LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — A racetrack is a place for people-watching, full of tradition, ambition, and superstition.
Mystery hangs like a cloud over a track, with everyone trying to figure out the formula for success. Many of the people who come through the gates in Kentucky hope to get lucky.
“I think you have to find a penny before you bet: a penny on heads, then you bet, and then you win,” said Kaleigh Binkley, of Elizabethtown, during a recent outing to the Keeneland track in Lexington.
Some of the bettors always look at the horses in the paddock before going to the windows, with many saying you should never overlook the gray ones.
“If they’re frisky and bouncing around, that’s my horse,” Garry Welsh, of Winchester, said.
For others, size matters and colors count.
“I think you bet on the shortest jockey or any jockey that’s wearing pink,” said Brooke Murphy from Kenton County.
Of course, there are those who actually study the records, trying to make informed choices based on a horse’s lifetime earnings. A common superstition is that it’s bad luck to let someone else look at your racing program.
Numbers often come into play.
“I do not pick any unlucky numbers for me, so 2, 4, 6, and 8,” said Alexis Warren, an Eastern Kentucky University student. “I just don’t like even numbers.”
“Number five is always the one I have to bet, and then I have to go to the same lady or the same person every time I make my bet,” said Lisa Mitchell of Cleveland, Ohio.
“Always go with your home phone number,” said Jeff Bowling of eastern Kentucky. “For instance, 7-5-1-4. I’ve hit $4,500, $5,500, $8,500, and $12,000 on my superstitions.”
The superstitions carry beyond the grandstand and the betting windows. No horse at Keeneland has to be stabled in Barn 13, because it doesn’t exist. Many trainers believe it’s bad luck to keep a broom in a stable.
Almost every jockey will admit to having superstitions. Perhaps the most common one is to not change a piece of apparel if they’re having a good week, maybe wearing the same riding pants or boots for several days in a row.
“I know that there was the one meet at Turfway Park where I was really having a good meet,” retired jockey Patti Cooksey, the second-winningest female rider, said. “I wore the same underwear every single day. It got washed every night, but, especially if it’s going well, you don’t want to break the routine.”
There are as many superstitions as there are betting combinations.
Raven Cox of Atlanta said she can’t stand on the far right side of the track. That’s a bad luck location, in her mind.
“BETologists” at Keeneland — experts who teach newcomers how to bet — see a lot of people going through “good luck rituals.” BETologist Jack Peffer said if he gives advice to someone and they win, he often sees them before every race. They treat him like a good-luck charm.
“Back in the 1970s and 80s, they used to have $2 bills that were quite common,” Peffer said. “You would have thought that would’ve been perfect for a $2 bet, but a lot of bettors thought they were bad luck.”
No doubt about it, some racegoers seem to have an inside track to winning. But a lot of it does come down to luck.
“We’re just out here to enjoy this and just have a good time,” said Marsha Hale of Belfry. “We’re not superstitious people.”
Most everyone agrees there’s something magical about the racetrack, and many of the people cashing tickets are charmed, I’m sure.