I am seriously concerned that I’m living in the New York City version of Narnia; not the fun, Mr. Tumnus-filled magical wonderland, but the horrible, White Witch, neverending winter version. So When I left the Big Apple in 39-degree weather on Wednesday night, I was more than ready to get down to Miami and Gulfstream Park to experience the now-foreign concept of sun and warmth.
When I woke up on Thursday morning, that’s exactly what I got. Funny anecdote: I slept at my parents’ house on Wednesday night, and when I woke up it was about 65 degrees. I went to the kitchen for breakfast and I ran into my dad. He was in a sweater and long-sleeved shirt; I was in a sundress. He looked at me sadly for a while and then commented that it was freezing outside and that I just didn’t seem like a Floridian anymore.
Anyway, after breakfast (and donning a jacket so I could maintain my SoFla status) I hopped in the car and headed to Miami for some awesome Gulfstream Park action. When I arrived at the track I caught up with the ABRV team and got ready to meet some of the movers and shakers of the Miami social media scene. It was a perfect day for the races, with a gentle wind and 70-degree temperatures. Bliss!
Before the social media VIPs got to the track, we got our area ready with a few cool swag packs for them. These included amazing jockey goggles in Miami-appropriate hues.
Gulfstream Park was doing its part to welcome people to the Florida Derby, and the whole track looks festive and bright.
By about 12:30, the Miami social media movers arrived. These awesome folks had never been to the races before and were blown away by the spectacle of the afternoon. The ABRV Ambassadors helped them with everything from picking winners to explaining the ins and outs of horse racing. By post time for the first race, we were all fast friends, and we were ready to take in the racing action!
Ambassador Mary Frances Dale (@mayyfrayy) and Miami’s Allan Tito, AKA @allantd
Liza Walton (@LizaWalton) with Ambassador Jose Contreras (@LosPonies) pick winners with an assist from ABR’s own Jill Gordon (@jillgordon91)
The group had a great time watching the races, learning about the sport and sharing their experience through their social networking channels. But most importantly, they had fun! All of them said that they wish they’d known about horse racing a long time ago, and they definitely plan to come back with their friends for Saturday’s race and beyond.
Also, it’s always great to cash a ticket or two! Here’s Liza after she won a pretty nice exacta (that’s when you pick the first two finishers in a race) – she won about $58 from a $2 bet. Not a bad return on investment!
We were also fortunate enough to sit in the announcer’s booth with Gulfstream’s Larry Collmus; he’s the voice of the Triple Crown, and watching him call a race was so cool! It’s unbelievable to realize that he has about 20 minutes to memorize the names of every horse and jockey before each race, and that he has to do it upwards of 10 times a day. I can’t walk to a betting window from my seat without forgetting which horse I want to gamble on. Just saying.
Another very cool thing about horse racing is that you never know who you’ll run into. Some of our new Miami social media friends wandered out into the restaurant at the track, and who was there but Larry King! He graciously agreed to pose for photos and chat.
Via @LizaWalton’s Twitter feed.
How cool is that?
We also were lucky enough to meet the newly crowned Ms. Racing Queen. Her name is Tatiana Schloeppler, and she is awesome. She told us that since the competition for Ms. Racing Queen began, she’s been going to the races on her own time to learn more about the sport. She’s a jazzed about spreading the word about the awesomeness of racing as we are, and we’re looking forward to seeing her help bring our sport to lots of new fans.
She also is getting to be a handicapper! Here she is with Ambassador Jose Contreras checking out who to bet in the 8th race.
We also spied Florida Derby contender Merit Man schooling in the paddock – he’s very beautiful, and quite stylish, too! Check out that snazzy polka-dot browband.
All in all, it was a fantastic day hanging out with new racing fans, and I’m super excited to share the racing experience here at beautiful Gulfstream with lots more new friends in the days to come!
Thanks as always for stopping by, and I’ll leave you with a couple of extra photos of gorgeous Gulfstream to tide you over until tomorrow.