It is a sad, sad Spring to visit Hawthorne. The field sizes are just so small, and the wagering so uninteresting. The horses are all somewhere else, somewhere with higher purses. And the crowds that used to make first Sportsman's and then Hawthorne interesting this time of the year? They're somewhere else, too. So, so sad.
The 2011 McChump ??/365 Racing Tour
11 Exciting Tracks! 8 Exotic States and Provinces! 14 Thrilling Storyettes! (So far!)
Warning! The 2011 stories are mostly pictures, and not for the faint of bandwidth!
Gloomy days are on the horizon for Montana horse racing. Former operator of simulcasting in the state, as well as the Great Falls and Missoula meets, and for a while there sorta looked like a savior Eric Spector, was unceremoniously asked to pack up and leave over unpaid bills or something, which he did, taking a lot of simulcast equipment with him. (This is the story I've been told.) The State of Montana was going to take over the simulcasting operations, and new operators would be found for Great Falls and Missoula, along with more race days, and then a miracle would occur. Hooray! Well, not so hooray, as it turned out.
Crummy day. More of the same old Illinois woes of short fields and uncompetitive races. You can't make money on those. How depressing. I took my camera, but the only photo worth taking all day was of the llama in the petting zoo, for the benefit of McChump #2. Pretty much a ho hum, forgettable day ... with the exception of ... wait for it, wait for it ... "Char Dog"!
I have to admit ... when I decided to visit the new (after a two year hiatus) incarnation of Les Bois Park, post Eric Spector-era (he having allegedly been kicked out of Idaho before Montana, allegedly), I wasn't quite sure what I was going to find. What I really expected, at 5:30 on a Wednesday night, was crap. (And P.S., after a nearly 8 hour drive from Butte, I did arrive 10 minutes BEFORE the 5:30 post time, thank you very much.
Well, unfortunately today I cannot brag that my 8+ hour drive from Boise to Tillamook resulted in yet another amazing just-under-the-wire arrival in time for first post. For that did not happen ... thanks in large part to the fact that somehow I'd got the mistaken notion that first post was 2:00, not the 1:00 that it really was. If McChump #2 was along, he'd tell me what was what: ... "You dummy!" But he wasn't, so I had to tell myself. Dummy.
Well, it wasn't exactly an interstate trip from Tillamook up to Emerald. More like a coast sightseeing trip, and a "day-off-from-racing" visit to a relative's vacation place on the Key Peninsula. Note to Washingtonians: That whole Olympic Peninsula is seriously overpopulated. Seriously.
So here's the deal on this race, as I understand it: It's not a race, but a series. Three days of preliminaries, and then the grand finale, based on standings from the first three days. Over the precipice, down the hill, splash into the Okanagan river, swim across, then run up the opposite bank and into the Stampede grounds, for all the marbles. Yup. It's why I was up here in northern Washington in the first place, mere miles from A Foreign Country and possibly billions of scary furriners and potential terrorists and whatnot ... not to mention all that reasonably priced Wenatchee fruit I had passed at various stands.
Not too many race meets left in Montana's future, I am afraid. Thankfully, for all of us who love racing, local trainer Janis Schoepf has labored mightily to revive racing at the Northwest Montana Fair in Kalispell the past couple years after an absence. And I really mean, labored mightily, even taking something of a personal financial bath from what I have read. Last year I missed it because I was at Ely, but not this time. And this might be the last, if she leaves Kalispell, as is rumored. Thanks much, Janis.
Yeah. I visited. Twice! Second time was because there was a KG event, with Roxy and Alise, Dave T. from Vancouver, Walt T. from California, and various more-or-less local schlubs. A good time was had by all. And a great dinner was had by all, thanks again to Roxy.
After the demise of Wyoming Downs, Wyoming had gone without live racing for several years, until somehow (simulcasts? historic racing?) Mr. Eugene Joyce revived it in the (to me) unlikely town of Rock Springs, Wyoming, one of those smallish towns in southern Wyoming along I-80 I had occasionally driven through on the way to/from Salt Lake City and somewhere else. Kinda sorta close to the Green River valley tourist/recreation area, but a long way from any major population area. What the heck is up with that? But the name intrigued me. Sweetwater Downs. Was it sweet like the sweet sweet ice cold Rocky Mountain creek water we used to drink back when we were kids, before clear cut logging messed up the watersheds? Nah, probably just the county name or something. But there had to be some special water there to get that name. Right?
Your natural next stop headed west after Rock Springs, Wyoming is likely somewhere in Utah, where there's not a whole lot of racing especially in September. But there is racing in Idaho, Blackfoot to be precise, kinda in between Pocatello and Idaho Falls, and conveniently on the way back to Butte, America. So that was the stop. But since we already talked about it last year, just pictures for this year. Still a damn fine fair.