"I told him we were on our honeymoon, and he said it's his present to us. Wasn't that sweet of him?"
"Tell you how shweet after the second race, shweetheart."
When it came time to place our bet, I began to grow nervous. "That horse looks a little smallish for a jumper," I said to Faith about Hasty Lad in hopes of finding some reason to wager on my choice and not some tout's specious honeymoon present. And I added, "Besides, he's carrying too much weight—12 stone," as though I had any idea how much that was in pounds or how much he was giving the rest of the field.
"For heaven's sake," replied Faith, "you don't know anything about jumpers, and that little guy gave it to me because he liked us. So don't be stupid." Hasty Lad it would be.
In England a bettor can shop around for the best price offered in the bookies' stalls. One named Totin' Teddy was offering the highest odds, 8 to 1. "Three pounds on Hasty Lad," I told Teddy, a white-faced toff in a bowler with a yellow plastic flower in his buttonhole. "To win?" he asked and, as I nodded yes, passed my bet along to his stooped, Dickensian clerk, who recorded it dutifully on a huge ledger sheet and handed me a pink ticket. "And good luck to you, Yank," said Teddy with lusty insincerity.
The horses were off before I could get back to our seats. When I first saw the field, Hasty Lad was last going into the first jump. He bobbled badly there and then, at a water barrier, almost fell. He subsequently took three consecutive bad jumps and finished a staggering 10th.
"You see, dear," I explained coldly, "weight means everything in these races."
"How much is Bromo carrying in the second race?" she shot back. I bit my lip and pretended I didn't know. "See, he's the lightweight in the field," she said. "In at under 10. Look, I know Hasty Lad was a bummer, but give the little guy a chance. Please bet this horse. For me?"
I bet Bromo with Totin' Teddy, again getting 8-to-1 odds. For the first half of the race he was a carbon copy of Hasty Lad—off badly, a few botched jumps. But then Bromo began to move, and by the final jump he was ahead by half a length. But he took that hedge so badly that he was actually two lengths behind racing for the wire.
Bromo came on again, though, and won by a short neck, making Faith ecstatic and starting us on a day in which we hit the winner in four of the next five races. She kept saying, "It's the little man's gift."