A few weeks ago, I made plans to visit Arlington Park with my girlfriend, Melissa, and friends. Unfortunately, as the tentative date approached us, the plans with our friends fell through and they no longer were able to attend. My girlfriend and I contemplated what we should do instead of going to the track.
This past Saturday was a colder morning than we wanted it to be, but it was still sunny enough to enjoy doing something fun outside. We were open-minded to pretty much anything. While trying to figure out what we should do, I received a text message from a recently introduced friend and fellow comrade from the Racing 101 tent, Katherine Wheeler. She indicated that she would be driving up to Chicago with her good friend Kellyn Gorder. They were driving to watch a horse that Kellyn trains, named Chalice, at Arlington Park. Melissa had to run an errand about 15 minutes away from Arlington Park, so it made perfect sense to meet Katherine and Kellyn at Arlington and enjoy a day of horse racing.
Upon our arrival at the park, we met up with Joe Kristufek, who was handicapping the races that day. As we chatted a bit near the press box about the horses on the race card for the day, we also ran into Dave Zenner, the senior manager of communications for Arlington. Following our visit with Dave, Melissa and I made our way toward Mr. D’s Sports Bar, located at the far end of the building. Along the way, I was happy to visit with old friends such as Glenn Santucci, Diane Callopy, Ryan Repp and others. After finding a seat at the bar in Mr. D’s, we ate some appetizers (the nachos and corn dogs were a great snack) and bet on a few races. Katherine and Kellyn contacted me with instructions to meet them near the rail to watch the sixth race; Chalice was ready to run soon. Shortly after placing a few bets on this horse and hoping for a win, we met them near the rail. Chalice went off as the favorite but was challenged down the stretch. As he fought back and crossed the finish line in first place, we cheered like crazy. Seeing the result of this race was really exciting for Melissa and I on so many different levels. Our new friends just won a race, all of our bets for this race were a big success, and Melissa and I were extremely fortunate enough to be invited into the winner's circle for a photo with the winning connections (horse, jockey, trainer, etc.). Since I am fairly sure it is unlikely that I will own or train a racehorse in the near future, or maybe ever, this was a unique opportunity for us and probably the closest I will ever get to enjoy this kind of experience anytime soon.
Katherine, Kellyn, Melissa and I headed back to Mr. D’s to celebrate the big win of the day with Joe Kristufek. When we got back to the bar, I ran into my great friend and old colleague Carla Montgomery and her husband, David. We enjoyed some beverages and looked at the winner's circle photos over and over while relishing the glory of success. We talked with Kellyn about other horses, like Bourbon Courage, a 3-year-old he trains who will be racing soon at Hoosier Park. It was great because we all just simply spent the afternoon getting to know each other a lot better. As the day came to an end, we organized plans to meet up again in a few weeks when the Racing 101 tour is scheduled to visit Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Renaissance Man. The quote goes something like this, “The choices we make dictate the lives we lead.” None of the events last Saturday would have ever happened without Katherine and Kellyn reaching out to us, or had we decided we were just going to stay home instead. I am happy that Katherine and Kellyn made the choice to invite us to join them. They truly impacted our experience at the track last Saturday to make it an amazing day.
We all make choices every day. Some of these choices are business related, some are about meals, and others are accepting or declining a date opportunity. Each choice we make decides the life we will lead or the experiences we will have at any given moment. I will leave you with this recommendation: before you say no to something or decline an invitation, think about the experience you might miss out on.