Internet correspondent and honorary chump Scott Little saves my cookies, and the Podunk Track of The Week Tour, by pitching in with a guest commentary for a weekend I was sick.
Okey dokey. McChump is claiming sick leave, so I'll pinch hit with a podunk track report. I'm happy to report that lovable and charming Portland Meadows opened for their 52nd season this past weekend. So, here goes a weekend at Portland Meadows...
To start, we get in the REAL Chumpmobile, my old Audi 5000. It's a nice car with leather interior and stuff, it's just that, well, it sounds like the car doesn't like to go places. The first time rider is usually quite nervous. But once we pull into the spacious parking lot of Portland Meadows, we know everything's gonna be alright.
I enter through the fancy entrance. There's two entrances. One is for those who like to be impressed with things like chandeliers and mirrors and stuff. The other is for those who like wires, heating vents, and cement.
Up the escalator we go, and we're in the clubhouse. Actually quite full today, being opening weekend and all. Making a quick scan throughout the clubhouse, we can spot a few improvements. A new paint job consisting of grey floors, and various areas of forest green and brown on the walls. The color scheme is quite striking. There's also a new neon sign proclaiming that Portland Meadows now sells Dryer's ice cream. They've spiced up the food menu as well. Everything has catchy little names (The Belmont Steak Sandwich - genius). You apparently pay a little more for the catchy names-as compared to last year, when the food was anonymous. I decide that a pizza slice will suit me. Only $2 a slice, and it wasn't that bad. Unfortunately, they serve RC Cola beverages, so we wash it down with some smuggled in Diet Coke from my bag. I can't report on the big frosty refreshements that McChump reports on-I don't turn 21 till next month. I'll be happy to report the PM beer report shortly thereafter.
Now, I'm fueled up, and ready for some 'cappin. Looking at the toteboard, I notice PM has stepped up, and joined the rest of the racing world. PM now offers the universal color/number scheme we've all come to love. Personally, I've come to use it in everyday life. Driving down the road, I often find myself approaching a stoplight yelling, "Stay up there five! Stay up there! Oh no, here comes the four... Damn, the one." (If you know what that meant, you're a true horseplayer).
Among other improvements, are the increased simulcast of the PM signal. There was even a race with $5,000 in the win pool. Might not sound like much, but around here that's big news (I have a picture from last year of a horse crossing the finish line, and in the background the toteboard is reading $793 in the win pool. Honest.)
Meanwhile, we have this new guy doing the Paddock Show - Hal. He uses a striking monotone voice, and reads from scripted text. One time he attempted to veer off his script to lay on us his expert opinion. He pipes out,"The five horse is carrying 124 pounds, while everyone else is carrying 119. This is a huge advantage for the rest of the field."
Well, I don't know how impressed the crowd was with that tidbit, but they definately knew that Danny Boag was two pounds overweight, and was in the saddle for the two horse. Quite to the contrary of who Hal thought was riding the two horse - Silvester Jimenez. These two men are as different looking as their names suggest. Apparently, Hal didn't know what any of the jockeys looked like. The crowd quickly dismisses Hal as an idiot.
I struggle through the card to figure out how to bet. You can bet on horses that raced a couple times at the Salem fair, you can bet on horses that hadn't raced since last April, or you can bet on tired horses from Emerald Downs. This is the basic betting strategy for the entire card. I was betting on the Salem horses with good workouts. I was betting wrong. The tired old platers from Emerald were dominating. But I wouldn't hear of it. These invaders weren't going to take all of Oregon's horsey pride. Were they? They did, right along with my money.
New strategy. Let's go down to te paddock for closer inspection. Portland Meadows has an indoor paddock, in which the horses are saddled in the middle of the walking ring. Well, I happen upon the eight horse-Enliven Kliven (Rob Creighton owned I might add). They're saddling the horse, and he don't care for it. He rears straight up in the air, into the walking ring, and then nearly over the fence that protects the patrons. My good pal Wendy was taking pictures of him. Unfortunately, no action pics. I value my life, so I go in search of other horseys to look at. I happen upon the three horse. Something peculiar about his saddle cloth. One of the numbers is sewn on backwards. He is the three horse on the right side, and the E horse on the left side. (I think this kind of stuff qualifies you for instant podunkivity).
[Ed. note: Scott wished to clarify that the eight in the previous paragraph not = the eight in the following paragraph. In other words this is two separate eights he's talking about here. Got it? The eights are not the same! Thank you.]
Eventually, I arrive at a horse I like, (the eight) but decide to not bet until I feel more confident about my PM handicapping. James Wooten sends him over the finish line first and lights up the tote for $20+ on the win. Ouch. Pouring salt on my wounds is the two loud gentlemen yelling "Woot! There it is! Woot! There it is! Woot! There it is!"
End up a couple bucks lighter, but with optimism for the coming season. Anyone wants a PM update, lemme know...