Beulah…Beulah…Beulah…

 Dye and Deny heads toward the wire at Beulah Park under jockey Edgar Paucar.

Dye and Deny heads toward the wire at Beulah Park under jockey Edgar Paucar.

The first step toward recovery is admitting one has a problem.

I drove six hours to watch $3,500 claimers lope around in the middle of Ohio just because I hadn’t seen a live race since last November.

Some psychologists may look at this and see a serious warning sign of a gambling problem.

Then again, there is no such thing as a gambling problem if you come out ahead for the day.

I am currently in Lexington, Kentucky catching up with friends and attending live races wherever they occur on my path. I have not been to Lexington since my spur-of-the-moment trip during the Keeneland fall meet last October, so it has been nice to see the people and places that made my last summer so memorable.

Aside from a few heavy storms in Michigan, the drive went smoothly. Few things will cleanse the soul like a long drive through the Ohio countryside with a Steve Earle song on the radio.

I took a detour from my usual route to Lexington in order to check another track off my list of tracks to visit – the primarily winter-based Beulah Park in Grove City, Ohio.

I had heard stories about Beulah Park. It was run down. The horses were junk. The betting prospects were below average at best. A recent photo essay on the track painted a somewhat dreary picture of Beulah as a track that was well past its glory days. None of them were entirely wrong.

What they failed to realize, though, was that tracks like these are where I feel the most at home. I have spent many years trying to find the cream of the four-digit claiming crop. These were my people. I was among friends.

When the facility was built in 1923, I am willing to bet Beulah Park was one of the finest tracks in the midwest. The paddock/walking ring area was fairly scenic and dotted with trees, though most of the plant life was still stripped from the winter. There was definitely an old-time feel to the track, with chalkboards dispensing information in the paddock and over the betting windows inside the plant. Not all of them were utilized, but it added to the atmosphere of the place.

Making some money at a new track usually does not hurt my first impression of it either. I missed out on the first race, but hit consecutive exactas in the next two races, paying about $100 altogether. The latter of the scores paid $84.80. I was feeling very good about life at the time. My good fortune ran out after the third race and I failed to cash another ticket for the rest of the day. However, my quick start left me over $80 ahead at the end of the day. Not a bad way to start off my year at the live races.

The problem with tracks with old-time vibes is they are often that way because no one has put any serious money into them since the Truman administration. A portion of the spectators’ walking ring area was taped off for construction, which forced me to find a detour on a few occasions. Also adding to the Point-A to Point-B issues were the clusters of picnic tables scattered in the lane next to the corridor used by the horses to get out to the track. Aside from the added difficulty of inspecting and photographing the horses, it created traffic problems amongst patrons getting to the apron. Perhaps the tables are evenly dispersed once the weather gets consistently warmer and people actually start going outside to watch the races (it was in the high-50s/low-60s the day I was there), but at the time, it was a nuisance.

Perhaps the track’s most unforgivable sin was its lack of a gift shop. As someone who likes to buy a shirt from every track he visits, this was a major letdown. After wandering the premises for any kind of souvenir vendor, I was informed by the lady in the information booth that Beulah’s gift shop had closed sometime last year. I know Beulah is a small track that’s struggling, but if Mount Pleasant Meadows, a track that draws half the crowd, if that, has a place to buy apparel, then Beulah has no excuse.

Of course, even with its warts, I did enjoy myself at Beulah Park. With a little elbow grease and some added purse money, it could probably become more of a destination. Obviously, asking it to become the next Keeneland would be stretching it, but there is no reason it could not become one of the nicer tracks in the state or the region. Like Linus Van Pelt said describing the ratty little tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Maybe it just needs a little love.”

I head back to Michigan on Wednesday. When things calm down, I will continue with the tales of my voyage to Lexington, my stop (and possibly stops) at Turfway Park, and anything else that strikes my fancy about this trip.

Until then, enjoy some photos I took from my day at Beulah Park….

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The Beulah Park grandstand. The windows rolled up like garage doors for races on warm days.

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Under the paddock tote board is this chart informing the betting public of the shoes each horse will wear during the race. I am unsure if it was used for anything more than decoration, but it was still a neat touch and added to the atmosphere.

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Dye and Deny with Edgar Paucar pulls away from Southern Sweet Tea and Cesar Camaque in the second race.

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Paucar and Dye and Deny in the winner’s circle.

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Island Chancellor passes in front of the handicappers in the walking ring with Sergio Figueroa aboard.

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Sunshinenbeer and Jorge Brancho hold off Macy’s Boy and Yuri Yaranga to win race three. This combination bagged me $84.80 for the exacta. Boom goes the dynamite.

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Yuri Yaranga heads back to the jocks room after the race.

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Edgar Paucar describes his ride following the race.

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Cesar Camaque chats in the walking ring prior to race four.

