Prairie Meadows, Altoona, IA, Friday, August 3, 2001

Friday afternoon:

Every Harley Davidson motorcycle in America is on the move this weekend, it seems, as I-88 from Chicago features numerous bands of cyclists in finest biker garb headed west for, presumably, the big event in Sturgis, SD. Good thing for me they provide a diversion, as the Tour got started just a bit late as it was, and now there is interminable Tour-slowing construction along I-88, about every 12 miles, for a distance of another 12 miles. Shoot. Don't think I'm gonna make it quite on time for first post.

Friday evening:

Arriving promptly a little over an hour late for the 6:00pm post time, I park the ChumpMobile (free) about 2 miles out in the crowded parking lot, rush into the casino facility (free), and start looking for a racing program. There no longer is a special program stand, as it turns out. One must buy his program at the concession stand. Unfortunately, the concessions workers seem to have little interest in selling racing programs, and are instead pre-occupied with serving up sizzling burgers, fries, and cheese whiz nachos. I wait and wait for some service, but none is forthcoming. Finally it's time to seek out another concessions stand with more attentive employees, and a program ($1.50) is obtained.

The 5th race is about to go off, and InstaCappin(tm) reveals the 7 horse, Calico Creek wih Cindy Noll up, as the bet. The running of the race, however, reveals differently, with Calico Creek finishing 3rd, and my WP bet is down the drain.

It is now time to head upstairs, to the clubhouse, to seek out Internet racing buddy George C. at his table.

I discovered, last time I was here, also at George's table, that a night of racing at Prairie Meadows doesn't have to be an unpleasant assault on the senses by the jangling slots downstairs. Upstairs in the clubhouse it's just like a real racetrack, dedicated to betting the horses, and everything. There's a nice buffet, and several levels of nice tables with private TV's (behind the grandstand glass, unfortunately, but not so bad this night as it was hot and ugly outside so the a/c was welcome), and tableside betting service as well as attentive wait staff, and lots of available windows and machines up on the top concourse. Quite pleasant, actually.

George, plus his wife M. and her sister M., are already on hand, and have a big bucket of chilling beer on their table. Budweiser, but very cold and very welcome.

George had printed out the Free At Last fundraiser page, and had come up with a unique pledge: $2 for every track I actually make it to on time to be able to make a bet on the first race. George is no dummy. This is an ongoing problem with the McChump Tour, and I was late the last time I visited him at PrM, too. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Starting tomorrow, that is.

Unfortunately this is the PrM mixed meet, and there was only one more thoroughbred race before the quarter horses got started up. I quickly went up on the night by scoring the fabulous $38.80 quinella in the 6th.

Between races I asked George about the current controversy we've been reading about in the racing press, where the horsemen are concerned that the Polk County commission will somehow siphon off racing funds to build their new downtown public facilities. Either the racing press has done a bad job of detailing this issue, or I haven't been reading carefully. As it turns out the County has allocated their current cut of the PrM proceeds, about $25M/yr, to back the bonds for the construction, over the next 10 years. The problem, as it turns out, is that the state's cut, currently $40M, is rising percentage-wise every year, and there is going to be a pinch on the funds available for racing if that keeps up (given a constant $25M to the County). The licensee, RACI, had been planning to ask the County (that owns the facility) to take less to offset the rise in state tax. The County doesn't want less. So there is a quandary.

George's opinion was that the downtown project would be something that would totally transform Des Moines, a very worthwhile project, and that somehow everyone would be able to negotiate and work things out in the end. Hope so. What I've seen to far from the racing press seems pretty negative.

The quarterhorse racing turned out to be less successful than my one thoroughbred bet, as my plus quickly turned into a minus. I don't believe George and the ladies were doing much better, but it was fun to sit with the ladies as they crafted their bets, which were quite creative. I did manage one good thing, selecting QH Bosanova Baby to win for UPF in the 8th, which she did, paying $8.40. She'd misbehaved at the start in her only previous race and was tonight equipped with Flipping Halters, according to the program. I thought it was worth the shot. Whatever Flipping Halters are.

The bar ran out of regular Bud, and served up Bud Light. This is intolerable.

Overall, I managed to lose $13.40 (UPF win not included) on the night, reducing the loose change bankroll from $428.77 to $415.37.

Soon, however (amazing how that happens when you miss 4 races) it was time to bid George and the ladies adieu and head off into the night, but a big thanks to all for a great evening, and the beers, and thanks for the UPF pledge. If I can just make some tracks on time, it will be valuable. :)

Total miles traveled to get to this track: 343