While I certainly don’t consider myself an avid gambler, the allure of live horse racing is something that is definitely not lost on me. The rush of the cloppity-clop of the horses going by as jockeys do battle is a definite heart-thumping form of live entertainment.
Now while I’m not a huge gambler, I have had my brush with success in the past with ponies. On my 21st birthday (so, like last year :P) I slapped $20 down on a pair of horses, Twisty B Twist and Spinny. The odds were staggeringly not in my favour- the odds were close to 30-1 for one of them, and boxing them together (exactor box bets means the horses must place first and second) only increased the odds. While my tablemates snickered and poked fun at my seemingly poor choices I had faith in these noble steeds and upon a nail biting photo finish, I was rewarded with a pretty hefty payout (enough to clear out two cashiers and pay off half my student loans).
While those sweet memories remain a constant source of pride I haven’t returned to those gaming roots in far too long. This past weekend I corrected that spent a sunny Sunday afternoon at Ajax Downs.
Known for their year round Simulcast lounge and onsite gaming and slots, I was surprised to see the recently renovated patio and grandstand- obviously the bustling crowd of families and couples hanging out were onto something here. The well maintained gardens and inviting courtyard has great views of the races, as well as the adjacent paddock where the winners are crowned. Kids flock to this area, up close and personal with the ponies and jockeys. I managed to score a behind the scenes tour to where the real magic happens, the barn areas where the horses gear up for races, or cool down after a victory lap.
On hand was the charming and charismatic Maddie-Jo Tilley, she acts as MC to the crowd, interviewing jockeys and whipping the crowd into a frenzy in between races. Jockeys are a unique bunch, but even bolder are the handlers, the brave souls who push the ponies into the gates just prior to the races. Wearing enough equipment to rival an NHL player, it was intense watching them risk life and limb corralling these horses. Sort of reminds me of running with the bulls!
After my behind the scenes tour, I tucked into a few races. While the luck from my youth days didn’t make a reappearance, the names were still just as hilarious. Who could resist tossing a few bucks at names like Panther Hero or Forest Got Skunked?
Between races I grabbed a burger and a beer from the nearby bar and tucked into the remaining races. With its courtyard appearance and patio vibe, you can bet I’ll be back soon to soak up the scenery and get in on the action! This weekend, Ajax Downs is hosting an epic music festival dubbed Steak Stock! Grab your tickets here and make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action!
The nitty gritty- Yes, I was compensated for this post but as you loyal readers know I don’t vouch for things I don’t love. Hence, no blog posts on Kool-Aid, bananas or Branston Pickle.