Art courtesy of Jen Ferguson
This feature contains adult content intended for mature audiences
Note from author John Perrotta: This blog is the writer’s depiction of an imagined racetrack-based story, an ongoing saga, which includes some of the characters depicted in the ill-fated “Luck” series.
We hope you will enjoy this as an interactive experience and welcome your comments, questions and suggestions on for a live chat on Twitter - using the hashtag #OOL - with @ABRLive and @j_perrotta every Monday from 9-10 p.m. ET, beginning after the third episode.
Cast of characters
Marcus - wheelchair-bound since falling from a tree as a child, he’s irascible but sensitive, and his world revolves around trying to pick winners at the track.
Jerry – Marcus’ best friend, a player in many senses of the word, he’s a clever horse handicapper with a weakness for Texas Hold ’Em poker and good-looking women.
Renzo - a sweet guy who’s not that great at handicapping but loves the familial relationship of a group of gamblers.
Lonnie – another good soul who has a load of self-esteem issues and deals with them by trying to be the “cool” one.
Ronnie Jenkins – a veteran jockey nearing the end of a career. He’s a former top rider and Derby winner but suffers from PTSD after a series of spills and wants one more chance with a “big” horse.
Joey Rathburn – longtime jockey agent, he has toiled in ambiguity for years and now has a shot at the gold ring.
Rosie Shanahan – the Irish import, she’s moved up from exercise girl to jockey and is proving she can hold her own with the boys.
Walter Smith – an old-school horseman, he’s come to California with his only horse to get away from bad memories in Kentucky. When the horse turns out to be a real runner, he gets more attention than he wanted.
Turo Escalante – a Peruvian misanthrope, he’s a skilled horseman with a big ego that gets tested when a talented horse with shady connections lands in his barn.
Ace Bernstein – mob-connected “businessman” who has done time for a frame-up, and now he is looking for revenge. Bernstein loves the track and has a dream of resurrecting the sport.
Gus Demitriou – Ace’s longtime driver, bodyguard and confidante. Winning a big slot jackpot fixed by Ace, he’s been the beard for the purchase of a talented Irish colt.
Mike Smythe – an evil mob guy who framed Ace and is obsessed with making his life difficult. Sometimes seems like the devil himself.
New characters in this episode
Goose – the “fifth wheel” of the Degenerates, he’s a lifetime racetracker who gambles every day and occasionally trains horses. He and Renzo bonded when they tried to claim Mon Gateau.
Bayou Bobby – the short-order cook in the Jockeys’ Room — a perennial wise guy.
Birddog – a shady jockey agent.
Chaz – Renzo’s little brother, done with a stint in rehab.
Episode 2, Part I
Two days later, morning at the racetrack …
An early-morning mist is just lifting as two horses pick up speed and move past the five-eighths pole. It’s a pair of workers each wearing the Escalante red-and-white saddlecloth.
The trainer is edgy, his binoculars on Lizzie and Pint of Plain as she steers the big, chestnut colt past their stablemate in midstretch. Escalante clicks his stopwatch as the horses pass the finish line and displays the time to Demitriou.
“Fifty-eight and three. The good ones always work fast. I’ll find him an easy spot to get the cobwebs out, and then we win the Breeder’s Cup.”
“Breeder’s Cup Classic?” asks the Greek, as Escalante heads to the fence to meet Lizzie.
“I’ll let you know.”
Ronnie Jenkins slows Gettin’ Up Morning to a walk after finishing a mile jog the “wrong way,” clockwise along the outside fence. The “Old Man” Walter Smith is waiting for him near the gap.
“Good as hands can make him, boss,” says Jenkins.
“What’s next, the Breeder’s Cup?”
Trainer Smith’s thoughts are a couple of thousand miles away as he watches the approach of Anna, the reporter from Kentucky.
Out of Luck Blog Archive
Aboard the yacht, Mike Smythe interrogates DiRossi and Cohen about the fishing boat they used to discard Nathan Israel’s body, explaining that he wants to make sure they cover all tracks.
“There’s an ongoing investigation, and we have to make sure there’s no chirping.”
Cohen reluctantly gives up the names of the captain and crew.
