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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Presque Isle Redux

Lead Ponies Awaiting the Post Parade (left)

Let me preface my comments on Presque Isle Downs by saying the Tapeta track surface itself and the quality of racing is excellent, especially the three stakes races I saw on Saturday.

In the Presque Isle Mile, I nailed the exacta, with Independent George (right) and Bestowed for $37.20 (plus a $2 WP bet on George yielded another $20.20). Unfortunately, Super Frolic (who, by the way, is so tiny!) was pulled up near the half-mile pole and vanned off. Since PID doesn’t have a Jumbo Tron in the infield, no one could see what was happening on the other side of the track, except that Frolic did not go down and remained standing the entire time, so I wasn’t sure how hurt he was. According to the DRF, he suffered suspensory damage to his right ankle (front or back?). In the paddock before the race, I didn’t like him; not only did he look too small (in stature as well as weight), but he just walked around with his head lower, not looking particularly interested. Who knows, maybe that’s his modus operandi, but I wasn’t impressed.

In the Karl Boyes Memorial NW PA Stakes, Indian Chant looked awesome in the win, setting a new track record (1:02.51) for the 5-1/2 furlong distance. My exacta was ruined, however, when Santana Strings split the winner and Connections. Ah, well. That was par for the course for me this day. I did collect $3.20 show money on Connections.

In the Masters Stakes, Miss Macy Sue was magnificent in setting a new track record for 6 furlongs (1:08.21). I am officially impressed, and will be rooting hard for her come Breeders Cup time (plus, I stood next to her van driver just past the finish line during the race, and she was a very nice woman). Again, one of my trifectas was ruined, though, when Smart and Fancy and Miraculous Miss were defeated by longshot Wild Gams. Looking back over the past performances, I’m not sure why I dismissed Wild Gams, but what a colossal mistake! She beat Miss Macy Sue last October at Laurel, and, though she hadn’t run since the Mac Sparkler in May, she has had a string of nice workouts, including two extremely nice ones here at Presque Isle Downs. And Miguel Mena just owns this track! I did put some “just in case” money on Mary Delaney, but I really wasn’t that impressed with her in the paddock, and shouldn’t have bothered. On the other hand, one filly in particularly worked the paddock before the race like she was a SUPERSTAR, and that was Shaggy Mane. Man, talk about a drama queen! She strutted around like she owned the place, stopping to pose, ears up, head high aloft, as if by mere appearance she could intimidate the rest of the field. Obviously, it didn’t work.

The only other money I collected on the night was $2.80 show money on Major Mecke (left, a great-grandson of Foolish Pleasure) in race 8 for $5,000 claimers where, ironically, the winner finished in 1:37.70, just off the track record for the distance, and better than the 1:38.14 it took the stakes horses to win the Presque Isle Mile…now that’s not good. In race 4, $25,000 claimers even went faster (1:38.08) than those stakes horses. The only change that occurred from those earlier races and the last one was the temperature dropped even further, from the mid-low 50s, to the high 40s. Yea, it was a cold one out there!

I did get to meet fellow TBA bloggers The Last Filly and Quinella Queen, which was great fun! They, of course savvier than I, were bright enough to stay toasty warm most of the evening in the upstairs restaurant, but ventured outside for the last race and for “horse-talk” long after the races ended and the crowds outside departed (evidently for the damn slot machines inside, judging by the herds of people we had to wade through to exit the building).

So, the racing was great, and so too the meeting of friends. Now, for the downside. While I loved the quality of races at Presque Isle Downs, as a horse racing fan, I doubt very much I would ever go back. Many of these problem areas have been expertly discussed by the Quinella Queen, including the piss-poor traffic patterns, with those dining at the buffet and those trying to place a bet converging awkwardly at the same point. Oh, and the paddock area is poorly lit when the sun goes down, and the winner's "circle" is a pathetic red-brick rectangle. The real deal-breaker for me, however, is the terrible views of the track.

