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Racetrack Diaries


Racetrack Diaries


Great Lakes Downs 2002 

For those who don't know, Great Lake Downs is Michigan's only thoroughbred
track and has been open since 1999. I began to follow the track in 1999 when
I worked at the now closed Garden State Park in good ole NJ and I have been
following the track ever since.

I have been out to the track in 2000 and 2001 and this year would mark my 3rd
time going to this track.  Great Lakes used to be a harness track called
Muskegon Race Course. If you look really hard on one of the buildings in the
backstretch as the horses go by on TV you can still see the old initials MRC
on top of one of the buildings.

The track itself is 5 furlongs. Think Charlestown Racetrack in West Virginia
minus half a furlong. They also even built a chute that is around the 3/4
pole almost that they sometimes run when they run 6 or 7 furlong races. The
track runs races ranging from 4 furlongs to a mile and a 1/16th.

The jockey colony might be small, but they have some talented riders. From
the veterans of Michigan racing like: T.D. Houghton (currently 3rd in the
country), Federico Mata and Mary Doser to Luiz Martinez Sr and Jr to
newcomers like Denise Bush Bennett.

GLD has in my opinion the best announcer ever in Matt Hook. He has his own
style and personality and he really gets into calling the races. When the
horses break out of the gate Matt always says "Break Time" and when they hit
the far turn heading for home he says my favorite term "Around the I-96 turn"
as the horses come down the stretch. That rules. Also when a horse is way
back he will say "He needs to move and he needs to move now." Another classic
is when a heavy favorite is not going to win Matt will tell you "Go to the
bar and get a stiff drink." It is classic stuff.

GLD runs from April till October and runs 4 days a week up until July then
they run 5 days a week. Post time on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays is 5:25pm
and on Fridays and Saturdays it is 6:30pm. They usually run 8 or 9 races and
most are claiming races starting at $4,000 and going up. They also throw in
some allowance races as well. There is free admission and parking all the
time as well.

Some of the top trainers there include: Richard Rettele, Odin Londono, Ron
Allen Sr and Gerald Bennett.

Below is a 5 day report of what I did when I went out to Muskegon, Michigan
for 5 days of racing and fun in the sun. So kick back and enjoy my report of
when I went to Great Lake Downs.

July 4th-Thursday
Well it was time for my annual trip to Great Lake Downs and this year I was
going with my good friend Jim who also does our female jockey interview web
page. Jim came over tonight and out up jockey Tracey Brown's interview for
our page before he left. After watching wrestling it was time for bed as we
had a long day ahead of us.

July 5th-Friday
7:50am-I'm sitting in the Philadelphia airport waiting for out 9:20am flight
that will take us to Detroit. I had a great workout and a quick nice talk
with the love of my life Donna and off to the airport I went.

3pm-We finally made it to the hotel. We stayed at the Bel-Aire as I have the
last 2 years as it is close to the track and I am familiar with the area of
the hotel as well. We drove 180 miles in less than 3 hours. Helps when the
Michigan speed limit is 70 and you can do 75 without getting pulled over. Our
rent a car was a nice silver Pontiac Grand Am. Saw a fire on the way on the
other side of I-96. Drove by the track and I can't wait till tonight.

6pm-Me and Jim are at the track and we have 30 minutes to post. The track is
pretty much the same as last year except the gift shop is open. You pull in
the parking lot and walk up some steps and you can either go in the clubhouse
or in the grandstand. If you go in the grandstand you have to walk some steps
to go outside to the track. The clubhouse is where you go to eat in Derby's

11pm-Had a great time at the Downs. Mary Doser who is one of my favorite
jockeys did not win, but I got another picture with her and of course she
gave the now infamous thumbs up sign with me in the pic. Also got pictures
with a dirty faced after the race Lori Coburn, and ex jockey Janell Gruss who
is now the clerk of scales at GLD. Congratulations on that Janell.

Saw some quality racing tonight as well even though I did not cash a ticket
he he. Saw a huge upset in the feature race Spartan Handicap as Spring Wings
with TD Houghton go off at 1-5 and got into an early speed dual with Final
Reel and faded in the stretch and finished 4th and Accountable Guy with Mike
Allen took advantage and won wearing down Spring Winds and paying a nice $22
to win.

July 6th-Saturday
9am-Got up around 7am and had a great jog listening to AC/DC. Gonna grab a
shower and head down to the beach area to relax and work on my tan.

1pm-Got back from the beach and took a nap. My friend Jim had a horse running
in the 5th race over at Philadelphia Park and he went over there to watch it
and the horse finished 2nd as a 3/5 shot. Jim said the jockey ran a bad race
and blamed him for the 2nd place finish. Luckily for Jim his horse did not
get claimed.

5:30pm-Sitting here in Derby's in the GLD clubhouse. I went back to the beach
around 3:30pm and had one of the best jogs of my life. Me and my girlfriend
Donna had going through some rough times prior to me coming out here. Now I
love my girlfriend with all my heart and we managed to patch things up
somewhat before I came out here and while I was jogging I was jogging to
these 2 special songs that I taped. Now I was jogging along the ocean toward
the Muskegon Lighthouse down by the shore and as the words to "Loved By You"
by Journey and 'When I Look Into Your Eyes" by Firehouse played I kept
looking out at the sea and the surrounding scenery and a few tears did go
down my face.

11pm-What a great card of racing I saw tonight. In the 1st race Federico Mata
got Saratoga Slew out of the gate and in a quick 4 furlong race held onto win
and pay $8.60. T.D. Houghton took the second race on the favorite. Luis
Martinez Jr. continued his hot streak while I was out there as he took the
third on a great ride. In the 4th father showed son how it is done as Luis
Martinez Sr. won aboard Sea Factor and paid $7.40. It was a great ride by
him. In the 5th True Whisper came off the pace and ran over this field with
Federico Mata. What a fine horse. Of course I did not have him. T.D. Houghton
got his 2nd win on the card as he guided a 4-5 favorite to the winner's
circle. T.D. then made it 3 on the night as he rode Majesty's Gift to the
winners circle.

Next up was the feature race of the night: The Plymouth Stakes. GLD 2001
Horse of the Year, Born to Dance showed why he is horse of the year as he won
this race by a few lengths. This is one hell of a horse. Luis Martinez ended
up picking up his 3rd win as he won in the last race.

July 7th-Sunday

What a card at GLD tonight. In the 1st race Octavio Bernal won on a nice
ride. Luiz Martinez continued to be hot as I was cold as he won the 2nd race.
One thing about GLD. Those 4 furlong races have some damn fast horses. In the
3rd Luis Martinez won again and this time I had him and he paid $28 to win.
Colin Skinner who is unknown to me became known to me as he won the next race
and paid $30. Wish I had that. T.D. Houghton hit the 5th race and I have a
lot of respect for him as he recently hit the over 3,000 win mark. F. Mata
hit the 6th race and Kenneth Deonauth held off T.D. and I hit the exacta.
Luis Martinez Jr. hit his 3rd winner and I'll be dammed that I did not have
it. What is wrong with me? He He. Hit the trifecta in the last race as T.D.
Houghton won the last race and the trifecta didn't pay bad at all.

July 8th-Monday

Got up and had a nice jog and drove around the city for awhile. Went back to
the hotel and just relaxed until racing started.

5pm-Got to the track around this time and T.D. Houghton was on a morning line
10-1 shot and lo and behold he goes off 3-2 and he shoots down the rail and
wins the race. In the 2nd race Julie Fritz comes in to ride one race and she
goes to the winner's circle. I had her, but didn't box the exacta so I am a
loser. T.D. was even money and didn't finish in the money. 3rd race T.D.
Houghton benefited from a claim of foul from Mary Doser (thanks Mary) as they
took down Luis Martinez Jr. and put him up and I hit the exacta. In the 4th
race it was a gimmie race as Tommy Molina came into ride from Arlington Park
and he rode The Jeckle under a hand ride in a 4 furlong affair. I didn't even
bet the race. 5th race Roberto Perez won in a photo and paid $19 ending his
riding slump in another 4 furlong affair. T.D. Houghton made the wrong choice
and picked Duke of Paoli to ride and F. Mata picked up the mount on Ozildais
Ronny and Mata beat TD in a thrilling finish. 7th race there was a huge upset
as Silent Pic paid $50 to win with Octavio Bernal aboard and the horse was
only 6-1 on the morning line so of course I did not have him he he. In the
last race F. Mata hit the winners circle for win #2.

