Week 4

Day 26 Sunday, August 28

We've been at it for a month now and were starting on week 5. I don't know if it's just me but live racing seems hard to find, either nobody's open or they only race on Friday and Saturday, which if you need to keep moving doesn't do you much good. Even worse were heading for wide open spaces. Enough whining it's off ti New Orleans.

Jefferson DownsJefferson Downs OTB

 It's five hours from Birmingham to New Orleans and somewhere along the way on I-59 we pass thru Hattiesburg, Mississippi the home town of NFL Quarterback Brett Favre. When we arrive in the New Orleans area were going to head for Kenner, on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, where Jefferson Downs was last located. I say last because the original was located in Metairie. There is little to tell that either was the site of a racetrack, the Metairie site is now Lafreniere Park and the Kenner track is a housing project. They did build a small OTB outlet across the canal in Kenner, The Kenner Fair Ground OTB on Joe Yennie Blvd. so you can at least tell your at the right spot. Next to the real Fair Grounds.

Fair GroundsThe Fair Grounds

About ten miles off of I-610 we come to the old ornate iron gates of The Fair Grounds Race Course. Another miss on live racing, but the casino is open so we can go look around or do some simulcasting. Some version of The Fair Grounds has been around since 1852, that's both before the Civil War and Saratoga Race Course came along. Don't expect to see much old architecture, except those Gentilly Road Gates, this track has burnt down and been rebuilt twice. After were done here we'll head for the hotel downtown and at least spend a night on Bourbon Street. Take it easy on the spirits, we leave early for Texas.       

Day 26 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 352 176.00 120.00
Total 5,549 3,162.00 3,740.00

Day 27 Monday, August 29

EvangelineEvangeline Downs

Today we start out west on I-10, heading for I-49, about two and a half hours from New Orleans to the town of Opelousas, the current home of Evangeline Downs. Another near miss as live racing ended last week, but we get a rare double header. On the way to Opelousas we pass through the town of Carencro, which was the original site of Evangeline Downs. The grandstand is gone but the track remains as a training center, so you can do Evangeline Downs times two. The new track has a casino (the reason it moved) so we can go and look around before we head for Evangeline's sister track in Vinton.

Delta DownsDelta Downs

We backtrack on I-49 again to I-10 west for about two hours to Vinton, the home of Delta Downs. Built in 1973 Delta Downs is the junior track in southwest Louisiana. Delta Downs like Evangeline is a racino, both tracks hold a quarter horse and thoroughbred meets, under the lights, but unlike Evangeline Downs, Delta Downs is almost on the Texas border, a state that has no racinos. No live racing here either, but the casino is open so we can still take a look around, before heading for Texas.

Sam HoustonSam Houston Race Park

It's back on I-10, for todays final leg a two hour trip to Houston. Houston is home to Sam Houston Race Park, the first Class-I track to open in Texas in 1994. A familiar story no live meet going on, no casino either, but there is simulcasting. At least we can get in and take a look around. After the track, if you like the unique and have some time, you have to see "The Beer Can House". Not really what it sounds like, it's more like a beer can sided house, but it's worth a look. You can also visit the Astrodome, once billed as the "Eight Wonder of the World", it looks like a dwarf compared to neighboring Reliant Stadium. Tomorrow we "Remember the Alamo".

Day 27 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 390 195.00 150.00
Total 5,984 3,357.00 3,890.00

Day 28 Tuesday, August 30

RetamaRetama Park

Today, our first leg starts out back on I-10, for about a three hour ride to Selma, the home of Retama Park. Retama is the second of three Class-I tracks in Texas. Retama runs both a quarter horse and thoroughbred meet. A near miss here, the thoroughbred meet starts Friday, but we'll be long gone by then. Retama Park is named for a tree native to the area. There is simulcasting so the track should be open for us to take a look around. After leaving Selma we head for San Antonio and a must see culture stop at the Alamo. When you first see it, your going to think it looked a lot bigger in the movies. We leave the old fort and head north for about a half hour on I-10 to the town of Bandera.  

