Thursday, July 19, 2018

Arlington Park! ~ Chicago, Illinois

Created with flickr slideshow.

     Arlington Park! ~ Chicago, Illinois
     This travel website primarily focuses on western destinations, but occasionally places east of the Mississippi do receive some mention, especially if summertime fun is part of the venue.  During the last decade, some of the top horse race tracks have expanded summer venues to retain a crowd.  Keeping the attention of a crowd at a horse track is not as easy as it seems, because in this modern age most gamblers prefer to sit down in an indoor simulcast video facility when playing the ponies.  This leaves a problem of filling the grandstands, even when the weather is pleasant and warm.  
     In order to attract more "live" customers, horse tracks have expanded their entertainment venues.  Now when a patron walks through the gates of a horse track on a Saturday afternoon, everything from car shows to live band stages and wine tasting tents can be found in the grassy areas surrounding the racing surface.  What this means is the top horse tracks now offer a full entertainment package for a good value or for free in some cases. 
     Not everybody in a big city can do a long trip to the great outdoors, so settling for an afternoon at a local park becomes the next best thing.  For some, a trip to a local horse track is like going to a city park in many respects.  There are wide open grassy fields that are perfect for family picnics and get together parties.  There are exciting races going on and watching the animal athletes is fascinating to do.  Seeing the drama going on between winners and losers is a study in itself.  Aspiring photographers can spend hours trying to get that perfect shot during a race and capturing the thrill of victory on film can create memories to share for a lifetime.  The entire experience at a horse track during the summer season is quite a show, even if one has no intentions of gambling whatsoever.  
     I must admit that I am a good handicapper and I made a second income playing the ponies while living in Las Vegas for 12 years.  Grinding it out in a race book everyday certainly does have a way of taking a toll, so I resigned to just picking and choosing only a few key races to play each week.  After leaving the gambling atmosphere of Las Vegas to pursue work abroad, I started visiting some of the horse tracks that I had previously only viewed in a simulcast room.  Eventually my interests shifted from gambling and handicapping toward photography.  Focusing on jockeys and horses that are the real stars of the show became my primary interest when breaking out the camera.  Now photographing a good stakes race creates more excitement than standing in line to place a wager.  Overall all, the summer horse track entertainment venues at places like Arlington taught me to just relax and have fun, instead of bearing down to eek out some extra income.
     Today's photo slide show album was shot during the 2010 and 2011 Arlington summer racing seasons.  Many of the jockeys and horses have retired since then, but a few still ride to this day.  Some of the famous faces are easy to pick out, while others are familiar to only experienced horse players.  For most of the race shots, I used a Nikon D90 SLR with a rapid automatic 150 frames per minute sports setting.  A Nikon 300x Telephoto Lens helped to make the photos up close and personal.  
     Spending a weekend at Arlington Park International Race Track in Chicago during the summer season is like a walk in a park with plenty of exciting stuff going on.  Just getting out of the house is as good as an excuse as any to validate the excursion.  So, break out the picnic basket, pop the cork, put on the big wide brim hat and get ready to soak up a relaxing afternoon of quality entertainment in the warm sunshine!