Tag Archives: The Red Mile

Making the most of 2010: A look back on the year

The days leading up to New Year’s Eve offer a time for reflection on the year gone by.

For most, doing so may conjure up a roller coaster of memories, recollections, emotions and perhaps scars. Some will find they have made the most of the year, while others might discover that they have done very little with the last 365 days.

After doing some searching of my own, I have no problem staking my claim in the former group.

I often carry massive stacks of photo albums and other mementos in my vehicle because I always assume people do not believe me when I tell them the stories of my adventures. To save time and space, I have compiled some of the highlights of my 2010 into a handy bulleted list of links to posts of those stories.

Even after putting it into an itemized list, it boggles my mind that I experienced all of this in a lifetime, much less in one year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am a lucky son of a gun.

Let’s have a look at some of the things that have gone down since this time last year.

In the year 2010 I…

Said goodbye to the man who got me into this whole mess in the first place.
Watched the Michigan Gaming Control Board slash the state’s race dates.
Checked two tracks off my wish list.
Watched the Michigan Gaming Control Board slash the state’s race dates again.
Was told to get out of Michigan by Chris McCarron at Keeneland Race Course.
Followed a colt with Michigan ties through the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
Gave out 20-1 winner Exhi in my ThoroFan Handicapper’s Corner preview of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes.
Drove off the beaten path to chase the Fortune 6 wager at Beulah Park…And was promptly dumped out by the second leg.
Wrote some haikus for Claire Novak’s NTRA blog.
Lost a Kentucky Derby pin collecting contest against Dr. Sale Guru Emily.
Got pelted by a flying mint julep on Kentucky Oaks day.
Roamed the backstretch to gather quotes after the Kentucky Derby.
Went to Mount Pleasant Meadows a lot.
Hosted racetrack bucket-lister Tom Miscannon during his visit to Michigan.
Suited up in the box seats at Arlington Park.
Broke down a Pick 4 while waiting in line for a cage fight, then did a phone interview about my selections during an intermission for Claire Novak’s Youbet On-Track podcast.
Watched the next generation of Michigan-breds go through the sale ring.
Ate, bet and drove my way through Hoosier Park, Ellis Park, Riverside Downs, The Red Mile and River Downs, which earned the attention of Jennie Rees’ blog.
Severely underestimated the popularity of racing in Montana at Yellowstone Downs.
Played blackjack and the Quarter Horses at Prairie Meadows.
Live blogged the Indiana Derby on-site at Hoosier Park.
Partied with Bo Derek, Toby Keith. Encountered Kentucky’s governor. Visited champion mare Zenyatta in her stall.
Witnessed one of the greatest races in the history of the sport – The Breeders’ Cup Classic – Even if the outcome wasn’t what we had all hoped.
Got to pet Zenyatta, cover breaking news in the Churchill Downs press box.

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis…Stay thirsty, my friends.

Okay, perhaps that last statement is not entirely accurate, but it seemed like the right thing to say at the time.

Later today, my travels will take me to Turfway Park. Once there, I will have been to every still-active track I have ever visited within the 2010 calendar year…If that makes any sense. Turfway was the last track I visited in 2009 as well, so it is fitting to bring everything full circle.

This year has been, without a doubt, the most memorable ride of my life. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who shared in my adventures over the last 12 months at the races, in the press box, in meetings, at parties, on the road, on this site and all points in between. You are the ones who make all these stories worth telling, be it as a reader or an active participant.

Now let’s try to carry some of this good mojo into 2011, shall we?

1 Comment

Filed under Commentary, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Story Time, Triple Crown

Eat. Bet. Drive.

The best damn burger in racing can be found at Ellis Park. The burger alone makes the eight hour drive totally worth it. Every time before I eat one, I photograph it just so I can remember the experience. It's that good.

My evening at Hoosier Park was just the first leg of my swing through the Midwest.

Over the five days of my road trip, I visited four tracks in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Because each stop after Hoosier Park was a repeat visit, this post will lump together the remainder of my voyage with a series of photos.

Picking up where we left off last time, I hopped in my Trailblazer and headed south for Ellis Park. After spending about four and a half hours driving the roughly 280 miles from my home base to Anderson, Ind. the previous day, I traversed another 270-odd miles over another four and a half hours to get to Henderson, Ky.

Over the journey, I re-introduced myself to the soundtrack from the film Crazy Heart. Aside from being an outstanding arrangement of songs, driving around the countryside and hitting a different town every night can make a person feel like Bad Blake pretty quickly. You know, minus all the whiskey. Like any good road playlist, it just seemed to fit the situation.

When I start comparing myself to imaginary washed-up country singers, it’s time to get on with the story.

Behind the jump are photos and tales from the rest of my journey after leaving Hoosier Park.

Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Pictures, Racetrack Visits, Story Time

Photo of the year

The votes have been tallied and after a brief time as a neck and neck race, two thirds of the voting public helped daytime racing pull ahead as the preferred time to hit the racetrack. Let’s take a look at the results…

When is your preferred time for live racing?

