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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wish List: Track Visits

I've been fortunate over the past few years to knock a few tracks off the wish list, but now it's time to document what should be the priorities over the next few years to complete a circuit of the major (the Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA's)and mid-major tracks (the Butlers and Gonzagas if you will). But in order to know where we stand on track visits, we'll have to put down where we've here goes in order of Space Invasions:

Completed Track Visits: Saratoga, Woodbine, Gulfstream, Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, Fort Erie, Pimlico (simulcast only), Presque Isle Downs, Keeneland, Santa Anita and Aqueduct. 2009/10 has been a good year as we nailed 3 new tracks (KEE, OSA & AQU).

Wish List (in order of priority, not necessarily when they will happen):

1. Del Mar. After experiencing the beauty of Santa Anita, the desire to see Del Mar increased three-fold. I've never been to San Diego and the luxury of every day being 72-75 degrees is very enticing. It looks like a great track to watch the races...where the Surf meets the Turf. Difficulty level: High. Runs during Saratoga meet and requires a West Coast trip.

2. Arlington. Chicagoland, great turf racing and a serious grandstand. I hear the morning workouts are not to miss also. I love Chicago and haven't been there (other than passing through O'Hare or Midway) in several years. Difficulty level: Easy. Flights easy to come by and fellow TBA compadres Wind Gatherer and the ZATT man are locals that could show me the way.

3. Fair Grounds. Oh when the Saints.... Are you sensing a pattern here? San Diego, Chicago and now, New Awlins? Well, that's soon to come to a screeching halt at #4 (just kidding Sue). Lots of history here (so I've read), great Cajun jockeys/trainers and food to die for. Difficulty level: Moderate. Little tougher flight arrangements, potential Space Gal veto depending on my travel companions and need a week to prepare for the spicy food/drinking activities.

4. Lone Star Park. What, you say? Well, it's been good enough for the Breeders' Cup to hold it's annual soiree in 2004, right? One Texas based blogger has given us plenty to pine for down yonder....and who doesn't like margaritas? Difficulty level: Moderate. Client located in Austin, home of the Chuggin' Monkey, not too far away, with a little planning and foresight this could come together.

5. Meydan. Dubai World Cup. Sheikhs and geeks. This one's on the long range plan. Difficulty level: Off the charts. Analogy: Playing golf and 300 yards away from the pin, looking for a yardage marker to see if you can reach the green and you finally find a sprinkler that says - Just hit the ball.

6. Oaklawn Park. Man, if I could swing April 9th, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Real race fans, I hear, attend the Oaklawn meet. If I wasn't an accountant, this one could be had in a couple weeks. Difficulty level: High. Spring meet during my busiest time. Tough to get to from a logistical standpoint. 17 hours away so driving not a real option.

7. Hollywood Park. California. Sunshine. Cushion Track. (Well, 2 out of 3, isn't bad). Difficulty level: Really High. Could be a condo site next time I book a flight out west.

8. Delaware Park. Paddock looks beautiful. Some solid racing on certain weekends. Couple big races I'd like to take in someday (Del Cap and Del Oaks). Only horse I ever owned had her only race here and came in dead last. Difficulty level: Moderate. Not a bad drive. Potential side trip from a family vacation on Jersey Shore someday.

9. Laurel Park. Great turf course. Great city to visit (Baltimore). Maryland Millions Day is on "the list." Difficulty level: Low. Cheap flights on Southwest from Buffalo. Relatives in B'more. This one will happen.

10. Hialeah. Could have actually knocked this one off last month but ran out of time. Only quarter horse track on the list, but you know why it's here. Flight of the flamingos is a must see. Difficulty level: Low. Brother-in-law homestead and direct flights available.

Honorable Mention: Finger Lakes (c'mon it's 60 minutes down the road), Mountaineer (to see La Chica Rica, of course), Beulah Ellis Park (nicknamed the Pea Patch, I'd have to see it just because of that), Charles Town (night racing is intriguing), Tampa Bay Downs (love their track tweeter), Calder (could wear my Don Johnson blazer), Hawthorne (Chicago lite) and Pinnacle Race Course (quick drive through Canada - plenty of donuts/coffee available).

