Knowing that The Prince of Wales Stakes was running on Sunday, Nat and I decided to go and make an afternoon of it. We headed down to the Fort Erie Race Track around 1:30 pm and managed to get a half decent parking spot. We then bought a racing form, found a good seat in the stands and began to get mesmerized. Having only been to the races once before we’re still in the newbie stage of understanding what all of the mumbo jumbo, facts and figures, extractor, tractor, etc. meant. We’d ask questions of any die-hard racing fan around us and they’re always more than welcome to give us some help.
As The Prince of Wales Stakes wasn’t running until 5:00 pm, we had a great chance of watching the seven races that preceded it and even though no bets were placed on any of those races, we were still on our feet as the pack of fillies and three year olds rounded the last bend of the track headed for the finish. We still picked a horse to win and hoot and holler like the rest of the fans as our win, place or show crossed the line. It’s infectious and exhilarating all at the same time, along with being great fun on a perfect Sunday afternoon. In between each race – 25 minute intervals – we enjoyed a big tub of buttered popcorn and a drink while watching the festivities around track-side and the betting booths. We watched how each race was set up and the starting gate was quickly driven on and off the track before and after each event, along with the escort horses and young people that led each filly to its starting position in the gate. It was a rhythmic and organized process that we found interesting.
After studying the racing form, not understanding a damn thing, but liking a few names, I grabbed my change purse and told Nat “I’m goin’ down there” pointing to the line-up for placing your bets. I knew enough from our previous visit to the Track to place your wager on your horse(s) “across the board” – to win (1st), to place (2nd) or to show (3rd) – that way spreading your odds out on a more even basis. Being fairly new to this sport and knowing the risks that can be taken, I knew I had to play it safe, after all that money tree in the backyard had stopped growing as soon as we moved into this place. As I approached the betting window my heart was pumping a bit. I was getting anxious now and couldn’t wait for the race to begin. I placed my $2.00 bets – 8th race, #4 (Big Red Mike) and #6 (Mobil Unit) across the board – for a total of $12.00. She handed me my ticket and I walked away with a smile on my face. Nat recognized the jockey’s name riding Big Red Mike – a winner from the last race of the Triple Crown – and knowing Nat had picked a winner the last time, I went with #4 despite the fairly even odds. As for Mobil Unit, the odds were a little bigger and I liked the name, so I picked #6 as back-up.
Finally the 8th race – The 75th Running of the Prince of Wales Stakes – was on. We watched as the starter truck took it’s place across the track while the horses were finishing their warmups along the back end of the track. Just as soon as every entrant was in his starting position, the 1-3/16th mile race had begun. They were off and running and as they past the viewing stands were gathered together in a pack as they rounded the first bend. As the pack rode out of viewing site we’d watch on the jumbo tron. It was too exciting, I had to keep my eyes on the actual race. I was there. I was taking part. I had money on two horses and my heart was pumping faster as the pack rounded the final bend. The crowd was on their feet, the names of horses were being shouted out as if they could be heard by the jockeys. “Come on 3, “come on Big Red, “come on Who We Gunna Call”, “Come on, come on, come on” was echoed across the track as the horses crossed the finish line. Exhilarating to say the least. As the pack crossed the finish line the two horses I picked had at least placed 2nd and 3rd. The winner was Who We Gunna Call at 15 to 1 odds. Too bad I had to play it safe – that was one horse I was considering!!
The race over and now past our usual supper time, we headed down to the cash counter to collect my winnings. As I handed my two tickets to the agent and he passed them through the counter I watched in anticipation. For third place won by Big Red Mike $7.10 came up. This was good! For second place won by Mobil Unit $12.00 appeared on the screen, for a total of $19.10. This was really good. I had won my initial bet back plus was up by $7.10. A rush came over me as the agent handed me my winnings with his stoic face. It was obvious this was a mundane routine for him, but for me, I was ahead of the game, and I felt great. With Nat’s arms around me, we headed out the doors and walked among the hordes of people headed in the same direction as us – the parking lot. Even though two more races were yet to be run, the majority of people we there for the big event.
We were both thrilled with an exciting day at the races, on a perfect Sunday afternoon and made the quick jaunt home for our supper. By this time the popcorn had fulfilled its use and our stomachs were empty. We were hungry just from the hot dogs and hamburgers getting all charred and tasty and their odours emanating throughout the warm summer breeze. A great day and up by $7.10. Made me happy!!