As I mention below, I was pretty good friends with Mark Fisher back in my high school days and the years immediately after. I'd known Mark since I was taller than him (he ended up close to a foot taller than me). His dad, Hugh, had been with the Bramalea Blues since their inception and I was a fan, a reporter for, and later, part of the organization of that hockey team.
Mark went down to Clarkson College on a hockey scholarship after graduating Bramalea. Things didn't go right with Fish and the Golden Knights coaching staff and Mark opted to return to Canada and play goaltender for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League. It was there that he met the old Montreal Canadiens' goalie Gump Worsley. Worsley was, more or less, the Rangers' goalie coach.
Worsley was also an habitue of the racetrack. He loved the ponies. And the trotters. And anything else equine you could bet on. He passed along a tip to Fish about a sure winner in one of the races at, if memory serves correct, Mohawk. Fish was hot to go and cash in on the tip. But he hated going anywhere alone. I'm sure he ran through the various other options until he hit my name on the list. He sounded desperate and I hadn't ever gone to the track before. At least as a punter.
He picked me up in his old rattletrap of a car and we enjoyed a leisurely ride through the snowy country-side out to Mohawk. Our horse, the number four nag in the fourth race, (which is ALL that I can remember about the horse) was a lock. Racing people will know this for the sheer idiocy of the statement that it is. I didn't have a lot of money with me, but all but five dollars was dutifully placed on the horse to win. Fish probably doubled what I bet.
The horse finished sixth. Of six.
My racing experience having finished, I now wanted to go home. I had already discovered I wasn't much of a horse-racing fan. Maybe knowing NOTHING about the game coloured my opinion. But Fish wanted to stick it out for at least another race. I still had the fiver holding my down my pocket. In the next race, I put two dollars down on a place bet that didn't pan out. Fish wasn't going to leave without winning something. Anything.
Perusing the betting sheet for the sixth, I saw a name that stood out. Pass To Win was going off at 11-to-1 odds. Being a guard on the basketball team, the name shouted out to me, despite the odds. I even talked Fish into betting on the horse too. And the horse came in, sending me home with three bucks more than I had arrived with! Fish pocketed more than that.
And the decision was made to leave while we were 'ahead.' I have never placed another bet on a horse since then. Can't say the same for Mark, but that's his story to tell. The ride home was ebullient until we noticed Mark was running a little low on gas. In fact, it was officially out of gas as we pulled out of the parking lot at Mohawk. We kept looking for a gas station and didn't find any open at that time of the night. Fish kept the speed down as we crept home. We probably DID see a gas station about 20 minutes later, but by that point in time, Mark's competitive streak had set in. He was going to get ALL the way home on the gas fumes.
And we did. With money in hand. And thus, I retired from the horse racing game, a lifetime winner.