“But those guys are okay, I swear,” Cohen says, tugging at his collar uncomfortably while sneaking a glance at DiRossi.
“It never serves one well to leave things to chance,” says Smythe, gazing out to sea.
At Clocker’s Corner, Bernstein and the track president watch horses pass while having coffee. In an effort to enlist him as an ally to foil Smythe’s scheme to frame him with SEC, Bernstein decides to confide.
“There are people who’d like to hurt me, financially and otherwise,” says Ace.
“We need to make sure they don’t jeopardize this racetrack.”
The track president nods in agreement as they study a report of trades made in the company’s stock.
“We’re going to bait a trap, it’s time to put this nonsense to bed.”
In the stable area, Jenkins’ ex-wife, Kitti, is acting like his agent. She’s cruising the barns and flirting with trainers, especially Marilyn, a woman trainer who’s very interested, inviting her into her barn office.
“Ronnie would fit that gray filly of yours to a ‘T,’ ” says Kitti, with her condition book open. “And he’s open in that stakes race next Saturday.”
“I thought Palmieri was Ronnie’s agent. Something happen?”
“Nah, we’re not telling Ronnie. I’m just helping out,” says Kitti.
When Marilyn nods to indicate her understanding, Kitti marks her book with the woman’s initials, “M.M.”
“And maybe we can celebrate afterwards,” says Marilyn, rubbing Kitti’s shoulder.
Now that Rosie is the meet’s leading rider, Joey fancies himself as kingpin among the jockey agents. He’s giving advice to everyone who’ll listen, including a perennial loser nicknamed Birddog. Joey offers to take him and his ner’do-well rider under his wing.
“I’ll move you onto some of my second calls to get you going, kid,” Rathburn says.
“I just wanna be like you, Joey,” says Birddog.
“Probably more days than not, that’d be a big mistake,” replies Rathburn, rubbing the scar on his cheek that reminds him of his failed suicide attempt.
It’s shortly before noon as Marcus, Renzo and Lonnie lunch on take-out burgers and fries by the pool. They’ve moved to another motel (only slightly better than the Oasis but closer to the track) and, as they prepare to head for Santa Anita to play a Daily Double and Pick 5 in hopes of ending a losing streak, Marcus declares:
“Fifth race, always the key to the day.”
“I wish Mon Gateau was running,” says Lonnie. “Escalante says he’ll be ready in two weeks.”
“That’s what he’s been saying every two weeks for the last six weeks,” snaps Marcus.
Renzo points to his car in the parking lot.
“I got to make a stop on the way. Meet you at the track,” he says.
“Going to the waffle joint to see your girlfriend?” asks Marcus, and Renzo blushes.
Goose pedals his bike at top speed across the track parking lot, glancing back to make sure no one is following. The coast is clear as he parks the Schwinn next to the entrance to the Santa Anita grandstand and locks it to the fence before traversing the paddock gardens, heading up the escalator toward the Degenerates’ box.
Cohen hands a heavy, plastic-wrapped box sealed with duct tape to the captain of the fishing boat.
“Three, four miles out will be good. Call me before you make the drop.”
He beams an insincere smile and fans a weak wave at the crew as they depart the dock.
Poolside, Marcus and Lonnie note the approach of Renzo’s Mother. She has reinvented herself with a makeover, sporting new clothes and a new blonde hairdo. Plus, there’s a much younger man with her, and they’re holding hands.
“Oh boy, here we go,” says Marcus.
“Somewhere in America a cradle just got robbed,” quips Lonnie.
“Where’s Renzo?” she asks, disappointed.
Lonnie pipes in, “You just missed him.”
“Boys, say hello to my baby,” she announces, introducing them to her other son, fresh from a stay in rehab.
“Little Chaz,” she says, “will be staying with his brother.”
At Escalante’s barn, a groom prepares to take his horse to the races, wrapping bandages and doing a final “spruce up” before heading for the paddock.
Turo steps from his office dressed up for the races and toting binoculars.
“I’ll meet you in the paddock,” he tells his assistant, Miguel, just as two police cars arrive, lights flashing.
“You Turo Escalante?” asks one of the cops.
“We have a warrant for your arrest,” says the other, as he begins to read Escalante his rights.