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The Dark Horse

Have You Ever Been To Morning Workouts??

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:
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3
Video 4
Video 5
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!!


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Older Comments about Have You Ever Been To Morning Workouts??...

Monmouth Park has something called Dawn Patrol, it takes place on the weekends I forget if it is Saturday or Sunday morning. It starts around 8am, you meet in the clubhouse and have access to be trackside to watch some of the horses train. You are then given an introduction and then taken into the jockey's room( always one of my favorite parts to see all the familiar racing silks hanging from the walls all in one place). Afterwards you board a tram car and taken behind the starting gate to watch the horses train from the gate from a unique view many people get to see. The tram then gives you a tour of the backside where you get to see the happenings "behind the scenes". Very busy place the backside is in the mornings. I highly suggest it to anyone in the Monmouth Park area or anyone visiting that would be interested in such a thing. All you have to do is make a reservation, it is free!
write the racing organization. Contact the racing office and the chief clocker. Explain your desire to watch the workouts up close and they have. at least to me, been very honest open and helpful. You learn about them coming through the gap, the horse identifier calling up the name and distance to be worked and then MARVEL as the way the clocker can use up to 8 stop watches at a time to time them. They lay them out in order and when one horse passes another, they change the order of the watches on the table. FUN TIME
Can I go any day of the week at Arlington?
I live north of Waukegan. Would be interested in seeing workouts, if you ever plan a new trip to Arlington park.
Great post, Chris! Obviously geneated a whole lot of interest. Workouts to me are the last frontier of handicapping information. Loads of information on a horse and his mates that is just lost into the morning air and only captured by the time and the letter B or D. Love being at the works!
  • cpsoren121 · Thanks Adam!! Although I don't know which horses are running. Even if I get the work tab afterwards I don't know how to sync it to what I saw! · 2327 days ago
I had never been to morning workouts at a track before since the local one (Churchill Downs) where I grew up didn't allow it. I even called them to ask but they seemed horrified by the idea of what they frostlly called an "unlicensed person" asking about such a thing (other than the special occasion "Dawn at the Downs." The person on the phone offered to sell me a tour instead.) Have since found been able to go to them at Oaklawn and Keeneland, where you don't need a license to watch the horses in the morning and even have some biscuits and gravy at the track kitchen. They seem happy to have us great unwashed and unlicensed folks.
  • cpsoren121 · Arlington has a similar breakfast program and they encourage folks to come out to visit!! · 2327 days ago
  • cpsoren121 · And why wouldn't they want you to visit the workouts? I liked it just as much as race day! · 2327 days ago
I've been to morning workouts, they are really important with young horses but I would consider them a minor factor with experienced horses, beyond the basics of fitness and condition.
  • cpsoren121 · I wish I knew which horses were running in the morning though... hard for me to figure out without a list and a program! · 2327 days ago
Can the Average Joe attend these? You know. The not KOABD ones? ;)
  • dave.zenner · Yes - at Arlington anyone can watch the workouts. Enter off Wilke Road and drive around to the Clubhouse side and enter through the iron gate or at the end of the path by the Marquee tents · 2329 days ago
  • cpsoren121 · But you have to do it from Chicago, not Kansas City! · 2327 days ago
Been to plenty, Arlington before the Million is great, Oaklawn in the Spring early in the morning with the sun coming up thru the trees with the horses getting a bath and all steamy, don't forget the track kitchen at Oaklawn. Just got back from Keeneland morning workouts, Ken McPeek was working three horses, then off the the Track Kitchen for some biscuits and gravy.
  • cpsoren121 · Arlington also has breakfast during workouts during the summer!! Then you can interact with trainers, jockeys, and the like. I'm going million day, but I don't think I can get my lovely wife there that early!! Will you be there?? · 2327 days ago
I went Derby week to Churchill. I feel at home there. Despite the freezing cold and rainy weather, it was perfect right there by the rail watching all the Oaks and Derby horses.
These vids made me cry. I spent my teen yrs on the back of thoroughbreds at Arlington. Those sights and sounds are almost as natural to me as breathing. I can still walk every path and barn in my mind.Really took me back!
  • cpsoren121 · I loved being able to hear the horses breathe and hear their foorsteps. Can't hear that stuff on race day! · 2328 days ago
Morning works are among my favorite moments at the track. Countless days on the rail--sometimes in the pre-dawn fog, other times in steady rain--I've seen some of the best horses and met some of the most interesting people. Not least of all, I've observed and learned a good deal. Glad you enjoyed your morning!! :-)
Morning works are so fun to watch. I was lucky enough to do several mornings at Del Mar last summer, watching horses gallop as the sun rose over the beach!
Too early. --The Dark Horse's Wife
Glad you had the experience, Chris ... the first of many I'm sure! See you at AP in a few days :)
I love morning workouts! I find nothing more relaxing than enjoying a cup of coffee, watching the horses, and chatting with all my racing buddies. One of the things I remember most when I first went to a morning workout was the being able to hear individual horses as they run by you on the rail. Hear their feet pounding into the track and their breathing. Gives you perspective of just how powerful they are.
It is even more interesting to watch morning works from the backside and to see all of the preparation that is required to send a horse to the track.

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 (Whoa - it's me - the DARK HORSE)
Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
While finishing school in Chicago, I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad.  We took the time to develop computer programs (on the ever popular Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

Since then, I have become more involved with horse racing each passing year through a variety of different media-based roles. Once deemed the "second best racing ambassador in Chicago" (hey I've been called worse), 
I now reside in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the USA and will be covering many different aspects of racing - in my unpredictable DARK HORSE STYLE!  
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Kentucky Downs

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This blog is eternally dedicated to the memory of Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds.

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