Tag Archives: Oscar Delgado

Photo of the Year: 2010

This photo of Zenyatta and super-skilled photographer Jamie Newell is probably the photo of the year, but for the sake of competition, it gets a free pass.

As it was mentioned in previous discussions, 2010 was a big year.

I visited a lot of places, I took a lot of pictures, I’ve seen a million faces and I rocked ’em all.

Okay, perhaps that last line is a wee bit exaggerated, but two and a quarter years of operation on this site is too long to go without a Bon Jovi reference.

The first two parts of the statement, however, are completely true. The last year afforded me the opportunity to visit racing venues and big events around the country, and I have tried my best to bring my readers along for the ride with my tales and photos.

That brings us to the annual display of my favorite memories from those travels: The 3rd Annual Michigan-Bred Claimer Photo of the Year poll.

Truth be told, my best photo is all but certainly the one shown above of super-skilled photographer Jamie Newell and Zenyatta the morning after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, titled “Consolation”. That projection is supported by the photo’s third-place showing in the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance photo contest. If I have not said it before, allow me to take this opportunity to thank everyone kind enough to throw a vote my way. We’ll get ’em next year.

For the sake of competition, we’ll consider that one the winner by default and conduct the poll as usual to determine a reserve champion. Unlike the TBA contest, this is one vote I can’t lose.

All of the photos included in this poll were shot with a Kodak EasyShare Z980.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, voting and otherwise being a part of what was a huge 2010. I look forward to providing a front row seat to my adventures in 2011 and beyond.

Behind the jump are the 20 photos I have handpicked as my favorites of 2010. Have a look, then vote for your favorite in the poll on the left side of the page. Comments are always welcome, too.

And now, without further ado…

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Bringing down Prairie Meadows

Prairie Meadows is a quality venue for racing and other forms of gaming. Oscar Delgado awaits a photo in the winner's circle aboard BT Sum Beach.

Racinos fascinate me.

As a resident of a state whose jurisdiction outlaws the splicing of a racetrack and a casino, they are the forbidden fruit; the seed that makes the grass greener, but is only available on the black market.

With that in mind, there is always a special incentive to visit tracks that offer casino gaming in other states to see if the positive effects of the one-armed bandits are more than just numbers on paper.

This aspect added a special intrigue to my visit to Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Ia. on the way back from my trip out west.

Prior to my visit to the central Iowa track, the only previous racino experience I had came from the two tracks in Indiana, a state in the midst of a racing renaissance because of its additions. While similar in vibe and motif to Indiana Downs, Prairie Meadows offered a different experience. Unlike the Hoosier State tracks, Prairie Meadows’ casino is built right into the grandstand. Parts of the casino even offer views out to the track.

The casino itself will be discussed later on, but it is necessary to bring it up when describing the track’s layout. Open entrances to the casino divided the grandstand’s second story, meaning it required an ID to explore the track beyond the ground floor. To the left of the casino sat rows of bleachers and a concession stand. On the other side was a typical-looking racetrack-style restaurant with the tables on declining levels going down a staircase. There were also some reserved seats with individual TVs for those who prefer to watch on a screen what is happening right in front of them.

Seating was abundant on the apron, even when the good-sized crowd reached its apex. A newspaper-sponsored car giveaway also meant the apron was populated with shiny, new automobiles seeking new owners.

The paddock is situated near the first turn in a curved fashion. The viewing area is split in the middle leading to the walking ring. The sightlines were excellent both for examining horses for wagering purposes and photography.

I stand firm in my belief that paddock placement can make or break a racetrack experience, and unless crowd management is an issue, the best place for it to be is near the clubhouse turn. This allows patrons time to get from the paddock to the rail to view the post parade and normally means shelter is not far away in the event of inclement weather. Prairie Meadows apparently got that memo and is a better track for it.

