Monday, May 10, 2010

On Track

I'm beginning to think novelty is the secret to a good charity event. It certainly motivated me to join up when I read that Thoroughbred Retirement of Tampa (TROT) was sponsoring a fundraiser on Kentucky Derby Day, May 1, that included a chance to walk around the racetrack at Tampa Bay Downs.

TROT does wonderful work trying to save racehorses who can no longer race from fates sometimes worse than death. That's racing's dirty secret: when they don't produce victories for their owners, those beautiful animals frequently go to horrible conditions and then to the slaughterhouse. Often their physical problems would allow them to become a nice riding horse for a private owner, even if they aren't capable of racing anymore. But it takes time, money, space, and expertise to help them make that transition. TROT's mission is about all of those things.

So I was very happy to help out by showing up to walk a mile for the cause.

We had a police escort.

We were joined by Mouse, the miniature horse mascot of Tampa Bay Downs. Isn't she tiny? And she's wearing a teeny tiny racing saddle, too!

Here we are at the starting line. It was great to walk on the track! Very springy, and they had helpfully used their giant grading machines to make the surface smooth for us. As you can see, it was a beautiful day, trending into summer with temps in the low 90s. That's the clubhouse off to the right.

Around the first turn. Straight ahead in the background is the "backside," with the stalls where the racehorses are stabled. You can also see the second rail of the turf course here. Sometimes they race on grass instead of on dirt.

You can also see that it didn't take long for us to spread out considerably, everyone walking at our own pace! There was no betting on who would finish first or last.

Here's the view of the clubhouse and grandstand from directly across the track. You are a long way from home at this point!

Around the final turn and into the homestretch. I imagine that during the races, the jockeys don't even know the clubhouse and grandstand are full of people yelling their heads off. It's a long way away, and I'm sure between concentrating on what your horse is doing and the sound of galloping hooves, you might as well be in another world.

Sorry these are so distant. I was really impressed with the spaciousness of the track, when you are out on it. It's quite a contrast from being in the stands, which is more like a traditional sporting event and attracts the same kind of Joe Average crowd.

After the walk, I had a really delicious lunch of chicken nuggets and fries in the grandstand, and then lost my entire $20 betting budget in $2 increments in about 3 hours. (Oh, yeah, I'm a high roller, all right!)

The track doesn't have a rarefied atmosphere like you see on t.v. unless you're in the Jockey Club, which I was not. Maybe next year. But then I would have to wear a hat, wouldn't I?

1 comment:

  1. What a cool thing to get a chance to do!

    And for a good cause, a win in every way.


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