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Christian Pilares takse M.J. Express through the post parade before race five.

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Miss Rue Du Lac runs away with the fifth race with Cesar Camaque aboard.

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Former Great Lakes Downs jockey Luis Martinez, Jr. aboard Tacticianor before the seventh race.

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Victor Urieta-Moran and Ephesian Knight prepare to take the seventh race.

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Starwaters waits for her mount before before the eighth race. I don’t care if Tesio says it’s a disease. I like taking pictures of gray horses.

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24 Comments

Filed under Pictures, Racetrack Visits, Story Time

24 responses to “Beulah…Beulah…Beulah…

  1. QQ

    Oh, thanks so much for the pics! And oh, my! Sunshinenbeer is still racing! Hooray! I’m pretty sure he filled an exacta for me at Mountaineer.

    I’ve wanted to visit Beulah ever since the authors of “Horse Racing Coast to Coast” called it the Saratoga of the Midwest. Maybe not quite, I’m guessing — but those trees in the paddock sure look nice.

    Ohio tracks are having a terrible time, with much of their business going to WV & PA slots-supported tracks. I’ve been mightily impressed with their efforts to stay in business despite the lack of support from the residents of Ohio. OK, it’s not Keeneland, but from your report, it sure sounds worth saving.

  2. I think it looks like a great place, a perfect detour AND destination. Having gone out of my way to visit a local track on a number of occasions, I fully support the habit…thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

  3. Beulah has a Twitter stream too. They do ok for a smaller track. They take a pretty picture for sure.

  4. And am I crazy, or is that an Ebn-Ozn reference in your title?

    That might just be the fantastical imaginings of a brain steeped in the 80’s.

  5. Great story. It is nice to see someone else who loves live racing. My friends and coworkers think I’m crazy for driving 200 miles from Louisville to Grove City on a cold Tuesday in Febuary,but there is nothing like live racing.Beulah has a 25 cent pick six, which I think is one of the best cheap bets in the country.I usually try to play a small ticket every day.2 horses in 4 races and 2 singles is only $4 dollars.On march 10 the payoff was over $8600 for a 25 cents.Also the pools are highest on Mondays and Tuesdays.

  6. mibredclaimer

    QQ,
    Yep, Sunshinenbeer is still running and making bettors like me lots of money.

    I think if someone put a dedicated effort into cosmetic improvements and boosted the purses beyond the $3,500 level, it could be a very nice track. I bet it looks nicer when all the plant life is in bloom. It’s too bad the place doesn’t run live when everything is green.

    I can definitely sympathize with Ohio’s troubles. Michigan is in a very similar boat, with people leaving for Indiana and Pennsylvania because that’s just where the money is. You can’t blame them, but it’s a shame it has to come to that.

    Teresa,
    Glad you liked it. Beulah Park definitely has its charm.

    Unfortunately, you’re giving me too much credit on the title. It was a play on Ben Stein’s popular scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…”

    Patrick,
    Yep, I’m a follower of Beulah’s Twitter feed. I’m surprised more tracks aren’t getting on board with the idea.

    Also, I agree that they seem to be doing well for their size and situation. The place was definitely more impressive than I expected.

  7. mibredclaimer

    Jerry,
    Yeah, I’ve definitely gotten my share of looks from friends when I tell them how far I drive for live races. But I don’t feel too bad about it. They’re the ones missing out.

    I wasn’t aware of the .25 cent pick six, but I am definitely intrigued. I will have to look into it next time I play Beulah. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Nice pics, good link to the Dispatch photo essay, but most of all, nice use of “Boom goes the dynamite!”

  9. Richard Garrison

    My Mother started taking me to Beulah in the late 30’s. I was a Steward at Beulah from 96-99. Have worked as a State Steward at Great Lakes, Mt. Pleasant and Pinnacle the past two years.

    Enjoyed your article, most positive publicity Beulah has had in years. Keep up the good work, racing needs more positive articles.

  10. Dave

    First of all let me say that I was pleased to see this article about Beulah Park. I have been attending this track since I was a child with my family. I remember how excited we all were to get there and the smell of good foods wafting through the air, and the sounds of the crowds that used to be there to enjoy the lively atmosphere. I remember the tip sheet salesmen outside the gate touting their sheets.

    It really used to be lively and colorful. Now when I see the shape that this track has been allowed to fall into, I am disgusted. The run down appearance, antiquated equipment, broken down tables and chairs, the same old dingy grandstand seats, leaky roofs etc., etc For God’s sakes…the owner recently made several million dollars off of his other horse racing related investment (Winticket) and can’t see fit to “invest” some of that into this wonderful track which used to be such pride for little Grove City, Ohio. Simple cosmetic repairs would do wonders, but nothing at all can be seen by the patrons. The roof has had leaks in it since I was a kid, and that was a long, long time ago. Pitiful ! I simply have to believe personal greed has caused the condition of this track as we see it today. Beulah patrons and the people of Grove City, Ohio deserve much better than what they are currently getting from the current ownership. I truly hope things change real soon. Otherwise this track that we here in Ohio have grown to love so much, will end up like many others, just a memory.

