None of this, apparently, bothers Bracciale. "I feel no different now," he says. "I live about the same as I always did—a few more clothes, eat out a little more. I have a Lincoln instead of a Coronet." Vince says he has not changed. "What's Jimbo going to get big-headed for? He's a born racetracker, and he understands all this."
"One time, he's only 18/19, Jimbo wins a picture for me," Dutrow says. "He explains to me how, when he comes into the stretch, this one patch of shade hits him, so he steers the horse right down that shade path while the others are fighting off the sun. Now where's a boy his age get off knowing a thing like this?"
"Jimbo was trying things the first week he was riding that most boys don't even know after six months," Vince says. "He was switching his stick that first week."
"Ah, he could switch sticks when he was on his hobbyhorse," Mrs. Bracciale says.
Bracciale does have a reputation as an outstanding left-handed hitter. "That's a big plus," he says. "I probably got the left from wrestling. In wrestling you need balance, gotta work both sides."
"Probably 95% of your horses never really feel anything but the right-handed whip," Vaonakis interjects. "What exercise boy can hit left-handed? And very few jocks."
"After awhile," Bracciale says, "you can sense that a horse gets to resent the right-hand whip. Not only won't he respond, he'll get mad at it."
"Familiarity breeds contempt," Vaonakis explains.
"Then he feels that left-hand whip," Bracciale says, brightening, "and you can tell he's saying, 'Hey, what's this? What's going on? Let me get out of here!' And he sparks up and punches for you."
One night not long ago Bracciale went back to Charles Town to ride in The Mountaineer Stakes, a $25,000 race, one of the richest in West Virginia. Vaonakis, claiming "I'm getting too old to go Down Below," sent his close friend Ed Watson to chauffeur his I, and they were joined by Tidewater Benjie, a familiar exacta player whose speech rivals Vaonakis'. This, in part, is Benjie's report, dictated into a tape recorder: