John Records, manager extraordinaire from Lone Star Park, ensured that I would have a table at Ten Palms at Gulfstream Park last Saturday for the Fountain of Youth. The restaurant would be closed as it was to be used for horsemen and trainers and their entourage. But I was thrilled to have a little two-seat table, tucked away in the corner of the restaurant, even if it meant I actually had to watch the races on a monitor. This location would afford me the opportunity to saunter about the room, mill throughout the crowd, perhaps rub elbows with H. Allen Jerkens and ask him some hard-hitting, fact-finding questions like, "What does the 'H' stand for in your name?"
My little two-seat table inside the grandstand did not happen. I got upgraded.
While waiting for the gates to open, I struck up a conversation with a couple of friendly octogenarian gentlemen, John and Pat. When I mentioned that I was by myself and would be sitting inside Ten Palms, they kindly asked if I would join them, as they had a table for four outside. "It's a pretty good #&^@! seat," said John (a former WWII marine, thus he's quite comfortable tossing around colorful metaphors). Well, this so-called pretty good seat was directly at the finish line, on the terrace, above the winners circle. At that very moment, if I did not even cash in one single winning ticket, I was lucky.
Prime seat and prime rib. Plenty of winners ... Wend, Running Lass, Exclusive Quality, and (almost) Corinthian. Even Nick Zito came out onto the terrace and stood at our table to watch the races. That's how good the vantage was from our seats. Pat calmly asked, "Nick, you wanna sit down?" as if he was chatting with his barber. Well, Nick did not sit down nor offer any conversation. He was not exactly having a winning day. And he would have looked so good in the winners circle with that dapper green tie that he wore.
As it turns out, John had had box seats at Gulfstream for 35 years. I asked him what his feelings were about the new facility. He smirked and replied, "It don't make no #$%^&! difference. I'm a gambler; I like the horses best."
So, there seems to be some sort of sideways-upside-contorted point to this whole pilgrimage to Gulfstream Park. There were horses. There was some great races. There were winning tickets. There were losing wagers. There was perfect weather. There were new friends and great camaraderie. Gulfstream Park, whatever its pricetag, was just the venue.
Maybe sometime this summer, a little drive up to Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and Blue Ribbon Downs is in order. I wonder if they have prime rib on the menu?