The track has always been a place where I’ve gone. It was there when I was lucky enough to tag along with my dad. It was there when I had sad times in my life, for it always took my mind away. The track has always been there, and no matter how it has transformed. I feel that lift in my soul when I walk through the doors.
Holidays are times when we get together. We remember, we cherish, we laugh, and sometimes we cry. But we are surrounded by the whirl of humanity. Going to the races started off as a family event, and through the years it drifted to memories as our family grew smaller. It didn’t have the same feel, and only the memories survive. There isn’t a holiday I can’t remember being with family at the track. The only exceptions were Christmas and Easter, and we were together as well.
As I grew older, I started going to the races on my own. I would drive that old Chevy to the track and wait until they stopped charging for parking. Then I would pull in and look for any spot available. Upon my arrival, I would reach into the nearest trash can and sift for a program or a Daily Racing Form. You learn to be careful as you “dumpster dive,” and always be sure to check the date. I was on my own and felt like a man. I was there on my own, and would walk down to the paddock to watch the horses saddle. I was becoming a man on my own, and the track was a right of passage.
When I started dating, I took my first dates to the races. I would pull up and we’d start talking about the evening. Then I would have that “do you wanna do something cool” look on my face. She would always be intrigued, and we would make our way to the races. I wanted to go all along, and the majority of my dates fell in love with the ponies. My first date loved the races, and the present gal in my life I met at the races. My grandparents met at the races, and they married on Derby Day on the way to Churchill Downs. I guess you can say the love of the races courses through our veins.
I’ve had the pleasure of working in racing, public handicapping, writing and blogging about the sport of kings. The joy has been one that cannot be measured but only enjoyed with ones you care about. The day is about remembering those who served, and for the many who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The track has always honored the day, and the many brave warriors who would gather for the day. They would stand together, and have more in common than differences when they played the National Anthem. Racetracks once upon a time ago were the facilities that held war rallies, and public speeches. People from all walks would gather on the grounds and celebrate together. The place was hallowed ground.
On this Memorial Day, I will be working at the races once again. I will get up and slide on my shirt and tie, and look my best for the day. When I drive to the track I will get lost in the millions of memories, photo finishes, and friendships made. As I walk from the car and my hand touches the doors, I will remember the many that came before.