Harness racing fans know the first Saturday in August as “Hambletonian Day” at the Meadowlands. While arguably the year's most exciting day of standardbred racing, it’s usually hot as balls (sorry geldings) and somewhat of a mob scene. So, I typically just watch on the TV. But today—overcast with thunderstorms looming—it was neither hot nor totally obnoxious. I went.
Thanks to technology, this was certainly the most leisurly racetrack experience I've ever had. You see, as I've got my brand new iPhone all hooked up to my internet wagering account, there is no need to scurry about to tellers or autobet machines. That gave me plenty of time to walk around and take in the sights.
Ah, the sights. The usual suspects—derelicts, ass-crack guys, catcher’s mitt faces with pinky rings—were all present and accounted for (no shit, I sat next to a guy with a gold ID bracelet with the name "Vito" in all diamonds). But as this was a festive "family friendly" event my eyes also feasted on drunk young dads with their face-painted toddlers as well as some monstrosity of a cake by the “Cake Boss” guy that was baked (designed? erected?) to resemble the Big M grandstand. In fact, I got a raffle ticket that entitled me to a piece of said monster cake if horse #2 won the big race. It didn’t, thank God.
Anyway, back to my walking around. Leave it to me to hone right in on the “Drive to Win” traveling exhibit on loan from the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Way to turn a day of sin into an educational excursion!
According to their (the HRHOF's) website:
“This exhibit celebrates the drivers and trainers who make every race possible, but through circumstance, choice, design or fate, did not rise to stardom.”
So, in other words, the working stiffs of racing. I can't really see this concept working for any other industry or sport, but I digress.
One driver/trainer in particular that caught my attention was Phyllis Smith Page of Gardiner, ME. It seems she was a pretty badass broad who drove and/or trained horses for over 250 events in her home state by the time she was 21. And this was in the 1940s!
The too brief write up basically praised her dedication to pro racing at a time when it was largely a man’s domain (still is, in my opinion). And while it stated that she actively encouraged women to contribute to the sport of standardbred racing, it offered a very interesting quote that she relayed to a reporter back in the day: “It would be more of a thrill to beat a woman than to beat a man.”
So much for the sisterhood of the traveling jodhpurs. Me-ow.
As for this woman’s contribution to the sport…strictly financial. More bad picks than I’ll ever admit to and a couple of $6 beers.