What Happens at a Horse Racing Track

Horse Racing Season Opens at Presque Isle Downs & CasinoNear the gate, a horse is spooked. It rears, so the jockey and groom back off. The horse turns and runs in the other direction. A pony horse and rider follow the galloping thoroughbred as it escapes. It makes it around one turn of the track before the escaping horse seems confused, turns, evades the pony horse, and runs more. Confusion again sets in for the horse. An owner and trainer walk onto the track, approaching slowly and cautiously. Their presence seemingly corrals the nervous horse long enough for the pony horse rider to grab onto the reins.

The horse is guided back to the starting gate, loaded into a stall, and within moments, the race begins. In less than two minutes, the horses are nearing the final stretch to the finish line. Along the patio, some 75 onlookers — maybe all gamblers, maybe just people who came to watch a race — call out to the horses: “C’mon” or “Let’s go” or some variation of those phrases. They call out to them by name.

Racehorses have odd names. Race horse owner and trainer Tim Girten has a horse in the third race named Serene Warrior (that horse will finish second in its race). Girten said sometimes horses are named by combining the names of its parents. The names also have to be to unique to be approved by the Jockey Club (the horse version of the American Kennel Club for dogs). Though Girten has owned and/or trained quite a few horses — he’s been a licensed racer since 1994 and he’s raced horses in more than 3,000 races — his horse Little Aladdin Rib quickly comes to mind as a standout. Girten claimed the horse for about $15,000, and when he retired the horse it had earned about $375,000.

“I was racing in Ohio at the time, and he was the Ohio Handicap Horse of the Year in 1996,” Girten said. “I’ve had quite a few stake horses.”

On a damp May 18 afternoon — a weekday — about 100 people were watching the first four races. It doesn’t matter if it’s damp. The staff say the horses run faster when it’s wet. A small handful of horses ran in each race. Each race lasted about 2 minutes. There are typically 27 or so minutes between races. And Presque Isle Downs has eight races each day that they race in the season. Meanwhile, races from all over the world are simulcast on TV screens inside so gamblers can keep the action going between each local race, placing bets on faraway races through the local establishment, or betting online…