Taking Our Kids to the Races

A member of a horse racing email list to which I subscribe sent me an article from Slate entitled Quinn and Dixie go to Mardi Gras. This excellent read is actually a tale of a father taking his two young children to The Fairgrounds, a race track in New Orleans. It’s sure to bring a smile to your face, particularly if you have had or now have young children.

My children are now in their teens and tend to go their own way, but when they were much younger and had little choice, my wife and I used to take them with us on jaunts to Keeneland Race Course and Churchill Downs in Kentucky. And occasionally they would go with me for the short trip down to River Downs, literally 10 minutes down the hill from home. That trip was especially welcome to them as their reward was usually a cool and sweet tasting ice cream cone served at the track.

My daughter was probably barely able to walk, if that, on her first trip to a Keeneland fall meeting. The kids enjoyed it their because the snacks were tasty (even for us adults) and they could get up close and personal with the horses saddling in the outside paddock. It made their day if they could “pet the horses”, meaning the lead horses that would rest in the shade of a tunnel underneath the stands.

Towards the end of the day, they were quite content to relax for a race or two in their seats while Mom and mainly Dad studied the program. My daughter had been calm and relaxed talking to all the neighbors until the race started. As the excitement of the race began, my daughter stood up on her chair shouting “I love horses! I love horses! I love horses!” as the racers thundered down the stretch.

My son, ever the organized one, would check the tote board as we would get seated before the first race, and read the scratches and changes for the day so that I could correctly mark my program. There was a time I took him down to the rail to watch the start of a race from right in front of the starting gate. Sitting on my shoulders as the horses approached the gate, it’s fairly quiet, the only noise being the murmur of the crowd and the clop of horse hooves in the dirt. Until that gate springs open with a bang, a bell rings with a clang, and the racers explode out of their stalls! My son’s eyes turned wide with surprise and awe.

Before many races, my wife would read the names of the contending horses to my daughter, soliciting her “educated opinion”, while I’d be intensely studying the program. Needless to say, most of the time I tossed my tickets on the ground as my wife would walk smugly back into the stands to collect her winnings.

Enjoy the article, and, if you get the chance, take your children to the races for a pleasant day of horse racing fun.

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