Cheesy foreign-built travelalarm, anyhow. Failed to go off. As I hustled to hit the road from my fabulous Elizabethtown, KY, Super 8 overnight accommodations ($38.20, single) I reflected back on the late, lamented Captain Travelalarm (aka "Rusty"). Now THAT was a good travelalarm. Why don't they build 'em like that anymore? Stinkin' cheap foreign model - now I'll never make it to Paducah on time!
Once again the weather chumps were pretty much wrong about the weekend rain extravaganza, and a light drizzle around the greater Elizabethtown area gave way to partly sunny and dry skies as I headed west on the Western Kentucky Parkway through beautiful hilly Kentucky countryside accentuated by Fall colors not yet ruined by "knockin'-the-leaves-off" Fall rain. It is pretty country.
Once I found a radio station that wasn't preachin' Sunday morning fire and brimstone, I sheepishly realized just a little flaw in the McChump timing ointment. Oops! Forgot about that Daylight Savings "fall back" thang. Oops! Forgot about that time zone change thang. As a result, I arrived in the greater Paducah area about two hours ahead of first post.
Now when you're visiting the big tracks, killing two hours ahead of post is no big deal, but killing two hours at a podunk track (and I knew Bluegrass to be podunk by the fact that you can't find their results or anything else on either the DRF or Equibase website) can be interminable. So I decided to make good use of the two hours and check out some of the local sights, which in my case consisted of a drive to Cairo, IL, mythical southernmost city of the great state of Illinois, nestled in the little spit of land that's the last barrier between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
COOL OLD TOWN! Lots of boarded up old buildings, and ancient two and three story homes, and imposing stone public structures, and businesses (the ones that were still "in") that had nothing to do with any of modern franchise America, and taverns galore purporting to cater to the river traffic, and ... OH NO! Another billboard for yet another stinking riverboat casino! I hightailed it back across the bridge to Kentucky.
Coming back into Kentucky I took a quick glance at the glovebox copy of "Making Tracks" just so I'd know where I was going when I got back to the general vicinity of Paducah, and realized a terrible error: post time was 12:15, not 12:30 like I'd thought, and I was likely to miss the first race! Even the inviting "Country Barbecue" stand in Wickliffe, KY, that reminded me of nothing so much as the fabulous "The Pork Pit" in Montego Bay, could not slow me down. The Chumpmobile was in high for Paducah - for about five miles until I got stuck behind a wide load.
Arriving finally in Paducah, I followed the "Making Tracks" directions to the letter. But there's an error. The track isn't "right" of route 60 at all. By the time I got sort of lost in Paducah and straightened it all out and finally found "Downs Street" (or whatever) on the left side of 60, I just knew I'd missed that 1st race. Time: 12:25.
The vision that confronts you when you first see Bluegrass Downs is a memorable one: Gravel parking lot. (free) The finest steel I-beam and corrugated metal siding construction, of a very small structure. Maybe 100 cars in the whole parking lot, to the point you wonder if there's really live racing going on that day or not. In short, one of the podunkin'est podunk tracks I've ever seen.
Let's see - grandstand entrance, or clubhouse? I chose grandstand. Admission: Free. Track program: $1.00.
I hustled out front to see what race was going off, so I could get in on the action ASAP, what with my faux pas on the timing and all. What's this, chump? Still the 1st race, and the horses are in the saddling area and jocks are getting *off*? "Ladies and gentlemen, the start of the first race will be postponed." Must a knew I was coming. Never did find out why.
Gave me a bit of a breather to decompress, handicap the 1st (a five horse fMdSpWt, purse $4000, 4f), and get the lay of the land, anyhow.
Bluegrass Downs is a tiny little facility, with a grandstand structure barely 200 ft. long (I paced it), enclosed on the bottom floor with a grandstand and clubhouse side (no crossover premium), and an upper seating area consisting of 7 rows of folding box seats plus 16 rows of benches on the grandstand side, and an enclosed upper clubhouse area on the clubhouse end. Three rows of free benches out on the apron, but hardly anyone was out there, as it was a tad cool, but a decent day with scattered clouds streaming north at a breakneck pace (keep going you schlubs, I thought, way up to Canada - anticipating the drive home and the rain the wether chumps were promising for Chicago.)
Finally the first went off, and I did not win. Dang! Down, first thing.
And they kept blasting them off, about every 20 minutes, which made the entire card of 7 races pass extremely quickly.
2nd went off; I did not win.
Meanwhile, jockey Laura Getsinger was starting a three race win streak. She was only one of the BGD jocks whose names I did not recognize in the least.
I decided it was about time to wander the grandstand side of the plant just a tad, especially since the bar finally opened. Ack! Stinkin' just Bud again. But this time at a reasonable price: $1.25 for 16oz, about what Bud is worth, so I decided I could live with that. Hamburgers: $2.00, cheeseburgers: $2.35, hot dog: $1.50. Two counters of three tellers each takin' bets from the huge lower grandstand crowd of maybe 30 people, none of whom seemed to be having all that much fun and
3rd went off; I did not win. I had not recognized Laura G.'s prowess yet.
Time to visit the clubhouse side of the lower level; no extra charge.
Clubhouse side, lower level, had more people, and better food, with many sandwiches available in the $3-$4 range, and a full service bar, but once again, a pretty dead crowd, maybe 40 or 50 people, most of whom seemed to be involved in betting simul's, and no one there seemed to be having a lot of fun, so I headed out out onto the apron and wouldn't you know it
The 4th went off and I did not win.
The BGD track is a 5f oval with beautiful trees in the background and a pretty unkempt au naturel infield with a pond and
5th went off and I did not win
The horses on the day were pretty cheap, most of which were graduates of Fairmount, and the typical race was a maiden claimer $5000 for a purse of $2400. 5 horses, 4 horses, 5 horses - in fact the worst fields I'd seen since Marquis Downs, but then on the other hand where can you see a race featuring two Mississippi breds (the 5th) as well as a card that featured horses from Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, and tons from Illinois that were kicking big butt
And I won in the 6th! Yes! A mighty nice $7.60/$3.60 WP score that brought me back from the brink in the day's feature, an allowance race nw2 for f&m going 4f and paying a cool $4500.
Pools on the day were pretty puny from the whopping crowd of maybe 200, with the delayed 1st being tops with a win pool over $1000, although that was in danger for awhile, as the win pool shrunk during the delay, and then
Suddenly the 7th, and I won a nice place bet, and the card was over by 3:05 pm.
I followed trucks with horse trailers back into Illinois, and feel kind of sorry that next year this TB meet won't be there for these small breeders, as BGD reverts to the dregs of harness racing. A few more small-time breeders, owners, and trainers that the forces of Derby-Approved racing will send off to oblivion and don't care about, I guess, but hey - what do I know.
But I hate to say it, and I'm sure a big Derby firestorm will follow, but I can't recommend this track for anyone's "must visit" list. People there just didn't seem to be enjoying it. You ain't enjoying your racetrack, then you don't deserve it.
RIP, Bluegrass Downs.
Weather chumps were finally right. Rain, about Champaign, and snow in the far south suburbs of Chicago, and Lake Michigan roiling over Lake Shore Drive. Felt damn good to finally get home.