Train up a child in the way he should go . . .
The second annual Mommy and Me trip to Oaklawn was all about exposure (read about last year's visit here). I have visions of a lifetime of handicapping together, and I hope these childhood visits give him a taste of the wonders of the track and start us on this path.
Upon arrival at the grounds, we went to one of the track's top photo ops: the horse statue, painted to match the horse, silks and saddle cloth of the most recent Arkansas Derby winner. During the 2017 season, it represented Creator, who went on to win the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown. Obviously, Case was uncooperative. However, Case became fascinated with Creator about fifteen minutes later.
We tried another photo after purchasing a program, with the statue in the background, and had slightly better results.
We arrived just before race 1. We watched it by the rail. He pointed at the picture of Creator on my media credential. "I think this horse is going to win," he said. I tried to explain to him that Creator would not be running, but this prediction became his refrain before every race.
Oaklawn staff was eager to give Case a first class experience, too. When the opener was over, a team member approached us and asked if he could give Case a horse shoe that had been worn by an athlete at the track. Case loved it.
We watched the second race from a box with friends, and then we headed back outside. The last five Saturdays of Oaklawn's live meet provide a perfect time to take kids to the track. Weather permitting, the infield is open each of these days, and the park-within-a-park includes bounce houses, live music and a petting zoo.
But I had a few more spots I wanted to share with Case, including the paddock. We went back inside to check out the horses that would compete in the fifth race. Case was still pointing at my media credential, asking to see Creator.
When the trumpeter played Call to the Post and the horses left the paddock for the track, I looked up and saw Steve Asmussen, who trained Creator, on the other side of the enclosure (look for his famous locks in the picture above). I knew what we had to do. Case and I booked it over there.
"He's been looking for Creator all day," I said, after a couple of pleasantries. "Me, too," Steve laughed. And then he graciously posed for a picture, even getting down to Case height.
After this race, Case asked if we could get Sonic lemonade (he saw the drive-in across from the track when we arrived). In almost any other circumstance, I would have voted against leaving Oaklawn early. But on this day, I couldn't imagine anything happening in the late races that would make our day more complete.