30 October 2005

Toto, we're not in West Virginia anymore: the Breeders' Cup

Wow! is the only word that can capture the frenzied day at the races yesterday. A couple of months at Mountaineer did not prepare us for the fast pace and thick throngs of a Breeders' Cup day. We left our hotel in NJ at 9am and didn't return till after midnight -- tired but happy. This despite the fact that we learned once again that there are so very many ways to lose.

Other things I learned yesterday:

I really should've brought the winter coat. And gloves. And hat. The wind when we got off the train at Belmont was biting. Fortunately, I picked up a souvenir BC scarf after the first race. Of course, that meant that I missed Scrappy T running in the Discovery, but I did get to watch it (kind of) while I stood in line to pay for the scarf. The souvenir booth was encased in plastic sheeting which made the picture on the big screen a tad blurry, but at least I could hear the calls.

Mom was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Especially on BC Day. I did get a chance to pick up a donut in the train station, but a couple of energy bars in my purse might have helped my betting strategies. Yes, food was available at the track, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend time in lines for food when I could be in line at the betting windows or in my wonderful seat gawking at the track, the post-parade, and the fellow attendees.

Everything is slower, except for the horses. There were extra trains running to Belmont, but of course, they were all full, so it took longer for them to empty. Then, the whole trainload had to get through the turnstiles. Then, they all stopped to buy programs. I had thought, for some insane reason, that we'd get off the train and walk right in. In reality, there was a crush of people at the gates, and by the time we got in, it was 11:45, and I didn't even have a Racing Form or program yet. I "handicapped" the first race while standing in line at the betting windows -- and missed the last page of past performances. Yes, the page that had winner Captain Squire on it.

This seemed to set a tone for the rest of the day.

I had planned on analyzing the post positions & jockeys in my leisure time at the track, but I know now that THERE IS NO LEISURE TIME AT THE BREEDERS' CUP. Fortunately, my husband and I had made our notes on the DRF advance guide. Unfortunately, we often screwed up when copying the post position numbers from the program to the advance guide. Consequently, my husband bet a trifecta with Host (1) instead of Leroidesanimaux (11) in the Mile, which we discovered while the horses were loading. (Of course, in the end, it didn't make much difference, since he didn't have Artie Schiller at all.)

And then there are the weird mistakes I made, like playing an exacta box in the Juvenile Fillies on the 1-5 and the 5-10, but not the 1-10. I just forgot it while playing the Daily Double and a little show bet on Sensation. So, Wild Fit (10) ran second to Folklore (1) and I'm standing there looking for my ticket -- the one I never actually bought. Ugh!

But reading saved the day! Because The Greatest Show on Turf featured a chapter on Andre Fabre and his BC success, I was high on Valixir in the Mile and Shirocco in the Turf. And because I read something good about Ace online, I picked him instead of Bago or Azamour for an exacta box with Shirocco. Yes! I hit a pseudo-quinella (aka exacta) that paid $296 and change. The sad news: I had four horses in that race circled in my notes. Yes, they ran 1,2,3,4. I really gotta learn to play the superfecta now and then.

Despite all of our mishaps, it was simply fabulous to be surrounded by so many people who were really, truly excited about the races. The people in attendance, as much as the horses on the course, made the day special. Though it was crowded, there was an underlying congeniality in the air. I talked with well-heeled dandies from Britain and a hard-nosed cop from Chicago and lots of big city folk from New York, and universally, they were as bright-eyed as kids at Christmas. And for me, a cheery meeting with fellow TBA bloggers Patrick, Jessica, Alan, and Brian was one of the high points -- as memorable in its way as my winning pick in the Turf.

All in all, it felt like a big frat party, with less beer, more horses, and a very big, very drafty frat house. Maybe, like many fraternities, horseracing's membership is dwindling, and its past seems more glorious than its future. But, as I learned yesterday, like all good fraternities, it can still throw a good party.


alan said...

>> Fortunately, I picked up a souvenir BC scarf after the first race.

Er, I guess I shouldn't tell you then about the fire sale they were running on all the BC merchandise on Sunday.....

Brian said...

Congrats on your Turf win. Glad you had a good time and it was nice meeting you.