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The Mafia at Saratoga
Sam Toperoff
November 11, 1968
The goal of horse racing is breeding for excellence, and it is a goal often achieved. The bloodlines of horseplayers are less consistent. Even at hallowed Saratoga the fancy ranges from aristocrats to $2 bettors and sometimes it has a salty seasoning of toughs. Meet Sal, Rocco, Vinnie—and a strong-minded dame named Sophie
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November 11, 1968

The Mafia At Saratoga

The goal of horse racing is breeding for excellence, and it is a goal often achieved. The bloodlines of horseplayers are less consistent. Even at hallowed Saratoga the fancy ranges from aristocrats to $2 bettors and sometimes it has a salty seasoning of toughs. Meet Sal, Rocco, Vinnie—and a strong-minded dame named Sophie

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Post time for the first race at Aqueduct was 1:30; I had forgotten that at Saratoga it was 2 p.m. A reprieve. Still time to make the double. In front of me on line was Sophie, the dark lady from the air-conditioned limousine. She was 40ish, shapely in a very muscular way, dressed in tight-fitting basic black. Lots of dark lace and lots of black net. Her behind was very full and very high, like an old steeplechaser's. She carried a furled black umbrella that was so thin and tightly wound it was a scientific marvel. She used it for support, which was quite superfluous, since she stood on legs with calves and thighs too thick to be well constrained by black net stockings. She might have been working the Rue St. Denis.

"Hi, handsome, long time no see," she said through thin lips painted cupid's-bow thick. Her ennui had lifted without leaving a trace.

"Hello, Sophie."

"Hey. How'd you know my name? Did I ever do any business with you or something?"

"No, no, I just heard someone call you Sophie when you went by in the car before."

"Wow, some memory." A strand of her blue-black hair, which hung down in thick Sicilian ringlets, fell over her eye, and Sophie tucked it away demurely with stubby fingers. "What's your line of work, doll?"

"I'm a teacher."

"Oh." It was a disappointed oh. "Not much money in that, doll."

"Yeah, that's true." How could I resist? "And what do you do, Sophie?"

A rough noise somewhere between a bellow and a roar—Sophie's laugh—sounded and then echoed back on itself. Heads snapped up. Every part of Sophie that wasn't cinched tight shook. When she finally spoke she was still laughing; "What do I do? Why, I'm a lady-in-waiting." Again the laughter built to a roar-bellow and slowly faded into something soft that was quite pleasant: "Actually—actually—I'm what you might call an engagement counselor. Get it?"

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