Week 10

Day 61 Sunday, October 2

Today we sleep in, nowhere to be, we're already here to enjoy another day of live racing.

Day 61 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 0 200.00 150.00
Total 17,993 9,986.00 8,935.00

Day 62 Monday, October 3

AksarbenOde to Omaha

It's Monday morning we've had two days of rest and racing and we're heading back west toward Nebraska. After two and a half hours on I-80 we are in Omaha, the site of two tracks. The first stop is kind of sad, it's at the former site of Ak-sar-ben, which in the day was the premier racing site in the Midwest, it had major league racing and a graded stakes, The Cornhusker, which peaked at a Grade II. The Cornhusker brought top horses and jockeys to Nebraska yearly, then it was just gone. Had Ak-sar-ben lasted one more year, it would have celebrated in seventy fifth anniversary in 1996. Without warning the track just went out of business, falling victim to dog racing and riverboat gambling. Today the ghost of Ak-sar-ben sits inside a concrete jungle, ironically the only sign it existed is a plaque honoring triple crown winner Omaha, who was buried in the infield there. Omaha, never raced in Omaha, hardly left New York, but if you find him your about as close to Ak-sar-ben as you can get. A few miles down the road is I guess the replacement for Ak-sar-ben.

OmahaHorseman's Park Omaha

  Next is Horsemen's Park Omaha, built in 1998, which provides five days of live racing a year. It has a five eights mile oval, but after that it gets a little weird. I guarantee you've not seen anything like this, the grandstand is just some metal bleachers with no roof, but in the middle of them is this strange three story tower, that I guess is part odds board and broadcast booth. Maybe it all makes sense as the main reason the place is here is for simulcasting. That's the only reason for the live racing. Because there is simulcasting we can get in and take a look around, before our next stop, another double header.

We leave Omaha heading southwest on I-80 to the State Capitol at Lincoln. In 1947 pari-mutual wagering began in Lincoln at the State Fairgrounds, on the five eights mile oval there. In 2011, the owners of the property, The University of Nebraska announced that 2012 would be the last year of racing at the fairgrounds. The school needed the land for a project. Here's where things get good, plans were made for a new Lincoln track in the south suburbs  off of Route 77. Ground was broken for Lincoln Race Course and construction begin, then they figured out there was no money for the whole project, so Lincoln Race Course, became a OTB, bar, restaurant. Then someone realized that to have an OTB in Nebraska, you have to run a live race, out comes the bulldozer! If you look behind the OTB you'll see about a quarter mile of plowed ground and by now maybe some rails, where once a year a one furlong race is run to satisfy this need. Check out the Lincoln home page, for some tales about the first two that were run. From here were going ligit as we head on I-80 west.

FonnerFonner Park

It's about an hour and a half to our next stop in Grand Island, the home of Fonner Park. For over sixty years Fonner Park has kicked off the Nebraska racing year. The five eights mile oval with the glass enclosed grandstand is now the largest venue in Nebraska, running thirty one days of live racing, from February to May, over half the dates in the state.  Fonner Park offers year round simulcasting so getting in will not be a problem. Without the benefit of a casino Fonner Park has been in decline for years, but like those early spring flowers, it keeps springing up. Let's take a few minutes to look around, place a wager or two and be  off to our next stop.

ColumbusColumbus Races

From Grand Island, we're going to head back east on US-30, to Columbus, the other live racing site in Nebraska. We'll be heading for the Platte County Agricultural Fairgrounds, more commonly known as AgPark. Here we find the Columbus Races a five eights mile track, with an open air grandstand, which for now runs August to September, for five weeks. Racing is held three days a week, with the last week having four with the final races on Labor Day. Starting off in 1942, the Agricultural Society which sponsored the races said they were done in 2012. A group of locals came to the rescue and have kept racing alive for now. There is simulcasting here, but not today, it's is held Thursday to Sunday. Lets take the tour before we head for our last stop of the day.

