When the lights come on at the bar, you know that you have stayed just a little too long. But when the last race is served up at your favorite track it makes you wish for just a few more glorious days doing what we love.
I might be the “bad-luck” mojo and didn’t even know it. I was looking at the pictures of River Downs being torn down and it seemed like a bad dream. The many days I spent in the summer sun is all but gone. At least for now… They are getting rid of the old and making way for the new. They are taking away the little pearl of Thoroughbred action and replacing it with a $200 million dollar racino. I wish them all the luck in the world, but just looking at the pictures of rubble brought a lump to my throat.
There was a great article written by Bill Shanklin about about Louisville Downs and Miles Park. I never made it to Miles Park, but the little track gave my grandpa a few long trips home. Louisville Downs is another story. It was a half-mile harness oval that completed the circuit with Latonia and The Red Mile. I made it down with my dad a few times, and we had a blast. We were attending a state championship basketball tournament for my brother. He stayed in the room with mom to get rest, and we headed out to enjoy the action. The late-great Kevin Goemmer called the races, and I think we even won some money. After closing the doors in 1991, it became a simulcast facility called Trackside. I made my way back in 2004, and won my first handicapping contest. First prize was a whopping $10,000, and a trip to the NTRA finals in Vegas. Great memories…
I made my way to Chicago on a business trip, and as always I looked around to see if there was any racing taking place. Cicero, Illinois was home to Sportsman’s Park. It started as a dog track by Al Capone who used to fix races by feeding greasy hamburgers to every greyhound except the ones he bet. It eventually became a 7/8 th’s oval that conducted harness, Thoroughbred, and car racing. I saw a 7-horse harness pile up where everyone got up and walked away safely. It was the scariest place in the world. Just walking into the track was a venture, as all of the parking lights were knocked out. On my way out, I grabbed a plastic ashtray that had the Sportsman’s Park logo in the bottom. It still sits on my bar of racing memorabilia.
They closed the doors but they can’t take away my memories. Even though I have worked at three tracks, I still love the idea of going to the races. It still gets my blood pumping, and I am glad to have seen some neat little ovals in my travels. So if you are in the mood for some action that can’t be matched make your way out to the track.