Admission for the day’s races was free and programs were $1.50. When the program vendor told me the price, I had to ask him again to make sure I heard correctly. For programs made with quality, white paper (not that pulpy crap that is hard to write on with my Mount Pleasant Meadows golf pencils), I am normally not upset to pay between two and a half to three bucks. A dollar fifty is unreal. The power of slots, man…

Speaking of programs and the power of slots, Prairie Meadows does a fantastic job showing off the track’s contribution to the state’s coffers. The program’s first two pages display letters from the track’s chairman and the chair of the Polk County Board of Supervisors welcoming fans to the races and showcasing the $1 billion the track has generated for the state of Iowa. Every day of live racing will be someone’s first day at that track, as this was mine, and that is a fantastic way to make a first impression.

My visit came on the richest day of the track’s Quarter Horse-exclusive meet, the Prairie Meadows Quarter Horse Championship Night. As it was during my visit to Yellowstone Downs during its richest card, my timing is impeccable.

With that said, consider the following. The combined purses on Montana’s richest day of racing totaled $77,650. The evening’s feature on Iowa’s richest day of Quarter Horse racing, the Valley Junction Futurity (G3), offered a purse of $143,250.

The lowest purse on the night’s card was a maiden claiming race for $7,000, while the average non-stakes purse was in the neighborhood of $14,000. Not bad at all.

The jockey colony consisted largely of Texas/Oklahoma/Hialeah Park circuit riders, with one notable exception. Among the track’s leading riders was Mount Pleasant Meadows-based jockey Oscar Delgado, who rode three winners on the night.

Once the races started, they moved at a rapid pace. The barns are apparently behind the paddock, because the horses came up to saddle from that direction without setting foot on the track. This meant no time was wasted walking from the backstretch because there was no backstretch to speak of. More than once, I found myself looking through the program or otherwise daydreaming, only to look over and see the field for the next race already saddling up.

It is also interesting to note that they played the song “Rawhide” in between several races. That was pretty great, even though I found it odd that the powers that be thought enough to play the song in Iowa and not at Yellowstone Downs, a track in a legitimate cowboy state. It is times like these when I wonder if I am taking this “racetrack aesthetic” thing way too far.

Between races, I ventured over to a barbecue shack on the apron. The shack’s pulled pork sandwich has the potential to earn a spot in the Pantheon of Racetrack Concession Foods. It will take another visit to to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, but it has the one-man committee’s full attention.

It took until the third race for me to cash a ticket, courtesy of Delgado aboard BT Sum Beach. Betting windows were plentiful, which is always a plus. There were even a couple tellers stationed in a gazebo near the paddock, which was also a plus.

The casino money had, without a doubt, increased the quality of the product between the rails, but the burning question with any racino track is if it can draw people out from the casino and on to the apron, especially the coveted youth demographic. With so many people in suits asking for identification, in the middle of Iowa for that, I initially had my doubts.

My doubts, however, were soon disproved. For night racing at a casino track, a surprising number of attendees brought their children. While it is good to see Iowa race fans grow the sport, though, little kids can’t put money through the windows. The real test is whether a track can draw the pivotal 2o-somethings, and Prairie Meadows seemed to do a good enough job of that.

One particularly entertaining example of this was a trio of clearly inebriated girls dressed way too lightly for the chilly evening. Between affirmations of how much they loved each other and asking me to take their picture (with their own camera. Sorry, gang), they actually paid more attention to the happenings in the paddock than the average tipsy Keeneland coed’s observations about the jockeys’ size or the pretty horses. Of course, they followed that up by trying t0 speak Sesame Street-level Spanish with a random Hispanic horseman near the paddock about which horses he liked. What the industry has to gain from this demographic remains unclear.

As a fan of Michigan racing, the highlight of the evening came in the $45,000 Two Rivers Stakes (G3) when Delgado set the track record at 440 yards aboard Jess A Runner with a time of 21.199 seconds. I found myself curious after seeing Delgado had the mount on Jess A Runner instead of Fairmount Park Invitational winner Bold Badon, whom he regularly rides, but clearly, he made the right call.

The fields were decent all night and it reflected in the payoffs. I hit two moderate-sized exacta tickets to finish about $15 ahead for the evening’s races. The night was not without its share of pari-mutuel heartbreak, though. Missing out on a winning ticket by a head or a nose is to be expected in Quarter Horse racing, but having the two horses boxed in one’s exacta dead heat for second hurts.