MadisonMadison Downs

From Columbus we're going to head north for about a half hour to the Town of Madison. Here we're heading for the Madison County Fairgrounds, where Madison Downs once existed. The half mile oval with the open air grandstand was known as the "Saratoga of the Plain's", racing was conducted there from 1947 to 1971. In 1966 legislation was repealed that allowed the state's half mile track's a tax exemption on the first million they handled, without the tax break the Nebraska Half Milers disappeared. The fairgrounds are still here and there is a grandstand, whether or not it is from Madison Downs, who knows. That's it for today.

Day 62 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 396 198.00 130.00
Total 18,389 10,184.00 9,065.00

Day 63 Tuesday, October 4

AtokadAtokad Park

Yesterday the daily cost of this journey exceeded ten thousand dollars. We leave Madison heading north on US-81, before we turn off in Norfolk to NE-35 which takes us to Sioux City, the former home of Atokad Park. You may have noticed that Atokad is Dakota spelled backwards, seems like a trend in Aksarben, I mean Nebraska. Today there is little left of Atokad, as it was pretty much leveled in recent years. In it's day it was a five eights mile, glass enclosed grandstand, that held racing in the late fall. Racing started in 1947 and really ended in 1997 although the track lasted till 2011 as a simulcast facility. Like Lincoln Race Course, Atokad had to run a live race to simulcast, in 2010 it ran a throwback race without a starting gate. One story is that this was done on purpose another story says they just forgot to get one, who knows what's right, weird stuff happens in Nebraska. Not a lot to see here, so we'll head for South Dakota.

JeffersonPark Jefferson

About fifteen miles from Atokad on I-29, we come to Jefferson, South Dakota or if your from Nebraska South Atokad, the home of the only commercial track in the state, Park Jefferson. In it's hay day Park Jefferson held over fifty days of racing from early June to late September. The track was a half mile oval, with a small glass enclosed grandstand and outdoor bleachers under a metal roof. Racing here ended over thirty years ago, the track that opened in 1955 went out of business in 1982. Today there is still racing there, but it's horsepower not horses. The original Park Jefferson grandstand is still intact, with no sign a horse racing oval ever existed, so there is something to see before we head for North Atokad.

FargoNorth Dakota Horse Park

It's about a four and a half hour drive up I-29 to Fargo, North Dakota. In Fargo, we'll be heading for The North Dakota Horse Park, where racing was held for six days in July. Opened in 2003, the track raced till 2009 and has been hit or miss since re-opening in 2012. The track oval is six and a half furlongs and has a structure which has no seating. Both thoroughbreds and quarter horses race here, with thoroughbred races being the majority. No simulcasting, so we'll head back to Fargo to spend the night, before heading into the wilderness tomorrow.

Day 63 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 418 209.00 130.00
Total 18,807 10,393.00 9,195.00

Day 64 Wednesday, October 5

BelcourtChippewa Downs

Today for the first time on the trip we're keeping our hotel for another day and not staying in town. We're off to the most remote site we're going to visit, Chippewa Downs in Belcourt. Chippewa Downs is the northern most track in the United States, about ten miles from the Canadian Border. We start the four hour trip on I-29 till Grand Forks, where we take US-2 to US-281 into Belcourt. Chippewa Downs has been racing since 1989, the half mile oval conducts racing for eight days over four weekends in June and July. Hopefully we can access the site and look around before turning around and heading back to Fargo.

Day 64 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 496 248.00 130.00
Total 19,303 10,641.00 9,325.00

Day 65 Thursday, October 6

Running AcesRunning Aces

For the second day in a row we're leaving Fargo, this time we go southeast on I-94, heading for Columbus, Minnesota. Located in Columbus, is Running Aces, the first harness track that we have visited in quite some time. Tracks in Minnesota offer gaming, but no slot machines, so Running Aces was built in 2008 on a small footprint with  card rooms and simulcasting in mind, as there is no grandstand seating to view the races. The track itself is a five eights mile oval, with live racing from mid may to early September. No problem getting in the facility is open 24/7 and you can catch your own trout which they will clean and cook for you in their restaurant. From here we head south a bit to definitely a horse track of a different color.