BanderaBandera Downs

A few miles out of San Antonio we turn off on Route 16, which leads us right to Bandera Downs, a few miles before the town itself, known as The Texas Cowboy Capital of the World. Today at Bandera Downs you'll find horsepower not horses as the track is being converted to auto racing. There's no way to know how much of the track you can see, but it is visible from Route 16. In 1990 Bandera Downs, was the only pari-mutual track in Texas, it was a Class-II facility which only lasted five years once Class-I Retama Park opened nearby. Next we head up  the road on Route 16 for about an hour for the only Class-III track in Texas.

GillespieGillespie Fairgrounds

Once again on Route 16 and before town, this time Fredericksburg, we come to the only active Class-III track in Texas, The Gillespie Fair. This is getting old, but once again we just missed live racing here by a couple of weeks. Racing is only on weekends in July and August, concluding with the Gillespie County Fair. The grandstand is visible from the road if you can't get into the fairgrounds. When were done here we can head for our final stop today, the ghost track in Manor.

ManorManor Downs

Leaving Fredericksburg we just stay on Route 290 and in about two hours we end up in Manor, Texas and Manor Downs. Probably better know for concerts, such as The Grateful Dead and Farm Aid, Manor Downs was another Class II track that lasted the longest before going under in 2010. Unclear if you can get inside the gates, but it right off the road so you can get a good look at it. Once were done here were going to head back to The Austin City Limits. It's said that Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. So will take it in for an evening before we head to Big-D, where they do everything BIG!     

Day 28 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 402 201.00 150.00
Total 6,386 3,558.00 4,045.00

Day 29 Wednesday, August 31

TrinityTrinity Meadows

Were going to head out of Austin going north on I-35, for the three hour ride to a place called Willow Park. Willow Park, a suburb of Fort Worth, located off I-20 and the home of the defunct Trinity Meadows Race Track. Trinity Meadows which opened in 1991, is just another tale of a Texas Class-II track that couldn't survive, going out of business in 1996 when it went toe to toe with Lone Star Park for a Class-I license. Today Trinity Meadows is still there waiting for whatever, you can almost get to the grandstand before your stopped by a security gate, but you can get a good look at the place. Next will head back east on I-30, to Grand Prairie and find out why Trinity Meadows, didn't make it.   

Lone StarLone Star Park

They say size doesn't matter, but I beg to differ when it comes to Lone Star Park versus Trinity Meadows. Then again when your neighbors are the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and a Six Flag's Amusement Park, the expectations might be a smidge higher and Lone Star doesn't disappoint. As race tracks go Lone Star is quite impressive, so much so that it hosted the Breeders Cup in 1994. While were here we'll have to settle for simulcasting at the Bar & Book adjacent to the grandstand. Another miscalculation lands us between the thoroughbred and quarter horse seasons. We should take a little time to see the sights, at least make it to Dallas, to check out the grassy knoll and back to Arlington for AT&T stadium, not that you haven't already seen it hovering like a giant flying saucer as you passed it on the highway. Will actually see some live racing tomorrow as we head back to Louisiana.     

Day 29 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 290 145.00 150.00
Total 6,676 3,698.00 4,195.00

Day 30 Thursday, September 1

After we take a three hour drive from Dallas, to Shreveport, that's it for the day. Another bonus we finally get a day of live racing at Louisiana Downs. I think we need to take care of the car, even under the new guidelines, that puppy is screaming for an oil  change. I'm sure we can find one of those quickie places in Shreveport.

LouisianaLouisiana Downs

As for todays track Louisiana Downs is the junior track in Louisiana, it races both thoroughbreds an quarter horses in split meets. It also includes a Harrah's Casino, whose group owns the facility. Around since 1974, Louisiana Downs is home to the Super Derby, which in 1980 it's inaugural year had a purse of $500,000 which was $300,000 higher than that years Kentucky Derby. Today it can't come close to the Derby, but it's still an important Class II race. After the races we can hit the casino or do some simulcasting, but it might be a good time to catch up on laundry. Tomorrow we head for Arkansas and turn up the heat!