With a little more money in the bankroll than I had walking in, it was time to deposit it firmly into the casino. I entered through the grandstand to a few rows of slots, but eventually wandered my way into a much more expansive gaming area.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Prairie Meadows offers full table gaming. Having finished Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House somewhere in flyover country on the road west (see, doesn’t the post’s title make sense now?), I was itching badly to play some blackjack.

The computerized table games at Indiana’s racinos served to hide my cowardice as I placed $1 bets on roulette, but when it came to card games, I wanted the show. I wanted to wave off the dealer while holding a 14, knowing he was going to bust. I wanted to push my chips to the center of the table and feel the place erupt when the dealer threw down the card for 21.

The problem is, things like that require vast sums of money, so I hovered around and found a quiet $5 minimum table inhabited by a couple college-age-looking Asians who left after a few hands. I put in $25 and was soon one-on-one with the dealer; just like playing at the kitchen table at my grandpa’s house.

Wanting to keep in the game as long as I could, I played the minimum bet each time and hit hot and cold streaks that kept me at about the same amount with which I came in. Then I hit a blackjack. Booyah.

This must have drawn the attention of the pit boss, because he soon came over and carded me. I’ve got to hand it to this place – they sure are careful about keeping underage people out of the casino. Between shoes, the dealer and I made the usual small talk, and I told him about Michigan’s racino situation, or lack thereof. As someone on the green side of the fence, he was understandably surprised at the ridiculousness of it all.

I kept playing for a few more hands after hitting blackjack, and after noticing that my stack of chips was about $10 taller than it was at the start, I decided to get up from the table while I still had the casino’s money. I did some more exploring around the casino just to get a feel for the place, but resisted the urge to play anything else and risk blemishing my winning record.

The chips at the Prairie Meadows casino feature the track’s logo above the phrase “Your favorite place to play!” From a gambling standpoint, the chip isn’t wrong. It is hard to describe the boost an actual table game can have over a video version, even if the only computerized part is the betting terminal. Warranted or not, I always feel better playing a table game knowing my fate is being determined by the draw of the cards or a roll of the dice, as opposed to a computer algorithm that will tell me whether I won or lost.

From an entertainment standpoint, however, the Indiana casinos have the edge. As casinos with bigger, more expansive gaming rooms, there is more space for entertainment like bars and live bands. I’m not going to lie. I gamble more when there is a good live band in the middle of the casino. Even if I am just playing the slots, it puts me in a delusional kind of rhythm. At the very least, it makes me stick around to hear what else they are going to play.

With that said, building the casino into the grandstand as Prairie Meadows did has a greater potential to create more crossover interest between the casino and the track because of the easy access to each other. Judging by the number of people I saw out on the apron who migrated to the casino later that night (including the drunk trio, now with boys in tow), I think it might be working.

Behind the jump are photos from the evening’s races at Prairie Meadows.

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Michigan Notebook: August 26, 2010

Jockey Oscar Delgado has found success at tracks across the country, including Mount Pleasant Meadows.

– Crain’s Detroit Business has been monitoring the situation surrounding Pinnacle Race Course’s sale of a parcel of land to the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the ensuing controversy it has generated in the local government. The publication has published several updates since the deal was publicly announced, outlining Pinnacle’s economic situation, tax snafus by the Huron Township government, and concerns by local leaders about the handling of Pinnacle’s incentives to purchase and build on the property.

Here is a list of stories published on the site in recent days. There are some inaccuracies in a few of the details (most notably suggesting the racetracks themselves are footing the bill for additional State regulation when it is actually coming from the horsemen’s purse pools), but the general idea paints an unsettling picture of the relationship between the track and local government.

8-25 – Text of Wayne County Commission’s concerns about Pinnacle Race Course

8-25 – Commissioners weigh legal issues of Pinnacle land deal

8-24 – Tax bill snafu puts Pinnacle in arrears, Racecourse fights assessments, battles other financial problems

– Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley discussed the state government’s treatment of Michigan’s horse racing industry in his column on Thursday. Finley notes the hypocrisy of offering movie studios hundreds of millions in breaks and incentives to film in Michigan, while leaving horse racing, an industry that generates money for the state and provides jobs without the massive state investments, out to dry. Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Patti Dickinson and Pinnacle Race Course owner Jerry Campbell are quoted in the piece, as is spokeswoman for Governor Jennifer Granholm, Liz Boyd.

