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Total Miles: 10,816.0
Days on the Road: 175
The Sport Of Kings and Beer
We're jumping right on the Seabiscuit bandwagon, along with the rest of America, to see where this crazy ride will take us. Horse racing has been vaulted into the public's consciousness and far be it from us to resist. The book was excellent, we haven't seen the movie yet (Liz must finish the book first), and we're caught in the grip of racetrack fever.
We were anyway, the day we went to the track. The fever faded along with our Lite Beer Buzz, but we still had a good time, we think.
Growing up in Baltimore, about 3 blocks from Pimlico Racetrack, one would think that I would have been to a horse race or two. This is, after all, the track that hosted the famed Seabiscuit - War Admiral showdown -- widely thought to be the greatest horse race in history -- and the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown. One would be wrong, though (about my having been). Well, mostly wrong.
One year, let's say 1997, I went to the Preakness. This is the one day each May when quiet, upscale Mt. Washington becomes the Indy 500. Carefully groomed lawns suddenly have 6 or 7 cars parked right on the grass, at $30 a pop. Shirtless, mulletted men roam the tree-lined streets with sweating cans of Natty Boh in their hands, dragging coolers filled with more of the same, where just the day before it was baby strollers and polo shirts as far as the eye could see.
The shirtless masses (this often includes women) pile through the tunnel to the infield, which by early morning positively teems with flesh. Drunken flesh. Drunken flesh, lots of kids, and beer soaked Kentucky Bluegrass. At some point in the early afternoon, there's a horse race of some kind. The year I was there, I only vaguely remember seeing some little colorful domed helmets bobbing up and down above the mass of people. In about one minute, it was over, and we went on drinking.
After reading Seabiscuit I had a new interest in the sport, so we headed out to Arapahoe Park on the plains east of Denver to "see the ponies". If you're betting and actually watching the races, it becomes quite complicated, as opposed to just sitting on your cooler drinking beer. The race forms are an indecipherable mess of numbers and abbreviations, which you're expected to use to make an informed bet in the roughly 18 minutes between each race. Some parts of the grandstand resemble a library more than a racetrack, as people lay out stacks of papers on their tables and study the charts and statistics. As for me, I'd look at the listings for a little while, trying to come up with a decent idea, and then eventually just walk to the counter and say, "3rd race, 2 dollars 3-4-7 Trifecta, and box it" with an entirely invented air of confidence, and hand over some cash.
Twice, I got some money back. More often, I didn't.
Still, it was quite a thrill to watch them horsies run, and boy do they run. Fast. It's just like the dog races, except the dogs are horses (picture a really big dog), and they don't slaughter them every week. And after all, it's not really about winning, right? An afternoon's entertainment is worth some money, and at least there's some chance you'll get some back, unlike most entertainment spending. I saw no one offering to give me money back after Charlie's Angels 2, and that was terrible.
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.