Opening Day, whether it’s on the major league level such as baseball, football or even just your local racetrack, it serves as a symbol of rebirth. The occasion represents freshness and the chance to forget last season. Opening Day is also a state of mind as well, with countless fans known to recognize this special occasion as a good reason to get out of the house and head on out to the venue. And in my case,the venue was Fort Erie Racetrack.
With Mother Nature cooperating, it was a spectacular day at the track Sunday afternoon in Fort Erie, Ontario, where the ponies are running once again at the picturesque oval. Though the slot machines are now silent, racing fans packed the track for opening day of the live thoroughbred season to try their hand at picking winners. With Bugler Nagel Reinhold, in his 51st straight year of trumpeting the famous “call to post,” the horses made their way on to the track for the start of the 115th consecutive season. CALL TO SERVE led wire-to-wire, winning by 5 lengths to kick off the 10-race card. It was a field day for speed, with all 10 races won by horses that were either on the lead at the first call or within a length. Seventy-percent of the day’s winner’s won by large margins. In addition to the above mentioned first race winner, race 2 was taken by GIMMESIXSTEPS, scoring by an easy 4 ¾ lengths. In race 5, Woodbine shipper, IDEALS AND DREAMS crossed the finish line in front of his nearest rival by 9 ½ lengths. Not to be outdone, JEFFREY ARMIN, another Woodbine product, won the very next race by 14 lengths. Three more big winners followed in races 7 through 9. WORTH A PUNT by 4 ¼, MOLINARO WARRIOR by 4 and BOB AND WEAVE by 6 ¼, respectively. Allow me skip back to race 8. It featured a horse named YOGAROO, who I have the privilege to own with Wendy Wolff, my partner/trainer. YOGI, as we call him, went off at 7-1, broke from post 8, set a pressured pace and had the lead from the inside on the turn, but gave way in mid-stretch to finish fourth. He ran his heart out, doing all the dirty work on the front-end. In his first outing of the season, there was no shame in this effort. Only disappointing thing was, it looked as though he was going to get the place spot, but was passed late by two rivals in the shadow of the wire, falling a length short of second money. He made us proud, and as the saying goes, "wait til next time."
After the conclusion of Day 1 of the 81-day season, I made my way out and in doing so, I reflected back on the day. I cashed a few winning tickets, but much more than that, I reconnected with my racing friends, I made news acquaintances, watched exciting racing, and most importantly was the thrill I received witnessing YOGAROO race on this opening day. I exited Fort Erie Racetrack, a place where I have attended many opening days, in the same state of mind I’ve always left there in, ABSOLUTELY FULFILLED.
NOTE: On my way to Fort Erie, the song “New York State Of Mind” was playing on the radio, so as I drove and sang (horribly) I changed the words to accommodate what I was feeling while I was driving to my destination.
Some folks like to get away, get to the track ‘cause it’s opening day
Drive their cars down from Toronto or just across the border from Buffalo
But I’m making my way along the Niagara River line, I’m in a Fort Erie state of mind
It’s the place where I see all the horses run, and people having fun
Sometimes I have to go high up in the grandstand to get out of the scorching sun
But I know it’s a place I’m truly needing, I can’t waste any more time
I’m in a Fort Erie state of mind
It wasn’t easy surviving the winter time
Completely out of touch and feeling blue
But now that I have my Racing Form.
Forget the T.V. and all the daily news
It comes down to reality and that’s just fine with me
The racing season has arrived
I don’t care about the Chinese food along the riverside.
I don’t have any reasons
I left them all behind
I’m in a Fort Erie state of mind
I’m just making my way along the Niagara River line, because I’m in a Fort Erie state of mind.