Twilight 🍻 Beer and a Race 🐎
~Thursday, July 24, 2021~
It was nice to have a somewhat relaxing day at the campsite before our drive to Churchill Downs once again for their Thursday Twilight Race. We were pretty excited to see our first horse race, ever. Being complete novices, we learned quite a bit all while drinking $1 Blue Moon beers, listening to some live music on the Plaza stage, and just enjoying the exciting vibe of Thoroughbred horse racing.
For $5.00, we chose assigned seats on the first level, opting for the covered area since we weren’t sure how hot we’d be in the sun. in the covered area. Recommendation: go for the open area where you feel more of the experience of the race. At that time of day, the sun isn’t too bad.
Jeff and I had no idea how popular these Twilight Thursdays are. The turnout was huge, and the attire ran anywhere from jeans and t-shirts, to suits and dresses and hat adorned ladies. Obviously, most people are there to wager, but for Jeff and I, it was more about just watching these amazing animals and to see what horse racing is all about. Right before a race, the owners and trainers gather for their photo op as the horses are led out to the paddock area where they do a lap with their handler, followed
by the jockeys mounting them and doing their lap. It really is something to see just how small the jockeys are in person. Here’s what we learned about jockeys:
The weight of a jockey usually ranges from 108 to 118 lbs.
There is no height limit, but they are usually short in stature because of the weight limits.
Each horse has to carry a certain amount of weight. If a jockey is lighter than the weight the horse has to carry, the difference will be made up by thin lead weights placed in a special saddle cloth.
For the twilight races, the jockeys race more than once.
Jockeys get less than 10% of winnings from a race, scarcely better off than a racehorse trainer. The owners pocket 80% where many are kind enough to give the handlers, jockeys and grooms a bonus.
A jockey’s use of the whip has strict rules and limits. In a flat race, a jockey may not use the foam padded, air cushioned whip more than seven times. We were told, for most horses, it’s the sound of the whip by their ear, rather than direct contact by the whip, that causes them to react (I hope).
In the program hand-outs, they have detailed information about each jockey, and horse’s past races/winnings as well as tips from the beginning to advanced wagerers. Things we learned about wagering:
When betting, look for the horse that is most prepared to run with indicators such as ears forward (shows the horse is alert and paying attention. Interested in what’s in front of him), sweaty (a little glisten can indicate the horse is ready to go), and a calm disposition (a relaxed horse strides confidently and purposefully).
See how horses have performed in similar races by distance, quality and finishing place.
Take a look at the Equibase Speed Figure on the program and compare the speed of a horse to other horses in that race.
Win: A type of wager. Your horse must win for the bet to pay off
Place: A type of wager. Your horse must finish first or second for it be successful
Show: A type of wager. Your horse must finish first, second or third
You can wager up until the race starts
On twilight Thursdays, there are 8 races which are spaced apart by about 20-25 minutes, giving them time to water and rake the track. Right before each race, Steve Buttleman (the official bugle player) performs “Call to Post” from the borgata. (check out our video). He’s held the post for 26 years. Each race is a different length, some on grass, some on the sand/dirt track itself. We had no idea that the horses race on the grass as well. After each race, the winner heads over to the Winner’s Circle, then joins the other horses for some cool down time, where they are given a cool hose down before the handlers walk the Thoroughbreds around the track.
What a fun experience to see these racehorses in action, and all that goes into a racing event. Maybe next time it will be the Kentucky Derby!