The One Per Cent Club

by Trey Nosrac

He did not look like a one-percenter. With a small green backpack slung over his shoulder, he was alarmingly fit for a man in his fifties. In his tan cargo shorts and blue t-shirt, he could pass for an aging surfer. The private jet at the private airport told a different story. He tossed his pack into the back seat and slid into my passenger seat. We bumped knuckles.

“Luggage?” I asked.

“Taken care of,” he leaned forward and tapped a happy bongo drum riff on my dashboard,” and asked, “How did your summer go?”


“And the trotters you raced?”

“Not fast. How was your world tour?”

He sighed, “Long and good. My first time on a cruise ship; I liked it. So, your horses didn’t do anything?”

I pulled onto the highway and said, “Nope, a fiscal sinkhole.”

He ran his hand through his graying buzz cut, “Well that stinks, I know you had high hopes.”

“Always do, I’ll dust myself off.”

He spent a few seconds thinking and then said, “You seem calm about the rough racing season. Well, rough racing seasons, because as I recall your horse didn’t even race the summer before this one… I know you had a lot invested.”

“Hey man, losing is part of the game, I’m a pro. It’s hard to explain, but bad years seem to inspire some of us to keep trying.”

“That’s more than hard to explain, that’s irrational, your money down the drain, do you need a loan?”

“Maybe a therapist.”

After a pause, he said softly, “My friend, you can’t afford to continue playing the racing game.”

I shrugged, “Money and me, we have this weird relationship. Maybe it goes back to growing up in a family of vagabonds. We moved all the time, to some weird places. My folks never had jobs, never had much money, but they had adventures.”

“Adventures don’t pay bills.”

“We scraped by. I mean, we spent time in trailers, unfinished buildings and on the road – but good times. Plus I got magic feathers, headbands, a tambourine, and great memories as a trust fund.”

“I can help you with money.”

“Nah, my plan is to die the day my money runs out, and I’m right on schedule. After the last few years of racing horses, I’m ahead of schedule.”

“Losing has to beat you down. There must be times you think about pulling the plug?”

I shrugged, “After a bad summer on the racetrack, everyone asks that question, but then the sales begin, you peek into a catalog and dreams start walking off pedigree pages. Then you remember the good times, the good friends, and you remember how you fill your winter months dreaming while your latest baby clomps around in the snow. Owning yearlings, it’s close to an addiction.”

“Addictions are not good.”

I thought for a minute and said, “You know what’s good about being tapped out in the horse racing game?”

“It makes you stop?”

“Nope, it fires me up to find a way to play again.”

“Trey, think about it. Look at your sport logically, scientifically, and financially. In the long run, you can’t beat the odds. What are you trying to prove?”
 “Dude, when someone says I can’t do something, that just makes me want to do it often and take pictures. Besides, racing horses is an emotional thing. Some of us, we see it as a challenge, a maddening, frustrating, interesting, exciting, fun challenge.”

He sighed again, “I don’t get it.”
“Most people don’t. Ninety-nine per cent who try buying a horse, they spend big money and when the yearling doesn’t race or doesn’t race well, they see it as a huge failure and run out the door with a bad taste in their mouth. If their first experience isn’t good, they don’t try again. They can’t emotionally weather the storm and get to the point to see what a few of us see. One thing for sure, if money is your master, you shouldn’t play.”

He gave a slight shrug of his head and spoke softly, “I was standing next to you when you bought the yearling filly last fall. She did not race. Where is the fun in that?”

I took my right hand off the steering wheel and waggled a finger at my passenger, “See, you don’t get it. You may be a one-percenter of the affluent, but you are like the ninety-nine per cent who think about racing as a business. When I bought that filly I was paying for a ride, the destination was the dream. I’m in the middle of my ride with that filly. In the big scheme of life, it doesn’t really matter where I am when I get off.”

“That’s a bit naïve, a little whimsical. A yearling that does not race does not seem to have much of an upside. Explain to me how that ride is worthwhile? Talks slow. Talk sense.”

Turning into his driveway, I said, “Okay, on our next ride I’ll take you inside my one per cent brain. I’ll plead my case. However, right now, I see your mom, she’s waving from the front porch like a Norman Rockwell painting. Her world-traveling son has returned.”