We strolled through the entrance gates just as the first race blared over the speaker system. By the time we made it to our box seats, the second race was just minutes away. I wasn't sure what to expect. My mind raced back to the endless midnight hours buried under my childhood covers with The Black Stallion books. While other girls read The Babysitters Club or Nancy Drew, I was captivated by the raw power and sheer romance of the Stallion himself. If you're not familiar with the books, they recounted the life of a boy who is shipwrecked with a magnificent horse - a huge Arabian as black as midnight and just as mean. Anyhoo, they become all lovey-dovey best friends and the boy brings the horse back to the US where the horse happens to be super smokin' fast and wins this huge race. The rest of the long list of books deal with The Black's offspring and the racing stories that come with them. These were my first introduction to the horse racing world and I read just about every book in the lengthy series - twice. My second introduction to the horse racing world came about ten years later with a little knobby-kneed grey horse named Seabiscuit. This movie brought me back to all of my midnight/bed covers/Black Arabian memories, and the book was even better. If you haven't seen this movie or read the book, it is fantastic!!
It wasn't until I stepped through the gates at the Del Mar Racetrack on Thursday afternoon that I realized how strange it was that I'd never actually seen a horse race in person. As a kid I was glued to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races on the TV, but I've never actually seen the sweat and heard the pounding legs cascade down the track. As I took my seat and watched the horses load into the gates, I couldn't help but feel a bit overwhelmed by excitement. Images of the Black Stallion thundering down the track raced through my head as the gates opened and a herd of pure black and brown muscle roared onto the track, past our seats and towards the first turn. I was thrilled, I was alive, I was amazed. They flew across the track and into the backstretch. I stood up when I saw them come around the bend and they sprinted to the finish, heaving, stretching, grunting, pulling. The crowd was going nuts and they crossed the finish covered in sweat, foam dripping from their mouths. What athletes! I was hooked, and loved every minute of the remaining races, allowing them to take me back to the long summer days on the back of my own half-Arabian horse, galloping across the Idaho potato fields, dreaming of horse races and dark Arabian nights.
So I feel incredibly dorky that I enjoyed watching the horses so much, so to make up for the lacking cool factor, I decided to try my hand at the betting game! My first bet was on number 8, who I lovingly nicknamed "Smokers", and was one of the favorites in the race.
I did a $2 place bet, which means that 'ol Smokers had to come in first or second. (I know, I'm a high roller!) Unfortunately, Smokers didn't get that memo and decided to come in fourth. We'll be having a talk later...
You might be wondering why I was even at the race track! This was actually a fun outing for my former team at my old job. Since this event was planned before I left the company and since they already had the ticket for me, they let me tag along! Here are two of my co-workers, Lanae and Damion. And even though we all worked in HR, everyone is super cool.
More of my favorite people - Caroline, Lindsey, and Jen. Apparently Caroline grew up around the racetrack and was so gracious as to teach us a thing or two about the bets. Thanks Caroline!
This is the second race I bet on. It was one of two turf races and the longest one of the day. I put down a $2 Quinella, which means that I was betting on numbers 5or 7 to come in first and second, either order (the lingo in horse racing is intense!!). These two horses were apparently the best horses for the entire day and were sure bets to win. Even though I knew I wouldn't win much, I just wanted to win something! This was a super exciting race and the horses ran neck and neck all the way to the finish. My number 7 horse came in first and number 5 barely got third by a nose!!
My favorite place to be was the paddock where you can see the horses up close. I could have stood there all day and just watched the horses! I seriously felt like I was ten years old again!!
The beautiful grandstand.