Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day at the Races

When I lived in New York I would wait to do touristy things until someone came for a visit. One of the things I've always wanted to do was visit Ellis Island. I've been to the Statue of Liberty - even climbed to the top of it when that was still allowed. People would come and often had their own list of things to do that sadly didn't include a visit to Ellis Island. In short, I still have not been to Ellis Island.

But why the Ellis Island rant? It's not going anywhere. Well, it explains my latest idea. I've started to create a list of all the things I want to do in Portland - touristy or not. As of now, the list isn't incredibly long (and that's a hint to please make suggestions). One of the things on my list was to go to the horse track. I've never been to one at all. Turns out Portland has a racetrack: Portland Meadows. Of course, the season is short and horses only race on certain days of the week - Monday and Wednesday. There was a three-day weekend approaching and I said, "Let's go to the track."

Matt's been to the track so he became our sort of go-to guy for betting and questions. I wanted to brush up on terminology and get a feel for the pending excitement so I watched back-to-back episodes of HBO's Luck. It seems thrilling and maybe a bit depressing. There was even a jab about Portland Meadows in one of the episodes. Matt assures me that the track we're going to is quite different than the one where Luck is (err, was) filmed. Still I can't wait to go.

Monday morning we pick up some friends and head out to the track. Blood is pulsing through my veins in anticipation of all the betting action and the idea of watching the horses come out of the gate. Matt was right. Portland Meadows is no Santa Anita. Still I'm ready embrace it. We walk in and there's a banquet-sized room "for adults only" filled with poker machines featuring a red, black, and yellow carpet featuring a pattern that probably wasn't even popular in the 1970's. This was not the betting I had in mind. No worries. We continue on through the room and make our way to the action . We buy a racing form, which isn't slick like a Playbill for a Broadway show, but rather a couple of pieces of paper shooting out of a machine. Matt takes charge of the form as he seems to have a good grasp on what all the numbers and terminology means. Me, at this point, I'm only interested in the names and the jockeys.

A race is about to start, we run outside to see the horses. It's a short race, the horses don't even go around the track. They rush by us heading to the finish line less than a minute after the race starts. Blink and you miss it. The track itself isn't all that impressive and that's probably due to the fact that in the middle of the track is a golf course. I don't golf, but I'm guessing it's not one of the most challenging or sought-after courses.

I'll admit it's all exciting. Then we make some bets. I'm not so strategic about this, but at least it doesn't cost a lot to make a bet. Finally, the horse I liked the most is about to race. So I bet what I have left (maybe $2 - yeah, I'm a big spender) on a horse named Mechugana. He comes out, walks the track, looks good. Turns out Mechugana didn't win, didn't even place. That's all good because I think I had more fun ripping up my ticket, throwing it over head, and exclaiming, "Why did I bet on a crazy horse?"

Ah yes, good times you can bet on.