The Ponies


Ah, nothing like a night of watching small men ride around in carts being dragged behind trotting ponies. Add to this the lovely backdrop of the famous Meadowlands Racetrack in beautiful East Rutherford, NJ, and you have what amounts to an evening in paradise.

In order to avoid hanging with the general chain-smoking riff-raff that generally inhabit lowbrow racetracks, we procured seats in the glass-enclosed dining room. Not only did this allow us to avoid having our women ogled by toothless geriatrics, but we were also divined the pleasure of paying a good deal of our hard-earned money for rubber chicken and general weddingish fare. In addition, we stayed out of the drizzle and got to make fun of the faux fancy-pants, middle-aged Jerseyites in their sequins and elastic waistbands. Outside of the hardcore crowd downstairs, the track seems more like a night out at a cheesy Italian restaurant than a night of seedy debauchery. And then we descend into the seventh level of hell that is the general betting public…

This is some scary shit. Made up of almost 100% dudes (and couple flannel-clad heifers who might as well have been sporting goatees), the place reeked of desperation and alcoholism. Man yelled for horses they had never heard of before throwing down cash at the window. They jumped up and down like lunatics. They yelled like rednecks at a livestock auction. They were OTB junkies with bus passes. It was a weird sociology experiment gone horribly awry. It made me want to cry for these broken men and their addictions. Instead I made faces and rolled my eyes like the snobby asshole that I am, and made sure to use a lot of soap after washing my hands in the empty bathrooms.

As far as betting went, I originally took a conservative approach, essentially reading the wonderfully produced program and making my choices based on the snarky commentary written (and not very well edited) by one David Brower.

racing program

Like most sports “experts,” his suggestions amounted to nothing more than educated guesses. After the third race, I switched gears and relied on the “close my eyes and hope a name comes to me” method. And, like that, I actually won! That one win, along with another small one later in the night paid for my dinner and covered the rest of my expenditures.

I must say that harness racing isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, as the horses aren’t allowed to zoom past a trot at any point in the race. It has that weird speed walking quality about it, as the horses seem like they could really break out if they were allowed to stretch their legs. Really quite bush league.

Despite my somewhat lukewarm response to the track, I’m certain I’ll find myself back at some point with the guys, drinking beers and blowing my cash. This time, though, I’m going to stay out of the glass cage that is the upper class and spend my time amongst the regulars. Hey, if you’re gonna talk the talk…