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We Bet You'll Like It

By Anonymous in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 9, 2005 3:30PM

McClelland-Horseplayers Photo: Chicagoist was probably one of the last people in the world to read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand--we finished it at the end of last year. Honestly, we were kind of like: "horses? eh." But then, you know, we read it, and we wanted more. So we're not wasting any time with Ted McClelland's new book, Horseplayers: Life at the Track. McClelland, a staff writer for the Chicago Reader, is the Seabiscuit of horseplayers: people who make a living (or not) at betting on horse races, what McClelland calls "the most mathematically unforgiving form of gambling in the world."

Horseplayers is a first-hand account of McClelland's year spent trying to make a profit betting on horses, bankrolled by his publisher, Chicago Review Press. In the meantime, the Reader also paid him to write a column about his horse-betting efforts. Man, talk about sweet deal. But it was clearly worth it for his financiers as well--McClelland is a great writer and Horseplayers an engaging read, full of some fantastic characters. We had a little trouble grasping some of the math involved, and we're worried that he occasionally assumes too great a familiarity with Chicago for non-Chicagoan readers, but neither issue really gets in the way of the story. We identify with McClelland, who writes:

Handicapping is a nerd's game. Nerds have always been with us. In centuries past, the monasteries took them in and forced them to copy the Bible. Now, they work in computers, and a few of the most fanatical end up at the racetrack.

We also get a kick out of all the crazy horse names. (We don't know about you, but we plan to name our first horse Coocoo For Coconuts.)

Hear McClelland read from and talk about Horseplayers tonight at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park.

Ted McClelland, Horseplayers: Life at the Track
57th Street Books, 7:00 PM
1301 East 57th Street

And don't forget the Printer's Row Book Fair this weekend!