A few months ago one of my buds Doug told me that down in Virginia, North and South Carolina there are a bunch of these small, bush league match races at random racetracks. I’ve heard of these match races before but knew nothing about when or where they are let alone how organized they are.
Doug found the facebook page of the guys who handle the photo finishes as well as the winners circle at these events. A race day was set up on March 13 at Eagle Rock Downs just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina which was perfect. After weeks of waiting, we jumped on it.
The experience was nothing like I’ve seen before, going off the facebook page we assumed that it was put on by the Hispanic community but 95% of the crowd was African-American, with Doug, me and about three other white people in attendance. It was awesome, they were all the most welcoming people I’ve ever seen at a racetrack. Always asking how we’re doing, whats going on, telling us who the horses are and who was in the next race and all that. If we had a question a few people jumped in to answer.
It was a really cool scene there, the track was only about 350 or 400 yards with a tiny hook at the end that goes off into an open field for the gallop out.
There were only about 5 or 6 guys total that actually raced. A bunch of people would get on the horses and ponies, often without a helmet and with tennis shoes, but the race riders were all the same guys.
Obviously, some of the dudes are totally too big to be jockeys but considering later in the day one of the horses raced under a western saddle I don’t think they were all that concerned about how much weight a horse is carrying.
Blue Pants got the win in the first race aboard RM Quick Dash, who has raced at Hialeah as well as Delta Downs with little success. The horse is 0-5, and from talking around he’s ran in and won some other of these bush league match races but since it is nothing official he is still a maiden.Very proud of RM’s efforts
There were some storm clouds forming all morning, before the first race went off there as some thunder and lightning but no one seemed to care too much, until it started dumping and everyone ran for the hills. The storm lasted about 15 minutes, but if you look at the track before it needed some water on it.
The race we were most excited for was one of the marquee events, Ketchup vs. Bear.
One thing that was a little odd was that the starting gate never moves but the finish line will be in a different spot depending on how long the race is be is 250, 275 or 300 yards.
Ketchup came out with the win and his team was pretty thrilled!
Someone after the win yelled “they should call him BBQ Sauce cause he smoked him!”The paint is a horse that was scheduled to run against RM Quick Dash but got moved to a different race. The horse’s name is L. The letter. Check out the pony boy, no saddle or helmet!
There were three horses in this race but one lost the rider, and the chestnut’s saddle slipped so L got away with an easy win.
Not to mention that L is a very skilled rodeo pony catching the loose horse out in the gallop out field.
It was pretty cool to see some color to the races rather than just seeing brown horses with the thoroughbreds
There are scheduled races but a lot of the races were set up on the spot. Trainers would put up the money, winner take all, and decide on the distance right then and there. So while some horses were brought there and scheduled to run, others were brought just in case.
This is Down Town Patriot, another quarter horse who has run at the big tracks but is 0-17. She’s a pretty good looking horse though, right?
I didn’t catch the whole story on this race, but it was one that was put together last minute.
What I believe happened was the rider on the bay horse wanted to ride in a race to prove he still can so challenged one of his buds to a race, so the two found some horses and the race went on without the starting gate.
You’ll notice the bay horse, ridden by the guy who set it up, is wearing a western saddle.
This is Down Town Patriot winning. Again, even though she wins she is still officially considered a maiden.
Look how perfect she is!
Final race of the day and the sun came out, as did this guy’s saddle!
Blue pants is back!
Last race, and Blue Pants walks away with two wins. Winning horse is named Cool Bug.
There was one more race people were trying to throw together, but the two trainers could not decide on if they wanted the race to be 275 or 300 so it never happened.
I said it to a lot of people but this was definitely the most genuine racing experience I ever had. Everyone from the trainers, jockeys and the crowd was there just to have a good time. Smiles all around, even if they lost they were all still really upbeat and enjoying the day.
Being used to the main tracks, it was really awesome to see such a different side of the sport. Can’t wait to go to one of these again!