Have Game? Will Travel!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse

For the first time I attended the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse. I chose this event rather than attend the Chicago Bulls game which tipped off Saturday afternoon at 1 pm. The reasons I chose to attend the Illinois Derby were:

1) I had never attended the Illinois Derby which is a prep race for the Kentucky Derby.
2) I had never attended an event at Hawthorne Racecourse.

Obtaining Tickets and Parking
Parking at Hawthorne is free unless you want to park close to the entrance. Entrance to Hawthorne Racecourse is only $3. Most people had cutout an advertisement from either the Chicago Tribune or Chicago Sun-Times which gave people free entrance to the race.

The Event
I arrived at the track just before Race 2. The race started as I was walking through the parking lot so I stopped and watched the race from the parking lot. After the race, two guys hopped the fence rather than pay through the turnstile.

Race 7 was the Illinois Derby. I bet on Muscat Man to win and Giant Oak to show before the race. Muscat Man did win and Giant Oak placed so I won both of my bets. With the win, Muscat Man qualified for the Kentucky Derby with his fifth win in six starts.

Hawthorne Racecourse
After attending five racing days this past summer at Arlington Park, I expected Hawthorne Racecourse to have a similar feel. However, Hawthorne is much more run down than Arlington Park. Most of the seats are indoors since Hawthorne races during the fall (October, November, December and early January) and the spring (March and April) – cold weather months in Chicago where most people would not attend the event if they had to sit outside.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Another Friday Afternoon at Arlington Park

In 1993, at the start of my senior year of high school, I attended 4 race days at Bay Meadows. This summer, I have attended 5 race days at Arlington Park. With a slow work day and an evening flight to catch at Chicago’s Midway Airport, a couple of work friends and I headed to Arlington Park for a Friday afternoon of horse racing.

We paid the $7 admission and decided to watch the races from the picnic tables in the Miller Lite Party in the Park – Libido Funk Circus was the band on stage.

Since it rained all day on Thursday, the races scheduled for turf were transferred to dirt. Race 6 was the main race impacted as 5 horses were scratched. We spent about 10 minutes debating what the best bet would be with only a 4 horse race. However, when I went to place a bet, I noticed show bets were not available (there were probably other, more complicated bets eliminated as well).

I finally signed up for the Twin Spires Club – a points program for betting on horse racing. A woman working for Arlington Park approached us just as the sun came out. She said, “If you sign up you will receive a free hat and $2 off all future admissions.” How could we say no to that!

The 40-mile drive from Arlington Park to Midway took about an hour with minimal traffic.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lunch at Arlington Park

Yesterday, I forgot to bring my lunch to work. So instead of eating in the building’s cafeteria I decided to eat lunch at Arlington Park and watch some horse racing. As I did the last few times, I brought my laptop so I could work using Arlington Park’s wireless network.

Before the day started, the announcer mentioned there maybe some money to be won because no horse in the field had proven themselves. She was right. In the first race, I bet the two favorites in an exacta box but lost when Dr. Feelgood won and paid $19.80 on a $2 bet. In all, 6 of the 8 races’ winners paid more than $10.00 on $2 bets including a $29.80 payday when Tobin’s Royalty won race #4.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday Afternoon at Arlington Park

With both the White Sox and Cubs out of town and the WNBA away on Olympic break, finding a good sporting event in Chicago was no easy task today. Three months ago, I realized I never even considered attending a horse race during a sports drought. Over the last few weeks, Arlington Park has been on my radar as a quick sporting option since I am working within a 15-20 minute drive from the track. Today was one of those days I was able to make it there after work.

I bought a ticket for $7 at the gate (no scalping at the race track) and looked for Friday’s Miller Lite Party in the Park – where a band plays each Friday afternoon as a promotion. Little did I know, Arlington Park has two Miller Lite Party areas – Miller Lite Party in the Park (only on Fridays) and Miller Lite Party on the Deck (available each race day). When I asked for “the Miller Lite Party area” the information booth assumed I wanted the Miller Lite Party on the Deck. The party deck, which has unlimited food and drinks, is for groups only. A great area for a group outing with work or friends. A not so great area for me.

After the confusion, I figured out where the Party in the Park was (it is hard to imagine I could not find it), I realized all of the seating was in the sun and on the lawn. Rather than sit on the ground and in the sun, I chose to sit in the reserved section of Arlington. Although I had a General Admission (GA) ticket, it was easy to sit in the reserved seat area. The first five favorite horses ended up winning their races making for a winning afternoon especially for an amateur gambler.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, IL

Over two months ago, I wondered why I never thought of watching live horse racing. Today, I finally decided to drive to Arlington Park to watch the races during my lunch (two) hour(s).

