Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Town Monday: Off to the Races

"Where the turf meets the surf."

It's a gorgeous Sunday as dh, Child #3, Child #4, a grown-up friend and I head about 20 miles up the coast to spend the day at the races with a couple more friends.

Open from July to Sept. 3, this is the last weekend of racing till next summer.There were ten races, some over a mile, some under, some on turf, some on dirt, all with thoroughbred horses. Child #3, Child #4 and I (the only neophytes in our little party) learned lots of fun wagering terms like scratch, exacto and across the board. A furlong is 660 feet or 1/8 of a mile, in case you were wondering. We bet on every single race, usually a whopping $2.00. Such self-restraint means we'll pay our mortgage next week.

Just so you know, I actually took this pic.

Now, for the million dollar question: How did we figure out which horses to bet on?

Well, Friend #1 has a mathematical method using the following equation:

percentage of wins for the post position X percentage of wins for the jockey X percentage of wins for the horse.

Calculate this number for each horse in each race (good practice for your math skills), then choose the horse with the highest number and a pay-off around 5:1.

Friend #2 chooses a horse based on how she feels about its name and whether she likes the colors of the jockey's outfit.

I used a mixture of the two methods and actually predicted the race winner twice. (Thank you Jockey Garret Gomez.) But I did not get rich. Dh will be schlepping off to his day job early Tuesday morning.

Friend #2 won more money than Friend #1. And did not risk a headache working out complicated equations on a calculator in the sun.

The Del Mar Racetrack opened its doors (gates?) in 1937 after Bing Crosby, Pat O'Brien, Jimmy Durante, and Charles S. Howard all partnered up. Yes, that's Charles S. Howard, owner of the legendary Seabiscuit. Bing used to hang out at the entrance and personally greet visitors to the track. No one famous greeted us today, although the ticket takers were all well dressed and friendly.

And here's some betting terminology from the inside cover of the racing program.

What does a day at the races cost? $8 for parking + $6 entrance fee + $10 if you want a seat in the shade (you don't have to go this route and can bring your own chair and umbrella/hat and get in for the $6 fee only) + $20 (if you want to bet the minimum $2 per race. You don't have to bet at all. You can bet on as many races as you want.). Feel free to bring your own food, and you probably want to as food and drink prices are super high.

Take a plane, take a train, take a car
There's a smile on every face
And a winner in every race
Where the turf meets the surf at Del Mar.

~Bing Crosby song

(sources: wikipedia,

For links to more My Town Mondays, visit Travis Erwin's blog. He's our fearless leader.


Reb said...

Sounds like a fun day. I love Bing Crosby's music too!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lovely picture. I know nothing about horse racing, so thanks.

Patti said...

i live minutes from a horse track and i have been once. i lost all five bucks i wagered.

thank goodness for the dollar hotdogs!

Sarakastic said...

Good thing they clarified what the term win means.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Great photo, Barrie. Sounds like a fun day, and as long as you don't get carried away betting, not too expensive. I'll have to try it sometime. I think we could get there from OC on the train or metrolink.

Glad you all had a good time.


Britta Coleman said...

We've only been to the races a couple of times, but I usually bet on horses based on 1) their names and 2) the color of the jockey's outfits. I'm hard core that way.

Barbara Martin said...

Best to bet on the second favorites, better return on the $2.00. Each particular bloodline in a thoroughbred's pedigree tells you what kind of track they like to run on: dirt, turf, hard, fast, wet or sloppy. Track horses have quirks just like people: some days they're off. My knowledge comes from the past when I owned thoroughbred mares and sent them off to be bred to Grade I Stakes winners. I had a nice Cigar half-sister that became a hunter prospect. Over half of the two-year olds headed for the track don't make it for one reason or another, the largest being: they don't want to run.

Travis Erwin said...

I love to wager on the ponies. I go every chance I get, but the closest track is 240 miles away in Oklahoma City.

debra said...

I went to a horse race when I was a teenager (a few short years ago :-)
I remember my Dad placing a bet on a horse for me, but I have no recollection what happened.

Caryn Caldwell said...

I have to tell you, Barry, I LOVE that friend #2's method paid off more regularly than your more careful friend #1's method. I would probably try to do all that math and feel like I should, but in the long run I usually just go with my gut.

Robyn said...

Thanks for stopping by...great post! and congrats on the new book!

~Virginia~ said...

i never have luck at gambling. i'm one of those rare people who goes to Vegas for the shows! :)

Sandy Levin said...

Hey Barrie,

I was at the track on Sunday too - in the shade :-) I was a virgin betting on the horses - none of the favorites were winning, so I tended to put my money on place and show bets for the favorites and won some and lost some. But $20 of betting is about my speed too. Had a great time. Miss you. Hope to see you soon.