“The Little Things. Win, place and show. Monmouth Park. Race number five.”
Summer 2020 was unique, to say the least. I know, it’s a broken record by now.
Yet, people still gathered and participated in outdoor activities like going to the beach and BBQs, but not attending professional sporting events. However, this writer and hockey enthusiast enjoyed and took advantage of one professional sport during the summer.
Considering that I grew up around the corner from the Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ, I always enjoyed witnessing a day at the races every so often. However, the pandemic ignited and strengthened my interest in horse racing from June until the middle of October.
Whether it was rain or shine, the Track was up and running.
Watching the horses race and strut around the paddock was a normal routine and quite a unique sight on weekends. Who could forget the Friday night twilight races that started at 5:00 p.m. here on the Jersey Shore and ended just in time to enjoy an awesome sunset, plus a pink sky at night.
It really is exciting to not only watch these beautiful animals compete but also place a couple of dollars on them to win – don’t worry I rarely bet anything above $5.00.
Not only was this “something to do,” but the atmosphere at Monmouth Park entailed character and was a comfortable setting. The venue has barely changed over the last two decades, but I can bet that no one ever complains about that aspect.
Another aspect that I appreciated, and always will appreciate about the Track, is that the public can enter the venue and own zero knowledge about horse racing.
Seriously, it’s not intimidating (not to take away from the credibility of Monmouth Park), and entails a great social setting. A day at the races could be a change of pace from the beach, or you can nail the tri-fecta and go to the beach for a couple of hours, head over to the Track in the afternoon and then order pizza for dinner (hashtag, winning).
I gained so much interest in racing that I transformed into a sponge – I wanted to learn as much as possible about the unique and underrated sport, while excelling at its art. Keep in mind, it’s not easy and I still have a lot to learn. Like most things, improving at something complicated like horse racing doesn’t happen after one furlong around the track.
I read articles online, downloaded a book (yes, I’m a millennial), studied the programs and the experts’ opinions and so on. Let’s not forget that the people watching at the Track is an experience. Riding solo, I’d even take the plunge and start casually picking the regulars’ brains.
If it matters, the best way to do that is head up to the rail closest to the Track and ask the simple questions – “Who do you like, and why?” “The Trackies”, as I called them, took pride in sharing their knowledge, but yes at times could talk your ear off. Either way, I appreciated those little moments and the insights.
For the record, the hardcore horse betters that stand close to the track are called, “Rail Birds.”
Additionally, following the national races such as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were that much more exciting.
So, I had an idea…
I’m not sure about you, but Thanksgiving was gorgeous out this past year – how ironic.
Warm or cold, the Track should hold an annual Thanksgiving race, or two, at 11:00 a.m. While High School football always ran the lay of the land for Turkey Day mornings, the times have changed and it’s also time to improve a favorite tradition and holiday.
The Photo Finish
Entering 2021, here’s Mickey’s favorite picks and sports for the new stakes:
Win: Hockey (obviously and always)
Place: Football (Includes NFL & NCAA)
Show: Horse Racing
baseball – get your act together.
(Written in November of 2020).