Editor’s Letter: September 2014

You’ve heard of “whales,” those pampered, high-stakes gamblers who fly into Vegas for the privilege of flushing hundreds of thousands of dollars down the gilded toilet of a modern casino. I’m the opposite of that.

Gambling holds no appeal for me. I work too hard for what money I have, and understand math well enough to know that every game of chance is calculated to ensure most of the money ends up in the pockets of the people who run it.

Still, high rollers are fascinating, and that’s why this month we take a fresh look at the epic gamble under way at Los Alamitos Race Course—and the stroke of good luck brought by its most famous resident, California Chrome.

Even before Chrome won the first two races of the Triple Crown and made Los Alamitos a magnet for “Chromies,” track owner Ed Allred decided to bet big—at a time when the odds clearly are against him. Horse racing in California is struggling. Hollywood Park in Inglewood and Bay Meadows near San Francisco have closed; they’ve stopped racing thoroughbreds at Fairplex Park in Pomona. And the convenience of online betting means gamblers no longer have to go to a track to place their bets.

So what did Allred do? He added thoroughbred racing to the schedule at Los Alamitos, which for decades has catered to the quarter horse crowd, and spent $6 million sprucing up the place—creating the longest home stretch in the nation—to accommodate the more sophisticated racing fans he hopes those elegant animals will attract.

Will it work? No one knows. But as every Chromie understands, uncertainty is what makes a stretch run so exciting.

Martin J. Smith
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