-- Morning, Aug. 11, Salt Lake City airport parking garage:
The ChumpMobile seems to have conducted a gettin' lost incident all its own during my brief absence. Darn that pesky car!
-- Aug. 11, shortly before 1:00pm, I-15 overlooking Malad City, ID:
This is just not fair!
Once again I have driven like a bat out of hell, risking life and limb, for the sake of the $2.00, and it looks as though I won't make it in time to bet the first race. Stuck in a stinkin' construction zone once again, and most agonizing of all, the track is clearly visible just down below the highway. Arrrgh!
Off at the exit. Bomb through town at 33, exceeding the 30 mph limit by, oh, quite a bit. Bring the ChumpMobile to a screeching, dusty halt in the nice free gravel lot near the chute and starting gate, and hop out, only to hear the PA announcer say "the horses are loading in the gate". No! There's yet a ways to walk to the betting windows. $3.50 admission. But wait! "The one horse is acting up in the gate." Still a chance! Come on, one! Act up, one! Betting windows, betting windows, where? ... there, just past the grandstand. Quick glance at the tote to see what numbers are bettable, $2 to win on number 6, please, "And they're off!"
I've done it, with seconds to spare. The 6 loses miserably. A quick glance at the pp's in the $2.50 program which soon finds its way into my hands reveals that the 6 never had a chance. Ah well. $2 from my pocket into the UPF fund.
I am totally convinced that it is time for a beer after all that excitement. The American Legion just happens to be running a small beer booth off the right end of the grandstand, and these, as it turns out, are very reasonable people. Only $1.50 per can, and a wide wide selection of the name brands of the Pacific Northwest, including such favorites as Rainier, Olympia, and Lucky Lager, in addition to all the regular national brands. You big tracks that offer nothing to your customers but Crud, Crud Light, and Coors Light just take note. This is the tiny Oneida County Fair, of Malad City, Idaho, and they are putting you to shame with their customer service.
Just a few feet from the beer stand stood a small charity stand, with a sign that read "Your volenteer[sic] firemen need help!". Yes, indeed.
Changing the pace, and the tense, I determined that it might be wise to take a look at the pp's before betting any additional races. It being a very hot and sunny day, the place of quiet refuge appeared to be some benches along the fence behind the grandstand, shaded by some tall old trees. I wasn't the only one there. One friendly gentleman was only too glad to chat.
But despite that, I managed to look over the pp's.
What we had on the day was a card of nine races, ranging in distance from 300 yards, to 300 yards, to 300 yards, to one endurance test of 660 yards. In other words, I was looking at an entire afternoon of quarter horses, appys, and paints. This was no problem; I am an expert in this field. A mixed breed maiden race sported a purse of $675, the same for $3k QH claimers, $800 for an all breed allowance, $1100 for the all breed futurity consolation, $1400 for a QH overnite futurity (an overnite futurity?), and then finally, the big races of the day, $7596 for the QH Derby and $11,700 for the Bosen All Breed Futurity. All in all, a fine day of racing.
Carefully perusing the pp's, I managed to pick the 4th horse in a 5 horse field in the 2nd race, and decided that maybe some track exploration was in order. There wasn't a whole lot to explore, of course, this being a small county fair, and no fair going on, just the racing.
The grandstand, such as it was, was simply some wooden bleachers on a spidery metal framework, covered over by a corrugated tin roof, also supported by a spidery metal framework. Just to the right of this are a few bleachers, and a small announcer's stand on stilts, occupied by the stereotypical Idaho fair announcer, a lean older cowboy-looking character in boots, jeans, cowboy shirt, cowboy hat, and dark glasses. Cowboy accent, as well.
Then to the right comes the beer stand, then the betting windows building, which fronts a large gravel apron area, then the small uncovered woodchip paddock and saddling area. Restrooms, I discovered, are in a small building way down off the left end, and down off the left end as well was found the Ladies Aid concessions area, and they had a very tasty cheeseburger for only $2.75.
I managed to pick up a $5.20 quinella in the 3rd race, but in the 4th race my horse, the #3, decided to run off out of the post parade, and ran back to the barns. She was a late scratch, so I had no bet in the race. The scratch also reduced the field to 3 horses; trifecta betting was cancelled. The quinella, however, paid a stunning $3.00 in this race, which earned some money for UPF from James C.'s pledge.
Although only QH-type races were being run on this particular day, the track itself is a full-function 4f bullring, a nice wide track that was only slightly lumpy and rocky. Requisite rodeo setup in the infield, and then plain, dry grass. Barns out to the rear somewhere, the town visible in the background, mini-function toteboard, PVC pipe innner rail, and mountains surrounding almost every way you look. Pretty much the usual setup for small fair tracks, but the PVC pipe rail fell down once during the day and held up a race, so that was kind of different. And the track drag seemed to be not a regular track drag but some sort of farm implement, so that was kind of exciting, too.
Not a monster crowd, but a good one, with lots of women and kids along for the day. Very nice and friendly people, too, which also extended to the vendors and tellers, and that was especially nice.
Jocks and trainers I really did not recognize, except for trainer Rodney Grant, whose name was familiar from a previous Idaho fair, and jockies Cody Foster and Justin Vanderwoude, familiar from somewhere.
I took my stand for UPF in the 5th, backing A Bit Splashed in this all breed allowance, but he was nosed out for the win in a photo. Luckily, I had covered this eventuality by having the $6.40 quinella, so UPF still made money in the spare change bankroll. Which was good, as it was given back in the 6th.
But the 7th. Ah, the 7th.
This was the QH overnite futurity, with 8 big betting interests, and my observation of races of this type is that they are often won not by last-out winners (always bet down to a low price), but by those horses who ran a real good race last time, only to finish a nose or so short, which for some reason always go off at very attractive odds, despite the fact that their last race was only .01 sec slower than the winners. So I crafted a 3-horse quinella box based on this theory, a whopping $3 one, waited anxiously while the 6 horse ran off in the post parade and took a turn by the stands but was quickly recaptured and brought back to the race, and then sweated out a long, long photo for the win. Cha-ching! My 4 and 2 horses had come in, Our Hope Too and Short Tac MN, giving me the $63.80 quinella 1-1/2 times. The King!
The lady at the betting window seemed genuinely surprised when I handed her a ticket that rang up at $95.70, as though it was of a magnitude not seen in those parts for some years.
With this monster windfall behind me, I decided to back off in the 8th, and only bet one horse to WP. Cha-ching! again. $17.40/$4.80. Truly I am the King today.
With enough money in pocket for the spare change bankroll to offset all the losing up till now, I decided enough was enough, and it's a long way to the night's lodgings, so skipped the big $11,700 feature and headed off into the evening.
All in all, a bare-bones but very friendly track, with lots of good people, cheap concession prices for a good selection, and a fun (but hot) day of racing. Thumbs definitely up.
Total miles traveled to get to this track: 801 (189 ground; 612 air)