Marquis Downs, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Jun 14

[caution: The McChump of The North Tour was undertaken by a trained professional. Do not try this at home.

-- Saturday, June 14 --

  • Distance: 485 miles
  • Drive time: 8.5 hours
  • Stretches of road that should have been construction zones but weren't, instead just labelled by signs that read "This road sucks; you might want to think about slowing down": 1
  • Authority vehicles spotted: 4
  • Times lost: 1/2
  • Gophers spotted in and about the vicinity of "Gopherville", Saskatchewan: 0
  • Stops made in order to view the world's longest bicycle and the world's tallest swing at "Gopherville": 0
  • Rude awakening events involving the high price of Canadian gasoline and Canadian cigarettes: 1
  • Find of the day: The sausage used in the Canadian version of McDonald's breakfast products is much tastier than what we get in the U.S.
  • If ever there was a question regarding where potash comes from now it can be told: Saskatchewan

Marquis Downs is a tough lil sumbitch to find, or was, thanks to the inadequate information provided on the Prairieland Exhibition Park webpage. Here's one thing I learned from the planning stage of the McChump of The North tour: you racetracks out there, if you're going to bother putting up a webpage, at least take the time to tell people how to get there! You never know when a chump from Chicago might be looking for your track. The Prairieland Exhibition Park page is a prime example of great intentions and poor execution.

Luckily, when I neared Saskatoon, a visitor information kiosk appeared, and I was able to determine the general locale of the Exhibition Park, but even then, it wasn't all that easy to find, tucked away in the southwest corner of Saskatoon, and then the track itself tucked away in the southwest corner of the Exhibition Park, under a freeway, and down a couple of gravel roads.

But find it I did, eventually, and then set off to secure lodgings for the night and take a nap before returning for Saturday 6:30 post time.

Arriving at the park, I realized that on top of everything else, I didn't know what time it was, as I had thought it was still Central Daylight Time (the map _said_ the time zone changed at Alberta), but I was an hour early. Either the map was wrong, or Saskatoon doesn't go on Daylight time. Whatever, I got to hang in the simulcast area, and listen to some old timers complain about the simulcast situation, about having to shift back and forth between [some casino] and the track, and how it was too cold in the casino, and how Woodbine wasn't being shown, or was it, and meanwhile I chomped down on a nice club sandwich and fries ($6.75) and watched a race or two on simul's, and contemplated the night's live program.

Parking: free. Admission: free. Track program: $2.00. Decent seats: free.

The Marquis Downs plant is a smaller structure, with a cramped ground floor, and some cramped simulcast rooms and bars and "special" rooms above, but all in all it isn't too bad. Bigger than a fair grandstand, but not much. TV monitors evident, but not especially world class. Decent selection of concessions but nothing special, except for the high priced stuff where I got my club. Labatt's Blue: $3.00, and ice cold at that. 5/8'ths mile dirt oval, with a very nice wetlands pond in the infield featuring a surprising variety of wildlife.

Gophers spotted in the MD infield between the 1st and 2nd: 6

While classic country and western music played over the P.A. between races, I tried to handicap the night's card, which consisted of 6 TB and 1 QH events generally featuring very small fields, like usually 5 or 6 horses, primarily bottom level claimers from Marquis, Northlands, and Hastings running for cheap purses. The big event of the night was an $8k claimer, for a purse of $2,160, although there was to be a $6k stakes the next day.

And even though it might be the snooty high-class racing purist's nightmare, this track was fun. I picked a $25.10 winner in the 1st, a horse that had run once as a 2yo, been off a year, and now was making its 2nd career start, with the only redeeming factor being string of nice works leading up to the race, and my night was made. I was up for good, and able to enjoy the rest of the evening.

The crowd was mostly made up of families and younger people out for a good time, and no one was betting too much. Mutuel pools of less than $1000 total for WPS combined were not uncommon. A big dog wandered into the apron area, and when "officials" tried to shoo him out, he merely climbed the steps and ran around up in the 1st balcony area, providing mucho comedy relief for the patrons on hand. The Labatt's Blue vendor became my buddy. And the weather was magnificent.

Marquis was fun. Recommended.

The 7 race program ended all too soon, as 7 race programs will, and I headed out for the friendly Northgate [?] Motel, which could not boast of goldfish in the elevator walls - nay, it could not boast of elevators at all - but did have the distinct selling point of being cheap.