Once again it’s time to take one last look back, then look forward to the next year. As most years lately have been, 2017 was full of highs and lows. I guess you can say that about life in general, but we will look at it strictly from a photographic point of view.
First the lows, 2017 was not kind to me financially. Causing me to cut back on, and forego some events on my calendar. The one that hurt the most was missing the Hawk vintage racing event. I also had to beg off of the Ferrari challenge, an event I had been trying to get to for some time now. Illness caused me to miss the Wings Over Waukesha fly in, and some others were cut from two days to one. Probably the oddest thing about the year was the number of airshows, or lack there of that I attended. You have to go back to 2004 for the last time I was at three or less airshows. However most of this was out of my control.
Now the highs, adding two new events to the portfolio. I finally remembered to register in time for Professional Bull Riders Chicago Invitational. It was well worth the effort, and I hope to do it again. I have tried for some time to find pro horse jumping or steeple chase events in the area to no avail. Thanks to HITS Inc. Balmoral Park in Crete Illinois has been converted into a world class show jumping facility. This event I truly enjoyed, and I am already looking at their 2018 calendar to plan which competitions I will attend.
As it stands now 2018 should be much more stable, and barring any medical issues I should be able to take on a very aggressive schedule. Being semi retired should also help with this. So here’s wishing for the best in 2018.
It was once called the Sport of Kings. In the past, races, meets, derbies, or what ever you choose to call them would attract royalty, nobles and the most affluent in society of that day. Today if you were to quiz any ten people most could maybe name one horse race (The Kentucky Derby), maybe two. Most would not know if there was even a horse race track anywhere near them.
Just when the first horse race took place is lost to prehistory, however the first known purse to be offered for a race took place during the reign of Richard the Lion-Heart. £40 was offered to the winner of a race over a 3 mile course with knights as riders. The first national racing rules were drafted during the reign of Charles II between 1661 – 1685.
I must admit that it had been years since I had gone to the track. My vision of what the experience would be like was probably the same as most others. A bunch of cigar chomping curmudgeons in rumpled sports jackets with rolled up racing forms in their back pockets, lamenting how much they had lost that day. What I found when I finally did go was the polar opposite of that. A friendly, fun, family and friend atmosphere is what you find at the track these days. Families, groups of co workers, and birthday parties are the norm. The one that surprises me the most is that Mothers Day and Fathers Day are two of busiest days of the year.
We have several race tracks in the Chicago area. The three main race tracks are:
Arlington Park – Thoroughbred
Hawthorn Park – Thoroughbred and Harness
Maywood Park – Harness (now closed)
We will not go into my thoughts of harness here, we will just focus on Thoroughbred racing. Thoroughbred racing has a rich history in the Chicago area. Presently two of racings major events are held here. The Illinois Derby which in past years has been a points qualifier for the Kentucky Derby. I am not quite sure why that distinction has been taken away. The Arlington Million is currently the one of the highest purses for a single thoroughbred race in the U.S. Million day at Arlington consist of several stakes races, and attracts competitors from around the world. If you even remotely like horse racing, it is a day well spent. Regular days at both Arlington, and Hawthorn parks normally consist of an eight race card of varying purses. Although they are not always big money stakes races, they are still very good quality competitive races. And still a day well spent.
The racing industry in Illinois, and the country as a whole has been in a slow decline for years as people seem to favor other forms of gambling such as casinos and sports betting over it. For me the thought of just sitting in a dark room feeding money into a machine with bells and flashing lights is not very appealing. Watching the action as a thoroughbred sprints around the track, and cheering it on to victory gives more of a sense of participation than just watching wheels on a machine spin. Even if your horse doesn’t win you still feel as if you were part of the action. All in all it makes for a much more enjoyable experience. We can only hope racings fortunes improve in the coming years, and that peoples interest return to the excitement and beauty that is thoroughbred racing, the sport of kings.