Distance: 470 miles
Drive time: 7.75 hrs (Tour de France scoring) + Wild guess
Construction zones: 5 including some really ugly ones
Authority vehicles spotted: 3
Dead deer: 1
Times lost: 1/4 (it really didn't count)
Most idiot stricken stretch of road: St. Louis
Whatever sense of Midwestern prudishness exists that proscribes parimutuel betting in Iowa on Sundays at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, I'm glad for it, because it allowed me to bypass the Din of Inequity that characterizes that particular track and proceed directly from Lincoln to Collinsville and get the hell on with this expedition. Although I couldn't help wondering whether the slots in Des Moines were also shut down on Sundays.
I guess I should have known I was getting dingy by this point when I waltzed up to the Fairmount Park admission gate, triumphantly whipped my license out of my wallet and shoved it in to the admissions guy in anticipation of finally getting back to the land of free admissions for being an owner, only to have him look at it funny, and then me funny, and ask:
"What's this? A driver's license?"
Sheepishly, I took it back and dug out my Illinois thoroughbred owner's license.
I'd arrived fairly early in the afternoon, way in advance of the 6:30 live post time, in order to bet some of the Arlington races on simulcast just to chap the Arlington bashers off (and okay - to catch a VOP race), and I got a little worried when I pulled into the FP parking lot (free): There were way too many cars in the lot. I wondered if maybe it was an afternoon post time after all, and I'd missed the start.
But not to worry - all the early arrivers were there playing the simuls. And there were a ton of them, people and simuls. Which brings up an interesting point: Of all the tracks I visited on this Tour, Illinois presents, far and away, the most extensive menu of simulcast options of any state/province I visited. Is it possible Illinois has gone TOO far on this simulcast thing? The simulcast crowd was WAY bigger than what I saw betting on the live program.
Well, whatever, as I reported two years ago here, Fairmount has about THE best simulcast setup I've ever seen at any track. The entire length of the grandstand concourse has a double sided rack of TV's down the center, and lots and lots of free tables and seats facing the TV's which makes it simulcast hog heaven. And the folks were there, betting 'em.
And simulcast hog heaven is what Fairmount is becoming, I'm afraid, as opposed to a live racing venue.
Case in point: Two years ago I reported that the food and beer situation at Fairmount *sucked*. Subsequently I read a piece in the Illinois Racing News that said FP was upgrading all this in order to appeal more to fans, so this issue was uppermost in my mind on this particular visit. Here's the lowdown: Now they at least sell a decent brand of beer, MGD, but the food selection is worse than it was last time. They don't even have the fine cheese whiz nachos they used to. And, emulating AP, the beers ($2.50) are now 12 oz. instead of the old 16 oz. - a mighty sneaky ripoff, IMHO. A big thumbs down to you, FP, and a big McChump raspberry to whomever it was who reported falsely in the Illinois Racing News. OTOH - Sunday eve. was $.75 pizza slice night and $.75 Miller products, which, even if you did get just a 8 oz. cup o' brew for that price, and the pizza tasted like it was worth exactly $.75, was a way to realize some value, as that meant you could score up 16oz. of cheer for only $1.50 and get some cheap gut-filler to cut the effect of the 8 oz. beers. Plus tips, of course. Overall, a mighty fan-unfriendly and cheesy food and beverage presentation, FP. The food and beer selection this year *sucks* worse than it did last time. Pfui. You wanna come out for that sort of live experience?
But surprisingly, all was not lost. I still had fun, as the live racing card and the relatively small crowd out to bet it turned out to be a blast.
The night's card consisted of 9 races, with not too big fields, and a lot of cheap Illinois-bred horses, but for some reason they seemed to offer a lot of challenge and interest, and of course there was always the secondary interest of wondering whether 3rd-leading jock of all time David Gall was going to add to his total (tonight, he really didn't).
"I smell larceny, chump!"
McChump #2 generally reserves this appraisal for the unexplained wins of O.A. Martinez at TuP, and personally, I save it for the unexplained losses of Juvenal Diaz on favorites at the Chicago tracks, but tonight, I applied it to the general purse/handle situation at FP. I mean, I know FP doesn't have the groovy $1 lease like in Montana, and I know they don't have VLT money like in Canada, but the purse-to-handle ratio here at FP was just about the worst. The handles here at FP were way above what I'd seen at some of the other tracks, but the purses were way below. For instance, WPS in the 2nd was $10096/3760/1314, and continued on like that all night, well above what I'd seen at a lot of the smaller tracks I'd been to at various points on this tour, yet the purses at FP were absolutely stinky: clm3000 = $2800, n2x alw = $4800, clm4000 = $2800, up to $5400 for an n2x allowance. Southern Illinois horsemen, I smell larceny, chumps.
God only knows how, but I did pretty well at the betting windows throughout the early card, and this despite the fact that the toteboard crapped out after the 3rd race so I couldn't pick on the place and show pools like I did last time I was here. I was just pickin' winners. Easy.
An epiphany of sorts for me at FP this evening, too - in the 8th there was a horse running named Tinsley's Red who was a sure winner. I mean sure. Beyers heads and shoulders above the competition, and at this distance and track to boot. And yet ... yet ... he was sure to go off at very low odds. Very low. And chumps don't let chumps bet chalk, even when only one chump is in attendance. I determined to pass the race, not having a reasonable candidate to beat Tinsley's Red, but at the same time unwilling to bet an even money horse.
Suddenly, a little earworm started buzzing around in my ear: "Scared money never wins, chump". Cramer? Beyer? John McNiff? Meyer Lansky?
Ah well. It's only money, right? And I had all those losing nights and days in the recent McChump tour of the north and west to make up.
For the first time in my career, I laid a big bet on a 1-1 shot. Big. Like my whole cash voucher, which wasn't all that small by that point. On the nose. The freakin' NOSE!
When I came back out, Tinsley's Red was 3-5.
And he won, in a romp, returning a whopping $3.40, and getting me real healthy for the late part of the Tour in toto. Ha. There IS value in them sure things, chump!
I AM the king!
The Day's Inn around the corner and up the hill is okay, but nothing special.