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Monday, June 15, 2009

Rediscover Why You Love Harness Racing

Remember the first day you went to the racetrack? The sights, sounds, smells (when the wind blew the right or wrong way depending on your perspective) and even the colorful characters which attracted you to racing? The times you spent with your father or parents at the track? How long ago was it?

For a lot of us, it has probably been too long.

Whether due to changes in financial situations, personal or work obligations, or just convenience, many of us have gotten to the point of watching the races either from a television monitor or computer screen. Does racing have the same thrill for you as it did back then? Probably not.

Let's head back to the track and experience racing in person and regain our personal connection to racing; all the things which attracted us to racing in the first place. Bring someone along and share the joys you experienced when you started going to the races.

In a similar vein, Churchill Downs has begun an effort to get their online gamblers back to the track. While their goal is to get money bet on track as they earn more on a dollar wagered at the track than over the internet, it also helps get people rediscover the joy of racing. Let's face it, racing becomes impersonal, almost mechanical when you are constantly watching the races on a computer screen; after awhile it becomes just another device to gamble. Hopefully some of our harness tracks that have their own account wagering will try a similar effort.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy the 4th of July weekend of racing in Goshen, NY. The sounds of people cheering in the grandstand; the smell of horses; hearing the wheels swishing over the ground; the sound of hoof beats hitting the racetrack; the whinny of horses in the stalls; the smell of the food. All this helps reconnect me to joys of racing as well as part of my youth.

At Yonkers, I find the same seats I used to occupy with my late father and close my eyes; I feel the spirit of my father's presence; his explaining the difference between a trotter and pacer; the time he told me you can't bet the 8-8 daily double on a half mile track because it never comes only to have it come in that night. The time I told a bunch of people in the clubhouse that Le Baron Rouge from the 8 hole was going to beat Big Towner and they were looking at me like I was nuts (they finished in a dead heat; and as a result Le Baron Rouge at 45-1 paid only $2.40). Heading to Yonkers anytime Fly Fly Solly dropped into A-3 company.

Other memories go through my head. Though long gone, remembering the time I went 9 for 9 at Roosevelt which included Lynn Forbes (the pacer) paying $32.00 to win (the last time I ever won at Roosevelt); the pageantry of The Roosevelt International. The time at Freehold I told my father not to play Saratoga Ideal because he had a long layoff and he won (at a price I can't remember other than it was huge). The time I made a big killing playing Ronstadt at Monticello the week after she finished 2nd to Seven O'Clock at Liberty Bell Park in the PASS screaming my lungs out. Following the trials and tribulations of Corky Collins. Taking my then three year old niece to Garden State Park hearing her call out the saddle cloth numbers during the NJ State Fair races and having her screaming and crying when I told her it was time to go to some of the rides. Celebrating my birthday with Fourth of July doubleheaders at Brandywine Raceway. Driving across Kentucky after seeing the last race at The Red Mile to catch the early daily double at Louisville Downs (no small feat).

You don't get these memories betting on horses over the Internet or watching a race on a television.

Yes, your local track may not be as nice as you remember it but let's head back to the track. For one day let's forget the problems racing may have and close your eyes and remember the good times. Bring your children or grandchildren along and share your memories and make some new memories with them.

Come home to the track and fall in love all over again.

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