“I don’t know if this racetrack has an owner’s table, for the stakes races, but most do, but you guys can check. If they do, you are more than welcome to sit there; I don’t really sit there anyway. As soon as DM is out of the barn, I am usually just around,” Mr. Arias said to us as we were about to leave. It was only 11:00 AM, and the first post was at 6:00 PM, so we had time to kill, and I dragged my feet as much as I could.
We gladly took up this offer, although I knew we wouldn’t sit there during the race. My family and I are always up at the rail, and I only remember one out of 72 races I’ve attended that we’ve sat in the grandstand. Regardless, I had gone from super-fan to part-time owner, all in one day. It’s not like I was complaining, though.
To waste 4 hours, my mother and I went shopping while my father stayed at the hotel. Irrelevant. But what the point of saying that sentence was to exemplify the importance of what the race meant to me. It was 6 hours before the race and my stomach was turning over every possibility and outcome. I played out in my head all of the wins, the losses, and all of the dead heats, and possibly more than I should have. He just couldn’t get hurt. Win or lose, he could NOT get hurt. That I was positive that I would do everything in my power to ensure.
My family and I arrived at Indiana Downs two hours before the first post. I don’t actually know why, but it gave me good time to sit around and worry some more. I stared at Race 5, which was the first page I flipped open to once I received the program. ‘1. Decisive Moment 2-1’ It read. He was the favorite. Which meant somebody other than myself and DM’s connections thought he could win! Right? I nervously looked over the field in the first race, which was an allowance on dirt. Needless to say, my worrying got the best of my handicapping that day. I made no money on any race before DM’s race, but after his race I cashed in on a long shot. It made no sense, but I assumed I should never wager while stressed. Rule number 1 in handicapping for me.
Races came and went, and, ever so slowly, the fifth race was here. I saw all of the horses start their trek to the paddock, but then I didn’t see any black horse. Oh no, something happened, he’s hurt, he’s going to scratch, oh no, what happened? As you can see, I’m professional at worrying. It was like the Indiana Derby, when he was late to the paddock as well. Sometimes I think they do it just to see how far they can stress me out!
But, sure enough, DM and his groom came strutting down the track like they owned the place. I’m 78% sure that the horse thought that everyone was there for him, because once he got into the paddock, he was a posing machine. Mr. Arias walked up from his shiny golf cart and I asked him how DM looked. “He looks well, very good,” He replied, and then went off to stand by his horse.
I think the person beside me in the paddock thought I was crazy, because I was muttering encouragements to DM under my breath every time he walked by. “Come on DM, you’ve got this,” I’d say, just like he was responding back. I don’t know if this sounds crazy or not, but as soon as the horses were ready to leave the paddock, Decisive Moment looked at me, almost as if to say “hey, didn’t I just try to bite you a few hours ago?” Ears flicking back and forth, eyes darting across all of the people, it was needless to say that he was ready.
His lead pony took him and led him in front of the grandstand in the post. Here I got some of my best pictures, but when he got aligned with the tote board I couldn’t quite make out where the dark board started and black DM ended! The ponies turned the corner of the post parade by the wire and started back towards me, which is by the paddock. DM was in front, so I could see him the best. He was trotting along smoothly until he suddenly decided to act up and rear. “No, no, no, no, don’t do that!” I said to myself. It gathered a few weird looks from the five people around me, but I didn’t care.
Luckily for me, DM settled down enough to cross onto the turf and into the gate. I was sick with anticipation. Before they reached the gate, I strolled over to the rail by the wire, where an older couple were standing with their program. I peaked over and saw ‘Decisive Moment’ circled. I asked them if he was their pick.
“Um, yea, we think so, yea.” I smiled. If other people thought he had a chance, then he must! Everything is okay! I thought, trying to reassure myself. Then I glanced up at the tote. He had went from the morning line favorite of 2-1 to a mediocre 5-1. I sighed. Just easier money for the people that betted him, then.
I took a deep breath as the last horse loaded. Indiana Downs doesn’t have a screen you can watch ANY part of the race on, so you’re pretty much stuck with your own eyes or binoculars if you brought them. I would advise it strongly if you want to see any part of the race besides when they cross in front of you.
“They’re all in the gate,” the track announcer proclaimed. Muttered conversations were among some race goers, but not many, and certainly not me. I was ready for those gates to snap open and let my horse free.
Written by Madison Jackson