Day 1 - Saturday, September 3, 1994, McDuffy's Sports Bar, Tempe, AZ
Oh yeah. I was back in Arizona. Again. Only this time, for that end-of-summer Arizona blowout known as "Closing Weekend at Prescott Downs".
McChump #2 and I decide to catch the first day from an OTB site. McDuffy's Sports Bar in Tempe is selected as the site which will be privileged to cash our winners. Big mistake. ASU home game later that day. The bar is charging $5 to park in their lot (vs. free just around the corner) "It's a bargain though, hon - we give you this here ticket ta' getcha both in the door without having to pay the $3/per cover". We pay the $5, and head in. Cover is $1/per. Grrrr. We hand over our ticket.
McDuffy's is packed with football fans yelling at assorted televised games, and a small contingent of horseplayers. We've arrived too late to bet the first four races, but there's still 10 to go. Plenty of opportunity for betting action and some of that EAAAAASY money.
The Prescott Downs race card is a bewildering array of live thoroughbred and quarter horse (well, at Pre, 330-yard horse) events, as well as four simulcasts from Del Mar. I have no idea what I'm doing and who are the players. Doesn't matter; the horses Beyer numbers and PP's are all over the place. I bet anyhow.
It's raining cats and dogs in Prescott, and the track is a sloppy waterlogged mess of mud. During a seven furlong race, the 7 horse River Tramp goes wide on the first turn, loses her legs, and falls down in the mud. We're in suspense until the race comes back to the third/stretch turn, and we catch a glimpse of one of the outriders leading the horse away. Thank goodness. Not so lucky during a simulcast of the Del Mar 6th, when we watch in horror as Eddie Delahoussaye and the 1 horse, Ramblin Guy, go over the rail sideways. Looks awful. No replay. Must be bad. Heard later Delahoussaye was hurt and Ramblin Guy destroyed.
The live races seem mostly to be claimers at $1,500 up to $3,500. One highlight is the 10th, a $1,500 claiming race for 3yo and up, non- winners of two in 1994. The 1 horse is Commandinggeneral(GB), a 12 yo gelding with $61,842 lifetime earnings. Paid for his boat trip to America to run $1,500 claimers, anyhow. Two wins in the last two years. Amazingly, he goes off 2nd favorite, as handicapping has by now degenerated into simply looking at the "Wet" line in the DRF to see which horses can stand up in the mud (we don't need no stinkin' mud calks at Pre - them things cost money!), and Commandinggeneral(GB) has demonstrated the ability to do this. He finishes 3rd.
(Now I know that sounds mean - my apologies to the owner and the horse.)
Prescott's host/public selector is named Prescott Pete. Even though we can't hear a thing over the sound of the cheering football hammerheads, his picks look good. Better than our host/public selector home at AP, what's-her-name. Prescott Pete is my new hero.
I lose money and points in an Internet contest on Serena's song in the Del Mar Debutante.
End of the card, and we're out. McDuffy's? Never again, at least during a major local sports season.
Day 2 - Sunday, September 4, Prescott Downs, Prescott, AZ
Off to Prescott on a beautiful morning. By the time we arrive at the fairgrounds, the thunderheads are looming over the surrounding mountains. Quick stop in the stables to say "hi" to my friend's horse, who is running in the thoroughbred feature later that day, and a chat with the trainer (actually the trainer's wife, as the trainer has days off for accidentally feeding a horse a bucket full of medicated oats the day before a race.) She says the favorites in our race, including "horse of the meet Hayden Lake", have scratched out because of the mud. We're in like Flint.
Off to the stands, with the trainer's kids tagging along, threading through the crowds in cowboy hats, shirts, and boots, just in time to beat the rain, and in time for the second race of the day. The race is going off in just a few minutes, so I bet across on a horse I know nothing about. Comes in first, paying a cool $9/4.80/4.20 and I'm on my way to a good day. (This reminds me of one thing I noticed throughout this meet - the betting pools were hardly ever put up on the monitors and the utility van toteboards didn't have them. Some pretty generous place and show pools resulted.)
