As a longtime Thoroughbred racing aficionado, I had always turned up my nose at quarter horse racing. As a sport, I thought, it surely suffered; these were inferior creatures, guided by inferior riders, hurtling down a short track with only the simplest of strategies in mind: Run like hell. At puny distances ranging from 250 yards to a half-mile, you barely get a bead on your nag of choice and the race is over. If he stumbles or veers slightly coming out of the gate, forget it--might as well stomp on that win ticket.
So I came to the sport for the first time earlier this month harboring all those prejudices. I visited Lone Star Park's Fall Meeting of Champions, which features quarter horse racing (as well as some novelty races for tortoise-like breeds such as paints and Arabians), and realized, well, everything I said is true.
Yet I'd still encourage anyone to make it to Grand Prairie this weekend for 2001's final live racing dates and two of the meet's biggest highlights: the estimated $400,000 Texas Classic Derby on Friday and the Texas Classic Futurity on Saturday, with an estimated purse of $1 million. Now those are two quarter horse races worth watching, and it'll be four months before you get to see another sanctioned horse race in this area, when Lone Star's three-and-a-half-month Thoroughbred meet begins in April 2002.
Lone Star Park
Wraps up its live racing calendar November 29 through December 1. The first race starts each day at 6:35 p.m. For more information, call 972-263-RACE or visit www.lonestarpark.com.
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And, I discovered, the quarter horse meet has distinct advantages. Fewer people attend, so you don't have to wait in line at the betting windows and concession stands. There's a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere, suitable for enjoying Lone Star's usual professionalism as a provider of horsey entertainment. That means a clean grandstand, cheerful clerks and tasty food (including some great hamburgers, fries and hot wings served in the second-floor box seats). All that, and in quarter horse racing at Lone Star, the favorites win some 40 percent of the time. So here's my hot tip: Bet the favorites.
Lone Star Park really is one of the area's sporting gems, offering a reasonable night out and quality events in pleasant environs. If you're a low roller like me, you can entertain and feed a family of four for about $60. Racing fans as well as horsemen from all over the country fall in love with Lone Star when they visit, and if you've ever been to a seedy East Coast track, you'll understand why.
Racing is offered this week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Post time for the first race--that means when the horses actually leave the gate--is 6:35 p.m. If you want to do some handicapping, get there an hour earlier. Friday's Texas Classic Derby, for 3-year-old quarter horses, and Saturday's Texas Classic Futurity, for 2-year-olds, will be run during the ninth race; post time is 9:47 p.m.
It's easy to get to Lone Star Park from Dallas: Take Interstate 30 west and get off at the Belt Line Road exit in Grand Prairie. Go right at Belt Line and continue for about a half-mile till you see the entrances to the track on your right.