Before I embark on my next adventure, it is only fitting to wrap up the one I already finished.
On my way down to Kentucky, I had planned to make a quick detour to watch some races at a fondly remembered pitstop last spring, Grove City, Ohio’s Beulah Park. However, last-minute packing got me on the road too late to make it a worthwhile stop, so it became a priority on the trip home.
While Beulah is a fine place to spend a sunny spring afternoon regardless of the situation, my reason for voyaging to central Ohio was a tad more focused.
In recent months, Beulah had been garnering attention from horseplayers for the incredibly high carryover its Fortune 6 wager had generated. At the time of my visit, the 25-cent pick six wager had amassed a jackpot over $300,000 and growing. The top prize is only awarded if there is a single winner, but for the minimal cost, even the smaller payout for multiple winners is a nice score. That was more than enough reason to make the 100-mile swing off the beaten path to the Columbus area.
In the little time I had between the Keeneland two-year-olds in training sale, eating a Donatos pizza and watching Monday Night RAW the night before, I looked over the two races that were available in the pick six from the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance free past performance search (Bob Baffert just doesn’t send that many horses to Beulah Park).
Having those two races in the tank would be vital the next day. The Fortune 6 began in the third race, which meant getting to the track by 2:30 p.m. in order to handicap the remainder of the card and place the bet. After getting my belongings loaded, grabbing some breakfast and filling up the gas tank, it became clear this would be a photo finish.
After speeding through southern Ohio (which in that state means going about 45 mph on the highway), I got to the track as the post parade headed toward the starting gate for the second race. This meant grabbing a program (and having the vendor tell me to “get lucky” which is awesome), throwing myself at the nearest open table and Rain Man-ing my way through the pick six all in about 25 minutes.
I selected my likely winners with plenty of time to spare and headed to a self-service machine to place my bet. Having never played a dollar pick six, much less one of the 25 cent variety, I was unsure how much the bet would cost, so I slid a $20 bill into the machine and hoped for the best. Beulah Park uses the same self-serve machines as Pinnacle Race Course, and I can’t stand them. Among my many complaints surrounding the machines, chief among them is they do not display the amount of the wager until the bet is locked in (unless I somehow missed it, in which case, I rescind my complaint, though I still dislike the machines). This created quite the surprise when I discovered my pick six ticket was going to cost $81. Even for a shot at 300 large, that was out of my price range.
This new development led to a frantic scramble back to my table (after getting my $20 back, of course) to trim down my picks into a reasonable ticket in the roughly 13 minutes until post time. It took some hard decision-making, but I managed to whittle it down to a ticket in the $20 range with enough time to look at the horses in the paddock.
I have already written extensively about the scenery at Beulah Park, and with the exception of some completed maintenance projects and the trees being a little more in bloom, the place remained largely unchanged. Fortunately, I rather like Beulah’s setup, so this is far from a complaint.
One thing that quickly fell over me as I sat cross-legged on a picnic table near the walking ring was a sense of reverse culture shock. My afternoon at Beulah Park was one in stark contrast to the weekend I had just spent at Keeneland Race Course. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Keeneland, the tranquility of Beulah’s paddock area was a welcome change. One does not truly appreciate the ability to sit down, relax and take in the races until he or she is unable to do so. It took some time to adjust to the horses still hanging onto their winter coats after inspecting barns full of two-year-olds as sleek and clean as they will ever be prior to the sale. It’s a different game here. Neither is better or worse. Both have their pros and cons. It’s just different, and that is why I wanted to visit both tracks.
As can probably be gleaned by my lack of mention earlier in the story, or the day I would have cashed it for that matter, I walked away from my Fortune 6 endeavor empty handed. I was out of it by the second leg of the wager, when Hound Tor – a horse I have tossed at three different tracks now – sprung a front-running upset. The horse was not even on my initial $81 ticket, so at least there is no remorse for having picked him, then taken him out due to my cheapskatedness. I went on to hit four out of six on my ticket, but that pays as much as having every horse finish last (which should have some kind of consolation payoff just because the poor sap holding that ticket could use a pick-me-up). My cold streak at the windows continued throughout the day, and the only return on investment I saw was at the concession stand.
After finishing up one last day at the races, it was time to get back on the road and point toward home. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who helped make that weekend one that will not be forgotten.
Now that this voyage is officially in the rear-view mirror, it is almost time to set sail on my biggest one yet. The jackpot for the Fortune 6 on May 1, Beulah’s closing day, is $445,139.20 with a forced payout, and that number will increase with the day’s wagers. If I somehow find the time to look over the program through all the chaos that surrounds the Kentucky Derby, I may take one last crack at it. Expect to hear all about it when things settle down.
Until then, here are a few photos from my day at Beulah Park.