  11. Luro

    You mean you went to Beulah and didn’t come away with a photo of the twins?

    Why the hell did you bother showing up then?

  12. 25 cent Fortune 6(very similar to pick 6,read exact rules on Beulah website) resumes on friday, March 13.It has at least a guaranteed pool of $5000 dollars every day.On fridays only about $2000 dollars is bet in to it,making it a great value,which is rare for horseplayers. 5000 dollars for a quarter sounds pretty good!

  13. mibredclaimer

    Frank,
    I enjoyed the photo essay too. When the program vendor told me to “get lucky,” I thought to myself, “Hey, I know him from the Internet!”

    Also, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to work the phrase “boom goes the dynamite” into as many conversations as possible. So far so good.

    Richard,
    Glad to hear you liked my post. I’m excited to see that one of the Michigan stewards is reading my blog! Where will you be working this year?

    Because you were there while the track was still fairly new, was I correct in my assumption that it was among the nicer tracks around when it first opened?

    Dave,
    Thanks for sharing your story. It did seem like the type of place that would be a lot of fun to go to during its heyday.

    I agree that a little polishing here and there would go a long way at Beulah. Do you think the fact that it is primarily a winter meet track could have any factor in its maintenance issues as well? Not to excuse it or let the ownership off the hook for funding it, but I would have to figure it would be much harder to maintain and operate a racetrack putting out live cards in the dead of winter than during the summer.

    Luro,
    Yeah, I missed out on the Beulah twins. I kept forgetting to hang out inside the building during their broadcasts between races to see them. By the time I heard them over the PA system, I was usually in the saddling area and was too far away to get back there in time.

    Oh well, I guess that just means a return trip is in order!

    I must say I am pleasantly surprised by all the passionate responses to Beulah Park. I’m glad to see people still stick up for the the small tracks at a time when lots of people are suggesting major contractions. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

  14. mibredclaimer

    Jerry,
    I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for it. It sounds like a lot of fun. Is $5k the usual payout, or does the carryover normally push it higher?

    Here is the page for anyone interested in learning more: http://www.beulahpark.com/New07/RacingOffice/Fortune6.htm

  15. Mibredclaimer
    The pool starts at $5000.Sometimes it is hit the first time on consecutive days and other times it may go 6-10 days without a whole pool ticket.You must have an unique ticket, meaning only one ticket picking 6 of 6.Its fun to watch the will pays ,they go sometimes for 4 of 6 winners to 6 of 6.Also , TVG for some reason does not take the wager and you must bet it on twinspires.com.The key seems to be to have 3 to 4 singles and go “all” in the races that look the most difficult to handicap.Its a fun cheap bet to play with a huge payoff potential. I believe the bet paid one time over 200,000 dollars for a quarter have numerous carryovers.Good luck, hope you hit one time,I’m still trying!

  16. Richard Garrison

    It was a nice track in the 40’s & 50’s.

    I will be working a Pinnacle this year.

  17. Boom goes the dynamite reference, last night on The Daily Show…even Stewart read this post. Nice!

  18. Hi

    First, thank you so much for coming out to Beulah. It really is a beautiful place filled with history. You should be here at midnight/one in the morning when the grandstand is empty and silent. On these later nights I leave work, usually after an event or a self-imposed crunch day – I half expect to see a gentleman – an image of the past- leaning against a pole, bowler on his head, stogie in his teeth and ticket in hand. Morning workouts are haunting with sensory overload of pounding hooves, crisp air and steam off a horse’s back.

    Every now and then I sit with the clocker, watch morning workout and always learn something new.

    I wish we had met – you’d at least have walked away with a bobble head of the twins, lol. Seek me out next time. I’ll take you behind the scenes – as you eluded to, the dedication, care and passion to Thoroughbred racing is upheld in every one of us. We really are a nebulous little family here.

    Yeah, you nailed it on the head. Running in winter has its complexities. Freeze thaw, Freeze Thaw of Ohio winters comes with its own concerns. The tape you had to avoid in the paddock was the result of a water pipe break (I heard something about it being the site of an older out building before the renovation in the ’80s).

    When Ohio finally greens up – it’s gorgeous. Actually, during the off-season in the summer, we host weddings and receptions in the paddock. You should see the photos they end up having! It’s the city’s best kept secret..and only 10 min from downtown.