Hoosier Park put out a news item on Aug. 12 about Quarter Horse jockey Oscar Delgado, also a regular at Mount Pleasant Meadows. The piece profiles Delgado’s life and racing career, where he has won riding titles at Mount Pleasant and the inaugural Quarter Horse meet at Hialeah Park. He also discusses racing against his brother, Juan, who is among the leading Quarter Horse riders at Mount Pleasant and the Indiana circuit. Oscar Delgado currently hangs his tack at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa.

– The Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association Yearling Sale is this Sunday at the Michigan State University Pavilion’s south barn. The yearling show begins ay 9 a.m. followed by the sale at 1 p.m.. For an online catalog of the sale, click here. To view this site’s preview of Sunday’s sale, click here.

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Mount Pleasant Meadows in photos

The Mount Pleasant Meadows 2010 meet is off and running; as is Thoroughbred Sweet at Best, ridden by Nate Alcala.

The first two weeks of Mount Pleasant Meadows’ 2010 meet are in the books.

I’ve been telling a lot of long-winded stories lately, so for the beginning of Mount Pleasant’s season, I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking. Between stakes races and general goings-on, more than enough will be written about the central Michigan track in due time.

For those interested in a written description of the track, my review of last year’s opening day can be found here. A few names and faces may have shuffled since last year, but the general feel of the place remains the same.

Before we commence with the photos, this seems as good a time as any to once again plug the Mount Pleasant Meadows Facebook page, to which I have been contributing. Readers interested in learning more about the track are encouraged to become “fans” by visiting the page and clicking on the appropriate button.

Now, without further ado, behind the jump are photos from the last two week’s worth of races at Mount Pleasant Meadows. Enjoy!

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Michigan connections compete at Hialeah Park

Popular Michigan-bred Ozzy You Can Do It will make his first start outside of his home state on Monday at Hialeah Park.

Last Saturday, horse racing returned to one of the sport’s historic venues, Florida’s Hialeah Park, after an eight-year absence.

For its inaugural season, the track is hosting a Quarter Horse-exclusive meet, which has drawn horses, riders and trainers from across the country to race among the flamingos. Of course, what kind of world class Quarter Horse meet would it be without a few horses from Mount Pleasant Meadows?

On Hialeah’s opening day, three horses with at least one start at Mount Pleasant entered the gates, including Michigan-bred Refined Cowboy; who showed little in a second-to-last finish. The other two starters, both trained by Adam Oxendine, fared better. Arrow Stone Head took home a third place check and Apollo Two Socks notched a fourth. Both horses shipped to Mount Pleasant for a few starts near the end of this year’s meet.

The star of the Michigan contingent on opening day, however, was jockey Oscar Delgado. In four starts, Delgado picked up a win and a second place finish. He found the winner’s circle in his first start aboard California-bred Nudder Budder. Delgado picked up another win in the nightcap of Sunday’s card aboard Devilfish.

In terms of new business, Monday’s card will be highlighted by the first out-of-state start by Mount Pleasant Meadows fan favorite Ozzy You Can Do It. The Michigan-bred Aze Beduino gelding has won 11 of 42 lifetime starts, all at the central Michigan oval. Ozzy You Can Do It will also be the first paint horse to compete at Hialeah since its reopening, possibly ever.

Ozzy You Can Do It appears to have the confidence of the oddsmakers, who have him picked second with morning line odds of 3-1. He had his first workout over the surface on Sunday, where he covered 220 yards in 12.53 seconds breezing. The time was the fourth fastest out of seven horses working at the distance.

UPDATE: Ozzy finished last in his start earlier today. By the looks of the chart, he ran into traffic problems early on and was taken out of contention before he could do much. Regardless, it was nice to see the betting public support Ozzy as the third choice at 3.20-to-one. Hopefully he can improve his fortune in future starts with a clean trip.

