"Actually the Clubhouse at PID is a great place to watch the races. If you don't mind being inside and if they actually haven't reserved all the tables for the "elite". Which they have done for all the big dates at Presque Isle."Ah, Gentle Reader, I could not resist posting this quote because it's the only evidence on the planet that ... for once in my life, I was smack dab in the middle of the elite. Yes, on Saturday, the King and I were at one of those reserved tables with honest-to-God real cloth napkins. We phoned in two weeks in advance to get "the last table," so we can report from the heady air of the clubhouse restaurant at Presque Isle.--comment from Bill on the Foolish Pleasure
There's Dom Perignon on the menu, but there's also Railbender Ale. And while you could drop some big bucks on gourmet offerings, there are also some reasonably-priced vittles available. But frankly, no seemed to be paying much attention to their food. Instead, they were either handicapping or trying to figure out how to use the snazzy flat screen wagering machines on each of the cloth-covered tables.
Based on our experiences on Opening Day, we knew lines at the windows would be long. We also anticipated technical difficulties with betting machines. We were right on both counts: lines did get long, except at the betting machines hidden behind plants in the bar area. Sadly, 2 of the 4 machines there were unwilling to accept cash, making it hard to place a wager.
So really, it behooved us to figure out the machine at our table. It's sleek. It's state-of-the-art. And it's so new, that only one out of 6 employees knows how to use it. We were quickly revealed as nouveau riche when our table required a visit from technical support.
Here's the scoop: the machines are easiest to use with one of Presque Isle's Players Club cards. You'll stand in line downstairs for this. Card in hand, proceed to a teller window where your card will be linked to your card, a PIN, and the amount of money you hand the teller. You'll get one little machine readable ticket for the day. To get your winnings, you return to the teller, hand her the ticket, card and PIN, and you'll be cashed out. I must say, this contributes mightily to your appearance as one of the elite, because there's be no tell-tale pile of losing tickets on your table.
The downside is that while the machines appeared to track wagers and winnings quite well, most of them had no sound. According to the tech support fellow, the audio works on well, like, every other one. My experience is that it's a much lower percentage. Thus, in the elite section, you have a spectacular view of the live races, and can even watch the simulcast program, but you cannot actually hear the program. Though the call is piped into the room, once the room fills up with the pleasant chattering of other horseplayers, you can't hear it.
Still, I was able to see:
* Some big name jockeys. Julien Leparoux came to town. So did Cornelio Velasquez and Jeremy Rose. Whoo-hoo! Here's a shot of last year's Outstanding Apprentice Jockey coming out of the paddock on Mama's Lil' Mon in the 2nd race.
* Some old friends. A number of Mountaineer horses, trainers, and jockeys were on the card: 9 year-old Capazuri picked up $9000 for placing in a $10,000 claimer for trainer Loren Cox (remember Lady Grace?), John Baird's Tidy Up took third -- and $4,000 -- in the same race. Jockey Andrew Ramgeet won both the first and the last races of the day. And, sadly, Deshawn Parker and my beloved Bernie Blue ran fourth in the Karl Boyes Memorial Northwestern PA Stakes.
* A new millionaire. Real Dandy, the winner of the 2005 West Virginia Derby, came in third in the Presque Isle Mile, picking up a check that moved his total earnings over $1 million.
I'm hoping they gave Dandy an elite stall to match his new-found status. Maybe one with better flooring than gravel.