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Racetrack Diaries

 

RaceTrack Diary December 29, 2001

Great Lakes Downs, 
Muskegon, Michigan 

by Chris Forbes

Great Lake Downs in Muskegon, Michigan is currently my favorite track to  play in the US. They usually run around a 120 day meet that starts in late  April and ends in early November. The track opened in 1999 and used to be a harness track called Muskegon Race Course. Now it is Michigan's only Thoroughbred track. One of the buildings still has the MRC letters up on it.  The track is owned my Magna Entertainment,  which owns about 12 other  tracks.

I went out to the track in 2000 and drove 13 hours each way! This time in  2001,  I wasn't quite ready to drive that far, so I took a plane to Detroit and  hopped in a rent a car and hit the I-96 road for a quick 3 hour drive.  As I  began to get closer to the track and Muskegon I began to get more and  more excited. I knew I wasn't far off when I saw a big billboard for "The  Party Starts Here" which was a billboard for Great Lake Downs.

So I get to Muskegon,  check in the Bel Aire hotel which is about 2 miles  from the track and go for a jog in the hot June weather. After a terrific run I  hop in the shower and go to the front desk and buy an advance program for  tonight's races. 

Around 6 pm I head over to the track and make my way up the steps  toward the entrance to the track. As you get to the top of the steps you can go in 2 ways. One is the clubhouse,  which has a dining room area as well  as a bar,  and the grandstand ... which is where I go. As I go through the doors I gaze around at a track I usually bet on TV,  and still can't believe I am here! TVs are all over the place and I take a quick seat and get the scratches and changes for tonight's card.

After I get that out of the way,  I make my way down the steps and out into  the paddock. I look over at the tote board and have to almost pinch myself  that I am really here for the next 5 days!  Since it is Friday,  they have a  great outdoor barbecue. I grab a burger and watch the horses walking  around the outdoor paddock. I,  along with others,  watch as the jockeys  come out from the back and go to their respective little number stalls.

Now GLD is a small 5/8ths track and they run races from 4 furlongs to 1  mile and 1/16th. The 4 furlong races are total speed races and are over in  about a minute. The longer races are fun,  too,  as the horses go around  the track 2x and as they go by they almost kick the dirt up in your face.  Also the sharp turns come rather quickly as well. You have to be here to  see it.

GLD runs mostly claiming races that start at $5,000 and run an allowance  race or two. They also have some nice stake races and tonight I saw  Secret Romeo show off his stuff in a $45,000 Michigan Bred Stake Race as he buried the Compton by like 8 lengths. This horse went on to win like 7  more races during the meet. He is quite the horse! 

The track announcer,  Matt Hook,  is my favorite. Whether is saying  "around the I-96 turn" (the Great Lakes stretch) or when a huge favorite is  gonna lose, and he tells you "to go to the bar and get a stiff drink"  is  priceless. He really gets into calling each and every race.


Chris and jockey Mary Doser at 
Great Lakes Downs,  June 2001.

The jockey colony is nothing to be ashamed of as they have the 4th leading rider in the country,  T. D. Houghton here,  as well as Mary Doser,  who is one of the top 2 female riders in the country. 

There is also lots of other stuff to do,  as they have some of the finest beaches and lots of sites to visit,  and a big amusement park. 

If you are ever out this way, check out the track or bet it via the TV. You can catch some quality racing,  and like their slogan says "Great Lake 
Downs...where racing is fun again!" 

I couldn't agree more. 

Thanks for joining us,  and we'll see you next time around.

Chris


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