CanterburyCanterbury Park

Leaving Columbus, we head south for about an hour on I-35W, to the town of Shakopee a suburb of Minneapolis, here we find Canterbury Park, a child of the eighties. Opened in 1985, Canterbury is the exact opposite of Running Aces, it's a sprawling facility built like tracks of yesteryear it has a multi level grandstand that seats 22,830, with the clubhouse taking up the third floor, the track is a one mile oval with a seven furlong inner turf course. It has a poker room, but that is hardly noticeable compared to Running Aces. Racing is held from May to September and the facility is also open 24/7. We'll stay here tonight and tomorrow we cross back over the Mississippi River.    

Day 65 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 284 142.00 140.00
Total 19,587 10,783.00 9,465.00

Day 66 Friday, October 7

HawthorneHawthorne Park

It's Friday morning and we have to make a bee line for Cicero, Illinois, so were on the road from Shakopee, a little earlier than usual for the six and a half hour drive. At the end of the rainbow, live thoroughbred racing this afternoon at Hawthorne Race Course. Actually this is opening day for the winter meet. We head out on I-94, to I-39, to I-290 into Cicero, the home of Hawthorne Race Course, one of the last Chicago area tracks. I don't think we officially crossed it, but we are now east of the Mississippi River. With the recent demise of Maywood and Balmoral Parks, Hawthorne is now I think the only major track running a harness and thoroughbred meet, something quite common in the sixties and early seventies. Hawthorne is a multi level glass enclosed facility with a one mile oval and a seven furlong turf course, which now provides year round racing and simulcasting. There are no racino's in Illinois.

If you didn't know it was there, you have just about visited Sportsman's Park, if you pulled into gate 4 at Hawthorne, you were staring right at the old "bull ring", well, you would have been twenty years ago. Today your looking at Breakthru Beverage and a Wal-Mart Super Center. From what I can tell there is no marker or street name that would imply that Sportsman's Park ever existed.

We're going to stay here till Sunday, visit the other Chicago Tracks, or what's left of them if anything tomorrow and head back to Hawthorne for another day of racing.

Day 66 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 430 215.00 150.00
Total 20,017 10,998.00 9,615.00

Day 67 Saturday, October 8

MaywoodMaywood Park

Will get an early start to take care of business, so we can make it back to Hawthorne for post time. We start off with a short drive to Illinois latest casualty, Maywood Park. Opened in 1946, it finally ran out of gas in 2015. This track was quite interesting in Chicago lore, for one it was a half mile oval, another fact is that Mrs. O'Leary's cow never paid it a visit (it never burnt down, all others had) and lastly it never raced anything but standardbreds. Maywood is shuttered but for now still standing, it sits right on the highway so we can get a good look at it. From here it's off to another ghost track in Aurora.

 From Maywood, we head back to I-290, which will turn I-88, The Chicago Kansas City Expressway, a toll road. Exit I-88 at IL-31, take Airport Road to Overland Drive, the former site of Aurora Downs. Overland Drive makes a loop around Airport Road, on Overland Drive at one point you would be right behind the tote board. That's about the only point of reference for the track that opened in 1891. Known mostly as a harness track, Aurora did dabble in thoroughbreds and at one point was home to the Illinois Derby. Racing at Aurora Downs ended in 1976, it had a brief revival as a place called Fox Fields, which ran only on Sunday. From here we head to the premier site of Chicago racing.

ArlingtonArlington Park

We get back on I-88 east until we hit I-290 north, in about an hour we arrive in Arlington Heights, the home of Arlington Park. Considered by many to be the major venue in the mid west, Arlington was not without it's problems. Destroyed by a devastating fire in 1985, it was rebuilt and re-opened in 1988, only to go out of business in 1997, before making a comeback in 2000. Today Arlington Park is part of the Churchill Downs Group (CDI). Racing ended in September, but simulcasting is available so we should be able to get in and take a look around before heading back to Hawthorne.

We are closing out week ten with a couple of milestones, we have now travelled over 20,000 miles and have spent over $20,000.00. Another whirl wind week, with seventeen sites visited and we managed to work in three days of live racing.             

Day 66 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 112 56.00 150.00
Total 20,129 11,054.00 9,765.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 10 17 1
Total 170 20

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