After the races we hung out with Denise Bennett in Derby's bar for about an
hour. She went on line and checked out our female jockey page and she loved
the page. Denise you got great taste. It started to pour rain so we headed
back to the hotel to watch WWE Raw and then it was bedtime.

Tuesday-July 9th

Last day at the track. Densie Bennett had invited me and Jim to hang out with
her and Lori Coburn while they worked some horses out in the GLD Backstretch
area. While we were riding through the barn area I noticed it was very
different from the barn area at the track I work at. The barns are lettered
and also the stalls seem smaller. The dorms are a lot newer and look almost
like hotels! I went over to this little food cart and got a donut and a hot
chocolate and I had $4 in my hand and the bill was $1.50. I was pretty
shocked as I thought it would be a lot more than that.

Denise got up on a horse and as she was on the track and I was going up on
the steps to watch her horse gallop, Mary Doser came by and said "Hi Chris"
on her way out to the track. I said "Hi" back and up the steps I went. Some
of these horses on the track were flying mighty fast let me tell ya. Took
some pictures of Lori and Denise on the track and also when we got back to
the barn I got a priceless picture of me in the middle, Lori on the right and
Denise on the left and we all were doing the thumbs up sign. A quadruple
thumbs up sign!

The funny thing is in every one of my pictures I have taken with somebody I
do the thumbs up sign due to being nervous. Now when I do I don't even have
to ask the jockey's to do the thumbs up. They do it on their own or cause
they no me so well ha ha. You can see all my Great Lake Downs pictures on my
picture page. I also took 2 little mini movies of Denise's little girl up on
a pony as well.

After training me and Jim went back to our hotel and checked out of it and
drove downtown for a bit to eat and then went to Barnes and Noble for a
little while. Then it was off to the movies to go see Minority Report with
Tom Cruise. Pretty weird, but awesome movie.

After the movie we went over to the track. I got a GLD hat and 2 shirts and
then it was time for Derby's to get a nice big bowl of spagetti. After that
it was time for the races to start.

1am-Just dropped off the rent a car in the Detroit airport and I am laying
down in bed at the Detroit airport Marriot. What a great final night for me
at the track.

In the 1st T.D. Houghton continued his winning ways as he won the first and
paid $7.40. In the 2nd Mike Allen who boots home some longshots did just that
as his horse paid $21.20 to win and a shipper. In the 3rd F. Mata won in a
very fast 4 furlong affair. Luis Martinez continued his hot streak while I
was there and he won with Feverinthesouth. Yup I was no dummy and had a
winning ticket on him. In the 5th race T.D. Houghton was put via a DQ and
allowed me to hit the exacta. In the 6th Octovio Bernal on a horse named
"Strike Ranger" and I was thinking of playing him and I did not and another
losing ticket in the trash ha ha. Roberto Perez paid $31.40 in the next race
so looks like his slump is over. In the 8th race some unknown jockey to me
called Lupe Macias won his only mount of the week on a horse called Linder
Blue. In the "lucky last" as Matt Hook calls it James Schwartz brought Jaguar
Prospect into the winners circle for my final live race.

After the races we again hung out with Denise Bennett for about an hour and
then we said our good-byes and hugs and me and Jim we soon around the I-96
turn only we were leaving Muskegon not going into he he.

A extra special thanks goes out to Jim Hoffman (for going out with me this
year), Denise Bennett
(for the interview, for getting us backside, hanging out with us, the kind
words on the website and letting me take all those pics), Lori Coburn (for
the pics and hanging out with us).

Great Lake Downs where racing is fun again...I could not agree more.

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