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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (June 10, 1999)
Harper loses his next two bets with
in a half-hour on races occurring at
Prairie Meadows in Des Moines, Iowa.
Now only having $.40 left, he superfi
cially pores over the room for people
who might lend him money.
He turns to me, who he had met a
few times before, with a wry, humorous
bounce on the edges of his lips. Harper
unloads a junky’s proposition.
“Hey, do you have some cash you
could spring me?” he says.
“Come on. I’m good for having it
back to you by 9 a.m. tomorrow.”
I don’t give him money, but do take
his suggestions on a couple of horses.
Harper says the tough-bet nature of
racing is what makes the track poten
tially exhilarating and financially dan
gerous at the same time.
Betting horses is not an easy game.
Whether you think you know what
you’re doing or not, it’s still gambling.
Hugh Stevens, a 50-year-old real
estate salesmen, says he’s been handi
capping races for “many years.”
Lighting a fresh cigar and peering
through his brown, jet-pilot sunglasses,
Stevens downplays the professional
image of a handicapper.
“Truth be told, everybody has their
own theories,” he says. “Personally, I
never bet on ‘faves.’
“I wait for a horse with odds in the
middle to come up that appeals to me. I
look at his past races. I look at the jock
ey and try to figure out if he’s good
enough to win. But that’s just the way I
“We all win some and lose some.”
Bill Kloefkorn, Nebraska’s Poet
* r ; • (■
• *. RickTownley/DN
LEFT: GAMBLERS review their racing fonns while waitng lor the next race to
Laureate, says he visits State Fair Park
3-4 times during live racing season. He
uses betting methods closer to Harper’s.
“I flip a coin,” Kloefkomsays with a
half-serious grin. “Nah, I really depend
on intuition. '
“Over the years, intuition has pretty
much failed me. But I know a few hand
icappers who usually come out about
Kloefkom says he loves to watch
horses run, and it’s even more enjoyable
when his picks come in. He says the
excitement that comes with winning
outweighs the money he attains when so
It’s all about chasing an elusive thrill
on the backs of thoroughbreds. Few
could personify the ups and downs of
such a fleeting pursuit as well as Harper.
Right now, without a loaner in sight,
he broods under the cloud of a hard
luck hangover. He’d rather talk about
cold cash than the beauty of anything.
In a stubborn tone that seems to
defy any force of karma, Harper says
horse betting is a cyclical affair.
“The money you lose all eventually
comes back to you,” he says. “I plan on
making every cent back I ever lost
It is a week later. Hope is
prancing around in the winner’s circle
once again and Harper sheepishly
roosts on its back.
He approaches me strangely, almost
“See that race over there,” Harper
says shaking a bit as he points at a just
finished simulcast race from
Hollywood. “I nailed that puppy.”
He shows me two of four winning
tickets. Impressively, one is a trifecta
winner and the other capitalizes on the
much higher odds of a superfecta
His stunned look of surprise begins
“See, that’s about $400 or $500 right
there,” he says with bliss pressing his
cheeks for nervous smiles. “I was hon
ing in on those chalky sugkers.
Sometimes you can just get all over a
He suddenly turns and looks at the
exit doors as if they contain ghosts of
“I should probably get the heck out
of here and go put about $200 of it in the
bank before it’s too late,” he says.
Discomfort shows forth in a gri
mace as Harper rubs his chin for a sec
ond, pondering his decision.
Apparently enamored by an abrupt,
new wave of psychological full-tilt boo
gie, he shortly turns his worries upside
down and jokes: “Or maybe I should go
up to the casino.”
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