McChump in The Heartland - Part 1

-- Saturday, June 28 - Nebraska State Fair Park, Lincoln, NE --

Distance: 520.8 miles
Drive time: 9 hrs (Tour de France scoring)
Construction zones: 8
Authority vehicles spotted: 1
Dead deer: 2
Times lost: 0 (damn! I'm getting good)

Well I got to admit I almost chumped this one up, forgetting about the time warp that exists between Denver and Lincoln, but I still managed to arrive just as the 2nd race was going off, so I still had plenty of opportunity to make the big bucks on the rest of the nine race card that started at 1:00 pm for those who might have been thinking straight.

The Nebraska State Fair Park is easy enough to find, just off the same exit as the Lincoln airport, except you turn the other way, and then over by the Cornhusker Highway and then there's plenty of signs and you're there. Once you get in the fairgrounds it's a little confusing, as there isn't any specific big parking lot for the racetrack or anything, but you just find yourself a spot out there among the fair pavilions and park it and head on in. Incidentally, I'll credit the Nebraska State Fair with one of the best web site maps of how to get to their facility that I encountered in the planning stages of this tour. Take note, you other tracks.

Parking: free. Admission: $1.00. Program: $1.75.

This is a big fair grandstand, pure and simple, with a main level where the windows and concessions and stuff are, and an outdoor seating area kind of out front and down, that's sort of obstructed by the overhang of the enclosed clubhouse part upstairs that I didn't visit mainly because I thought it would probably cost extra, but not obstructed too bad, and then a small apron area fronting the track, with the paddock down to the right.

The track itself is a 5/8 mile dirt oval, with a sort of unkempt looking grass infield that looked like there was some sort of interior track, but it was too short and too banked to be a horse track so I thought maybe it'd been the site of motorcyle or midget car racing in bygone days, and then a small pond inside of that to spice up the infield, and a view of other Fair buildings in the background.

While concession variety and uniqueness didn't match some of the other tracks I'd visited before this, it wasn't bad, especially considering the nifty little barbecue area down by the paddock, and the prices at the State Fair Park were without a doubt the best I'd encountered so far - hot dog: $1.25, bratwurst: $1.75, hamburger: $2.00, 16 oz beer: $2.00. Decent selection of beers, too, although mostly the big brands.

But you know what? Despite the free parking, $1.00 admission, and cheap cheap cheap concessions, the crowd on this warm Saturday afternoon was still teeny. Can you believe it? Cheap everything, and still a small crowd! What sure fire way to save racing will be proved wrong next on this McChump Tour????

Although I admit I never went upstairs, where the hordes may have been hiding out from the hot weather and high humidity. But I doubt it, based on the number of cars out in the parking area. I think most of the crowd was exactly what I saw down front, mainly older long time race fans out for the afternoon, and not a whole lot of them, at that.

The day's card consisted of nine thoroughbred races, ranging in distance from 4-1/2f (2yo) up to 1m70yds, with most being run at 6f. The fields were mostly pretty short, with like 5-6-7 horses, although a couple did get up to 9 and 10. The horses were mostly Nebraska horses, not necessarily all Nebraska bred but full time Nebraska residents, with a few tossed in who'd been over at Prairie Meadows. And there were some pretty bad ones, too, but I've seen worse. Purses ranged from $4400 for Nebraska bred maiden fillies, through $3400 for $10k maiden claimers, down to $2800 for the old campaigners, the $2500 claiming geldings, up to the two feature races of the day, $5200 for an n4L allowance, and $5000 for an n1x allowance.

Betting wise, I didn't do real well, thanks once again to the small pools and this apparently moonie-like obsession I have with "value" that I seem to be stuck with, no matter how many times I get slapped in the face, but I did manage to catch a nice 4-1 early and an 8-1 shot toward the end of the card that sort of made me whole. The one pool I recorded had $2303/1342/7xx WPS, and I don't know what in the other pools.

Overall, I think the Nebraska State Fair experience might have been big fun if there had been a crowd on hand, but there wasn't. As it was, I can only rate it a shrug. Okey-doke, but not OKAY!

Motel wise, I can't rate anything in Lincoln, as I chose to make hay while the sun still shone. There is a Super 8 just around the corner on Cornhusker Highway, and the State Fair web map gives a lot of other suggestions as well. What I CAN recommend is wherever it was I stayed in St. Jo, and the friendly crowd at the St. Jo's Denny's that was discussing, in their soft Missouri accents, whether or not the storm that was shaping up outside meant we were going to get hit by a tornado that night. Now THAT'S living!


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