Some friends say the Travers Stakes horse race is one big party – 30,000 tastefully drunk people, they predict. So, some Old Milwaukee and I are heading up to the Saratoga Race Track Saturday to find out what the big fuss is all about. Armed with class, good hair and “A Dummies Guide to Playing Polo,” fitting-in with the upper-crusts who follow “the sport of kings” shouldn’t be a problem. And just to make sure they don’t confuse me – or my libations – with some low-life, I wrote “Big Mike’s” in blood on the top of my cooler.
The whole thing sounds like fun. But honestly, I’ve always wanted to know; what makes horse racing so special? Special enough to attract 30,000 people to Saratoga, or 100,000 people to the Kentucky Derby, anyway?
I always figured the brave little kindergartners who pilot the majestic beasts are what drew the big crowds.
– “They’re not kindergartners. They’re professional jockeys – fully grown adults that are just really small,” explained a friend who tried to fill me in.
“No way! How do they get them to talk like children?”
– “No. Actually, they take a lot of hormones.”
Shocking. All this time I was worried for their safety and the little guys were juicing-up? Wow.
I guess it’s not the “jockeys” that make horse racing so cool.
So what is it? The sheer strength of the equines thundering to the finish line? The lush green grass that turfs the infield of the track? The elegant people that decorate the grandstands?
“It’s the gambling. I think that’s pretty obvious to most people,” my friend said. “All that stuff you mentioned – horses, grass, rich people – is all neat, but none of it would exist if people couldn’t legally bet money on the races. Not only is it legal, it’s really easy, too. In fact, most people that truly follow horse racing aren’t even at the track. They’re probably sleeping in their cars – for any number of reasons – outside an OTB somewhere.”
Gambling? Money? Who knew? I figured it was just for fun, like everything else.
Speaking of just for fun – if I ever win big at the track, I’m going to own a world class thoroughbred and name it “Win-or-Glue.”
“This horse runs with purpose,” racing analysts will say when he’s going for the final leg of the triple-crown.