As I mention in my bio to the right, not everyone involved in racing has a pure racing pedigree. I am not the offspring of any owner, trainer, jockey, or any other insider. I am simply a product of being brought to the race track as a kid and it has stuck with me forever. So why not pass the love of racing along to my own children? Well, that’s exactly what I have done. Since I have been bringing my eight-year-old son Gabriel to Arlington Park for years now, I decided to share how Arlington Park and horse racing is viewed through his eyes. This should be interesting right? After all, we need to get the younger generations interested in racing in order to perpetuate our sport into the future!
I asked Gabriel what his favorite things were about Arlington Park. His answers were:
- “Betting the horses because I like seeing who wins and I get to have money”
- “The party in the park area since I get to play games and go to the petting zoo”
- “The escalators!! There are ones that go up and way up, and down”
- “The food court because they have Dippin’ Dots and fries”
- “We get to go to the upstairs part” (Not sure what he meant here but I believe he means the simulcast area on the second floor)
- “It makes me feel fun”
- “I like winning, I like the horses and I want to pet them”
(Gabriel with his enormous winnings)
I then proceeded to ask Gabriel about his favorite horses at Arlington Park. The three he mentioned were Behr Fact, Dakota Mett, and Set In Stone. He likes Behr Fact because that horse won on the day we were there and Gabriel won money on that horse too (as the post time favorite so he didn’t exactly win much, and his dad does NOT eat chalk so I’m not sure where he got that from.) Dakota Mett was the first horse he ever won money with, and he said he also likes Set In Stone because he is very fast!
That got me to thinking; I wondered who were his favorite horses are of all time? First he said Secretariat because there was a movie about him, and “he’s the fastest horse ever in the whole world.” He also likes Uncle Mo “because he has a funny name” and finally Zenyatta because “she’s fast too just like Secretariat only a little bit slower.”
Speaking of winning money on horses, I was curious as to what the thought process was for an eight-year-old to pick a horse in a given race. “I usually see who the lowest number [odds on the tote board] is or who the favorite is. Sometimes the favorite or the lowest number doesn’t win.” So when I asked him how he knows the favorite will win he said, “Because they are the best horse and they are the most popular.” Hmmm, that is very good insight. Maybe I should bet the chalk more often then?
His other fond memories of Arlington include going to Chris Szulc’s Horizon Racing stable where he got to pet all the horses, “the ground was sandy and the one horse that was nodding at me was really funny!” He said he also likes visiting “daddy’s horse racing friends” at the track too. He mentioned in particular Dave Zenner “because he works in the newsroom and his favorite band is the Beatles and so is mine,” Brian Zipse, and Chris Szulc because "he owns the horses."
I asked him what his favorite part is about watching races at Arlington. He said, “That’s a hard question, but I like watching the horses go past the finish line on the big screen. I like to see the horses run because if my horse wins I scream and run to the finish line with dad.” He also mentioned that John G. Dooley’s race calls “are fast but kind of medium, but I like when he calls my horse’s name when he wins.”
The kid is also very ambitious. I didn’t even know that he knew about the Million Room at Arlington, but he said he would love to go there because “[he] would have a million bucks.” Wishful thinking!
I threw one other very serious question at him. If he had a race horse what would he name it? “I would name it ‘Potatoesandgravy’ because you can put potatoes on a plate and put gravy on top of it.” Yes, that makes perfect sense.
Out of the mouth of babes, there you have it; how an eight-year-old perceives racing. As funny as this all may sound, we do need to instill the passion of racing into our up and coming generations to keep the sport going into the future. Exposing them at a young age will only get them to enjoy it to the point that they will take it with them as they grow up and mature. Just like my dad did for me.
What are your favorite racing memories as a child?