The drive to the track was 15 minutes from the office. Since only 8 races were on the program today, I could watch 4-5 races and still be back at the office in a reasonable amount of time (plus with my laptop and Arlington Park’s wireless network I could work during the 30 minute downtime between each race).

Admission to Arlington Park is $7. They have a food court with the normal variety of food to select from – tacos, hamburgers and pizza. However, it tastes better than regular ballpark food.

In the second race I won an exacta box as Papa won and Inner Light placed. Neither my luck nor the risk of my bets was nearly as good for the rest of the day.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Horse Racing at Arlington Park

Recently, I started thinking – why do I never consider watching Horse Racing? Although I check for events at each arena and stadium within the Chicagoland area it never occurs to me to check the racing schedules at Chicago’s two main horse tracks: Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, IL and Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero, IL. You could also go to Balmoral Park in Crete, IL to see live harness racing.

This morning as I was driving to work, I noticed a sign that read "Arlington Park This Exit" at my exit. That got me thinking. Could I take in a few races over my lunch (2) hour(s)? Could I leave work a little early and check out a few races while waiting for the evening rush hour to disperse?

Thus, I checked out the distance between my new office and Arlington Park. 8.31 miles, about a 10-15 minute drive. I shoot straight down Willow Rd; turn left on Wilke Rd; drive a little further and bam; Arlington Park. This could be a definite possibility – especially on Friday evening’s during the summer when the Chicago construction crews replace the winter’s foot of snow causing traffic to slow to a crawl.

Next, I checked out the post times for Friday afternoon races. The first post time is at 2:30 pm CT – a little early. But there are 10 races and about 30 minutes in between each race. Race #6’s post time is 5 pm CT and race #10 posts at 7:03 pm CT. Thus, I could see 4-5 races after work and still make it home at a reasonable hour.

I want horse racing to hit my radar of sporting events to attend more often. It has not in the past because:

1) The tracks are normally not in a close proximity to where I live or work.
2) The races begin in the afternoon on weekdays.
3) Weekend post times have too much competition with other sporting events.
4) Regular racing days are generally not that prestigious of events.

As you can tell, I have attended horse racing sparsely throughout the years – mainly attending the more prestigious horse racing events. But when you consider I look up events at the smaller venues, like the Sears Centre, and drive to the suburbs to see Minor League Golf, Basketball and/or Hockey, Horse Racing should definitely be added to my repertoire.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Belmont Breeze

The Belmont Breeze is the official drink of the Belmont Stakes. However, planning the trip there is not so easy. As you may know, I am an avid Southwest Airlines customer for multiple reasons. The main one being – they do not charge change fees. No change fees is key for any sports fan trying to rank and file hundreds of possible sporting events to attend.

However, Southwest does not fly to three key sports cities – Minneapolis, Atlanta and New York City. Today I was trying to plan a trip to NYC. Southwest does fly into Long Island (ISP) but the airport is 50+ miles away from Manhattan and the train into town costs $10-13.50 depending on when you take it.

Also, adding to the puzzle is that the Ultimate Sports Wife teaches ice skating on Saturday mornings. Thus, she generally likes to fly out Saturday afternoon, so she can still teach.

Thus, I tried to determine the best way for the Ultimate Sports Wife and me to get to New York City. Here were the options:

1) The easiest route would be to fly to JFK. JFK is only 8 miles south of Belmont Park and about a 15 minute cab ride. Delta has a one-way non-stop flight from Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD) airport that arrives at 10:31 am into JFK for only $119.50. The only problem is getting back to JFK once the weekend is over.

2) Fly to New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) airport (also knowing Nicole would miss the Belmont Stakes and fly into LGA later Saturday evening). American Airlines flies non-stops from ORD to LGA (first one arriving at 10:35 am) but it would be more expensive to cab from LGA on Saturday morning before the race. The one way fare was $124.50.

3) Fly to ISP on Southwest. However, their flight did not arrive until 12:20 pm Saturday afternoon. While the Belmont Stakes post time is not until 6:30 pm ET, the first post is at noon. I was not sure how late I wanted to arrive.

After some discussion with Nicole, she decided she might skip skating on Saturday morning and fly in on Friday night. Thus, we decided to book Southwest into Long Island because we can always change our plans if she decides to teach Saturday morning. We booked the flight that arrives into ISP at 10:50 pm on June 6 for $97.50 one way.

As for race tickets, we are planning to buy general admission. It appears Belmont Park does not have an infield – meaning you can actually see part of the race rather than watching it on TV.

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