Why We're Doing This, and How You Can Help

What would inspire two men, ages 65 and 59, to take on 11 racetracks in 21 stages and 25 days over 1,000 kilometers...on their bicycles?

The way we see it, Thoroughbred race horses have contributed to the very meaning of life, so they too deserve to retire with dignity and not be sent to the slaughterhouse just because they now do six furlongs in 1:16 instead of 1:12.

As American expatriates living in Paris, we have decided to ride our own Tour de France--riding from racetrack to racetrack across France--during the 'real' Tour de France to raise money for Thoroughbred retirement. But we need your help.

We invite you to follow our journey, and if you'd like to sponsor us, just click on www.firstgiving.com/trf or on the Sponsor Us link below.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation currently cares for over 1200 unwanted horses. When you sponsor us, we are helping them in their mission to save ALL unwanted racehorses.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

STAGE 8: Does luck exist?

STAGE 8 (10 July) took us to cozy, woodsy Enghien (north of Paris), for 32 kilometers round trip (20 miles). Total: 8 stages and two prologue stages, 380 kilometers (237.5 miles), and this was our 9th track of 13 planned. ("Petit" travelogue to follow of this very different route.)
Enghien has an outer grass course for jumpers and an inner harness track, today's card, and is surrounded by tall oak trees. It's set up for children, with a park and pony rides. It has an old-fashioned cafeteria and many players arrive early for a hearty traditional lunch at a bargain price.
I managed to scratch out a profit when a 24-1 horse got the photo for fourth in a MULTI race (need to pick top for finishers in any order). I am now seriously reconsidering my position that there is no such thing as luck in horse betting. Too many things have gone my way lately to call it "skill".
Example: I made three World Cup soccer bets, but the law changed in France and the British on-line bookie was obligated to return my wagers. All three teams lost. To replace those bets, I made two invidual game bets with a French service and both teams (Paraguay and the USA) won their games.
Does luck exist? Gina Rarick's Rapsodie du Désert went off at 14-1 at Deauville, and finished a close third, losing the win in the last breath. Gina's is in a losing streak and yet, when I do statistics on the average odds of her horses, she is overachieving compared to most other trainers, with so many seconds and thirds with huge-odds horses that no one picks.
I think that luck has something to do with my winning streak and Gina's losing streak.
When bicycling from Paris to the Enghien race course, you cross two meanders of the snaking Seine River, rolling through old industrial neighborhoods, partly devastated by outsourcing, but still with funky old working class bistrots and bars at the edge of each industrial area. You pass ugly 1970s public housing highrises, and a few village-like "quartiers".
It looks like a wasteland but two great things are happening. Humanity is holding forth with public gathering places (read Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place)and nature is fighting back, the way it has successfully at Love Canal near Buffalo. Public policy gives a lift to nature by maintaining but not manicuring a number of splendid public parks, which we zigzagged through.
One of them occupies half of an island in the Seine, part of a little known industrial island city called Ile-Saint-Denis. You won't find tourists in these parts. I think they're missing something. I once wrote a book called FunkyTowns USA (not a plug since the book's out of print), and I'd say that this area on the way to Enghien is funky France.
But then you cross the Seine once again and you enter old-fashioned wealthy neighborhoods with stony old homes and a friendly lake.
This was our first trip to Enghien by bicycle and I was surprised to see number of bright green bicycle lanes.
The bicycle racks at the track were too far from the entrance and too close to a street that would be easy pickings for a bicycle thief. The track management was kind enough to let me lock my bike inside the confines of the track.
I went back to the barns and said hello to trainer-driver Bruno Marie, who is a bicycle enthusiast. He was thrilled to hear about our project and said he'd ride with us for a few laps if he's in Vichy when we're there.
It got up to 90 degrees today, and tomorrow it figures to be higher for our next stage: the Maisons-Laffitte. Stay tuned.

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