Tuesday’s entries yield at least three horses with experience at Mount Pleasant Meadows: former stakes regular Track Monster, Bye Bye Cartel and Patriotic Bill, who makes his first start since 2008, where he won a match race against arguably the slowest horse on the grounds then was disqualified. That was a crazy day.

Best of luck to all the Mount Pleasant Meadows-based (or visiting) connections during Hialeah Park’s rededicated inaugural meet.

For more information on Hialeah Park, visit http://www.hialeahparkracing.com/.

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Sunday stakes recap from Mount Pleasant Meadows

Paint Me a Bono pulls away in Michigan Paint Horse Futurity
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Paint Me a Bono (2B) shakes off I Do One Two Three (5) to win the GLQHA Michigan Paint Horse Futurity at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Paint Me a Bono benefitted from a clear trip and won easily in Sunday’s $14,165 Great Lakes Quarter Horse Association Michigan Paint Horse Futurity at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

The two-year-old Bono Jazz gelding broke cleanly and held an ever-growing advantage throughout the stretch and to the finish. Paint Me a Bono was hand ridden to the wire by jockey Richard Rettele for a 1 1/4 length victory in the 350 yard race. Post time favorite I Do One Two Three stayed in pursuit throughout the race and finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of See Me In Your Dreams for the runner-up position.

Paint Me a Bono and Rettele stopped the clocks at 17.782 seconds over a fast track at odds of 3.50-to-one.

Owned and trained by Renee Wilson, Paint Me a Bono was bred in California by Reese, Theresa and Alan B.. The victory in the Michigan Paint Horse Futurity improved Paint Me a Bono’s lifetime record to a perfect two wins from two starts for career earnings of $7,710.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

2B – Paint Me a Bono (Richard Rettele) 9.00 / 3.00 / 2.20
5 – I Do One Two Three (Oscar Delgado) 2.40 / 2.10
1A – See Me In Your Dreams (Nate Alcala) 2.20

350 Yards
Time: 17.782 Seconds

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Your winner, Paint Me a Bono; Richard Rettele, up.

Lots more races and photos can be found behind the jump. Just click the link below.

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Waking up in Shelbyville

Interesting things happen at Indiana Downs, but bring your walking shoes. Valance comes back after a race with Thomas Pompell aboard.

Interesting things happen at Indiana Downs, but bring your walking shoes. Valance comes back after a race with Thomas Pompell aboard.

To an outsider of the industry, Indiana Downs might appear solely responsible for the decay of horse racing in the Midwest.

The Shelbyville, Indiana racetrack’s slots-enriched purses have leeched people, horses and handle from nearby states lacking the benefit of casino gaming, further weakening racetracks already in dire straits.

Similar in class and proximity, Ellis Park is showing signs of throwing in the towel if it can not throw its own one-armed haymakers. With a Quarter Horse purse structure that often trumps Mount Pleasant Meadows’ entire Quarter card in one race, the Michigan track has been left consistently putting out four-horse fields.

Obviously, Indiana Downs is not entirely to blame for the woes of its neighbors, but it sure isn’t hard to make the connection when one sees the regulars from his or her local establishment appearing, and winning, in the Hoosier State.

Regardless, there is clearly something appealing about this track, but was it strictly the dollar signs or was it a worthwhile destination for racegoers as well?

From the road, Indiana Downs, the adjacent casino (Indiana Live!) and its parking structure form an intimidating figure. I began to wonder how much I was going to have to shell out before I even made it to the apron. In a pleasant surprise, admission and parking were free (or at least I managed to get where I needed to go without having to pay anyone. Maybe I’m just good at being sneaky).

As a fairly new track, the grandstand did not have much in terms of grit (I like tracks with a little bit of grit. It gives them character). The entire structure is enclosed. The first level is mostly simulcast outlets and places to get food and drinks. Both sections of the first floor resembled a mall food court but didn’t afford many opportunities to watch the live races on much else but a screen.

The second level was reserved table seating and a handful of general admission movie theater-style bleachers. My aimless wandering eventually led me to the third floor, but my time upstairs was short when I realized it was mostly for track administration. Nothing up there for me.

