Last week, our little family loaded up the car and headed north to Chicago to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with "family", i.e., sister, brother-in-law, nieces, nephews-in-law, assorted pets that jump up on kitchen tables to lick the up the pumpkin pie filling that small children spill in an effort to help their aunt in the preparation of festivities, etc. And as I relaxed with a glass of Pinot Grigio along the placid lakeshore, my husband, Mr. Technology Gadget, whipped open his cell phone and spent a few moments fiddling with it.
Husband: Hey! You haven't written in your blog for a month!
Me: (sips Pinot Grigio) I haven't had anything to write about lately. The last time I was at the track was for Breeders' Cup. And I didn't think that my gloating over my nice wins would make for very interesting reading. Nor funny, for that matter.
Husband: Finish your wine. We're leaving the kids with Auntie Barb. You need a Barney Adventure!
Thus, I shall take a break from decking the halls and yuling the log to share with you my first experience at an OTB.
OTB, or Off-Track Betting, is a foreign concept in Texas. There's no OTBs here. By the way, there is also no casinos, nor internet gambling, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a bookie named "Sal" or "Nick The Fish" lurking around as well.
I always imagined that an OTB would be some small dark bar with a couple monitors and one grizzled old pari-mutuel clerk who is hard of hearing thus requiring me to yell at him, "Hawthorne 7! $1 exacta box on 4 and 6! $2 Win on 6!" And the Old-Man Pari-Mutuel Clerk would look up at me like I had 3 heads and ask me, "You only bettin' 4 paltry bucks?" Then he would mutter, "Sissy girl," and give me my ticket. And then I would turn around, and the four middle-aged guys behind me, all smoking cigars with wads of cash in hand to place their $50 wagers, would sadly nod their heads in agreement of Old-Man Pari-Mutuel Clerk's assessment of me.
But it wasn't like that at all! I went to Trackside in Waukegan, As close as you can get to the real thing without getting turf in your face, as touted on the front of their brochure. Trackside is operated by the good folks of Arlington Park and/or Churchill Downs, Inc. It was clean. It was neat. I had the option of sitting in a non-smoking lounge with a wall full of television screens, a smoking section that included a full-service bar with affordable beer, or a racebook with individual monitors for $3 per seat. There also was a nice restaurant and if the next day was not Thanksgiving where I knew that I would consume a couple pounds of turkey and green bean casserole, I would have encouraged my husband to take me out to dinner there.
There wasn't any particular race that caught my attention, I mainly dabbled in dime superfectas at Hawthorne, as it seemed the appropriate activity being in Chicagoland and all.
So the OTB was a great discovery for me. And speaking of great discovery, the colt Great Discovery (Maria's Mon - Expresso Cat, by Storm Cat) won a 2 y/o MSW at Chuchill Downs that evening. Trained by Dallas Stewart, he debuted back at the Spa in August and had run wide, finishing in 7th place, 5+ lengths back. He won this race by a substantial margin. Okay, granted it was against a bunch of horses that never raced before. Okay, granted again, I can no longer access a free chart from Equibase to factual support my observations. But whenever I run across a $17 winner, he usually goes on my watch. As a matter of fact, I just may have to make him one of my selections in the first Derby Future Pool.