Make a Racing Bucket List

We’ve all seen the movie, or at least used the term a thousand times. – ” I want to see this track before they make it a shopping mall.” – Good idea as there are more tracks that have fallen by the wayside and they’ll only be visited in pictures. – Maybe you’ve been wanting to make the trek to the little out-of-the-way oval that has a country fair atmosphere, or maybe its a marquee oval that has a Triple Crown event. Either way, they are all worth the trip. – I have a few that are near and dear to my heart. Some are gone, others are still racing, and some are on my list.


Keeneland = When God created the Thoroughbred, he had Keeneland in mind. It is the most beautiful place on the planet. When you first walk in, history is at every turn. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the hoof beats of some of the best that ever raced. – The stone buildings, the well-manicured greenery, the bugler decked out in an outfit fitting the profession. It is just perfection. – Whether you catch a Wednesday card of runners, or a chock-full weekend of graded stakes. It is just perfection. As the tagline reads; “Racing as it was meant to be.”


Beulah Park = Now defunct, the little gem that was in Grove City, Ohio was a step back in time. You could see the original building and the later additions melding together to be the stage for cheaper Thoroughbreds. – I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see the little track, and a few times I had horses run there. Maybe it was the blue-collar feel, or the cafeteria style restaurant that offered up real homemade grub outside of the traditional track fare. I had the joyful opportunity to see it as Beulah, Darby Downs, and back to Beulah. The track was sold and remade, and once again sold. – The “Little Saratoga” of the Midwest was a fun trip. – They were the first track in Ohio to offer wagering on the Kentucky Derby in 1983, and the final day of live racing action was held on May 3, 2014. – The little track which served as a place to make special trips and “boys day” outings had vanished into the pages of history.


Arlington Park = This track was a beacon light for the future. But in recent years the stock and marquee races don’t hold the swagger they once did. – Overall, there was not a blemish to be found when I made my first trip. The artwork and statues alone could take you on an hour walk so get there early. – My first visit was something special. Pat Day and Shane Sellers battled tooth and nail for leading rider honors that year, and as we drove into Arlington Heights. I told my wagering pals I was going to bet Pat Day every race. – There were nine races carded that afternoon, and Pat won seven and Shane Sellers won two. I think it was one of the first times in my life I ran the card with all winners and exactas. – It is home of The Arlington Million, and some of the best on the grass have made the trek from all around the world.


Sportsman’s Park = In Cicero, Illinois there was a little track that looked to be made for the working man. – Built by Al Capone as a dog track, the little 7/8 th’s oval had more stories than Mickey Spillane novels. It was the seedy side of gambling early on, and no matter how much time passed. You could hear the echoes of past gamblers complaining about bad beats. – I was there for Harness racing, and witnessed the worst accident I have ever watched in racing. With nine horses in the race, eight went down in pile up and one was trying to finish as his wheel fell off about 1/4 mile to the wire. He was 18-1, and I had $5 to win on that unlucky pacer. – The best part of the story, every driver and horse got up unscathed. – I had to make the trip, and the best part was that you could hit a rubber ball over the track and hit the backside of Hawthorne Race Course. – They ruled off Mr. Capone for allegedly fixing races, and he showed them by building a track right next to them. – The track was demolished in 2003 for a shopping center, and the only item I have from the little track was an ashtray that held my cigar. It has the name and logo imprinted on the bottom with a race horse smoking a cigar. – Think of it as a greasy spoon diner you had to try once.


I once flew over Hollywood Park on my way to LAX, and always thought there would be time to see the track of “Lakes and Flowers.” – There is never enough time, and I say make your list now. Some are worth the trip, and others make for good conversation. – I’m glad I’ve made the trips, and there are quite a few left on my list; Saratoga, Del Mar, Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Belmont. – I’ll get there, and in the bucket above are the names of a few more tracks I’d like to visit.