Because the track naturally attracts all types of characters, everyone in the pari-mutuel business has likely muttered, “I should write a book.”
Well, two men who spent decades working with South Florida’s pari-mutuels collaborated to document some of those characters in the nonfiction book “Railbirds: Zany Antics of Racetrack Regulars” ($16, TheCasinoDoctors), which came out in January. The lifeline of the racing business, railbirds are daily gamblers who hang out near the rail to watch their favorite horses or dogs close in on the finish line.
Author William Hutchinson worked his way up from being a teller at Hialeah Park and Gulfstream Park to vice president at Flagler Dog Track before retiring. His co-author, Baird Thompson, represented Flagler and three other tracks through his marketing firm. The duo recently formed the Casino Doctors, a Miami consulting firm for the casino, hospitality and racing industry.
The book’s 19 short stories introduce not only characters from the racing world, but also detail brushes with pro wrestling, royalty and beauty pageants.
“The race track is a great people-watching venue,” Hutchinson says. “And no matter where you attend, these same individuals are part of the daily fabric of the game. The names may change, but the personalities and their schemes do not.”
The book’s characters include “Binocular Bob,” an arithmetic wizard and savvy bettor; “The Sheik,” who arrived with security guards, food tasters and a mysterious entourage; the professional wrestlers who always finished their bouts just before the next race; “El Señor,” a legally blind Cuban refugee who placed bets at Hialeah Park; and “Park Avenue Willy,” the dandy of the clubhouse who in reality was a scammer.
The book is available on Amazon.com. For more information, go to TheCasinoDoctors.com.