For its Annual Meeting, GCSAE (the Greater Cleveland Society of Association Executives) usually tries to find a venue that won’t be seen as routine. For this year’s Annual Meeting on Friday, we chose Thistledown Racetrack.
For nearly 39 years, we’ve lived ten minutes south of Thistledown and ten minutes north of Northfield Park, and yet we’ve never gone to the races at either park. (I’ve attended meetings at Thistledown before, but they weren’t held while racing was going on.) This was my opportunity to live large at the track.
First we held the meeting itself. We had an excellent presentation by Deb Janik of the Greater Cleveland Partnership on the exciting developments that are going on in Cleveland just now, and we also had the opportunity to meet Wales-born jockey Lyndon Hannigan, who was scheduled to ride “Ohio Volunteer” in the eighth race. We enjoyed talking with Lyndon, and his limp as he walked in and out of the meeting reminded us that his sport is pretty dangerous: he’s broken legs six times. (A few hours later, he and “Ohio Volunteer” came in second.)
I studied the racing bulletin provided by Thistledown and discovered that Race #2 was a 5-1/2-furlong race. I cleverly concluded that my best guide to which horse to bet on was their previous performance in 5-1/2-furlong races, and selected “Not For Dice” and “Fatladyhzntsungyet,” both of which had done well recently in races of that length. Then I went to the one of the many betting windows, which had signs asking the patrons to identify the race, the horse, and the bet. I had heard the terms “win,” “place,” and “show,” so I confidently placed $2 bets on both horses to “win, place, and show.” When the teller rang me up for $12, I realized that each of those was a separate bet–lesson learned!
By the way, the Thistledown personnel were unfailingly pleasant and polite. The tellers were happy to explain how things worked, and patient with me while I worked out my questions.
After placing our bets, I joined some colleagues headed down to the track to watch the race up close. Like many of us my colleagues, I was wearing the spring-summer business casual uniform of blue blazer and khaki slacks. They stuck out among the racing crowd, but with my sunglasses and panama hat, I figure I blended right in.
Once at trackside, I discovered that they have snack bars! with beer! And pretty reasonable beer, too, at $2 for a 16-oz. MGD. So we settled in to watch Race #2. I decided to move right up to the rail so that I could see the horses up close. I was surprised at how much space was available at the rail, and pretty soon I understood why: you have a great closeup view of the action, but only for about 1/1000 of a second–and no view at all of the rest of the action.
The race was over so quickly that I had no idea what had happened until the announcer reviewed the results and they showed up on the scoreboard. That’s when I realized that “Not For Dice” had come in fourth and and “Fatladyhzntsungyet” had finished sixth.
Emboldened by my turf experience, I bet in Race #3 as well. This was a 6-furlong race, so once again I looked at the horses’ records and identified a couple that looked promising. I bet on “Musical Mischief” to win and on “A Slick Chic” to show. “A Slick Chic” showed (came in third), but “Music Mischief” came in fourth.
After the results were declared official, I redeemed my $2 “show” ticket for the princely sum of $2.20. So after $16 in bets, I got back $2.20 in recognition of my turf acumen. Not bad, I think: I could have lost that money faster and far more irresponsibly: for example, by playing video games at an arcade.
Next I’ll work on that “trifecta” stuff. My panama hat is ready for action.