McChump's "Podunk Track of the Week" Tour - Week 8

--- Thistledown, North Randall, OH, November 22, 1997 ---

Okay, so there was sort of an embarrassing McChump "forgetting to set the alarm" incident early on in Livonia, but it wasn't all my fault: Road construction in Toledo, it was, road construction and the goofuses on the Ohio Turnpike - have you ever met a bunch of slower drivers on a nice well maintained toll road? Bottom line: Arrival in the greater Cleveland area with no chance to make 1st post. But 2nd post - okay.

No problem at all finding Thistledown - one thing I've come to appreciate on the "Podunk Track of the Week" Tour is how thoughtful the designers of America's interstate highway system were when they decided to run all the major highways close to the Racetracks of Our Land.

Parking: $1.00, and my immediate impression was that the Thistledown architecture was designed to fit into the general Rust Belt theme: red brick architecture with small windows that made the whole place look like a typical Upper Midwest factory of some sort. Kewl!

Admission: $2.25 - a tad high. Track program: $1.50.

The main floor of Thistledown has a kind of mall atmosphere, with lots of small booths, and banners hanging from the ceiling, and is overall a big, pleasant open space with lots of free seats and banks of TV's (all numbered), and some "professional" areas with desks and big screen TV's and so on at the back of the mall, which isn't bad at all. Assuming the plan is to visit a racetrack and then hang around inside. Cool fake tiled floor, a cut above the concrete of many tracks, and an escalator to "up" which has a big "slinky" hand rail rather than the usual flat rubber thing. I rode up and down the escalator three times just to have a chance to touch the big slinky. Woo hoo!

This track has some of the oddest acoustics I have ever encountered. Down on the ground floor, it seems like the racetrack equivalent of a casino, with the announcer's voice (or voices, as it were, with simulcasts included) booming out loud and proud and reverberating throughout the facility to make your head spin, while upstairs in the enclosed grandstand seating area (nice well kept wooden seats) it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and in fact you could hear the conversations of people 138 rows away in the opposite corner of the place. Except of course for those sitting in the snooty sections up above grandstand, who had to look out through glass windows through another set of glass windows to see the races and probably couldn't hear a thing those of us in the cheap seats were talking about. Or the baby 6 rows down from me screaming his head off. I quit the upper level, in case folks might hear my stomach rumble, and 'cause I couldn't deal with that baby anymore.

Food wise, the place wasn't bad. Nice Italian Garden Cafe down on the GS end that served up sub sandwiches and stuffed peppers and so on at a reasonable price, and at the regular stands we had hot dogs ($1.75), polish sausages ($2.25), kosher dogs ($2.50), and Italian sausage ($2.95). Huge giant Milwaukee's Best beers were $2.45. Real beers slightly more.

I'm assuming this is a fairly new facility, as there were signs that implored patrons to "keep your new Thistledown clean", and it did seem like a newer place, and the crew did come around quite often and sweep up the tossed losers. The place was well kept, and no peeling paint items were observed.

[Note: I was later corrected that the facility isn't at all new, just remodeled in the recent past.]

Decent gift shop at the back of the mall, with a small but quality selection of Thistledown items.

Racing on the day consisted of the "7-7" program, featuring 7 live races at Thistledown, and 7 simulcasts from Beulah. Plus a huge selection of simuls from the likes of TuP, FL, Haw, LS, Suf, Aqu, Lrl, Pha, Crc, GG, RP, Hol, and Dover and Freehold Harness (hope I got them all right). Betting opportunities galore. The thing that really struck me was how the folks at Thistledown really considered the 7-7 simulcasts up from Beulah as part of "their" program: There was as much betting and rooting on these races as for any of the live card.

The card on the day consisted of the 7 live Thistledown races which I played, and the 7 simul races from Beu, which I ignored. OH Maidens ran for a purse of $11,000, conditioned $4k claimers for $5,200, up to the feature of the day, Ohio allowance N2X for $12,500. Betting wise, I didn't do too bad, losing a mere $14.30 on the day. Top jocks appeared to be Jason Lumpkins and Robert McWhorter, although I did make some good money betting Jane Magrell from Mnr who a regular told me he wouldn't bet under any circumstances.

Nice open air saddling area on the club end that they weren't using in deference to a cramped, small indoor facility also on the club end, and a plain asphalt apron area with some free benches and a giant Mitsubishsi TV replay monitor in the infield which was never turned on, and for the most part a decent racetrack - and then suddenly it was time to move on.

A thumbs up for Thistledown if you happen to be in the area. Although I don't know if I'd intentionally drive long distances to get there again - but it wasn't a bad place at all. Friendly.


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