October has been a busy month for your favorite Michigan-based racing blogger (I’d better be your favorite Michigan-based racing blogger).
After spending the day looking back at my adventures over the last several weeks, I have come to the conclusion that I am living my own version of the movie “21.”
An awkward college student by day, I travel to distant, exotic locations on the weekends to play games of chance, reinventing myself as a confident, successful individual who, more times than not, leaves the table with more than he came with. Then, when Monday rolls around, I am back on campus and hardly anyone notices I was even gone. So is the secret life of the racetrack personality.
Granted, my story seriously lacks a Kate Bosworth-type character, I am not receiving training or grade assistance from any of my professors and I have yet to receive a back room beatdown from Lawrence Fishburne, but my weekend life sure is more exciting than the standard “drink at tailgating, drink at the game, drink after the game, repeat” fare that seems to be all the rage among my general age bracket.
But I digress…
Let’s take a look back at the racetracks I have set foot and placed bet on in the month of October. Cue the Peter, Bjorn and John montage music…
October 4 found me amongst a double-digit (perhaps reaching triple-digit by the hair of its chinny-chin-chin if you count employees and jockeys) crowd for the getaway day at Mount Pleasant Meadows. Aside from making about $40 at the windows (which considering the pools at MPM is something of a feat), I was treated to the best Thoroughbred race I had seen at the track all year.
In what amounted to a match race to decide the best Thoroughbred at Mount Pleasant Meadows, Finnish Line Stable’s Waterbury closed from several lengths out to nip Dennis Cluley’s Flame of Justice at the wire while the other two horses entered were still trying to figure out what race they were in. As many of you already know, I love to take pictures at the races. However, when I saw this matchup, I set my camera down and for the first time in a long time just watched the race. Most races don’t live up to the hype. This one more than delivered. I wish I would have taken pictures to show you.
The next Saturday, October 11, thrust me from one side of the racing spectrum to the other, this time watching the races among over 20,000 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky.
Though I intended to make it down to Lexington sometime during the month for the fall meet, this particular trip was somewhat spur of the moment. I wanted my visit to coincide with the monthly poker game that some of my former co-workers at the Thoroughbred Times frequent so I could further catch up with them following my visit to the office. I found out about the game three days in advance, so I ended up throwing my belongings together and hitting the road the next morning.
I spent most of my first day at Keeneland with Claire Novak, who turned me into an internet celebrity in the footsteps of the Numa Numa guy and that Chocolate Rain kid. I even got to see a Michigan-bred compete that day, Speak Of Kings, who had won several races at Churchill Downs that summer. He ended up finishing last, but the payout from the exacta would put me ahead for the remainder of the weekend.
After discovering that no one from the magazine was going to be at the poker game, I decided to go out for drinks (or for me, a glass of Sprite and lots of free water) with Claire and some of her friends. Coming from an area with few people interested in racing and even fewer around my age, it was so refreshing to be able to have a coherent conversation with someone in my age bracket about the business and how we got started in the sport. To try to have the same conversation with 99.9% of Central Michigan University students would result in, at best, disinterested smiling and nodding. If anything else, this evening provided yet another case for why I belong in Kentucky.
The next day at the racetrack saw me hang out with Jeff Apel, who became my traveling companion over the summer with trips to River Downs and Ellis Park. I took an absolute beating at the windows, but not bad enough to put me in the red for the weekend. Both days were enhanced with absolutely perfect weather, which made both the races and the women more enjoyable to watch.
My first day back to class, I took a Spanish exam and got an A. Sometimes it just feels like I am untouchable.
My next adventure, on October 18, led me back to the middle of the spectrum to Pinnacle Race Course for the Michigan Sire Stakes. Because I have already documented my experience here, I will not waste your time repeating myself. If you would like to revisit that day, click here.
My journey came full circle last Friday when I found myself back at Mount Pleasant Meadows to watch the Filly Friday of the Breeders’ Cup. After all the places I have been, from the absolute pinnacle of the sport to Pinnacle Race Course, I always find myself missing Mount Pleasant the most (of the operating tracks. I miss Great Lakes Downs most of all). After one of the track’s patrons noticed I was using a Keeneland pen to handicap the races, he asked if I actually got it at the track. Boy, did I have some stories to tell him…
This Saturday, I am heading down to Pinnacle Race Course for the last weekend of the season. There are two Michigan-bred futurities and a stakes-quality allowance race on the card, so expect recaps and lots of pictures in the near future. Hope to see you there.