Hoosier Park, Anderson, IN, November 9

" The Big Giant BC Weekend Gatherin' "

After much consultation, it had been decided that getting together at HOO on the day after the BC was much preferable to trying to get together on BC Day itself, which unfortunately meant some folks missed out on this gala event. But for those of you who were unable to attend on Sunday, maybe we'll try it again next year, when the BC is held within easy striking distance of the mighty Chumpmobile.

With a Sunday gathering in mind, I thought to myself hey why not stay home and watch the BC on TV then?, so I said to myself "Hey - why not stay home and watch the BC on TV?", and so talked myself into doing just that, which of course meant the jaunt down to HOO the next day was going to be strictly a day trip, 4 hours down and 4 hours back. But to put that in perspective it's only 1/2 hour longer than it takes to get down to Hawthorne on a weekday afternoon via the Kennedy Expressway, so it's really not so bad. And besides that way you get to see all the riverboat casino billboards in Gary twice in one day.

Arriving in Anderson with 1/2 hour to 1st post, I was delighted to discover that parking is still free at HOO. The landscaping has matured somewhat in the two years since I was there last, so the place looks a good deal more "settled" and permanent than I remembered. Admission: don't know. Internet correspondent Neil S. had thoughtfully left a free pass for me at the gate. Track program: $1.50. I think. Didn't write it down. And as my success in handicapping out of Equibase programs had been less than stellar of late, I picked up a DRF also, for I was determined to impress these Hoosiers with my big city handicapping prowess.

Found one corresponent early on, and he and the ladyfriend had reserved a table up in the clubhouse dining area, so we spent the day with that as home base. Even though that's not normally the perspective of a McChump outing, it was quite welcome in this case, as being out on the apron was definitely something you wanted to do for only a few minutes. Brrr! On one of our quick trips down to the paddock, we collected up two more attendees as well, and the Gatherin' was complete. Big party of five of the craftiest handicappers ever assembled and cappin' in one podunk location at one time, and plenty to talk about in between, from raging Internet racing forum controversies with all, to horse partnership doings with a partner, as well as the career of his own horse there at HOO, to other horse partnership doings with another partner Mike, to HOO topics with a local who seems to know everyone there. And of course a few cool and tasty beverages to make the thinking clearer and the conversation ever more sparkling.

As I was with friends and actually trying to do some intelligent handicapping, I didn't do much wandering and noting of special attractions like I normally do, but that's okay because I wrote about all that the last time I visited this track. One Internet detractor was correct in saying this track has little character, because it doesn't - it's one o' them new, functional places. But who cares, obviously it has little history because it is only three years old. But it's a clean, attractive, comfortable, extremely friendly place that attracts a crowd that's much more young and diverse and fun than the typical old coot contingent, and people there are actually enjoying themselves, and the track offers its patrons decent prices and a good selection of both food and beverage items, so the heck with tradition and pageant and history as far as I am concerned. Not to mention the fact that HOO offered pretty tough and competitive races to wager on.

The racing has definitely improved since the last time I visited. We started out with a maiden race for a purse of $23,000+, moved along to a $5k claimer for $8,400, and progressed throughout the day up to the big non-maiden purse of the day, a $15k claimer for a purse of $12,700. Essentially, these purses did not suck. And the races were very competitive - the lowest number of entrants in any race numbering 9. They were damn tough to figure out. And these purses made me feel ashamed to be racing horses in Chicago.

Which of course leads us to the fact that the assembled wisdom of the five crafty handicappers was stymied by the horses at HOO (unless of course Mike W. was winning big - he wasn't talking much). It was not a banner day for either the local contingent or the visitor from the big city. I had one very nice winner and several other minor cashes, but the sad fact at the end of the day was that nearly half of my cash voucher had disappeared. Rats! Even with a DRF in hand, my losing streak extended to three podunk tracks in a row.

Hit the gift shop on the way out for the mandatory t-shirt, and they have a pretty good selection of stuff, so long as you like the one basic HOO Park design.

Since last time, I've discovered the secret route to avoid the big Sunday night mess on I-80 around the tip of Lake Michigan, and was home in a relative flash. Without a doubt a most worthwhile trip down to a track I enjoy a lot, and good company to make the agony of defeat a lot more bearable. Thanks!

Hoosier Park gets a McChump thumbs up from me, and is definitely a place to visit on a yearly basis.