My gambling problems started at 13 years old. I was selected for a gymnastics team competing in an invitational in Spain; one of those trips where parents don’t come – just coaches. As the youngest person on the squad by about four years, I was stupid enough to do anything my teammates suggested. So when they started playing a card game called Between the Sheets (explanation), I dove in.
At first, it was just a pound here and there, but then I got on a roll and landed what had to be the Holy Grail of the game – a high ace and a low ace. "Bet the pot, kid! Bet the pot!" Back then, I was an albino outcast with mad athletic ability but no social skills. You have no idea how good it felt to be palling around with 17 and 18 year olds who were living and dying with your every move. So I did exactly what they told me to do, and, perhaps justly, went down in flames when another ace landed in-between.
As devastating as it was to lose, I’d never felt such a rush. From then on, when I wasn’t competing, I was gambling. The last of my £100 pounds spending money was lost to a 17 year old boy on the plane back home. We bet on the flight attendant’s hair color. Turns out she wasn’t a natural blonde after all.
These days, I’m backed by a self-replenishing gambling fund that keeps me from turning into Antoine Walker. Though I still betting on everything from horse races to sporting events to whether I can beat you in a footrace (you don’t want to take that bet), I like to think that I go about things with more smarts. But every once in a while, gambling nirvana sends down signs that force me to remove any amount of good sense from the equation. Case in point:
Radiohead, the impressive winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot during the summer, has been sold to the New York-based owners of 2008 Kentucky Derby hero Big Brown for a crack at next month’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
IEAH Stables have purchased a controlling interest in Radiohead for an undisclosed fee, with current connections Carmen Burrell and Jonathan Harvey retaining a 10 per cent stake.
Radiohead will remain in trainer Brian Meehan’s care until Santa Anita but the colt’s future beyond then has still to be determined.
The deal represents a calculated gamble on behalf of IEAH, as Radiohead has yet to race beyond 1200 metres or on an artificial surface.
In addition to doubts about his stamina to see out the 1600-metre trip of the Juvenile, his new owners will also need to fork out the bulk of an entry fee because Radiohead was not Breeders’ Cup registered as a foal.
However, on the upside, his sire, Johannesburg, successfully bridged the distance gap from the Norfolk to the Juvenile during his unbeaten two-year-old campaign in 2001.
"IEAH have been keeping a close eye on Radiohead ever since Ascot, specifically with the Breeders’ Cup in mind," said Bloodstock agent Andy Smith, who helped broker the sale.
"He reminds me of Wilko, the horse Jeremy Noseda won the Juvenile with five years ago – a feisty, well-built sort who should do well out in America."
First, WTF on the Wilko bit? How random. Second, long time readers of this site know about my Radiohead fanaticism. The band captured my heart a good year before gambling did, so even though this mighty steed "has yet to race beyond 1200 metres or on an artificial surface," this whole thing just seems like destiny.
The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile race is today at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Since I can’t beam myself to California from London, I’ll do the next best thing — get liquored up and hit Ladbrokes. Right now, Radiohead is a 20/1 but I’ve never been more sure of a bet in my life.