Art courtesy of Jen Ferguson
This feature contains adult content intended for mature audiences
Note from author John Perrotta: This blog is the writer’s depiction of an imagined racetrack-based story, an ongoing saga, which includes some of the characters depicted in the ill-fated “Luck” series.
Cast of characters
Marcus - wheelchair-bound since falling from a tree as a child, he’s irascible but sensitive, and his world revolves around trying to pick winners at the track.
Jerry – Marcus’ best friend, a player in many senses of the word, he’s a clever horse handicapper with a weakness for Texas Hold ’Em poker and good-looking women.
Renzo - a sweet guy who’s not that great at handicapping but loves the familial relationship of a group of gamblers.
Lonnie – another good soul who has a load of self-esteem issues and deals with them by trying to be the “cool” one.
Ronnie Jenkins – a veteran jockey nearing the end of a career. He’s a former top rider and Derby winner but suffers from PTSD after a series of spills and wants one more chance with a “big” horse.
Joey Rathburn – longtime jockey agent, he has toiled in ambiguity for years and now has a shot at the gold ring.
Rosie Shanahan – the Irish import, she’s moved up from exercise girl to jockey and is proving she can hold her own with the boys.
Walter Smith – an old-school horseman, he’s come to California with his only horse to get away from bad memories in Kentucky. When the horse turns out to be a real runner, he gets more attention than he wanted.
Turo Escalante – a Peruvian misanthrope, he’s a skilled horseman with a big ego that gets tested when a talented horse with shady connections lands in his barn.
Ace Bernstein – mob-connected “businessman” who has done time for a frame-up, and now he is looking for revenge. Bernstein loves the track and has a dream of resurrecting the sport.
Gus Demitriou – Ace’s longtime driver, bodyguard and confidante. Winning a big slot jackpot fixed by Ace, he’s been the beard for the purchase of a talented Irish colt.
Mike Smythe – an evil mob guy who framed Ace and is obsessed with making his life difficult. Sometimes seems like the devil himself.
Goose – the “fifth wheel” of the Degenerates, he’s a lifetime racetracker who gambles every day and occasionally trains horses. He and Renzo bonded when they tried to claim Mon Gateau.
Bayou Bobby – the short-order cook in the Jockeys’ Room — a perennial wise guy.
Birddog – a shady jockey agent.
Chaz – Renzo’s little brother, done with a stint in rehab.
Moonbeam – Renzo’s waitress girlfriend from the diner.
Naomi – Jerry’s card-dealer girlfriend.
Kitti – one of Ronnie Jenkin’s ex-wives, she’s a former Las Vegas showgirl with a wild streak.
Brent calls his secretary in from the next room.
“I’ve decided we’re giving away the gate today. Tell the Admissions Department to have their people welcome patrons with a big smile and, ‘surprise, compliments of the house.’ ”
“The president didn’t believe in free anything,” she replies.
“New sheriff in town, Molly,” says Brent.
On Escalante’s desk is an 8x10 glossy of Jo and Escalante tying the knot at the Elvis Chapel.
In the shedrow, Escalante adjusts the bridle on Pint of Plain.
“Just tack-walk him under here for 20 minutes,” he says to Rosie.
“Yessir,” she says.
“He’s sharp for this race today. How about you?” he says.
“Never better, boss,” replies Rosie.
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Rathburn spots Birddog in line at the track kitchen, follows him to a table.
“How come you bailed me out? And where’d you get that much cash?” says Rathburn.
“It was my fault you were involved there in the first place, but we couldn’t blow your cover,” says Birddog, discreetly showing his badge. “They’re picking up all the perpetrators today.”
Two plainclothes cops linger outside the Old Man’s office.
“We have a few questions we’d like you to answer, maybe you know of a Henry Clay Patterson? Berea, Kentucky?” says one.
“Name rings a bell,” says Smith.
He points at Gettin’ Up Morning.
“But I got a race to run with this horse today, could you guys come back some other time?”