Day 30 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 188 94.00 100.00
Total 6,864 3,792.00 4,295.00

Day 31 Friday, September 2

OaklawnOaklawn Park

Today were going to head north on I-49 to Texarkana, from there we take I-30 north into Arkansas, before we get close to Little Rock we get on Route 270 west, which takes us to the resort town of Hot Springs. This seems like an unlikely place to find a pari-mutual racetrack, especially a prominent one like Oaklawn Park. The track itself has been around since 1905. I guess Hot Springs is not your typical Arkansas Town, known for it's healing hot springs, it has been a popular tourist stop since the eighteen hundreds. For years the town was the site of illegal casino, but today the casino at Oaklawn Park is above board. Oaklawn Park races in the winter months and is the home of the Arkansas Derby, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby. Spend a little time do some simulcasting or hit the casino, but don't get too comfortable, we still have a three and a half hour drive to Oklahoma.

Blue RibbonBlue Ribbon Downs

We're going to wind our way northwest through the Quachita Mountains, heading for Fort Smith, Arkansas where we finally get back on the Interstate, this would be I-40, which will take us to the small town of Sallisaw, Oklahoma the home of Blue Ribbon Downs. Blue Ribbon was the first pari-mutual track in Oklahoma, but today, I believe holds the dubious honor of being the only racino to go out of business in the country. The track is still open for training so you can get a good look at it, actually it looks like it could open tomorrow. Were going to spend the night here, not a lot of option but it's cheap. Tomorrow we tour the rest of the Oklahoma tracks, topped off by live racing at Remington Park.

Day 31 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 344 172.00 50.00
Total 7,208 3,964.00 4,345.00

Day 32 Saturday, September 3

Let's close out week 5 and the State of Oklahoma at the same time. We have three stops today, topped off by nighttime thoroughbred racing at Remington Park. I might have been a little harsh on Blue Ribbon Downs considering there's a casino behind every tree in that part of the state, well maybe at least every major interchange on the Interstates including Sallisaw.

Will RogersWill Rogers Downs

From Sallisaw we travel about an hour and a half north to Will Rogers Downs, outside the Town of Claremore. Opened in 1987, Will Rogers Downs has had it's share of financial difficulties, today  it is a racino which runs separate thoroughbred and quarter horse meets, of course were here between meets, but there's simulcasting and of course gambling. The grandstand is an open air a little upscale from a fair track, but it's no Remington Park. The scary part about this place is that they don't seem to get much of a crowd for the casino. Next it's off to Tulsa.

Fair MeadowsFair Meadows OTB

It's a short half hour drive to the Tulsa State Fairgrounds, also known as Expo Square. Here we find Fair Meadows Race Track. If not for the large open air grandstand Fair Meadows would seem like your typical Southwest fair track, which it basically is. There is no casino here but there is a separate OTB facility on the grounds. Live racing is run during June and July, at least for now, this place is always rumored to be closing. The fairgrounds are usually open so you can take a good look around. A couple of things to look for, look up and you'll probably see the 76 foot Tulsa Golden Driller and on the homestretch  turn if it's still there you'll notice a net to keep baseballs from hitting the track, from when the Tulsa Drillers played ball there. Off to the last stop of the day an hour and a half down I-44 to Oklahoma City.

RemingtonRemington Park

  When we reach Oklahoma City we should have plenty of time to check into the hotel before heading off for a night of racing at Oklahoma's showcase track Remington Park, the only track in Oklahoma with a turf course. In 1988 the world class facility was built by Edward DeBartolo Sr. at a cost of $100,000,000. Guess he got tired of turning all the racetracks in Cleveland into malls and decided to give a little back. Having no other major tracks around Remington Park did quite well until 1997 when Lone Star Park opened in the Dallas area. Since then it has lost some of it's luster, it now includes a casino and runs split thoroughbred and quarter horse meets. Look around and you'll find works from Frederic Remington, who the track is named after. This closes out week five, tomorrow a new week and a new state.

This is hard! Another disappointing week, only two live tracks, either I choose poorly or nobody has live racing anymore?  

Day 32 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 238 119.00 120.00
Total 7,446 4,083.00 4,465.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 5 17 2
Total 85 13

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