Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quick Impressions of Woodbine and The Queen's Plate

I had intended this to be more complete, but the last two weeks have been busy and distracting.

I like to go to the horse races. I like going as much as I like handicapping and wagering. Good thing, because (even with the help of some friends) my results the weekend of July 2 and 3 were disappointing.

What was not disappointing was the experience of Toronto/Woodbine. This was a very big deal event (The oldest continuously run sporting event in North America, for those of you keeping track.) and all the elements were in place. A modern, spotless venue, a festive crowd, and high quality races, including a number of turf stakes in addition to the feature.

While a cut below Royal Ascot or the Kentucky Derby (from what I can tell from watching on television) the crowd was stylin'. Foot fashion included a number of women in high, strappy sandals, like greaves. Men gravitated to the Bermuda shorts, blazer, man-bun end of the spectrum, though the "skingy brim" fad has not run its course up north and there were a number of very mis-placed top hats. Many young ladies were outfitted in clothing their grandmothers would have been scandalized to see at the beach on a hot day.

Attendance on Sunday was reported to be north of 35,000. Nonetheless crowd control was efficient, facilities like concessions and restrooms were adequate, and everybody I met must have gotten at least a B+ in "Plays Well With Others" when they were at school.

The Queen's Plate was attended with a fair degree of ceremony. Mounted lancers, the singing of O Canada (a great anthem), the arrival of the Royal representative, Lt. Governor of Ontario in an open landau, and a very impressive bandmaster. Not only did he conduct the band on horseback, but he saluted through the anthem in the same fashion. A triple threat.

I had the good fortune to run into racing journalist and publisher Ray Paulick and his wife Carol. Both were just as gracious as the native Canadians. Ray had presented the trophy to the owner of the winner of the King Edward Stakes on Saturday. Since this is horseracing, folks mostly called it "The King Eddie."

As I said, I like to go to the races. This means exploring new facilities. On Saturday the fatigue of travel was catching up with me and I decided to look at the casino which occupies the first floor. Just as garish and depressing as every other one I have ever been to. I took a stool at a vacant slot machine and watched the shoot-out at the end of the Germany/Italy match. While there, I saw a very ordinary middle-aged man come in and establish a position astride two machines. He fed a number of bills into each machine and pressed the buttons. Moments later, expressionless,  he repeated this exercise. Before the shootout was over, he did it again. It was at this point that I noticed the bills were $50's. This guy, affectless, poured $500 to $1,000 (Canadian) into the machines in about ten minutes. I don't get it.

In walking around the facility Sunday I saw a large number of well-groomed fillies with admirable conformation. Horses looked pretty good too.

Early action on Ticketmaster scored me a seat in the grandstand on Sunday. If this were Saratoga, your name would have to be Mary Lou Whitney, or maybe Larry Collmus to have the kind of view I enjoyed. The price was only $7.50 more than the walk-up General Admission price on the day.

While Equibase will tell you that Sir Dudley Digges won the Queen's Plate and paid $33.90, I will always remember Boeing crossing the line first in the Singspiel.

As if Brooklyn was not hip enough!

Glad to report that Why We Went to the Moon (2015) has been made an Official Selection of the BedStuy Pop-Up! (micro) Rogue Cinema Festival. This New York City premiere will take place at 33 Lafayette Ave Brooklyn on Friday August 27th.

Check these guys out at

Why We Went to the Moon will be making its North American Premiere earlier in the month up the Hudson in Ballston Spa NY at the Ballston Spa International Short Film Festival.
Screening will be at 7 p.m. on Friday August 5 at Ballston Spa High School.

Thanks to all the organizers of these Festivals. Hope to see you there!