, excluding her other boy friends and bestowing on me her special favor.
"I'll have to see exactly what she paid, but you'll get around $600."
Rocco looked as if he'd kill me. And Sal looked as if he'd let him. Vinnie muttered, "What a lousy break."