Friday, August 22, 2008

The Harness Game

I’m taking today off from the track, saving up energy for the long card tomorrow, anchored by the Travers Stakes. Yesterday, I had another lackluster day salvaged (almost) by a late winner. The winner was Trouble Maker in the seventh race. She paid $13.60, but I had $5 on her, so that was $34 for me. Unluckily, the seventh was also the race in which I had the most opinions -- always a bad thing -- so I spent more on it than any other.

At night, my dad and I went to the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway facility, which used to be simply the harness racing track. But as times are, er, tough for harness racing, four years ago a slot-machine casino was added to the structure to maintain its heartbeat. Thursday night each year, Dad goes to the harness track to pay his respects. He used to visit more often in, say, the 1960s, when he says the track frequently attracted eight or nine thousand fans. These days, not so much:

There are more people inside the building, betting other tracks on simulcast TVs and playing slots, but most of them do not look like the happy, young, presumably employed folks on this promotional page.

This is only the second time I’ve accompanied Dad on his Thursday trip. I usually spend that night walking around town a bit. The harness game is an odd one, with terminology and strategy all its own. It’s normally dominated by favorites, so it was shocking that we didn’t see one of them win in the seven live races we caught. Of course, we also didn’t take advantage and cash in on any longer shots. My luck from the flats followed us over.

The horses themselves, with all of their bizarre, antiquated equipment, look like something out of a Matthew Barney film:


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