Everyday there is an opener, and a final race on the card. It is what happens in between that makes the day good or bad. In the world of racing, it mirrors life. You are born in the opener, and the final race will happen for each of us. It is what you do in between that makes all of the difference in the world.
Over the years, I have seen a little of everything at the track. Some good, some bad, and things that make you scratch your head. Here is a little glimpse of some events I have been privileged to see along the way.
I was working at River Downs, and my friend Robert Forbeck brought his infant son to the races for the first time. It was Father’s Day, and what better time to show off your brand new edition to the world. Young Quinton came bundled in a stroller and he was accompanied by Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa. It was a neat site seeing my pal as a proud papa. The best part of the day was when there was a picture taken of the three generations of Forbeck men. Bob, Robert, and Quinton all celebrating Father’s Day in racing fashion. May you all enjoy many fresh starts, and a lifetime of fantastic finishes!
My first dates revolved around a main theme for me. We always went to the races if at all possible. Oh, there were some that didn’t make the double with me, but for the most part I wanted to bring a date to an exciting atmosphere. We could enjoy a bite to eat, and talking is always a big part of the race track experience. One time, I had a made a date with a gal about three rungs above my class level. If there were morning line odds set on me, I surely didn’t want to know… She was into ballet, classical music and reading. All of which I could enjoy, but she just didn’t seem to be my fit. I didn’t know where to go as her last gentleman took her to fine establishments and first run theatre events. So, I picked up this beautiful young lady, and met her Mother. I guess I passed the “acid test” and off we went. She was dressed very nice, and we made a nice looking couple for the evening. Now, as her usual dates were based around the finery of the town, I decided to take her somewhere she would never have gone. We drove up to Lebanon Raceway, and took in a night of harness racing. She was a little nervous at first. But, this wine drinking gal sure enjoyed a cold Budweiser draft, and a world-class roast beef sandwich. We had some luck, and won some money that night. When the final race was over, she looked at me and asked, “Is that it? Is it all over for the night?” I told her it was over, and we had bet the last race. She leaned over and gave me a big kiss and said, “this will not be the last time we go to the races.” Chalk one up for the sulkies and one of the best dates I have ever had.
When I was the Race-book Manager at Turfway Park I could do some interesting things for our guests. We had a security chief that was one of the greatest guys known to man. He never complained, and wouldn’t have asked for anything. Charlie loved his Dad and they were bringing the entire family to the races. He asked me if I could get him seating for 20, and I told him “no problem.” He shook my hand and was really grateful for the gesture from one friend to another. I told him to come early, as I wanted to meet his family. Buck walked into the track with his signature Stetson and strolled in like a sprite 80-year-old man. I had roped off his area, placed a program on each seat, and had a race named in his honor. Long after he was gone his son still talked about how much he had enjoyed his birthday. It was my pleasure, Buck…
Over the years I have had some visitors in the morning come in and ask if they could get a racing form. A Turfway hat or a River Downs mug. It was always early, and they were always dressed nice. I knew it was for a loved one who enjoyed the races, and they weren’t going to be coming around this way anymore. So, I might as well fess-up to my old boss now… I was the one who took that horseshoe off your picture. It was just another thing in your cluttered room, but it was something that meant the world for a friend. For the many mornings I watched Father Niehaus conduct a special mass, or the countless times ashes were scattered in the winner’s circle. The circle of life had been completed, and they were finally at a place they loved. There is a peace that comes over you when you see that last race run. It is a “call to the post” to savor each and every moment, and to spend our time doing what we love.