"What do you want to do for your birthday this weekend?" was the question of the month frequently asked this August from my family. After pondering all of the possible places and activities to be enjoyed in this part of Colorado, watching an exciting afternoon of horse racing at Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colorado, was my ultimate decision.
We travelled from the north Denver metro area to the Arapahoe Park track via tollway E-470 with a minimum of traffic – a small wonder for the Denver metro area! Free parking was readily available in a large marked parking area next to the park’s grandstand facility. Once inside the doors we elected to celebrate at the track’s Reserved Clubhouse level instead of the general admission grandstand seats. What a bargain! For $12 USD we purchased a daily racing program and our party of 5 adults sat in the air conditioned luxury of our own private "box" (table with 5 padded chairs) complete with a personal TV monitor and Ryan, our personal waiter, for the afternoon. A fun, pampered beginning to 4 hours of excitement and possible betting-profit!
We arrived at our "box" about 30 minutes before the start of Race #1. The others in our party decided to find some snacks while I scoped out essentials such as the betting area and restrooms. After a short stretch of my legs I arrived back at our clubhouse table to find nachos laden with cheese and the yummiest onion rings waiting. Our waiter, Ryan, made periodic trips to our box during the course of the afternoon, willing and eager to bring us burgers, hotdogs, brats or (bar) alcoholic beverages – whatever we desired to enhance the afternoon’s enjoyment.
At 1 PM sharp the track’s PA system played the National Anthem. Everyone readily rose during the presentation and erupted into spontaneous applause as the last note played. What a fantastic start to the official beginning of the afternoon!
Arapahoe Park’s claim to fame is that it is Colorado’s only home to live Thoroughbred, Quarter horse, Arabian, Paint and Appaloosa horse racing. The day’s Race #1 featured Quarter horses racing a sprint of 350 yards on the dirt track directly in front of the grandstands. Just prior to the running of Race #1 my husband handed me a $20 bill and said "Happy Birthday—enjoy the betting". This being said, I had already decided to "mentally" place a bet on a horse from the race as practice before betting any real money. As the horses were being led to the paddock for saddling I explained to my Mom and daughter exactly how to read the printed racing program for today’s festivities and we each set about to see who could predict the winner. We watched eagerly as the horses and their riders (“Riders Up” for all you novices) were led onto the track for the Post Parade. A buzz of anticipation rose among the crowd while the horses were loaded into the starting gate. Then…a few short seconds later the bell rang, gates flew open and 10 horses exploded into a flat-out full sprint lasting about 19 seconds.
After thunderously crossing the finish line directly in front of our view, my daughter turned and said, "that was fast," (when asked if she enjoyed Race #1). The winner, El Muneco Vision, was pulling away from the others at the finish line but a photo was needed to determine the second ("place" for you bettors) horse, Wildecard, who finished just a nose in front of A Zestee Brisco, the third place ("Show") finisher.
It became apparent by mid-afternoon that both my husband and daughter's systems of determining the winners were more consistant than mine—especially for Race #3 where my daughter, A Colorado State University music major, picked a horse named Miss Music Major, who, coincidentally, won that race, but what a fun way to celebrate a birthday on a summer weekend; 10 exciting races over 4 hours! The perfect ending to this fantastic afternoon was the triple rainbow we saw when exiting the racetrack grounds at day’s end.
26000 E Quincy Avenue
Aurora, Colorado 80016