Webster’s Dictionary defines tracking as, “the assigning of students to a curricular track.” With all due respect to the folks at Webster, my use of the word is much more fun.
Whether you go once a year, more than once a week, or somewhere in between, a visit to the horse races should be an event. I call it Tracking. Tracking is a combination of everything good that comes from a day at the racetrack of your choice. Here are some of my easy tips for making the most of your next Tracking experience.
1) Pick a day when you have a real rooting interest. This can be done in a variety of ways, including: seeing a horse you have a connection to, or are a fan of, seeing a race or races that really interest you, such as a graded stakes race, or even just handicapping the races ahead of time to find horses that you want to see do well. An emotional investment into the races will heighten the excitement and anticipation of a great day at the racetrack.
2) If you can, get out to the track for morning works. Make sure to check that this is available on the day and at the track you are visiting. Seeing race horses during their practice can give you a different perspective and appreciation for the sport. It also gives you the opportunity to get closer to the inner workings of racing. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with other morning railbirds … you never know who’ll you meet at this time!
3) Now especially if you get a chance to do #2 on this list, be sure to pace yourself. A day spent at the racetrack until the last race is a long one, so it is important to find a good place to sit and relax wherever you are most comfortable. Also, food and hydration are important components to being as mentally and physically strong as when you started the day. Most racetracks have pretty extensive offerings of both … I like to get a sampling of the local tastes when visiting new tracks, but do whatever makes you happy.
4) Learn all you can about horse racing. The more you know about the sport, the more you will like. Picking the horses can be a great intellectual challenge that should be embraced. Whether it be from understanding the most simple info in the program, to being able to decipher every small detail of a horse’s past performances, the more knowledge that you have that actually went into picking a winner only makes it that much more satisfying. And please, never be afraid to ask questions of more experienced race goers.
5) Bet on the horses. It might sound like this one is sponsored by every track in the world, but placing wagers on the races adds another level of fun to an already great setting. I suggest setting a budget that you can afford to spend. Don’t expect to win, rather consider your gambling budget as part of the day’s expenses. When you do win, the money you get back will be a most happy bonus.
6) Take your friends to the racetrack. There may be some days where you are forced to go it alone, but enjoying the sights, sounds, and excitement of the day’s events is always amplified by good company. And exchanging ideas, and hopefully winners, makes the victories all that much sweeter. If you do fly solo for the day, I’ve found racefans to be generally quite approachable and ready to talk horses.
7) Enjoy the beauty of the game. Horse racing is unique in that the athletes may be flesh and blood, but they are also among the most elegant, majestic, and beautiful creatures the world has to offer. Every race offers a new opportunity to appreciate the horses, and every horse is unique in their looks and personality. I wouldn’t love this sport as much as I do if it wasn’t for my great appreciation of the horse.
8) Alternate your home base. While a seat in the grandstand or a spot on the rail are great places to watch the races, do not limit yourself to the same spot from race to race, or day to day. Whether it be the backyard of Saratoga, the paddock area of Delaware Park, or the infield of Del Mar, find new places at the racetrack where you enjoy spending time. One of my favorite off the beaten spots at the races is right where the horses come spinning out of the final turn. It offers a unique perspective of the race, and the sound of the thundering hooves is incredible.
9) A bad day at the races is better than a good day at work. You’re outside at any one of hundreds of unique places to see horse racing, you’re among other fans with the common interest of watching and enjoying the races, and in one afternoon, you have about ten opportunities to watch the thrill of a horse race. Seriously, it does not get much better.
10) Finally, and probably the most important thing to remember when planning a great day of Tracking, is to never forget to have a great dinner after leaving the races. The fanciness of the restaurant makes no matter. As my Dad always said, “As long as long you eat, you’re a winner!” Amen, Dad, and I’ll add, as long as the food and the company are good, you can’t lose.
Who’s ready to go Tracking with me?