Monmouth Park is in hard times. Handle's down, fighting politicians, competition everywhere, down to three days a week, a track from a bygone era needing a lifeline.
Or, so I hear.
You'd never know by being there. Maybe it's the flowers, lining the edges and walls like the flowers were there first. Or the ocean breeze, light, you can almost hear the waves. Or maybe the people, from Carolyn in the parking lot to the two affable men at the horsemen's gate, or the woman born in 22 (we weren't sure if it was the day or the year) who has pinned her life to the elevator wall.
The place is clean, immaculate actually. The people are friendly, like the friendliest people at any racetrack, anywhere. They talk to you, answer your questions, smile, hand you programs. It's like a family reunion, with a family who likes each other. Like going to the Masters, or so I'm told.
Dad, Miles and I made a road trip to Monmouth Friday. Three generations of Clancys, going to the races, hoping for a family portrait, the only ones we have are from places like Keystone, Timonium and Rolling Rock. Miles has made a few, not nearly enough.
Jewish Holiday loomed, we stood and leaned like it would help from our parterre box and then he faded, winding up fourth. We regrouped, enjoyed fish tacos and tomatoes and mozzarella from the best view in racing and watched a few more races, betting $10,000 claimers like it mattered, then went home, five races done and dusted.
Miles, who likes Glenwood Park because of the rocks and Saratoga because of the golf carts, likes Monmouth Park.
"This place is great, Dad," Miles said, carrying his Shakespeare book, as we walked to the car.
I handed him a tip to give to Carolyn and she handed him a lollipop.
"And they have lollipops," Miles said, unwrapping a cherry Dum-Dum.