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This story is all true – essentially, at least. It happened many years ago, and so I cannot be sure of every detail – but I am sure of the miracle. It happened, beyond any doubt. I saw it with my own eyes.

It was a typical summer day – humid and warm, as things often are in northeast Ohio in the summertime. We had just stopped for a couple of hours – we being myself, my wife Donna, and my two kids, Olivia and Jon – on our car trip home from visiting family in Buffalo NY. It was my idea to stop at the racetrack. Donna and I are big horse-racing fans and we had never been to Thistledown Racetrack, a kind of minor-league track where famous horses are rarely seen. That didn’t matter to Donna and I. We liked the game, picking horses to bet on and watching to see if what we predicted (hoped) would happen in fact did happen.

The kids were just as glad to be out of the car for a while. Olivia was probably 14 and Jon must have been around 12. They enjoyed traveling with us, but often wanted to know if we were “there” yet – so it was good to find a “there” to be at – for their sake.

Anyway – since we planned on being there awhile, I got a table for us all inside the clubhouse and the kids got something to eat and drink while Donna and I poured over the Daily Racing Form for clues about who might be the best horse in the race that was about to run.

Over the course of the afternoon, we bet on a bunch of races and had our usual up and down luck. We never do bet a lot of money on any one race – but a day’s worth of varied luck usually leaves us short at least a few dollars. It was the end of the day, we were down 20 bucks or so as I recall – and there was just one more race to be run before we took off down the road toward Indianapolis and home.

I handicapped the last race, looking over the horse’s past performance figures, and decided to play a trifecta bet, which involves picking the first place, second place and third place horses in the race in the correct order. It’s a difficult bet to win, but it usually pays well if you hit it. I no longer remember if I picked just 3 horses or if I may have arranged 4 horses in one of those bets where 2 horses are picked to be first or second, and two horses are picked to fill in the third place slot. But I made the wager, put the ticket from the bet in my shirt pocket where I always kept my tickets and asked the kids if they wanted to watch the race outside, since it was the final race and we had been stuck inside all day.

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The first thing I noticed after stepping outside was the brisk breeze – it had made the hot, sunny day a lot more manageable, and it made a couple hundred losing tickets flutter and float across the asphalt apron between the grandstand and the racing oval. The sun was bright and I took my sunglasses out of my shirt pocket and put them on. We walked to the rail, right up to the edge of the track where we could get a good look at the horses as they went by in the post parade. Seeing these beautiful creatures go trotting by, carrying their miniature riders, festooned in the colorful silks of their owners, is an awesome thing. They are majestic animals and somehow you can see the tightly wound springs of their potential speed as they go by. Soon the outriders brought them around to the starting gate and they were inserted into their places for the start of the race.

I do not remember the race, I do not remember if it was a sprint or a mile long distance that they ran that day. What I do remember is that my horses came in as I had bet them – first, second and third – all picked out and wagered on. It was a thrill – and my wife and kids were plenty thrilled about it too. Of course, when you win a wager on a race, the next thing you do is to take the winning ticket in to the cashier and turn it in for your winnings.

I reached into my shirt pocket where I keep my tickets – and felt nothing but air! I spread the pocket open and looked down inside – nothing there! My ticket! I didn’t have my winning ticket! Right about then the payoffs for the winning bets were displayed on the infield tote board – my trifecta was worth $125! Oh, no! Oh, damn! Where was my ticket?!? How could I have lost it? Hoping against hope, I sent the kids inside to look around the table we had been sitting at. Donna looked at me with a “so sorry, honey” look on her face. How could this have happened?

Then it occurred to me. When I took my sunglasses out of my pocket, I must have pulled the ticket out with it! The ticket was out here – on the grandstand apron – blowing around with the hundreds of losing tickets that lay everywhere now.

Stupidly, I started turning over tickets that lay around me on the ground. No, not that one! – No, not this one!… I was desperate, grabbing handfuls of tickets off the ground and filing through them looking for the right race number, the correct type of bet, the right horse numbers! Donna even started looking – she had a handful of losing tickets, pouring over them. My kids were probably inside, doing the same thing with tickets on the floor. It was insane!

But of course, we were never going to find that ticket by shoveling through all the hundreds that, even as we were searching through them, were floating through the air as the stiff breeze carried them to the east end of the track.

I stopped, I looked over at my dear wife, continuing to look at scraps of paper on the now deserted apron of the track, that couldn’t possibly be the correct scrap. I saw my kids come out of the clubhouse door and my son giving me the “no luck” sign, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders. I felt at a loss. Oh, well. Easy come, easy go – as they say. We could have used the $125, could have bought a nice dinner for everybody and still had some left for a treat. But it was gone. No ticket could be found in this mess of discards.

I looked around at all the tickets blowing in the air. I looked down at my feet, in despair, I guess. And as I looked down – there between my feet, between the toes of my shoes, squared to the proximity that was my stance – lay a ticket. And this part I remember, as well as anything I remember from all my days. I reached down and picked the ticket up…and it was my ticket. It was for the final race…a trifecta wager…on the horses I had picked…and somehow it was back in my hand. I remember I shouted out to Donna and the kids, “I found it!!” And Donna replied – with a disbelieving “What!?”

What I saw...

What I saw…

I really cannot imagine how this possibly happened. I know that I never will be able to figure it out. I had never seen a true miracle happen before with my own eyes. But, The Miracle at Thistledown did happen. I swear to you! Just ask Donna.

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