Lexington Red Mile
Today is one of those days where I just want to phone it in, I’m tired and not feeling well. I do, however, want to visit Lexington’s Harness Racing Track, Red Mile, as it is represented in a SuperGraphic. I’m not a huge harness racing fan, but having Wiener Dog races between the horse races this night presents a perfect opportunity to go check it out.
In Lexington, Horse Racings’ little cousin to Keeneland would be the Red Mile. Red Mile is the second oldest harness track in the world. For over one hundred and forty years, harness racing’s elite have converged on Red Mile to stage some of the greatest equine battles in history.
Harness Racing is a form of horse racing in which the horses race at a specific gait (a trot or a pace) pulling a two-wheeled cart called a sulky on a dirt track.
I’m here for the Weiner dogs and I’m immediately drawn to all the dogs in attendance and proceed to meet as many as i can. I adopt one, Sir Otis von Bratwurst, and he’ll be “my” Weiner for the night. Though he is on a later race card
A Chance Meeting
Meanwhile, I settle in a seat on the rail and soon meet a nice couple, Rita and Catesby Prewitt. We exchange pleasantries throughout the races, share a program and exchange betting ideas and pool our resources on a few bets. We, however, never cash a ticket. Did I mention I’m not crazy about Harness racing?
Ironically, the Prewitt’s son, Gabe is the track announcer and resident handicapper at Red Mile. He would visit us between calling the races. As is my curious nature, I pepper him with questions about how he got into race calling, how he prepares, what the work conditions are like. Before I know it, he invites me up into the press box later in the evening to watch some races. Experiencing something that unique alone would have been worth the trip. Little did I know….
The Starting Car
While waiting for the 8th race to join Gabe in the press box, I keep eyeing folks, VIPs I assume, getting in and out of the starting car between races. The starting car is essentially a rolling starting gate. The horses line up behind the car as it revs up to speed then the “starter” retracts the gate releasing the racers with a running start. I inquisitively ask Gabe, whats it take to ride in that car? A walkie talkie conversation ensues and he states “YOUR’RE IN!” 7th race.
This car is a 1995 Cadillac that has been modified for the purpose. The back seat has been replaced with 2 swivel stools and the back dash is now a control panel of switch and levers. I duck into the back seat facing the rear of the car, it’s much like entering a tank. I meet, Mike, the starter and he is very amicable and again gracious in answering my questions. We speed around to the back stretch and the starter and driver are very mindful of where the horses are during their pre-race warm ups. The starter uses the large megaphone attached to the outside of the car to issue instructions to the racers to line up. Once we reach about 32 miles per hour the gate retracts and the race is on!
We proceed along the outside of the riders on the track. The starter is looking for any kind of infractions and breaking of strides. It’s overwhelming, there is so much action. Im trying desperately to get that perfect video, and at the same time to stay out of the starters line of sight. I forget I have a GoPro in one hand and a iPhone in the other. I just resign to savior the moment: the sounds of the horses hoofs thundering, the jockeys (called drivers) yelling and whistling, the cracks of the whips in the air. It had to be the fastest 90 seconds in my life. The thrill and marvel of it all just left me speechless.
To the Roof – Press box
After exiting the car, I rush to join Gabe in the press box for yet another fantastic view of the races. I watch him practice his craft and call the races, while also overlooking the track and all of downtown Lexington. A sense of wonder and appreciation just overwhelm me.
I have struggled finding my place and figuring out who I am. Tonight, I got further confirmation of who I am and what motivates me. I am just a Curious guy that thrives on finding those little one of kind and unique experiences. Tonight I felt like Forest Gump sitting on that bench. Sitting there one minute and then the next off in a whirlwind of adventure that I cannot predict. I absolutely love it!