Monday, July 29, 2013

Snapshots: A day at the races with America's Best Racing

About two weeks ago I received an e-mail from a man named John Cox.   He told me how he worked for a company called America's Best Racing and his job was to help get more young people interested in the sport of horse racing.  He wanted to invite me down to Monmouth Park in New Jersey to see some racing and hear more about his team and their mission.  Now, my stepmom is from Kentucky and a pretty big horse racing fan.  I've religiously attended her Kentucky Derby bashes and heard her ramble on about Del Mar this and Barbaro that.  But, I never exactly saw horse racing as a sport that was either for my age or accessible in New England. Well, after my trip to Monmouth Park with John and the rest of his America's Best Racing crew, quite a few of my myths of horse racing were debunked.  

On Saturday we boarded the ever reliable Amtrak train for Penn Station, NY. (That was supposed to be read in your best sarcastic tone, so maybe go back and try it again)  After waiting for our late train and then sitting on the tracks for 15 minutes because a "technician tripped a circuit," we arrive to Penn Station just in time to see our New Jersey transit train take off.  Not to fear my friends, we found sustenance in the form of beer and refueled while waiting for the next train to arrive.

Riding on the NJ Transit was another experience all together, sort of like my familiar Metro North...but sort of not.  

 An hour and 20 minutes late, we finally made it to Monmouth Park to catch up with the America's Best Racing team and some other lovely people. (I met Kelly from her great history blog and Nicole from her beautiful fashion blog Running in Wedges.)

John met us at the entrance, right in front of ABR Tour bus. John and five other racing "ambassadors" are spending the year traveling to the big race tracks and the big races in America, enthusiastically promoting the sport of horse racing to the younger generation.  While we settled into the Rivalry Room at Monmouth Park, overlooking the racetrack, John filled us in a little more about the sport and why he's so passionate about it.

Like the other five ambassadors, John has a strong passion for the sport of horse racing.  Growing up near Lexington, Kentucky, his family was involved in the horse racing field.  He told us about how he always knew he wanted to work in horse racing, even acquiring the proper schooling to be a horse auctioneer - although we never did convince him to do his auctioneer voice for us-- if only we'd had more time and more beer.

Next John walked us down to the paddock where we were able to see the horses and jockeys as they prepared for the next race.

I was pretty desperate to know the secret to picking to right horse to bet on, and John did his best informing me on what all the little numbers after each horse's name meant.  One of the problems with the sport, John said, Is I think people get intimidated by the betting. It looks confusing at first glance.
Turns out, it's not all that tricky.  A lot of it is luck, which makes it all the more fun.

We followed the horses through the paddock and onto the track where we watched a couple of races.

Next, John took us up to the press box to see Larry Collmus announce a race.  Larry was a pretty amazing guy.  He's worked at Monmouth Park for over 20 years but travels to other tracks to announce as well, even being the announcer for the Kentucky Derby in past years.  He graciously invited us into his "office" and energetically answered all our stupid questions, including ones like Have you ever met Brent Musburger? (Answer: "Yes, one time.) Or Have you ever accidently missed the race because you were off getting a coffee or something? (Answer: No, but almost.)  He ran a one man show up in his booth, memorizing names and silks of jockeys minutes before each race and then spewing out the names over the loud speakers all through the lens of his binoculars.  If you've never been to a race or heard a race announced, you probably can't appreciate the art of what Larry does, but he announces accurately and he announces fast and, honestly, I'm not quite sure how he does it.

We meandered back to the Rivalry Room where we watched the rest of the races from the comfort of our own chairs with a cold beer in hand.  It really doesn't get much better than this, does it?  With betting right out the door, we were able to try our hand at it, winning a whopping $14.

Before we had to head out to make the trek back to Connecticut, John gave us a tour of the the America's Best Racing bus.  It's a pretty amazing thing that he and the other ambassadors are doing...taking a year to travel the country promoting a sport they all hold in such high regard.  You can check out their website to see more about their tour, read their blog, and see where they'll be next.

We sadly bid farewell to Monmouth Park, way earlier than we'd like to, we were having way too much fun with the ABR team! We had such a fun day  I was able remedy some the misconceptions I had about the sport of horse racing.

Myth one: Horse Racing is mainly in the South. False.  I was so misguided here it's not even funny. You have Monmouth Park in New Jersey (not even a 80 minute ride from NYC) and Saratoga Springs and the Belmont in New York (another quick train ride from the city).  And those are just the big ones, there is plenty of great horse racing right here in New England.

Myth two: Betting on Horse Racing is hard and intimidating. False. This was a big one for me.  I was definitely intimidated by the idea of going up to bet and not having an ounce of and idea on what I was doing.  I always thought all these people knew exactly what to do,  turns out there's really not that much too it.  While you can read the programs and do your best to "get to know" the horses and jockeys, what I really learned is there is no secret sauce.  And on top of that, no one cares if you know or you don't know.  When you're betting $2 a race, who cares if you just picked the horse because he had a cute name or you thought the jockey silks were nice.  The real fun is in having someone to root for when Larry, up in his booth, yells "And there off!"

Myth three: Horse Racing is all old people. False. While the sport is definitely trying to attract a younger fan base, there are a lot of young people interested in the sport.  And for good reason, I think it's a a great day for people my age because it's affordable and fun. Unlike other sports I attend that can cost wayward of $100 just to get in, at Monmouth Park it cost a mere $3 per person to get in for a day of racing.  You can pack a picnic and watch the races with a few beers and your friends, and then try your hand at betting. For us ladies, horse racing also has amazing fashion, I mean, try not to lust over some of these dresses.

I can't thank John and the rest of the ABR team enough for kindly hosting us for the day at Monmouth Park.  We had a great time learning more about the sport of horse racing, and I can't wait to get back for another race.  Who wants to join me?!

Check out more about what John and his team are doing here:

Have you ever been to a horse race? If so, how'd you like it? If you haven't, why not?

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  1. Looks like a fun day! I've never been to a horse race and I happen to live near a great track here on Long Island. Must try this!
    Karen @ Karen's Soiree

    1. You gotta go! It's a total blast!! Ill bring the picnic! Haha

  2. Looks so much fun! Back in upstate NY where I'm originally from, we have the Saratoga Racetracks which is very similar. Now that I'm in NJ, this is way closer- I should check it out!

    1. Rachel, you totally should! I was a fun time!!

  3. Karen,

    Try a day at the races! You will love it but wear a great hat! Naturally!
    Christine, owner and designer at Christine A. Moore Millinery-

  4. I live near Saratoga Springs in New York and love going to the track in the summer. Australia has done a fantastic job of encouraging young women to attend racing events since the 1960 's with their 'Fashions on the Field' contests.

  5. Great recap! New Jersey has quite a few other tracks still open - the Meadowlands (much closer to NYC), Atlantic City, and harness racing in Freehold. And there was a track in Cherry Hill (closer to Philly) that closed in 2001.

  6. Thanks for sharing the Kallie! I grew up around horses (my family are breeders), but I've never been to race on the East Coast! It is definitely on my bucket list to do <3 xo Kelly

    1. Oh good! I hope you have a wonderful time!!

  7. My mom really wants to go to the Kentucky Derby. I'm hoping to take her in the next couple of years. Need to save up because that shiz is expensive!

    1. Oomph! I bet! Well maybe go to a smaller (way cheaper) race while you save up! Haha! That will be an amazing experience though!

  8. Portland has a track, but we've never been!

    1. Go go go! Then blog about it so I can see :-) lol

  9. What a great experience! My family lives up near Saratoga, so I've been to the races many times, they make for a fun day. Amtrak does tend to be late...but the actually travelling experience is definitely one of the most comfortable.

    Btw, I am totally stealing your idea to place an "enter my giveaway" button at the bottom of my posts for the duration - I want to keep it in people's minds without overly self-advertising. This seems like it accomplishes that! Clever you :)

    1. Thanks love! Steal away haha! Yah amtrak is always late but having free wifi and an outlet at every seat is nice!! The food/wine is always a plus too!!

  10. Great photos!! This sounds like so much fun! :D

  11. I've never been to one. It sounds interesting!

    The Caribbean Flower

  12. This is so cool. I've never actually been to a horse race but they sound/look like so much fun!

    xx Kait | ChickadeeSays | ChickadeeSays Bloglovin

  13. It is a great sport and a fantastic way to spend a day. And if you think just going to the races is fun, try owning part of a thoroughbred race horse! There's nothing quite like the excitement when your horse races! It's more affordable than you might think! More information on fractional thoroughbred ownership can be found at

  14. Hi! I'm a new follower via Bloglovin!
    found your blog via the wildcard wednesday!

  15. As a person that grew up in the Thoroughbred industry and have made it my lives work, save 5 years when I tried to go to school in Boulder it is refreshing to finally read something positive that didn’t start off with an agenda. A day at the races is just that, a day at the races. Be it with family or friends. Because of my association with the sport I was able to introduce a lot of my high school buddies to Belmont and a day at the races. I didn’t matter if we left with more money then we came with. Which rarely happened. It was about camaraderie. Meeting and hanging out with the rich and the poor and nameless. All having a bit of fun. In our 20’s we would rent a house in Saratoga for a week or 2 and have a blast. Saratoga is summer camp for adults. Great racing at a great facility and great night life.
    Having been to over 20 Kentucky Derbies is one of those events that everyone should check out at least once. it’s a heck of experience. 150,000 people all on the same page. Even if you have no clue about racing, horses, the sport in general doesn’t matter. You will get caught up in the fun and pageantry like no other sporting event. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Tickets can be had for under $100. It’s only as expensive as you want to make it.
    I have often heard why would anyone want to bet, though their money away. Well, I just never saw it that way. It’s entertainment dollars the same as going to a restaurant, or a concert that now a days cost well over $100 for nose bleed seats. And unlike those events at the Racecourse I do have a chance of walking out with more money then I came with. Plus being able to hang out and talk with and meet people. Some of which I ended up dating. Met my wife because of racing.
    The betting part can be a bit intimating but it can be as mindless as one wants to make it.
    And I could go into great detail on the process because it is a very intellectual process for those that take the time to learn it.
    My favorite exotic or gimmick wager as they are referred to is the $1 trifecta or $1 tri.
    You pick 3 horses, number go to the window and say $1 Tri and give the numbers. The wager will cost $6. If the horses, numbers you picked are the first 3 over the line you win. No matter what the order. How much you win can be a bit more then you bet up to many thousands. Depends on how may other people had the same ticket. Kind of like playing the lottery. But the odds of winning are a lot better. But still long depending on the horses you picked. But who cares you’ve got 3 horses to route for. The safest bet for winning is $2 on the favorite “across the board”. Meaning win, place (second), show,(third) and cost $6. If the horse wins you get the pay out for all 3 positions, if second the pay out for show, and place, if third, the pay out for show.
    If you are ever in the Chadds Ford area of PA, about 45 minutes west of Philly feel free to get in touch and would be happy to show you around our horse farm, There is a train stop a few miles way, Parksburg, you would have to change in Philly and get on the Chicago line. We’ll pick you up.

    1. Wow thanks for all that great information!! I bet being so involved in the sport must be so fun!
      Going to check out your site now :)

  16. What a great day, fab pics hun! I just love the races.

    H X

  17. The best way to attend the Kentucky Derby is to purchase a package that includes your tickets to the Derby and Oaks (upgrades available), Airport Transfers, Hotel Accommodations, Hospitality access, a free gift and much more.

  18. No one can explain the bond humans have had with horses through the centuries or the dedication of individuals in cases like those mentioned above. Get Horseracing Results by clicking the link.

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