Every handicapper has that nemesis, that horse who always seems to win when you can’t land on them logically, or falter when you can.
On the other hand, sometimes there are those horses who always seem to be in the right place at the right time…those runners who, no matter how sound or unsound your logic is, always come through for you.
Six-year-old gelding No Time to Kid has been racing in the Chicago area since before I was a regular racetrack denizen. He debuted at Tampa Bay in January of his three-year-old year, and then moved on up to Arlington that summer. It took him a few tries to break his maiden…and, by a few, I mean 23. He finally graduated on August 25, 2013. I just missed seeing his maiden win live — my first trip to the Arlington Million was the week before his maiden win, but my return trip to the track was a week after.
However, I again got back to the races on September 15. It was my second trip to the track since that pivotal Million. I came with my friend Elizabeth that day. We made our home at a table in Mr. D’s, took our strategies, and played the ponies.
I knew very little about horse racing at that point past what I had read during the occasional furtive late-night reading spree. I look back now and laugh to think that I thought I knew anything at the time…but then? I projected clueless confidence. After all, I had no idea yet what I didn’t know!
My Idiot Strategy was simple: bet sires whose names were familiar. Somehow, this led to me being bullish on No Time to Kid in the fourth race that day. It meant nothing to me that it had taken him 23 starts to break his maiden…though, it also meant nothing yet that this was start number 24, and the light-on factor may have been in full effect. The fact that I had picked No Time to Kid had nothing to do with the light-on factor. All I knew was that he was a Lemon Drop Kid baby, and I knew who Lemon Drop Kid was. In my inexperience, this was enough to make me bet him happily.
I forget who Elizabeth actually wanted to bet…possibly the 5, Star of Class, but I cannot be sure. I do remember that the number was close to 4, and she punched 4 on her tickets instead. I remember telling her not to worry about it, that 4 was No Time to Kid, by Lemon Drop Kid, and therefore a better choice than who she was going to bet anyway.
I shake my head at “2013 me” right now. “He has a shiny sire” hardly holds water without other factors to weigh in a horse’s favour. I now know that dam side has impact, that race record matters far more than sire, that big-name sires can throw duds. However, I was so confident that Things Were Going To Be Okay after she accidentally bet the Lemon Drop Kid that she kept her ticket.
I stepped out into the rain and watched the race. The clueless are sometimes vindicated by chance. No Time to Kid made up ground from the back, found a hole through the field, and won by a length. I had thought he would win, he won, and her mis-punched ticket came in as well. All was right with the world.
Fast-forward to today. Since then, I learned that a famous sire would not be enough to get a horse home. However, I did know that certain sires were good at certain things: specifically, Lemon Drop Kid babies run nine furlongs pretty well. I have lost to the mists of time how I learned that in the first place, but it stuck. That was the big bit of information that led me to decide Kid Cruz was the only horse I wanted in the 2014 Private Terms Stakes. At that point, I was still petrified to make straight win bets, but I did so on him. He obliged, coming from nowhere to win going away.
In today’s Arlington 6th a pair of horses, Badger Bay and Tall Grass Cat, towered. Beyond them, there was only one horse who stood out in any way at all: No Time to Kid.
I could not be confident in the least. He had been on the lay since my 32nd birthday…November 19 of last year. Longtime trainer Michael Dini’s statistics were not the best first off a long lay, and No Time to Kid had not won off a lay longer than about two months. However, given how little anyone other than Badger Bay or Tall Grass Cat had done at nine panels…Lemon Drop Kid at nine panels was the best angle I could find. I figured the best he would do would be undersides. I marked him as such in my race analysis. However, I decided to box him in with Badger Bay and Tall Grass Cat in an exacta, since there was no one else in the field who inspired me in the least. I would have been less lenient if he were a chalk…but he was not just a Lemon Drop Kid at nine furlongs, but a longshot Lemon Drop Kid at nine panels. It was worth two bucks in case he outran my expectations.
He outran my expectations.
Tall Grass Cat and Crypto Gulch took up the front for most of the race, with No Time to Kid in the midpack crew. Tall Grass Cat did as I expected, running right up along the lead early. Crypto Gulch, I thought, could be a bit of a presser early…but the fact that he stayed on as long as he did amazed me. He ran an enormous race. I was torn in a personal sense…though I would have torn up my ticket had he hit the top two, I wanted Crypto Gulch to do well. He was the longest shot on the board, and the woman standing next to me in the winners’ circle kept screaming for Crypto. I wanted him to keep running big, to make her happy, since she was clearly connected to Crypto Gulch. But, No Time to Kid was up to threaten…and I wanted to see him get up to hit the board at least, and maybe even build that exacta I bet.
No Time to Kid did everything I hoped a Lemon Drop Kid baby would do at nine panels. He got through inside, stared Tall Grass Cat in the eye, and made it a race. From my vantage point in the winners’ circle I could not see whether No Time to Kid had gotten there or Tall Grass Cat had prevailed, but could tell they had both beaten an ultra-game Crypto Gulch by a tiny bit.
It turns out that No Time to Kid had surprised me. He got up by a head over Tall Grass Cat, with Crypto Gulch a half length beaten.
I felt silly for promoting No Time to Kid for just undersides, but glad I had gone loose at the windows due to his long odds. He was the third longest shot: the forever haunting Spectacular Act never quite got there; longest shot Crypto Gulch held gamely for third. No Time to Kid, that horse who I so blindly convinced my friend was a wise bet those years ago, had gotten home again.
No matter what happens in the future, No Time to Kid will keep occupying a special place in my horse racing life. When I knew nothing, he was there. Now that I know just a tiny bit, he was there again.