Cathi Stoler is an award-winning advertising creative director/copywriter who’s writing international thrillers, too. Click on her name to check out her author website and learn more about her book TELLING LIES. She also writes for the Women of Mystery blog, too.
Her first novel TELLING LIES may be about an international hunt for a missing man and stolen Nazi art, but she’s here to share memories of her father, just in time for Father’s Day 2011. (Ed. note: Yeah, 2011 was the initial pub date for this post. Where has the time gone? Keep reading to find out what’s new.)
You’ll read about Seabiscuit at the beach and some special Saturdays at the track.
Here’s to all our dads out there. May their horses finish in the money and may they all, at the very least, break even.
Now, heeeeere’s Cathi!
I’ve always loved horses. It was my father’s influence that inspired my admiration for these gorgeous creatures that always seemed so imposing and so beautiful, especially to a small child.
I even had a horse-head tube for the beach that I named Seabiscuit. He was my pride and joy, my racehorse. Slipping him around my middle, I’d play at the edge of the surf and gallop around like Eddie Arcaro—not that I knew who he was then.
My dad, Louie Pierro, loved to play the ponies. It was his one and only hobby.
Every night after dinner was cleared away he would sit back down at our kitchen table and tear out the racing pages from New York’s two tabloid newspapers, The Daily News and the long defunct, Daily Mirror.
Piling them on top of previous sheets, he’d pour over these pages for hours and mark each one with what to my child’s eyes seemed like indecipherable hieroglyphics.
“Handicapping” is what he called it as he studied the breeding backgrounds, race stats, owners, trainers and jockeys of each mount.
When he was done for the evening, he’d put them away in one of my old school briefcases. We had quite a collection of these briefcases in our basement, never to be touched by anyone but dad.
On Saturdays when the horses were running, off he’d go to Belmont or Aqueduct with his cronies – Chubby, Gigi, Eddie and Uncle Bob – for a day at the races. Once in a while he could be persuaded to take me along.
I was probably about eight when my mom said it was okay. I always promised that I would behave, but once we were at the track, all bets were off.
I’d tug at him until I got him to leave the comfort of the clubhouse and walk to the paddock to view the horses making their way onto the track. Then, I’d wheedle until he’d let me pick one and have him place a two-dollar bet to win.
My system was simple—I’d choose my winner based on a name, a number, or even a color. Of course we had to watch the race up close and personal, pressed to the rail.
When a horse I picked did occasionally come in first, Dad would let me keep my winnings. I always tried to give him the money, so we could save it up and put it toward buying a racehorse of our own and spend everyday at the track.
I enjoyed these outings and looked forward to them. My dad never bet too much–or my mother would probably have put a stop to it and to my going with him. He also would never say whether he won or lost. “Breaking even” seemed to be the operative phrase.
I don’t remember if he ever went to the Belmont Stakes, but I’m sure he bet on that race every year. It was the most exciting racing day in New York, and he’d never miss seeing that.
Many years later, when I was older and married, it was my turn to take Dad to the track. My husband and I would pick up my parents at their home in the Bronx and head out Belmont.
Once there, Dad would get right back into the swing of things, studying the racing form, assessing lineage and jockeys, quietly placing his bets, and still breaking even.
Did your father take you to the track, too? Or the horse shows? Or to the pony ride machine in front of Woolworth’s? Feel free to share your memories in the Reply section below. And be sure to check out Cathi’s books at website. Since her 2011 release TELLING LIES, she’s written KEEPING SECRETS and THE HARDWAY. .