My daughter loves horses, and I like placing poorly considered boxed exactas, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by taking her to the racetrack on Saturday. I am always seeking new and fun family activities as an alternative to watching chocolate milk negate recent strides in carpet cleanup following an expensive visit from Oxy-Clean.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, if a bit brisk, and the grandstand was crowded. There seemed to be an unusual emphasis on pretzels and funnel cake by the paddock, however. We happened to bump into some friends standing by the finish that had also brought their children along.
“Nice to see we both had the same idea,” she said. “We came today because we saw it was ‘Kids Day’, too.”
“It is?” I blinked. I should have been more suave, playing it off like I knew that instead of being a father who takes his two-year-old to the track.
“Yeah,” she said, pointing across the way. “You can get your pictures taken over there with Santa.”
Sure enough, a tent was set up on the far side of the grandstand, just like for Starlight Racing. We made our way over and peeked inside. The inside was AstroTurfed and there were tables, snacks and a photo-ready Santa station, flanked by a scary-looking elf.
“We are not going over there,” said my wife, eying the elf warily. A puffy-faced Santa peered at us through slitted eyes and beckoned. I agreed.
Back in the fresh air, I tried to review the racing form but it was impossible to employ my scientifically based and fiscally sound track methodology to the process while having to account for a toddler who had missed her nap and was acting accordingly by running laps through the bleachers. Post time was upon us, so I just slapped down five bucks and bet the jockey. The bugle sounded, the bells rung and the gates opened. They were off.
“Look, Milly, horses!” I exclaimed as the horses rounded the corner and came down the stretch.
They thundered by. This got her attention, and she stared wide-eyed at them as they flew past. It was a photo finish; my horse won by a nose.
“We won!” I said, the elation instantly replaced by the regret that I had not placed a $350 bet instead of a lame fiver.
“I want to ride,” Milly declared.
Newly rich with my $13 in gains, we all celebrated with a big pretzel. We approached the fence, and a Fairgrounds hand on a horse allowed Milly to stroke his mount’s muzzle. Milly smiled.
Then it was off to City Park to see Amanda Shaw play at the Museum of Art as part of its 100th Birthday Celebration. This was followed by a stroll through the sculpture garden, the beautiful late afternoon sunlight casting long shadows across the lawn. It was time to head home.
The grandstand admission was free. Amanda Shaw and a peek at the museum’s galleries were free. The sculpture garden was free. Even after the pretzel, I was up $9 on the afternoon. All in all a lovely day.