Thursday, April 21, 2005

horse cents

A friend recently asked, “Have you ever been to the racetrack at Expo New Mexico?” My answer was, “No.”

After giving the question some thought, I decided that spending part of an afternoon at the racetrack might at least provide some good blog material. Taking advantage of a sunny sky, mid-70 degree temperatures, and a gusty spring wind (plus the fact that the Isotopes won’t be back in town until Saturday night), Wednesday afternoon proved to be the ideal time to visit the Downs at Albuquerque. MAN, the tiny worlds and subcultures that exist throughout sprawling urban areas never cease to amaze me! And to think that I thought that Expo New Mexico was only worth going to during the state fair or the odd art show. (I must admit that I’ve never been to the flea market there either, but I suspect that will soon change.)

First, “people watching” at the track is second to none. You will see cowboys, ranchers, gamblers, owners, business peoples, students, families, and probably even movie stars just to name several. Conversations of a wide variety are available for eavesdropping. You can hear good (and BAD) advice for picking ponies, listen to discussions about which jockeys have the biggest eating disorder (although that seems odd, it may prove to be very important in your bet placing strategies), work on your Spanish, find out which Applebee’s has the best happy hour, and smile while old men ridicule each other for their picks… then explain why their own horses failed to win immediately after the race (if not during).

If you should ever get tired of watching the humans, the animals are quite possibly even more interesting. Race fans are able to get within several feet of the horses in the paddock before each race in order to judge which ones are most likely to perform well. Voices cheering on names and numbers of horses are drowned out by the sounds of hoof beats as the magnificent beasts thunder down the dirt track to the finish line just beyond the grandstand. As it turns out, horseracing has been a popular sport in New Mexico since even prior to the first state fair in 1938. It seems like I was the only person at the track who would have been surprised by that information.

Although I suspect that a person might make better informed wagers if they knew a little something about the horses, jockeys, trainers, etc… it is possible for complete a novice to win some ca$h at the racetrack simply by sizing up the horses before a race, or getting lucky by betting on favorite colors and/or numbers. Daily racing forms are available at the racetrack, or you can obtain them online in order to study up before you leave home. I think it would be very difficult to get rich at the racetrack, but that probably isn’t a very healthy goal for a single afternoon anyway.

I bet on six races, and managed to return to the window a winner on two occasions. I hit on the 2nd race with my $2 Quinella wager on “A First Down Runaway” and “You Get Credit.” I also managed to pick the first and second place horses in the 3rd race to collect even more winnings for my $2 Exacta wager on “The Big Rumble” and “Fantasy Gal.” Even though I failed to pick any winners during the other four races, I still managed to leave with more money in my pocket than when I arrived.

If you are intent on spending your money, the Downs offers several ways for you to do so. Besides betting on races there, you can place wagers on horses at various racetracks around the country, then sit back and watch the simulcasts on television screens scattered throughout while enjoying a frosty beverage. You can spend money even without wagering if you wish. The Downs offers a wide variety of food- hotdogs, burgers, pizza, steaks, corndogs, pretzels, popcorn, chips, candy, ice cream, and more. As far as beverages go, if you can name it, they can serve it. Tecate seemed to be the popular beer of choice while I was there. T-shirts, hats, and belt buckles are just a few of the souvenirs you can pick up for your friends and co-workers.

There are definitely more sights, sounds, smells, and tastes available at the Downs than a single person (or possibly even a small group) could realistically expect to take in and process in a single afternoon. I think it is relatively safe to say that dull moments must be few and very far between. Live racing at the Downs in Albuquerque ends in mid-June, then picks up again for 17 days straight during the state fair in September.

So now it’s my turn to ask you, “Have you ever been to the racetrack at the Expo New Mexico?” I’ll see ya there!

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