Short and Sweet
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.
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.
Get the Things to Do Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly guide to events in Dallas, and never be bored again. With suggestions for every day of the week, our recommendations will keep you busy on any budget.