“He was found shot near your trailer. We were wondering if you heard anything last night,” says the other cop.
“Didn’t hear a thing,” says Smith. “But I do sleep pretty hard.”
Bernstein’s propped up in bed as Gus finishes packing.
“The plane’s here, we’ll have you home by noon, Ace,” says Gus. “You can watch the race on TV.”
“Get Brent on the phone,” says Bernstein, his voice barely above a whisper.
Goose removes cash from a coffee can, separating the bills into stacks.
He puts a handful each in a separate envelope before hiding them in the lining of his jacket.
Marcus and Jerry face each other across the dining table, a pile of bills in front of each.
“Basically we’re toast,” says Marcus. “All the credit cards max’d out and we owe Escalante for training our horse.”
“How could we go through that much cash?” says Jerry.
“How?” asks Marcus. “You bet; you lose. Put more in; bet, lose … get the picture?”
The monitor overhead shows the United flight to Miami “ON TIME.”
Claire Lechea shakes hands with the First Mate, handing him a manila envelope.
“Here’s the rest,” she says.
“My pleasure,” he replies. “Actually you should get a medal.”
Renzo nurses his black eye with an ice bag.
“Monte cleaned us out and we still owe another twenty grand,” says Lonnie.
“Maybe our horse will win today,” says Renzo.
“I wonder what he’s worth?” Lonnie asks.
Ronnie Jenkins sits on a bale of straw outside Gettin’ Up Morning’s stall.
“He’ll be keen to go, with those blinkers on,” says trainer Smith.
Jenkins nods agreement.
“You okay?” Smith asks.
Goose perches on the tack trunk in Marylyn’s office.
“All the speed’s on the inside of us,” he says.
“I’m going to tell her to just get him to relax, and he’ll blow by them in the stretch,” says the trainer.
“Your lips to God’s ears,” says Goose.
Jo leads Pint of Plain into his stall as Rosie wipes her boots with a sponge.
“Lovely, lovely horse,” says Rosie. “How was the honeymoon?”
“Lovely,” says Jo. “Just lovely.”
At the coffee shop counter, Moonbeam serves Renzo another piece of banana crème pie.
“It’s going to be a group wedding, at the Rose Bowl,” she says, sliding him an embossed card. “Us and two hundred other couples.”
Renzo’s got a mouthful of pie, can’t respond.
“Give this to your friends so they can buy their tickets early,” says Moonbeam.
Lonnie and his dancer friend Wanda sit side by side in a booth at Applebees.
“I’m so excited to see your horse run today,” she says. “How big is your farm, anyway?”
“Sure, just a minute, officer,” says Renzo’s mom, wiping her hands on a towel.
“Come on in, I have brownies in the oven,” she says. “Then I’m going to the track.”
“Brownies like these?” asks the officer, holding up a plastic bag, while Chaz climbs out the bathroom window.
In a low-traffic area of the third floor of the grandstand, Goose feeds $100 bills into the self-service machine, punching out a voucher each time the total hits five thousand.
He scoops a handful of vouchers and cuts to the back stairway.
“Give me the remote,” says Bernstein, “and another pillow.”
“You got it, Ace. You look a hundred-percent better, back in your own digs,” replies Gus.
On the television screen, the camera’s close on a post parade.
“Go on, don’t be late. I’ll be fine here,” says Ace. “Get your picture taken.”
Ronnie tosses his diet soda in the trash can outside the jockey’s room.
“No test today, Ronnie,” says the security guard. “The officer went home sick.”
“That’s what I get for being a good boy,” replies Jenkins.
It’s quiet in the Jockey’s Room before the races start. In the privacy of the massage room Rosie closes her eyes and turns her head as the Doctor swabs her ankle with a cotton ball.
“You’re going to feel a little pinch,” he says.
“Go ahead,” she says, as he injects her.
“All done,” says the Doctor. “Gonna hurt like hell in the morning, but you’re good for today.”
TO BE CONTINUED: