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Twas the night....


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of trotters danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap...

It’s Boxing Day. A light dusting of snow won’t keep us from the track this afternoon. Eleven races scheduled, full fields in each one. Programs marked, kids in the car, a few twenties in my wallet - all set!

We roll into a parking lot bustling with activity, while local college students brave the westerly wind, tailgating behind their well cared-for Honda Civics.

As we enter through the impressive front entrance, an usher in a freshly-pressed uniform takes our clubhouse passes. Purchased two months earlier, they will secure our prime view for the three-hour race-card.

A heavy-set man, donning a 50s style fedora, stands atop a podium goading us into purchasing his yellow tip sheet. “Eleven winners for a toonie,” he shouts. “Can’t afford not to sir.” I bite.

From my long coat, I pull out four brightly coloured Paddock Passes, carefully handing one to my wife and one to each of the kids. It wasn’t easy to secure them, and at $15 each, they weren’t cheap, but with only 40 sold for the program, expectations are high. The kids smile with anticipation and put the passes around their necks. The smell of freshly-popped popcorn wafts through the air.

A local high school marching band runs onto the track to play a rousing version of Oh Canada. ‘The Betting Team,’ 20 young women dressed in driving colours, stand at attention. Following the final note, into the crowd they go, automated wagering devices in hand. “Would you like to make a bet on the first race ma’am?” one says kindly to my wife. “Have you been to the races before?” My wife smiles and nods, proceeding to read out her first race triactor wheel.

Eleven minutes remain before post-time and the volunteer ‘Spirit Team’ hurls t-shirts and hats, donated by a local restaurant, into the crowd. The kids are given pom-poms and told about the Fan of the Day contest. They beg us to watch the first race from the Infield Kids Party. We agree, heading over past the trackside wagering attendants to the modest indoor event.

A puppet and magic show are on today’s program. They seem low-budget but for only $3 apiece, the kids are ­entertained, and we’re happy. As I watch Soggy the Froggy sing his Jumping Song, the first race comes to the gate. While our box seats are calling me over, the view from the puppet theatre is actually pretty good. A teller runs over to offer us one last bet. I pass her $10 to win on the seven horse. While I left him off my Early Jackpot wager, with a pool guaranteed at $100,000 I’m having second thoughts.

We sip our glasses of wine and laugh as an accident prone Soggy falls from the stage. The three horse is two lengths on top as the field barrels down the backstretch. “The fractions are way too fast, this horse is done,” I blurt out to my wife. I pull out my Blackberry to monitor the in-race betting lines. “We can buy the post-time favourite at 6-to-1,” I say, plunging $20 to win and pressing “confirm.”

The favourite makes his move, both in the race and in the betting. Soggy the Froggy takes his bows and the kids run over to the trackside picture window. A roar is heard from the grandstand as a throng of twenty-somethings exit the Maxim Beer Party to catch the stretch-drive. The race crosses the wire - just missed! My wife grins as she heads over to cash in her ticket.

We skip quickly across the track as a between-race event is being set up in front of the grandstand. The kids drag us over to the paddock to meet the horses, where an attendant inspects our passes and hands us off to a designated tour guide.

The next race is a big one with $5,000 in money added into the pool – it’s the daily bonus race. “I’ve done the math,” I say excitedly to my wife. “Any bet I place has a positive expected value!” She humors me and smiles.

I’m happy. My wife is happy. The kids are thrilled. The track made $32 off us in admission, $60 in Paddock Passes, $12 from the Kids Party, $40 in food and drink and $42 in betting commissions. It’s the best $186 I’ve ever spent and I assure you we’ll be back.

Please don’t wake me.


December 16, 2008 - 11:53 pmThis is more than excellent

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

This is more than excellent stuff. What is being painted here is a good product and customer experience. Can someone please tell me why a scenario like this really can't be reality? It is not like we are talking about elephants riding tricycles here. The scenario is fathomable. It is solely on the industry 'leaders' of the last handful of decades why this exact scenario is not taking place today as we speak. How is this scenario not the goal of every track operator in North America? Huh, I guess the answer is to raise takeout.

December 16, 2008 - 11:17 pmExcellent stuff.

PTP (not verified) SAID...

Excellent stuff.

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