Try something different this Valentine's Day by taking your Valentine to the track (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire).
Romance is gone from horse racing. Even Racing Romance, a mare born in 2004, appears to have retired. We should all take some blame for this situation but we can also do something about it.
Feb. 14 is around the corner and one of the best things to do for your Valentine is to offer a well-coordinated surprise. Think outside the box —try the track.
This year the big day of love falls on a Friday.
The bad news? Restaurants, which are always oversold on Valentineʼs Day, will be even more in demand.
The good news? Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Tampa Bay Downs, Fair Grounds and Delta Downs, among others, are featuring live racing on Feb. 14. Do you want to experience an overflowing restaurant, with rushed service at an inconvenient time or do you want to do something novel and thoughtful and maybe even lucrative? Iʼll take the latter, thanks.
Although none of those racetracks is featuring a candlelight dining experience catering to couples, you can still make a romantic day of it. The only ones I could find featuring a Valentine’s Day theme are Los Alamitos and Singapore Turf Club. But thatʼs just the same old thing in a different place.
Disclaimer: If your lover has been to the track and despises it, this may not be the right idea for you. But if your better half loathes fun and the possibility of winning money youʼre probably not reading this.
Focus on the important dates in your Valentineʼs life: birthday, birth year, anniversary date, lucky numbers, etc. Then look for ways to bet those numbers on certain races or bet them all day.
DATES GIVE YOU A NEW ANGLE TO BET ON FOR VALENTINE'S DAY
My birthday, Nov. 19, is not so useful for betting on races, 11, 19 exactas are rarely available. My birth year (1967), however, works just fine when converted to single digits. My girlfriend’s Feb. 10 birthdate makes for a good 2, 10 exacta but limits the number of bets you can place since not all races will have 10 horses entered.
Feel free to get creative. Betting the No. 10 horse in the second race produces the same birthday numbers. Combine both of your birthdays for superfectas or maybe you overlap on a number and they can become trifectas. Daily Doubles, Pick 3s and even the exotic Pick 5 can become a place to put your money where your heart is.
Sure, the odds are long but the thought does count. Basing bets solely on numbers important in your lives lowers your chances of winning but potentially increases the payout exponentially. A big enough win can lead to a romantic dinner on another night when the crowds are smaller and the experience more enjoyable. Losses still provide keepsakes and memories.
If you are a serious handicapper, betting the numbers might be difficult to swallow. Deal with it for a day. Do not, repeat, do not (!), bet any other way all day. Celebrating a win counter to the love bets you placed will not work out well for you.
If you go to the track on Feb. 14, valet park. It will tell your lover this is a special day. When you bet in person, tickets with the numbers proudly displayed are generated and your romantic partner will be thrilled at your inventiveness and pleased with your memory. If you are doing the betting online, screen capture the bets and print, email or text them to your special someone. You may be able to create a virtual ticket with your chosen online betting provider. These should, of course, be presented in a card or with a loving note.
At the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, you can even name a race after your loved one and it will be printed in the program. As of the end of January, four races were still available for Valentineʼs Day. It will cost you $75 and this seems like a bargain to me for your romantic track outing. This is an option available during the entire racing season here, check to see if your track might do something similar.
For an added degree of impressiveness check the entries ahead of time. These are always available the day before and sometimes as much as a week ahead. Scan these names for romantic ties or meaningful connections. Bet them.
Maybe youʼll get lucky and a horse like Lollipop or Bon Bon will be running. Or maybe one of the horses with Cupcake, Chocolate, Truffle, Caramel, Peppermint, etc., in their name will be running. Go buy a special treat for your sweetie at a nice candy shop. Donʼt cop out and go to the local drugstore and buy a huge bag of lollipops or the generic box of truffles. In New Orleans, I recommend going to Sucre or Blue Frog Chocolates and selecting a treat matching the horseʼs name. When the race is close to post time, present the gift and revel in the envious stares from those around you. Sucre, 3025 Magazine St. and Lakeside Mall on Veteranʼs Blvd., is known for their macaroons (Macaroon ran at Gulfstream on Jan. 11) although they spell them the French way, macaron - same pronunciation. No, there is no horse with that exact spelling. They also make brilliant caramels and chocolates, some in heart shapes.
MACARONS CAN PLAY A PART BY BEING BOTH PART OF A BET AND A GIFT
Blue Frog Chocolates, 5707 Magazine St., has some gorgeous candy flowers (although I donʼt love the candy theyʼre made from, some people do) and they make delicious chocolates, many in inventive shapes. They also offer a dazzling array of colors for their “milkies,” which are essentially M&Ms ... but better. These can also be ordered in a miniature bottle for a great looking gift. Both stores will ship. No doubt a specialty shop exists near you as well.
There are also lots of horses with “Strawberry” in their name and, believe it or not, local strawberries are already available here in Louisiana.
Donʼt forget to bet the horse. No matter how nice the day is or how perfect you are as a couple, having something you are both rooting for will bring you closer together. Who knows, you might just win big at the races and with your lover. Look for his or her name, look for Valentine, love, forever, etc. and bet your heart (Valentine Eddie ran on Jan. 31 at the Fair Grounds). I caution you about horses with the word “wife” in the name, the rest of the name is rarely complimentary.
Enjoy yourself; do something different. If racing happens during the day, cook a nice meal at home that night. If racing is at night go to a nice lunch beforehand - those reservations are much easier to get. Think about extending the theme with a bottle of Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon from Wild Horse Winery or a sparkling wine from Iron Horse Vineyards. Donʼt be predictable, be loving and attentive.
A NICE LUNCH IS THE PERFECT WAY TO START YOUR DATE