Sunday, January 21, 2007

El Hipódromo de Palermo

On Saturday, I met my new friends Alan and Tom, for a trip the the horse races in Buenos Aires. This is more like a horse palace than a race track. The entrance way is the French architecture building you see to the right. The complex takes up almost two kilomeres of Avenida del Libertador across from the polo grounds and within walking distance of the Buenos Aires Zoo.

They are very oppossed to picture taking there for some reason. We were allowed to tape pictures of the horses, but not the facility. I had to go out on the street to take a picture of the building. I asked Alan to videotape me placing my first Argentina bet and was specifically told that using my video camera required special authorization. Further videotaping was accomplished from within my open backpack and photos were (mostly) confined to the horses.

There is an expression here: hacé la ley, hacé la trampa (First
comes the law, then you cheat). I was just trying to fit in.

Tom, Alan, and I settled in on the grandstand with programs in hand for some high-peso, horse-wagering action. The programs is very different from a US raceday program. First, it is in Spanish. There is a race summary in the front with past performances, parentage, jockey, and trainer. Also there is information on the type of race adn the bets allowed. Curiously, there is no morning line, but the track handicapper has indicated his choice for ganador, secundo, y tercero (Win, place, and show).

There are 8 or 10 expert handicappers who give their top picks. Then there is a section with a pre-post time analysis of all the races by El Diabolico Cronometrista (help me out here . . .the devil´s handicapper?) Then we have the insights of El Jockey Enmascarado--the Masked Jockey. He seemed to have it going on and was often on or near the money. There are a few news stories about horse events and personalities. Then we have the race details for each horse. In the USA, this information is found in one place--here, you have to look two or three places to handicap a race. It´s all in what you are used to I guess.

The races all ranged from one kilometer (about 6 furlongs) to 1600 meters (one mile). For the 1000 meter races, the horses ran a straightaway, not turns. It was more like a 50 meter dash, there was no reason to ride next to the rail. The track also accommodates 23 horses. In one race we saw, there were 21. It was more like a stampede.

The track is not in great shape. A water truck wets it down between races, but it is not groomed. No horses broke down, so I guess it is not usually a problem.

Betting is very much the same. I mostly played exactas and came close--usually picking the correct longshot with the favorite failing to perform. I finally , refusing to be completely shut out, place a show bet, a tercero, and sure enough, he won. However, I got show money rather than win money. My $2 bet netted me $2.60. So, I was down $17.40 on the day.

The winner board is confusing, there are numbers put up mechanically with odd symbols next to win place, show (ganador, secundo, tercero). And there are three flags, red, green, an yellow. I think the yellow is for a jockey´s objection. I really have no idea.

The bell is what they ring for post time. There is no bugle for the post parade.

It reminds me of when I first started playing horses three years ago. I had no idea what I was doing and felt like an incompetent fool each time I stammered through making a bet. Now, I get to relive those days all over again.


Alan Patrick said...

Hi Ken...nice post!

I think you already know far more about horse racing in Argentina than I do! :-)

It was very nice to meet you and Tom.

Take care, and keep enjoying BA,


Alan Patrick said...

PS - Looking forward to our next beer tasting session :)

Chas said...