Day Racing – Eleven Votes (61%)
Night Racing – Seven Votes (39%) 

I have already written at length about the pros and cons of both, so I will not waste your time with a rehashing of my thoughts. However, if you do have time to waste, there are worse ways to do it than reading this.

Now on to the next poll topic…

As some of you may already know, there has been a bit of a controversy over the choice for this year’s Eclipse award-winning photo. As you can see here, the winning photo is basically a stock, if a little off-center and misspelled, photo of jockey Frankie Dettori making his famous flying dismount following his win aboard Donativum (GB) in the Breeders’ Cup “Junenile” Fillies.

I am not discounting it as a nice photo that captures a moment of jubilance after a major race, but my rule of thumb when deciding the quality of a professional photo is if I can conceivably take the same quality picture on my cheap little point and shoot camera, it’s not that good – at least not Eclipse-quality.

In response to this error in judgement, the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance has staged its own Eclipse Award do-over

I find this contest very interesting. However, I also realize that despite having been a lot of places and taken a lot of pictures, nothing I took in 2008 could crack the top ten against what is already entered.

 That’s why I am holding my own personal Photo of the Year poll showcasing some of my favorite pictures from my travels last year (holy ego stroking, Batman!). The winner will be chosen by you, the viewing public.

Each photo comes with a quasi-pretentious title for identification purposes and a short description to give the back story. Feel free to give your feedback on the pictures outside of simply voting.

Last year gave me the opportunity to take pictures at so many different locations. I hope you enjoy my photos as much as I enjoyed being there to shoot them.

And now your nominees…

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pictures, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls

Turn on the bright lights

  A field of trotters gets ready to go at The Red Mile.

A field of trotters gets ready to go at The Red Mile.

 On my second to last day in Lexington this summer, I decided to try something different and went to The Red Mile, the city’s harness track.

I have never considered myself a fan of harness racing. The whole concept of discouraging a horse from running at its fullest potential just to conform to a specific running style seems as foreign to me as race walking. 

This particular evening did little to change my opinion on this version of the sport. I didn’t cash a single ticket and had a general uncertainty about what was going on most of the time. 

My time at The Red Mile did, however, rekindle one aspect of the game that I found myself sorely missing – night racing under the lights.

Having spent my adolescence playing the races at Great Lakes Downs, I grew up with night racing. It made sense – run the races when people were out of work and other daytime commitments so they could blow off some steam after a hard day’s work or have a weekend night out. Plus, they made it possible for me to make the hour and a half drive from Mount Pleasant after classes for a weekday card.

Racehorses look different under the lights. They blur. The gray ones glow. It’s the same game, but there is some irresistible quality about night races that has always made me a fan.

However, I found out as I expanded  my horizons to other racetracks that night racing was far from the norm. In fact, it seemed as though the time slot was reserved for the lowest rung of the Thoroughbred food chain and…shudder…harness racing. Even night-based tracks like Mountaineer move up to the afternoon time slot for their major race days.

My night racing experiences ended with last year’s closing of GLD, which meant I had to get used to afternoon racing in the daytime.

I will admit, it has its perks. There is simply nothing that can top the proverbial “beautiful day for racing.” Plus, the weather is generally warmer in the fall months and it is much easier to take pictures when the sun is out. The early start times also mean a higher likelihood of me getting home on the same day I left.

Some have suggested that Pinnacle Race Course would benefit from a switch to evening post times where there is less competition for the wagering dollar. Because there are not currently lights on the racetrack, the main obstacle is getting them built, which would be another hit to Pinnacle’s already tight budget.

To race at night, the Michigan horsemen would also have to find a way to remove the “6:45 Rule” from the state’s Horse Racing Law of 1995.

For those of you who hate reading through legislative mumbo jumbo, the rule states that if a Thoroughbred track is in the same town as a standardbred track (Pinnacle is within a stone’s throw of two), the Thoroughbred facility can not conduct live racing after 6:45 p.m. and the sulkies can not run until after that time.

Pinnacle ran smack dab into the 6:45 rule on its opening day when gate troubles caused major delays. The races were finished slightly past that time with a lot of hustling (post parades were nonexistent after about the fifth race) and the blessing of the racing commissioner, but it was one of those instances where the obscure rule that no one remembers came into play. It appears Aqueduct recently found itself in a similar situation as well.

With all of the talk about too many tracks fighting over the same blocks of time and saturating the market, one has to wonder if more tracks will consider switching to later post times to spread things out and perhaps capitalize on a softer market.

With that, I present you with the next poll question:

When do you like your live racing:  In the afternoon sun or under the lights at night?

As with all my polls, be sure to vote for your choice in the upper-right corner of the page. Also, feel free to share your opinions and experiences with day and/or night racing in the comments.

By the way, a special thanks goes out to whoever wrote “Free lifetime pass for Joe Nevills” in the “Other” category after I broke down the previous poll. Even though Pinnacle did not charge admission last year, giving me free admission should they decide to start charging would be an immediate improvement. Whoever you are, I like the cut of your jib.

Leave a comment

Filed under Great Lakes Downs, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls