What’s Your Favorite ?

I was having a couple of beers with a good friend. – It was his birthday, but I didn’t find out until our fifth beer. I know, I know. Sometimes a few can be more than one, and less than 100. He wanted to stay and bet a few simulcast tracks, and he sure didn’t have to twist my arm as I had no place to be. So two guys sat in the race book armed with programs, beer, and a little money. I guess there could’ve been a worse way to spend a birthday.

I had a winner at Del Mar, and bought us a round. Then I had a winner at Arlington, and I bought us a round. I nailed a sweet $80 exacta, and bought us another round. – ” Hey man, are you not trying to pick winners so I’ll buy ?” – We laughed and talked about the tracks we’ve worked. The good people we both knew, and what made each track special. – There was a great deal of talk about each oval, and everything from the stables to the cost  of coffee. – After he hit a nice trifecta for $300 and bought us a beer and a shot, we started putting things together.  Here are the results of ten beers and a birthday spent with a friend.

1. – Keeneland = Is there anything better ? If you die and go to heaven, I’m sure the track will look exactly like Keeneland. Once upon a time there was no announcer, but with the sweet tones of Kurt Becker. Who could ask for more ? – The food is one-of-a-kind food that is what the bluegrass is all about. The betting menu has gone from one daily double and no exactas to everything and anything. Keeneland used to be for the upper-crust only. Now you’ll see everything from the Lexington Blue-Bloods, University of Kentucky students dressed to the nines, and the everyday horse player. They run 15 days in October and April, and you couldn’t have any better days for the year. The track has a little something for everyone. The turf course is excellent, and this year they are having the Breeders’ Cup. One thing you can always bet on is that Keeneland will be a first class show. We both agreed this is our favorite track to play. One has worked at four tracks including Keeneland, and the other has worked for the Daily Racing Form and Equibase at most tracks in the nation.


2. – River Downs = Originally called “Coney Island,” and was once owned and operated by Tamany Hall from New York City. – This little gem had a incredible 7/8th’s of a mile turf course, and was known to be one of the best hidden gems in the country. Laffit Pincay flew in and won the Budweiser Breeders’ Cup race and said, “it was one of the best he had ever ridden on in my life.” Wesley Ward brought in a runner and made arrangements with John Engelhardt to work one of his runners over the greensward. He went on to Royal Ascot and became the first American to saddle a winner at the historic oval. The crowd was a typical blue-collar group, and the fields were jammed full of condition claiming runners. Many trainers and riders you may have heard of made their way through River Downs. Steve Cauthen rode his first winner aboard Red Pipe. Perry Ouzts is the 11th all-time leading rider in Thoroughbred history and continues to ply his trade today. Julien Leparoux and Rafael Bejarano also hung their tack in the jocks room, and a host of others too long to name. It was torn down and replaced by the new Belterra Park.


3. – Kentucky Downs = An undulating one-of-a-kind turf course in southern Kentucky smack dab on the Kentucky / Tennessee border. European in nature, and the main clubhouse has the look and feel of a southern mansion. The track offers up the best in simulcast action, and they play more bingo seven days a week than a group of retirees could handle. They now offer Instant Racing, and the purses are sky-high. Some of the best on the turf make their way at the end of September for the very short meet. You won’t go wrong with the home cooked chow, and the beer is always cold ( if you bring your own) as it is a dry county. – With all things on the table, make Ky D one of your new bucket list tracks. I worked there for close to a year, and the people are as sweet as the tea they serve all day. Just a reminder, when they straighten away for home, there is 3/8th’s of a mile to the finish line so don’t get to excited if your watching on TV or computer. That part can be a little deceiving as it goes on forever.


As we wrapped up our evening he received a call from his granddaughter. He was going home to have ice cream and cake, and his smile lit up the room. I enjoyed the evening talking about what we love made three hours seem like a few minutes. – The betting turned out a few bucks to the good, and the track talk was one you would have loved to hear. I love a good “man’s night at the track.” For a horse player it is a needed duty as it reminds us from where we once came. – Can’t wait until the next night out. If you see us, just pull up a chair and join in the conversation. No invitations, and no dress code. But you may have to buy a beer or two if you pick a winner.