    We do our best within leaner times. Our twitter accounts (@beulahpark and @jhamlin) have helped connect to a different audience. On Saturdays you’ll find a lot of youth and families here. I hope to continue building our reputation of a fun place to visit for families and a retro-kitsch outing for the hip 20 and 30’s something group that are just moving to Columbus. Business men still come for working lunches (I always think you can tell them by their shoes-too funny!).
    Some things change, yet many remain the same.

    We’ve partnered with multiple groups in order to highlight new and fun ways to “get in the race” and are trying to leverage the new push to Experiential Tourism. I’ve created some really captivating opportunities to introduce new audiences to the Sport of Kings.
    ( http://www.beulahpark.com left bar menu-group sales then group packages)

    Check out the weddings page under group sales as well.

    Things are happening despite losing live days to the snow and blow. But safety and the tracks integrity are first priorities. We’ll give away a Derby package on 3/28- tickets, hotel & transportation for two…a chili festival on 4/18….our derby day tent party is rocking! My retired parents even drive down from Cleveland to attend this one.

    What else can I tell you? I love this place. My window overlooks the parade path-the horses and commotion provide a nice background to my work. I’m a self-admitted sentimental sucker for nostalgia and you can certainly find it here.

    Across from my desk, some of my best friends are black and white photos of years gone by – a man in a fedora and cigar holding the reins of a new colt (1952?), a trio of ladies leaning over the rail in stacked heels, hats and suites (1944), a large crowd photo with children packed three deep against the rail and adults shouting behind them. These are my companions and inspiration.

    I’m not the only one – we all harbor a love.

    There is a move forward though. In the next week or so, we will be launching “track side chats” with our VP on our website highlighting industry news, Beulah developments, who to watch and ones to know. Check our front web page for this.

    Plan to stop by in the summer for AMA Flat Track Motorcycle Racing (August 16) “The $50k Beulah Mile” and a three day “Balloons & Tunes” Hot Air Balloon festival. If you like 4th of July community fireworks like how I remembered as a kid, Beulah opens its gates to Grove City and holds a 20 min display that rivals most. The City does this and brings in live music and kids activities. It’s really well done.

    So welcome to my Beulah and all the promise she holds. Somehow I would love to start collecting the old stories that folks remember…and new ones being made. Anyone have any? Send them to me – we’re in our 85th year. I’d love to start a web section entitled “Beulah Remembers” – the oral tradition is so poignant.

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your experience – I enjoyed your blog post and have subscribed.

    And based on your site pole and the 20 people who’d like to see Jockeys come to a small and very real track – How can we get Beulah in the producer’s sights? I’m game!

    Until the next call to post….

  19. Reading this post of yours late, but really impressed, nice recap, great response from Jessica.

    I love going and finding new places, thanks for sharing.!

  20. mibredclaimer

    Jerry,
    Online wagering isn’t legal in Michigan (as far as I know), so if I do play it, it’ll have to be at a local simulcast joint. It’s definitely on my priority list now. Best of luck to you in your pursuit of the wager.

    Richard,
    Perhaps I’ll see you at the races this season. Pinnacle is a bit of a drive for me, but I intend to make it down there as much as possible.

    Wind Gatherer,
    I saw that on the replay yesterday. Good stuff.

    Jessica,
    Thanks for your reply! I’ve always been partial to the smaller tracks because the level of dedication on the part of the staff and the horsemen always seems to be more apparent, or at least more obvious than at the larger ones.

    I’m taking a break from writing a few grade-defining papers right now, so I’m afraid I can not give your reply the kind of response it deserves at the moment. But once things quiet down, I’ll send you an email continuing our discussion. I would love to further discuss Beulah Park with you.

    Robert,
    Glad you liked my post. I love visiting new racetracks. I’m planning on checking off a bunch of them this summer, so expect more posts like this one in the future.

  21. Sorry to hear online wagering isn’t available for you.It really makes it alot easier to bet.I usually have my laptop at work set on twinspires.com which can show 5 different tracks at once.Fortunately for me, I have a job that doesn’t interfere with my gambling.Good luck on your schooling, hope to get updates on your travels.Maybe I’ll see you at the Red Mile or River Downs(2 of my favorites) later in the summer.

  22. Trackside Chats with Beulah Park VP, Mike Weiss, launched! Check it out at http://www.beulahpark.com
    touches on why in winter, safety, promos etc.

    It’s a first attempt, so be gentle. We plan to add an interactive conversation part to the pop up by the next installment due up.

    I plan to have an outtakes “reel” available on the youtube channel soon, too. Already I have a couple – but it needs about 2 more to make it really good.

  23. ROX

    That Grove City track has an Old World kind of look around the paddock area. I enjoyed working on the backside on several ocassions. Sad to see any track declining for any reason.

  24. Meymo Lyons Sturges

    I fell in love at Beulah park in September 1970 with Frankie Licata,He had the bug and was leading rider at the meet. I was galloping horses. Lovely warm memories!

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