A road less taken

A road less taken

December 8, 2019

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by Trey Nosrac

Resting our elbows on the pitted and polished oak bar of the Slippery Elm Pub, my pal and I watched Maddie decorate for Christmas. Maddie co-owns the joint with her brother, Nestor. She has a sharp wit, round body, and cherubic smile. This season she was merrily working on a Christmas Story theme, the movie about Ralphie and his Red Rider BB gun. After hanging a fake leg-lamp in the front window, she was using a three-foot stepladder and straining to drape a string of old fashioned, large colorful bulbs around the big mirror behind the top-shelf liquor bottles.

I asked, “Need some help, Maddie.”

“No, no, I’m fine Trey. The last time you moved to the wrong side of the bar, this place turned into the OK Corral Saloon.”

We both laughed. My rich pal furrowed a questioning brow.

“Don’t ask,” I said to him.

He ordered lemonade and salad, neither of which I had ever seen served at the Slippery Elm. I went with draft beer and the house specialty that Maddie had named Ahunka Burning Love, a platter of extra spicy hot chicken wings on a bed of French fries. We had our beverages. Our food was in the works.

My friend asked, “What’s with all this craziness selling your yearling?”

I took a sip of my beer and said, “It began last March, at this very bar. I jotted down a sequential plan for my one and only yearling.”

I leaned sideways to fish my wallet out of my jeans, opened the wallet and removed a folded sheet paper. I unfolded the paper and smoothed it out for him to read.

Third Edition 2019/2020

June – Charity $0
November – Story Thing3 $18,000
January – Test Ride $24,000
May – Locked and Loaded TBD
August – Race him

He quickly scanned the piece of paper and said, “I get the gist and I sort of know what you are doing, I want to know WHY?”

I shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I’ve sent horses to sales like everyone else, sold a few, kept a few. Nothing wrong with horse sales, they are exciting. The key to this stupidity is that I only have one yearling to sell and I am perfectly content racing it. Traveling a new road always seems like a good idea. Alas, when the data is studied, my competence rarely matches my confidence.”

He took a sip of lemonade, pointed at the top of the list, and asked, “Charity project?”

“While you took a cruise around the world this summer, I took a swing at a strange project.”

“You mean ANOTHER strange project.”

We gave a clink of beverage glasses in agreement and I tried to explain, “We all know people who have diseases, addictions, rough stuff going on. My first idea was to donate this yearling to one of those diseases. My idea was to find 50 or 100 people in the state with something like MS or Parkinson’s, people who don’t know Bo Diddley about harness racing. I would get their email addresses and then digitally take those people through a year of racing a horse. I was going to make the people with the disease feel ownership, comradery, and give them something different to focus on. Every penny the horse earned would go to research or treatment via the state organization.

“What happened?”

“It didn’t work out. Hey, it happens. Sure, I had the yearling, but my cash flow was a trickle. The idea needed funding for other costs. I tried, but couldn’t get a racing organization to pick up the tab for training and staking. I probably could have pushed the idea harder but schlepping for funding is awkward. It was asking a lot, and I don’t know any deep pocket people.”

“You know me, you should have asked,” he said.

“You were sailing the seven seas. Anyway, when people didn’t seem thrilled with my brilliant idea, I moved on to the idea of selling the horse using a story as an offbeat form of advertising.”

“Did the horse sell?” he asked.

“Not yet, a few nibbles but it is late in the sales season. Maybe the horse sells, maybe it doesn’t, who knows? It’s all karma, dude. The yearling recently headed out to be broken to harness. If nothing happens on the sales front, he goes out for training until the next plateau of insanity.”

He looked at the list and asked, “Test Ride?”

‘Yeah, at the next bullet point, the horse will be a 2-year-old in his early training miles. He will be doing his thing, looking good, and then I will buy an ad and offer him for sale again. If anyone is interested, the plan is to schedule a few visits. Potential owners could bring their trainers and they can take a few laps in the jog cart.”

My pal just gave a slight nod, pointed to the last line on the paper, and said, “And I assume that locked and loaded means the horse has qualified for racing and the TBA price will be based on how well he qualifies.”

“Exactly.”

“You can’t be like everyone else and just send your yearling to a sale?”

“Could be, don’t want to be. I’m one of those road-less-traveled people who enjoy going off-road.”

He took another slug from his lemonade as Maddie approached with our plates.

Then my pal says, “Remember what Jerry Seinfeld said, ‘The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.’”

“True, but if you never go, you’ll never know.”

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