With few options to watch the actual live races from ground level indoors, the track’s apron more than makes up for it in its expansiveness. By the quarter horse portion of the card later that night, the apron was impressively filled considering its size. It was far from shoulder-to-shoulder, but the benches were filled and securing a spot on the rail meant having to do a little jockeying for position.

Though the large apron was useful for containing the audience, it also contributed to the track’s most fatal flaw.

Separated from the apron by a playground and a whole lot of empty space, the saddling paddock was way too far from the action inside the plant or on the track to be practical. It is literally positioned at the quarter pole, and making the walk back and forth got old quickly. To watch the horses saddle in the paddock and head out to the track requires making a commitment to do so. You will miss the post parade and will be hard-pressed to find an open spot on the rail during the race, especially after spending time in the betting lines. There are no television screens or tote boards near the paddock, meaning horseplayers have to squint to see the odds a quarter mile away, and are completely in the dark in terms of potential exotic payouts (If anyone in a position of power at Indiana Downs is reading this, build a small lean-to by the paddock and place one small screen and a betting machine inside. Then watch your live handle rise).

It almost feels like the paddock was built as an afterthought. There were no PA speakers around that I remember, so the announcer’s presence was nonexistent (speaking of which, Indiana’s announcer, John Bothe’s voice bears a striking resemblance to the announcer from the old Star Wars Episode 1 Podracer video games. I know only a small percentage of my readers will get this reference, but pop in the game after a trip to Shelbyville. It’s uncanny). Finally, once nighttime rolled around, I found the paddock to be poorly lit, with a dim light over each stall and little else. After weighing out the pros and cons of making the hike over to the paddock and factoring in my increasingly aching feet, I decided to stop going over there by the fifth or sixth race.

To some, my beef with the paddock may seem like a minor thing, but I saw this as a major point of disconnect between the track and the fans. This is where parents and grandparents take their young ones to teach them about handicapping and how a good horse is put together. This is where new and disinterested fans go to look at the pretty horseys. This is where regular players make their final decisions between two horses who look exactly the same on paper. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about a racetrack, but the paddock is a key part of a track’s aesthetic, and by putting it in such an inconvenient location, Indiana Downs became a much less enjoyable place to see a race.

Though I was a long way from home, the day’s card was full of Michigan ties. Two Mount Pleasant Meadows regulars were entered in the Thoroughbred portion of the card (they ran last and second to last), as well as another Michigan-bred (second). The three Quarter Horse races were even more populated with local connections, with appearances by MPM jockeys Julie Veltman, Harold Collins and Juan and Oscar Delgado, along with trainers Ron Raper, Tony Cunningham and Dicky Benton. The Mount Pleasant contingent represented itself well, with a Cunningham-trained horse taking the ninth race, ridden by Oscar Delgado. A Benton/Veltman horse also took second.

The service at Indiana Downs was was generally friendly and efficient, if at times a little unusual. While ordering a cheeseburger in the food court area, the cashiers looked at me, then my camera, and said “Hey, weren’t you here last week?” After explaining to them it was my first time at the track, they became convinced I was there to take their picture. I am not sure what led them to believe this, but I obliged. The burger was ok.

After the races, I decided to give the so-called savior of the racing industry a try and went into the casino. I turned a dollar into $18 and change, then proceeded to lose it when I put it all on black at the roulette table (because that’s what you do when you’re in the midst of a slump at a casino – you put it all on black). My unhealthy gambling habits aside, I was impressed by what I saw in the casino. A live band played in a bar in the center of the complex and several clubs and restaurants surrounded the outskirts of the sea of slots and virtual table games (yes, even the table games are computerized. They get an awful lot of mileage out of the “V” in “VLT”).

My experience with casinos was limited to the Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant, so I am far from the authority on what makes a good casino. That said, Indiana Live blew the doors off the Soaring Eagle. If Michigan should ever be fortunate enough to get casino gaming and they set it up anything like Indiana Downs, there is little doubt I will spend the rest of my life in poverty.

But I’d sure have a lot of fun along the way.

Here are some pictures from my day at Indiana Downs. Keep in mind that it gets hard to take pictures without flash as it gets darker (security tends to frown on sudden bursts of light around high-strung animals), so the quality of the photos sinks with the sun. Have a look…

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