Concert Grande was music to the ears of long-shot lovers such as yours truly

February 19, 1993|By Blackie Sherrod | Blackie Sherrod,Dallas Morning News

DALLAS -- Just last week, on a fine day in south Florida, a colt named Concert Grande won a footrace of six furlongs, unfortunate for yours very truly.

However, this event did not set a precedent. It has happened to your abused agent here more times than spines on a prickly pear, but never again. Had I been on the scene that day at Gulfstream Park, I would have departed with pockets abulge and this weekend would find me relaxing on a sunny beach in Monaco, reciting Shakespearean sonnets to Ms. Carlo Ponti.

Concert Grande left the gate at 201-to-1, and you may be sure ol' buster here would have had a sawbuck on his snozzle. Over the years I have learned never to avoid these quirky smiles of fate. Never, never let one of these obscure chances pass unbet. Else you will rue it until your last breath.

Long shots are the only hope for us common folk, especially after hearing President Billy outline the financial vise he intends to apply to our hindquarters. We are never going to make it large on a stipend, what with all those subtractions coming up. We must stumble upon some windfall, like winning the lottery or tripping on a satchel in the alley, discarded by a fleeing drug dealer. Or betting a horse that paid $404 for a deuce.

Actually, betting the horse is much more practical, although I fully intend to hit the lottery if not nextweek, then surely the week after.

Concert Grande was running the second race of his young life. First time out, he went on the board at 80-1, which is only two notches better than a can of corned beef hash. He lost by 16 lengths. His trainer, Robin Frank, dropped him in another sprint, just for conditioning.

"I didn't think he had any shot of winning," said the trainer. "We were trying to get him ready to go long on the grass and just wanted to get a couple races into him first."

So back came Concert Grande in another $12,500 claimer, same distance. And this time he came wide in the stretch and beat their socks off. Other than the $404 win, he paid $139.80 to place and $26 to show. A $2 perfecta returned $2,106 and the trifecta, a staggering $15,434.

The trainer didn't have a dime on the race.

I would have, of course. You simply cannot afford to pass a price like this. Not only would the cash come in handy to retire the overhead, but it would furnish conversation forever.

Damon Runyon once wrote of the horseplayer Regret, so named because the only winner he ever had in his miserable life was Regret, the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby. Regret, the player, would recall his victory every time he could get a word in edgewise. It was his one score although, said Runyon, he got beat countless times by a dirty nose.

"In all his days," said Runyon, "Regret never loses to a clean nose."

Much to my chagrin, I recall a spring day a decade back when a colt named Blackie Sherrod won the first race at Golden Gate and paid $102. It was this animal's second race also, and I had no idea he existed, much less was running in a real live thoroughbred event. A few years before, I had signed a name-permission letter for a local horseman named Jerry Frankel and promptly forgot about it.

The next I heard, the namesake was breaking his maiden in California at 51-one and I had nary a farthing aboard.

Even worse, I had some pals in the press box -- it was the day of the California Derby at Golden Gate and drew considerable Left Coast press -- among them, Rick Talley of the Los Angeles News and Bill Christine of the Times. And neither had the respect to buy a lousy $2 ticket just on the name alone. There's a moral there somewhere.

The horse? Oh, he ran here and there, got himself claimed in Omaha and once won at $20,000. In the summer of his fifth year, ol' BS started acting up so his trainer gelded him. Freshly shorn of his fatherhood, Blackie Sherrod then won four straight races and some of my degenerate friends in press row said there was a moral there also.

To start that string of triumphs, however, on Aug. 10, 1985, at Ak-sar-ben, in a $8,500 claiming race, our hero staggered home by 1 1/2 lengths. Running second was another bum named

Damon Runyon. You could look it up.

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