Small Tracks; Big Excitement

by Ed Meyer

posted on September 25, 2022 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | Comments Off on Small Tracks; Big Excitement

The wafting smell of fresh popcorn as you walk through the gates. As you make your way to the program stand and purchase your book for the day, tip sheet hawkers yell out their sales pitch of winner’s from yesterday, and the ones that await today. – You have made your way into the massive confines of the racetrack. Some are monsters that once held the larger crowds of yester-year, and the new, more streamlined tracks are a bit smaller but offer up just as much excitement. In my opinion, smaller tracks are like the long-ago slogan for Avis Rental; “We try harder.”

Smaller tracks offer up a close-up view of the paddock where the horses are saddled. You can almost reach out and touch them as they take the track. – Before the races I saw a security guard tossing football with his grandsons in the winner’s circle. Not a sight at Keeneland, Belmont, or Churchill Downs prior to the races. – The smaller ovals offer a bevy of family fun and make it a complete day of entertainment.

There are pony rides in the paddock for the kiddies, as they wear the silks of a jockey with safety helmets walking in circles led by a lucky intern. – Father’s Day was a free track cap with the purchase of a program, and Mother’s Day was track logo T-shirts with a red rose for everyone. – Beer mugs with the past winner’s names printed the year they won the marquee race on Labor Day, and family fun day with games for the kiddies and entertainment all day long. – Free tickets to be drawn for a big concert right next store, and a host of constant fun on a daily basis. – I learned more from River Downs than any other track I’ve worked put together. – Treat people to a day they will remember, and we’ll make fans, friends, and players to last a lifetime.

I think it’s a tough time to compete for the discretionary dollar. A million casino and racinos, lottery, and even bingo halls with loaded with scratch-offs with a bevy of games cut into the profit. Add-in 700 channels on TV that offer up movies, sports and bring the races right to you without leaving the comfort of your home. – If we’re going to survive and plan for the future, we have to distinguish ourselves from the others.

The other day a high-ranking casino manager came up to see me and was asking questions. Most were great fodder for discussion while others came from a handbook he must have read. Then came the $10 question; “Why is racing such a special thing? I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal?” – The answer was easy. We are an entertainment destination. “What do we have that the others don’t?” – He shook his head and looked lost. – Racing; We offer something the others don’t and won’t have. – He still looked lost probably trying to figure out the profit margin which sways highly to the rapid-fire slot machines. But it’s still something completely different they’ll never have. That what makes us special.

Smaller tracks are a gem. The oyster hidden in the smaller grandstand with incredible views and the best soft serve ice cream around. – If you’re looking forward to your once-a-year trip to Keeneland, Belmont or Churchill. Make a couple of trips to your local track. It may be smaller, and you won’t see a Derby winner. Wait. The rider who won this year’s Derby and the trainer have horses on a daily basis at our place. But I digress.

Take the time and make the trip. You’ll probably see some of the old faces from long ago and go ahead and introduce someone new to the game. Best action in town by a mile. How many times have you seen a hundred people cheering for a slot machine? Never. – Go ahead, make the trip, you’ll enjoy yourself if you’re not careful. Who knows, maybe you’ll see the 6th all-time leading rider in the world, or the rider who won the Kentucky Derby this year, or a new jockey plying their trade climbing the ladder to bigger and better things. – Sometimes the hidden gems are right around the corner. The popcorn is still hot and fresh, and the action is second to none. Hope to see you at the races!