We start the day in a box by the rail near the finish, directly across from the infield paddock area and the attractive multicolored block-walled saddling areas. All the cars and stuff parked in the infield add to the ambience. The trainer's kid gives me a winning quarterhorse in the next race. Now I have to tell you, especially since I have seen QH maligned on this list, seeing those quarterhorses thundering down on you running flat out is an awesome sight. I can see why people like it. I see why they hate it, too. They're all over the track, bumping and blocking, and we never saw one taken down.
My friend and I go to hang on the concourse and meet his partner. And Prescott Pete. In person. Pete's name is not Pete. I'm crushed. We find a dry spot out of the way of the drips coming through the corrugated metal grandstand roof. My friend's normal jockey is doing days off for rough riding, so the trainer has S A Stevens (the brother of Gary) up in the irons. Many other owners, and several jockey agents, stop by to talk with my friend and his partner, asking "Why? Why not so-and-so instead?" Apparently, although Stevens does well at Turf Paradise, he's not that revered here at the bullring. My friend can only shrug. The trainer is God.
A horse goes wide and then slips and falls down on the clubhouse turn. The jockey gets up, covered from head to toe in mud like a drowned sewer rat, and the horse gets up and finishes the race. Closing well, I might add. Stevens (not the jock that fell) cancels the rest of his rides for the day, and we've got a new jock. Can't blame him too much though. That mud is scary.
Finally it's the featured race of the day, the 12th, a "15 points plus 2 points added" 7f allowance originally slated to match up the best horses at the meet. Two favorites have scratched, and the 3rd is supposedly lame (inside info). My friend's horse gets out in the lead and engages in a speed duel. That horse finally dies and the friend's horse is leading after the 3rd turn, but is caught at the wire by the lame horse. So much for inside info. The winning jock gets to slog across the track through the mud after the Winner's Circle photo, back to the jock's quarters.
I lose money and points in Steve's contest on Grand Flotilla in the Del Mar Invitational.
The evening is spent on Whiskey Row in Prescott, meeting gamblers, jock's agents, jocks, owners, and all manner of racing people. My personal favorite is the owner who was tossed off the track for five years by the stewards for holding up a buzzer in the Winner's Circle photo.
Day 3, Monday, September 5, Turf Paradise, Phoenix, AZ
I wake up on the floor of the partner's apartment. She is cooking a breakfast for thousands as everyone else who stayed there begins to wake up, and all the gamblers and jocks agents and barred owner types start trickling in for free food. Prescott Pete stops in, too, looking a little bleary. Just coffee for him. Someone says that after today, the last day of the meet, the freeway back to Phoenix will be jammed with racing people all heading back south. After a day at the track. Drinking beer. We decide to leave NOW and catch the last day at an OTB.
The OTB at Turf Paradise is just the indoor grandstand area, nothing special. But the new track outside is beautiful, and the infield is nice, and it's a hell of a lot quieter than McDuffy's. That is, until I watch a race up by the concession stand, where a middle-aged patron of the gentler sex is yelling "C'mon, DaSilva, ya piece of shit! Ride that piece of garbage! DaSilva, ya piece of garbage!" Presumably her horse. I head back to the seats. In one race we see a horse make an amazing comeback on the backstretch after losing an early lead. We look at each other. We believe we have just seen ... a buzzer.
We go upstairs to talk with the media guy about all the changes the new Hollywood Park owners are making at TuP, and it seems everyone views them positively, especially the new track put in by Dennis Moore. The media guy says the thinking is that a typical TuP racing day is possibly going to consist of a full card of live racing interspersed with almost an entire Hollywood (or Santa Anita) simulcast card! Something over 20 races per day! Yeah. I could afford that! Also, TuP is planning on carding some of its best races for Mondays and Tuesdays for simulcast export back east. As we're there we watch a simul of the QH All American Futurity from Ruidoso - winning horse to receive $1,000,000. A horse breaks down - both front legs. Tough weekend for horses.
We leave and head to the 40th St. Grill OTB which is much smaller and quieter, and finish out the card.
I lose money on Eagle Eyed in the Del Mar Derby, but no points in Steve's contest as I didn't send an entry.
Total handle for the the last day of the meet: $78,072 on track, $341,779 OTB.
All in all a fine weekend at a small track which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to everyone. Did I win money? Nah. Did I have fun? Most definitely.