Distance: 854.5 miles
Drive time: not quite 12 hours (Tour de France scoring)
Construction zones: 14
Authority vehicles spotted: 4
Dead deer: 5
Live deer: 7
Live antelope: 56 (I kid you not - Wyoming is swarming with them)
Times lost: 0
If ever there was a question where soda ash comes from now it can be told: Southwestern Wyoming
Continental Divide crossings: 2
A very sad note on this leg of the Tour: As I drove through Evanston, Wyoming, all I could do was wave at Wyoming Downs and keep going, as the limited weekend racing at these little Western tracks, coupled with Evanston's less-than-central location, and the Sandy Downs disappointment, had kept me away from Wyoming Downs on a race date. Maybe next time, Wyo.
Since I'd previously scouted out Arapahoe's location two summers ago, I saved myself from an embarrassing McChump getting lost incident, but for anyone else looking, it might happen, as Arapahoe is so far east of Denver that it's off the Rand McNally road atlas handy dandy city map of the metro Denver area, so here's the secret McChump directions for getting there: Go to Colorado. Go to Denver. Go to Aurora. Get on Quincy, and head east, and keep heading east even when it looks like you've arrived in Kansas. Then you're almost there.
I arrived in the Arapahoe parking lot promptly at 12:30, plenty early to apply my scientifical handicapping skills to the 12 race program which started at 1:00 pm.
Arapahoe Park is a clean, newer-looking facility set on a little hill east of Aurora with a nice view to the east of open prairie, and an even nicer view of Denver and the Rocky Mountains to the west. The plant itself is a typical design of that exterior colored corrugated metal stuff with enclosed glass areas on the upper floors.
Parking: free. Admission: free. Program: $1.50.
Upon entering, one is struck immediately by the newness and cleanness of the place. It even smells new - one cannot miss that unmistakeable smell of new flooring material. An escalator takes you down from the entrance area to the ground floor and apron, or you can stay on the entrance level for a couple of nice little simulcast areas and the gift shop and some enclosed seating, or go up to a third level where there are more simulcast areas and more enclosed seating. I wandered around for awhile, checking everything out, including the beer stand where all they were selling was Bud and the only beer worse than Bud, Coors Light, and thankfully some Red Wolf, and the food stands where hot dogs went for $1.75 and they had the usual junk like hamburgers, and in an upstairs vending stand some bbq beef sandwiches and burritos, all stands being manned by friendly fresh faced younger help.
But nothing really struck me. I couldn't really find the heart of the place. Not that special bar. Not that rowdy crowd on the apron. Nothing. And then it struck me - Arapahoe Park is the perfect generic racetrack.
Ah well - my own fun to make, I guess. I headed out to the apron which was about the friendliest and most enjoyable area I had found, and is actually a decent place to watch the races from, with lots of seats and benches and friendly racetrackers in attendance, and proceeded to get down to business.
The day's card consisted of a mix of TB and QH races, with that rarest of all attractions I'd only read about in some horses' pp's - the 1000 yard race pitting quarterhorses against thoroughbreds. I'd learned my lesson well in those old pp's, too: always bet the quarterhorses. The best thoroughbred finish in this particular race was 4th. Them QH just got too much early speed.
I'd finally learned my lesson, too, about the futile search for value in the small pools at these smaller tracks, and had a reasonable day by just doing my best handicapping and betting the horses I thought most likely to win. Reasonable meaning just a small loss. The very small Friday afternoon crowd, made up of of folks of all ages and sexes, was putting up very small pools, for instance 1440/872/656 WPS and 2129/3256 Q/tri, and it wasn't uncommon to see a horse go from 40-1 to 5-1 in a click, or a horse you thought sure at one minute to post was going to go off at 2-1 end up at a juicy 8-1 when all was said and done. The pools can also change quickly in your favor, so you might as well just go for it. I also observed that there was apparently at least one sharpie in attendance, as there were a couple of occasions when I noticed a big hole in a place or show pool and put some serious thought into going in to make an additional bet right before post, only to watch, on nearly every occasion, as a pool that previously only had only attracted 46 dollars in the prior 18 minutes suddenly took a 200 or 300 dollar hit right before post. So don't try that angle, either.
The vitals: One mile dirt oval, with an au naturel unimproved infield that is indistinguishable from the surrounding prairie. Jock colony that seems to be made up of a lot of the second tier who wintered at Turf Paradise, with Janeen Painter the leading ArP jock going into the day. Although she didn't do much on this card. Horses from all over the place - TuP, Wyo, Hou, Wds, Cby, SFe, RP, Ret, Alb, BRD, LA, and pretty much anywhere else you can imagine at this level in the west and southwest. Purses ran $3500 for $12500 maiden claimers, $3500 for $2500 claimers, $5000 for $6250 claimers, up to $5500 for $8000 claimers.
All in all, an okay afternoon in nice weather, but I was pretty disappointed in what a small crowd had come out to a track that has everything to offer except perhaps character, and it was pretty much just an afternoon at a racetrack that could have been about any racetrack anywhere. There's a free bit of advice for you, ArP management - something needs to be done to make your track a more special place to visit. I wasn't the only one there who was just kind of wandering around, being there. The place is nice enough, just sterile. Maybe that's what they like in Denver, but it didn't quite register a big home run on the fan-o-meter to this chump.
Final McChump rating: A shrug of the shoulders.
The Hampton Inn Aurora, just off the freeway and on Florida, would have got a decent rating, as I've been there before, but it was already full up by the time I got there, so I made like Bob Seger and got out of Denver, baby, to spend the night at some motel somewhere out on the interstate, with a fine nighttime symphony of passing semis.