There is no grandstand. When races are occurring, you can’t see the track from the small covered patio, or from the three small rows of metal benches at the rear of the large apron. The apron isn’t sloped high enough, but is placed nearly on the same plane as the track itself, so you can’t really see the race standing there either. There is no Jumbo Tron with video of the race as it is occurring, so there’s just no damn way (other than listening to what detail the race caller presents) to know how the horses you are interested in are moving. All in all, I could have gotten a better view of the race just watching it at home on television. But, isn’t that just what racino tracks like Presque Isle, Mountaineer and others expect us to do? God forbid people actually want to see a race in person! It pisses me off to no end that, as a resident of the state of Pennsylvania, whose tax relief dollars from slots revenue is being cut into by money given to racino operators to build facilities, that they have relegated the horse racing experience to a mere second-class afterthought to the slots. On the other hand, it is also symptomatic of a society that no long requires quality, but instead quantity, and cheaply too. Hell, why bother building even the smallest of grandstands—damn, even the barest minimum of high school football-like bleachers—so people can sit down and enjoy viewing the damn race! Instead, pour acres of concrete in a flat pad that people STILL can’t see from, oh, and don’t bother with the Jumbo Tron…anyone who really wants to see the race can go inside and watch it on the televisions in the simulcast area…if grandma and grandpa don’t happen to walk right in front of you with their buffet-laden plates just as the horses cross the finish line.

Urgh! Pass me the Pepto-Bismol.


Nellie said...

Enjoyed meeting you last night - sorry I was a bit weird ... as I mentioned in my e-mail, the cold I had last week really knocked me out all week, and it caught up with me at around 3pm :(

I also hadn't realized that Super Frolic was so small and of the delicate-looking variety (which, aesthetically, I prefer - unless they're Rock Hard Ten, of course!). I've found that there are two types - the muscle-bound giants and the daintier ones. My experience is that it's mostly appearance, though. I actually liked the way he looked ... my impression was that of a wizened, professional racehorse who knew his job and understood that there wasn't anything to get worked up over.

John said...

Excellent post Valerie, yes such is the fate of the horse player who dares wander in a PA racino.

I was contemplating a visit PID but after your posts I will reconsider my horsey travel plans.

Bill said...

Yes Valerie the treatment for anyone actually interested in the sport is a real shame. I'm only about 40 minutes south of the track and had been looking forward to the opening for the last couple of years. We still go up but it really sucks!
I would have liked to have said hello on Saturday, I'm a "lurker" that really enjoys your blog!

Valerie said...

Nellie, I hope you are feeling better :) As chilly as it was, I'm surprised we all didn't catch a cold. I swear, I was just waiting to see a snow flurry blow by.

John, it does suck, but, you should come if for no other reason than the quality of racing, particularly on stakes days. Make sure you let us know if and when you go, if for no other reason than so we can join you for plentiful liquid libations to commiserate how bad it sucks. It would be one heck of a drive for you, though, so maybe wait to see if they make any improvements next year. I'm not holding my breath. But, I am going to do a little digging to see what kinds of things were promised in the licensing process, just to see if everything is being followed. If not, like at Philly Park, they should be held accountable.

Hi Bill! I wish we could have met up; you should have chimed in earlier! Next time...wait, I said there won't be a next time, but...if the quality of racing remains high, I'm sure I will go again. Too bad the meet is almost over. Do you go to Mountaineer? I haven't been, but that may be next on my list. Wonder if their seating situation is as bad?

Bill said...

Valerie, Mountaineer reminds me of a very old fairgrounds, but at least you have seats where you can see the track. Actually the Clubhouse at PID is a great place to watch the races. If you don't mind being inside and if they actually haven't reserved all the tables for the "elite". Which they have done for all the big dates at Presque Isle.

QQ said...

Great summary, Valerie -- I'm glad to see your take on the situation is similar to mine. Next time (and I'm sensing you're willing to give it another try sometime next year) - next time, we'll have to fit in some time for those liquid libations you mention!

Valerie said...

Maybe they will come up with a deep blue cocktail to match that custom-made jacket they presented to the winner of the Masters Stakes! LOL