Sportswriter extraordinaire Jen Jade has been suggesting to me for a while to attend the morning workouts at Arlington Park. So this last weekend my best friend Jason and I decided to give it go and afterwards we both had agreed that it was a rewarding experience!!
Our adventure began on a very humid morning Chicago where Jason and I had to drag ourselves out of bed at 4:30 AM to get ready to make the trek south to Arlington Park. At first, being that it was so early in the morning, I was wondering if this was even worth the trip! On the way the obligatory stop at the Shell station was in order to obtain enough caffeine to make it through the morning. As to be expected the traffic on I-94/294 at that time of morning made the drive a breeze!
At about 5:30 AM we entered the east gate of Arlington Park and drove back to the clubhouse parking lot. As opposed to early afternoons on race days the parking lot was extraordinarily empty, a sight my eyes were not accustomed to. We walked up the brick path to the clubhouse gate which was wide open and inviting us to come in and view the beauty of Arlington Park!
Walking out to the apron and looking out, I had never seen so many horses on the track all at once before! As the horses made their way onto the track from the barns, they all lined up on the clubhouse rail and made their way to the back side of the track in order to start their work outs. For a first timer like me it was at times difficult to determine which horses belonged to which stables and also how the clocker was able to keep track of all of the horses! Some horses just gallop lightly while others work as if they are in an actual race! Some horses ran alone and others ran in company. Some horses were under a hand ride and others were given a little extra encouragement. Either way it was a lot to observe with so much going on around us! My favorite part was when the horse was charging down the track on the rail to the finish line as if it were race day!
At one point, just to the right of the main jumbotron display, a loud horn was blown! One of the horses had become loose on the track after losing their rider and the horn was sounded for the protection of the others around. Amazingly enough the horse, knowing where the barn was, started running that way and was cut off by the outriders who took the horse to safety.
The other great thing about attending the morning workouts is the chance to meet and talk to the great individuals that make the industry go. Right when Jason and I got there we spent a few moments talking shop with trainer Tim Ice as he was getting ready to work three of his horses. After that we ran into Chris Szulc owner of the Horizon Racing ownership group as he was observing potential claims for his operation. Chris, Jason, and I spent the better part of a couple of hours on the rail talking about all aspects of racing! In fact we were there so long that jockey James Graham even asked why we were still hanging around LOL!
While Jason and Chris were talking I took the opportunity to chat with Howard Sudberry the new Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for Arlington! He and I talked for a while about how great the track is and how optimistic we are about the future of Chicago racing. Shortly after my conversation with Mr. Sudberry, I ran into Susanne Reardon of Midwest Thoroughbred magazine! She had introduced me to a couple of her friends and we also had the chance to talk racing for a while. Susanne was able to identify a horse on the track that she had been watching for some time and was convinced is a future winner! Coming back to the rail, I stopped to introduce myself to trainer Tammy Domenosky right after she gave the jockey instructions on how to work one of her horses. Just having the ability to mingle with some great people made the trip very worthwhile!
At about 9:30 AM the track was fairly empty and it seemed that the workouts were dwindling down. Jason and I had enjoyed Arlington for the morning and we decided to head back north. This experience was amazing and I WILL certainly be partaking in this adventure again very soon! I recommend to anyone that has not had the experiencing of witnessing the morning workouts at your nearest race track to do so. It is something that you will certainly enjoy and want to do over and over again!
Here are some short videos that I captured of the workouts:
I'm interested in hearing about your morning workout experience!! Please leave a comment here on HRN, or feel free to send me an e-mail!!