Since today's post is a milestone of sorts for me (#100), I thought I would share why I think horse racing is the coolest sport around. And, yes, I do believe it is a sport.
1. The Tradition and History. The rich history of the races and the traditions that it holds high are truly my favorite cool thing about racing.
2. The Triple Crown. Nothing can be more fascinating than the quest for racing's biggest prize. Sitting in my seat before the 08 Belmont and wondering if it was going to happen was clearly one of the coolest experiences ever, next to the thrill of watching Barbaro win the 06 Derby.
3. Investing at the Track. Some folks call this gambling. My take is it's no different than the socially acceptable label of "investing" in the stock market. There's no cooler feeling than meeting a smiling teller at the track with a winning ticket in hand.
4. The Paddock at Gulfstream Park. I know, I know...it's Frank's Energy Drink Heaven. But there's something about the paddock at GP that I truly enjoy. Maybe it's the great view of the horses, the comfortable seating, the big screen TV's above and the public handicappers being right there. Anyways it's cool to me.
5. The Haskell Hat. Although you could file this under #1 (Tradition), a Haskell hat is given away to all Monmouth customers on Haskell Day. In the inset above, you'll see my 06 Haskell hat from the day Bluegrass Cat romped to a seven length victory over the field in front of 42,000 strong. This year's Haskell hat is currently going for $7.95 on eBay.
6. Saratoga. From opening day, to the murals on the wall at Siro's highlighting the meet's graded stakes winning connections, the place is simply magical. When a whole town is engulfed in the sport you love, there's just nothing like it. Starting your day with a breakfast sammy at Uncommon Grounds (with a little people watching) to finishing it off after a day at the track with some late night cold chicken at Hattie's, there's nothing like it in the world.
7. The Negative Show Pool. Watching for it....waiting....waiting.....damn, missed it. Thought I had one yesterday at Saratoga in the sixth, when I threw out some show bets on three contenders, hoping the even money favorite would miss the board as the show pool was 90% tilted to the favorite. It happened in the Tampa Bay Derby when War Pass was bet down to 1-5...check out the show pool prices here. Negative show pools are....cool.
8. The TBA and it's Standings. When I first stumbled onto the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance website this past winter, I was amazed at the amount of talented writers and each of their websites and the daily information you can glean. The cause (annual donation on behalf of the Horse of the Year to the Old Friends, a Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds) is noble. The standings are a way to bring context to the sport. The hypothesis is that standings can be useful and are possible in our sport. Taking the "word" of the American Graded Stakes committee that certain races are more meaningful than others, turns the black-type heading into actual worth for all participants. Cool and cooler.
9. The Jockeys. These guys are definitely cool. They are always smiling in the paddock. They have geniune concern for the horses (see Edgar Prado), and it's always cool to get a little nod as they head out to the track when you have a little investment in them. They truly have a dangerous and difficult job that sometimes probably is taken for granted....not be me...these guys are what real athletes are all about.
10. The Fans (Horseplayers). Asking a total stranger: "Who do you like?" Leaning on the paddock fence at Fort Erie on a normal Sunday and chatting with the guy next to me about what he likes or dislikes, trying to grab any morsel of information on the hot jock or trainer. Meeting all of the characters at the local OTB or just watching them from afar as they root (scream) their horse on to a victory. Meeting folks from all over the world at the Spa, Gulfstream, Churchill Downs or Pimlico and sharing a common bond makes each new visit to the track more enjoyable.
Our sport is super cool.....spread the word.