Thursday, August 03, 2006

This guy says the horse can do

Yesterday, my daughter KM and I spent the afternoon at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, watching the horse races.

You have to understand this about KM: She loves horses. (Even more than she loves Orlando Bloom, which is saying something.) Since taking on her first part-time summer job helping out at the pony ride concession in a local park a few years ago, KM has developed into quite the equestrian. As I type this, she's at a nearby boarding stable exercising and grooming a couple of horses for the resident trainer. Her bedroom wall is festooned with ribbons she has won in various competitive riding events.

Therefore, when I tell you that I spent the afternoon with my 17-year-old at the race track, don't look at me like I'm a nutcase. It's all about the equine.

The Sonoma County Fair hosts one of the most popular racing meets on the California fair circuit, so we had ample company as we wandered between the paddock and the finish line. In recent seasons, the track facilities have undergone a serious makeover, with giant TV screens everywhere and a new turf track between the dirt and the infield to attract the bettors.

Race tracks are like baseball games — every time you visit one, you see something you've never witnessed before. Among the sights yesterday:
  • One excitable animal bucked off her jockey — turning a complete aerial somersault in the process — in the paddock while waiting for her run to begin. I had no idea thoroughbreds had that kind of hops.

  • The gray horses had a good day yesterday. Warning: This is not actual handicapping advice.

  • Stacy London and Clinton Kelly could generate an entire season's worth of What Not to Wear in a single day at the track.

  • One little boy peering into the paddock fence wanted to ride one of the horses. His mother told him he couldn't. Then again, he wasn't much smaller than many of the jockeys. So maybe he could have.

  • At a concession stand, I purchased a bag of freshly made potato chips flavored with sea salt. Those chips were a better bet than any of the horses.

  • Mule races, which usually open the day's events, are hilarious to watch, but the animals are so erratic and unpredictable that only a fool or an addicted gambler would wager on them. One rider lost his mount in the first race when another mule veered crazily into his, tossing the jockey tail-over-teacup onto the dirt.

  • Most of the people giving one another (often unsolicited) betting advice have absolutely no clue what they're talking about.

  • The day's seventh race was sponsored by a local program for the developmentally disabled. Cool, I thought: Handicapping for the handicapped.

  • Taking wagers at the parimutuel windows must be one of the dullest jobs in sports. The ennui of the people doing the work reflects this likelihood.

  • I found myself wondering whether the other riders would tease you in the dressing room if you preferred Fruit of the Looms or BVDs to Jockeys.

  • A horse is only a horse, but a good cigar smells worse than one.

  • A $5 exacta paid off big-time for me in the tenth and final race of the day. Life is sweet.

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2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

I have never been to a horse race, but a couple of times a year we'll go to the dog track. It's a great place to people watch!

10:03 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

I've only seen dog races on TV and in the movies, Mr. Fab, but I'm guessing that they probably attract a similar admixture of unwashed humanity to what the horse races pull in.

And you're right -- the setting makes for prime observation of homo sapiens, in all its infinite variety.

10:32 AM  

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