The seven of us were pretty familiar with regular horse racing, but none of us had ever seen harness racing and I figured it would be fun to learn about the racing experience by watching some Harness Racing at The Red Mile. I wasn’t sure how it would go over, bringing a bunch of kids to the track. In my mind, I rationalized that this was Kentucky horse country, not New Jersey with shady characters smoking cigars betting on the ponies for a living. It seemed to be a great night time activity as the racing started in the early evening but I wondered if people would think Yvonne and I were out of our minds for bringing the kids here. Well, I decided to make sure that the kids were welcome before we arrived because there is betting involved and the management said it was no problem, the kids could watch but not place any bets….so in we went. We did get a few stares, but it was all fine and no one gave us a hard time.
We paid our admission and got seats right in the front row near the action. We looked at the racing form and read the comments about each horse and it’s racing history as well as some information on the jockey. Directly in front of us on the green was a huge board that listed the odds of each horse winning. It was a great moment to talk about math and statistics and what odds mean when you place a bet. I was a little torn explaining it all to my kids, as I didn’t want to inspire any future gamblers, but at the end of the day I don’t want to raise naive kids. I always believe it’s better that my kids learn stuff from me where I can draw the parameters explaining right and wrong, than giving them the opportunity to discover vices on their own. I think it’s super important as a parent to point out how math is used in daily life and to seize those opportunities when they present themselves, even at a harness racing track in Kentucky. As the first race was about to start, we watched horses pull riders in a little buggy-like contraption which is called the harness. There is no big starting gate, only a pickup truck with a sort of separator on the back that keeps the horses at the same start line and then the truck pulls away and the horses take off. We also noticed that the horses don’t make a mad dash the way they do at the Kentucky Derby, instead they sort of trot. Needless to say, it wasn’t the big Derby experience you might see at Churchill Downs, but it was still exciting and fun to watch.
After watching a few races Yvonne and I got bold and placed a few $1 bets on a few of the horses…but no luck. The best was watching the kids try to handicap the races by looking at the program stats for each horse, they did pick a few winners but for the most part, we lost. The experience was unique and different and what I liked most is that it gave us a little more insight about something that is truly part of Kentucky culture.