Who'd I miss? Where am I off my rocker?


St.Paddy said...

When you catch your flight to the UAE on your Meydan leg of your list. It would be prudent to stop off in London, Hit Ascot and the recognised most beautiful and extremely small Cartmel.

Best not leave out Longchamp across the La Manche.

Gene Kershner said...

RT: You got me. Cold. Dead nuts. Wasn't even thinking about over the pond. Meydan has my attention cuz of the current meet and new track.

Thanks for pointing those out, in a nice way! And for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Great wish list. Find me a nicer paddock than Delaware's

Nathan said...

I think you're definitely right to have Oaklawn in your Top Ten. But I would put it above Fair Grounds and Lone Star Park. Oaklawn is the place to be right now. Charles Cella has managed to take his track in the opposite direction of almost every other track in America (finance- and popularity-wise), all with only a dirt track (which I absolutely love) and while waging a private battle with Parkinson's. God-willing, I will be there with my family on April 9 and 10. I'm having trouble sleeping just thinking about it.

I've been to Pinnacle and Hawthorne. Wasn't too impressed with the customer service of the latter (understatement). Pinnacle's a small, friendly joint.

Saratoga's still the best I've been to.

Good list.

Brian Zipse said...


I look forward to your visit to Arlington...we'll have a great time! Del Mar and Fair Grounds are well worth the trip, and I would like to invite myself on your trips to Hialeah and Meydan.


Steve Munday said...

Geno, if you make it Laurel (or even Charles Town) let me know. Laurel is between DC & Bal'more and actually closer to DC.

I grew up going to Charles Town in the 80's, but can't stand the place now. Used to be a quaint little place, but now it's a mini-Atlantic City-esque racino and the racing feels like an afterthought. Of course, w/out slots it would've been closed years ago.

BTW, Hialeah is the best race track i've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

A couple things...

1) If you ever decide to hit up Pinnacle, drop me a line and I'll be your tour guide. There's not a whole lot there, so my job will be pretty easy. If you're up for another three-hour drive, you can cross off Mt. Pleasant Meadows, as well. If we are sticking with the college metaphor, this would be like visiting Mid-Michigan Community College.

2) It's Ellis Park, not Beulah, that is nicknamed "The Pea Patch" for the crop they grow in the infield. Beulah runs mostly in the winter, so it's hard to grow crops in January in Ohio. That said, you need to add Ellis to your list and place it high. Great service, big fields, great atmosphere, and the hamburgers will change your life.

Gene Kershner said...

E: Road trip?

Nathan: Toga had me at hello.

BZ: You're in. See you in Chi-town, Millions Day on the radar.

Steve: Your comments made me think I maybe left off another (Colonial Downs) track that is in that region. Thanks for the offer on Laurel!

Joe: Thanks for the correction (my bad) updated the list..good catch. And Detroit is a hop, skip and a donut away.

Frank said...

True, Geno, but it was a game last place finish, and with another 1/16th, she would have been a clear second-to-last :-)

Trifectabox said...

Great list, but I am hurt that you didn't mention Delta Downs! Or did I just miss it...LOL
You MUST go to Hialeah, the scenery, the fans thre, it's awesome! I hope you get to go soon..

suebroux said...

Wow! Lone Star made your list! I'll spring for your first frozen margarita! We'll coerce West to pick up the rest ;-)

Oaklawn has always been one of my objectives, only a mere 6 hour drive away. Well, I'm finally doing something about it ... guess where the kids will be spending their Spring Break next week?!?

teeshirtsoup said...

Feel bad even commenting since I've only been to 3 tracks in my life. One, Garden State Park in NJ is no longer, Monmouth is on your list, and how did Turf Paradise not make your list, cuz?

Gene Kershner said...

Frank: You're absolutely right...she was definitely catching up to the 7th place horse!

Tribox: Thanks and DD was actually a thought in the honorable mention (and I'd probably catch it while checking out the Fair Grounds)

Sue: I'm in (margaritas TX style)! Have fun with the kiddos at Oaklawn

Soupy: Good call with Turf Paradise, one of our fellow bloggers (Power Cap) wrote a nice article about a track visit there last year...good see the cuzns too!


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