In preparation for Arlington Park's signature day of racing- The Arlington Million Day, Saturday featured three prep races for the three key races on August 13th's Million Day.
Saturday's American Derby was a prep race for The Secretariat Stakes, which was won impressively by Wilcox Inn. The Modesty Handicap, a prep race for the Beverly D went to Fantasia and, Tajaweed won the featured race of the day, the Arlington Handicap, which is a prep race for the crown jewel of Arlington's racing season, the Arlington Million.
So I guess I already covered the #1 thing I enjoyed on Saturday: live world-class horse racing. But that wasn't all there was to enjoy.
#2- Air Conditioning
Everything within the grandstand is air conditioned. Seating is outdoors, and of course the racing and paddock are outdoors, but just about everything else is literally indoors. Walking from your seats inside to make a bet, buy food or use the restroom requires entering through glass doors and into a haven of chilled air. At Saratoga and most other tracks, it's all open-air with no indoor/outdoor barriers (I guess those are called "doors") and no air conditioning. Despite 85 degree heat and palpable sunshine, I didn't break a sweat. When its that hot at Saratoga Race Course the heat and humidity are inescapable and can mar an otherwise lovely day of horse racing.
#3- Original Artwork
From a life-sized original bronze horse scultpture, to original oil-on-canvas, to original caricatures of Arlington Park luminaries, you won't find better original, horse-racing themed at any American race track. How can I be so sure? The most cursory glance at the equine under-body reveals the life-sized bronze sculpture of legendary Arlington Million winner John Henry nosing out The Bart to be anatomically correct. What caused me to notice that detail? My years spent selling sculpture? Or perhaps my observant eyes of a writer? Or was it my inability to mature appreciably since first grade? Yes.
Those who have never been to horse racing track always picture it dilapidated, grubby and inhabited by chain-smoking, pot-bellied derelicts with severe limp. A place where drunken losers spit as they scream throughout the entire race, only to lose and drown their sorrows with the recently discarded beer of someone else that still has a few sips left. Arlington is the opposite of that.
#5- Lots of Great Nooks
Arlington Park features a few different sports bars, an outdoor live-music stage, a food court, indoor restaurants with unobstructed views of the track and a tv on every table, outdoor balconies facing the paddock (AKA the go-to spot for cigarette smokers), luxury sky boxes for parties, and several other venues for large parties. It's ideal for the casual fan who may not want all horse racing all the time for six straight hours, or maybe for the die-hard fan who needs a break after losing four straight races.
#6- Back Hair
I saw a hairy shirtless dude in the grandstand. It wouldn't be horse racing if you didn't see some back hair or tricep hair on a dude in a tanktop. Glad I met my quota.
#7- Indoor View of the Paddock and Jessica Pacheco was on her Game
Fans can walk out to the paddock or just see it through the windows, in the comfort of air-conditioning. Furthering that bonus, the audio feed of track handicapper/emcee Jessica Pacheco's race analysis from the paddock is played on the public address system near the paddock (indoor and outdoors)- so you can watch and listen without missing a beat. I'd like to thank Jessica for giving me the winner in the feature, Tajaweed. Her handicapping was spot-on Saturday.
#8 Food Court
I never thought I'd see gluten-free options at a race track, but Arlington's got them.
Metra's Union Pacific/Northwest Line has a stop called Arlington Park, which drops you off right in front. From the Clybourn Metra stop, it costs only $4.50 and takes about 40 minutes. Since you're not driving you can use your commute to read your Racing Form and beef up your knowledge of that day's racing, or you can spend it drinking beer to beef up your BAC before a day of gambling.
#10 The Shiniest Floors Ever
In addition to the floors being devoid of any debris, they are also remarkably shiny. I emailed Arlington's Senior Manager to Communications to find out if they were marble, or just what they were so I could sound learned while writing about them. The communications guy emailed his maintenance director and forwarded his email to me stating:
The floor is "Fritztile". It is a flexible marble and granite terrazzo floor tile. It is tough stuff and like [TR] states looks great. Whomever made the decision to install this stuff knew what they were doing. The floor looks even better just after a scrub and recoat. It looks like your walking on mirrors or glass. We try to stay as close to green as possible and use little or no floor strippers with harmful VOCs when we are servicing the floor. You will also find beautiful pure marble, wood and granite floors throughout the more exclusive areas of the facility. Bronze window and door accents. Plus decorative marble etchings here and there too much for me to list and a real challenge to maintain sometimes.
Your work is noted, appreciated and damn good.