-- Late morning, Sunday, Aug. 19, I-90, east of Seattle:
This is definitely a challenging Interstate to drive, twisting and turning through the Cascades. It would also be a pretty drive, except for one thing: The timber industry around here is apparently an adherent of the James Watt vision of the West. Lots of nice trees by the road for drivers to enjoy, but when the view opens up, it is obvious that the surrounding hillsides have been clear cut unmercifully. It is as sad and ugly a sight as I have seen in any American forest.
Nice mountains, though, and you know, I appreciate my toilet paper as much as anyone else. (Recalling here a t-shirt I saw on my last visit to Emerald, apparently on the back of a timber industry employee: "Wipe your a** with a spotted owl").
-- Emerald Downs, Sunday, Aug. 19, ~12:45 pm:
I wasn't sure if I was going to make it by first post or not, but I did, as post wasn't till 1:15 instead of 1:00 like I thought. A minor victory. $2.00 on behalf of UPF. Parking in the "preferred" lot, expensive, but I forgot to write it down. Admission was also a bit expensive. The program, no pp's, $2.00. So I had to buy a DRF to boot. So we're into the pocket for maybe $14 before even starting.
Today was going to be a special day at Emerald Downs. To begin with, it was their big day of the year, Longacres Mile day. So there was a big crowd on hand. But more importantly to me personally, I'd been invited to join the annual meeting of the KG's, a slightly suspicious group of characters somehow associated with Michael "Roxy" Roxborough, of line making and DRF "20 20 Tour" fame. They'd come from near and far, including Australia, for this annual event, and had been partying and gambling all week, including visits to Hastings Park, and Emerald the day before. I'd met Maury before, and David, and Danny, but the rest were all unknowns, and I had no idea what to expect.
I have to tell you, Roxy is a personal hero of mine, as he was part of the original DRF "20 20 Tour" of racetracks and DRF articles, especially that first year (or two?) when it was really fun to read, before it turned into what I considered a kind of a sell-out straight-forward racetrack cheerleader suck-up campaign in its final years. In fact, the sell-out of the 20-20 Tour was what originally inspired the "McChump ??/365 racing Tour" framework that these stories now inhabit. So I was a little nervous to be meeting the great Roxy Roxborough.
I approached the designated reserved seats with some trepidation, and asked a blond gentleman if he was part of the Roxy group.
"I'm Roxy Roxborough".
And from then on it was just like being with old friends, some of the nicest, funniest, and friendliest guys you'd ever want to meet, despite the fact that they included in their number punters who would dwarf some of the self-styled "big bettors" on the Internet, where I'd gotten a rather bad impression of this type.
Mel and Murray had come from Australia, Dave and Danny from Vancouver, Roxy from his home in the exotic Far East, Maury from the East Coast, Grant, Shabir and Walt from parts unknown, and of course me, who came all the way from Baker City, Oregon, that morning.
Roxy had news for me regarding the KG's efforts to raise money for the UPF, "bad news and good news", as he put it. The day before they'd taken up a collection and put down a very sizeable bet on a horse [I can't remember the name] that Maury had selected in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington, at nice odds of 9/2, with the winnings to go to UPF. Burley wasn't showing that particular race, nor for that matter any simulcasts, so I'd missed it. However, as the story was told to me, the horse looked to have the race won until he got nipped at the wire by Startac, costing the KG's and UPF a nice $4200 or so. But Roxy wasn't content to let it stay there, and had put together a very generous personal pledge to UPF to go along with this fundraiser, and all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.
I failed to write about Emerald the last time I visited, but will write about that visit some day, so don't need to describe the track in this story. Just to set the stage, though, I'll say here is that it is a first class facility all the way, with good employees and a great beer selection, and Roxy had got us some excellent seats. And Emerald put on a great card in support of the Longacres Mile, not exactly world class racing, but great betting opportunities, and we all had a great time with the card (and in the case of the rest, many simulcasts).
My own betting wasn't great, but I did manage to pick a $33.80 winner, to the apparent astonishment of all. On the day I made a whopping $9.10. We didn't do so good picking UPF horses. Maury took Full Force Gale in the 7th, and he disappointed. I took Top Bracket in the 10th, and she could only manage 3rd. Irisheyesareflying won the Longacres Mile. But to tell you the truth I had never heard of any of these horses, which is kind of sad for a graded stakes.
Emerald held a drawing on the day, where some guy won a new Mustang, and got interviewed on the P.A. The interviewer congratulated him on having a nice new car to drive home that night. An obviously lit winner was cagey enough to answer, "I don't think I'll be driving anywhere tonight". This was the source of much mirth for the KG's.
Before several races some power music came up on the PA, and a young member of the gate crew got out on the track behind the gate and busted some killer dance moves. He seemed to be quite popular with the local crowd. He was also popular with the KG's. At least the first time.
And this crowd, even more so than the one at AP, just screamed when those 2/5 favorites came in a winner. Woo hoo.
All afternoon long, the clouds to the south had been slowly clearing off, and by the end of the card, as we were all filing out, the beauty of the Emerald Downs setting was revealed in all its glory: Mt. Rainier shone in the late afternoon sun.
Okay, not one of the great racing "stories" in McChump history, but that's because I was too busy enjoying the company to wander around seeking out the curious and the kooky. And I must say, after the prodigious driving feats of the preceding couple of days, I wasn't exactly "on". You won't get your money back.
A few KG's went home, and then a bunch more went out to dinner. Good dinner, and many great racing stories swapped. Excellent recital of a Banjo Patterson racing poem from Murray, "The Riders in the Stands", totally hilarious, and another by another author, regarding losing. Thanks Murray, I loved it. And thank you very much, Roxy, for picking up the tab.
And thanks, KG's, for allowing me to join your annual gathering.
Total miles traveled to get to this track: 679