Back in 2006, the X Games were all the rage in America. The extreme sports showcase on ESPN was pulling in viewers on television and tens of thousands of spectators were turning out to events to watch daredevils on skateboards, bicycles, or snowboards.
The management at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla. took notice and wondered if they couldn’t make their own sport a little more extreme.
In July 2006, Calder gave it a shot and announced the first-ever “Extreme Day” at the races. The event promised to be a racing day like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Long races, short races, backward races, foot races.
Calder had planned out a bizarre card of racing that was going to bend nearly every rule.
“We may get some people in the industry laughing at us, thinking it's silly,” Calder President Ken Dunn told the Sun Sentinel at the time. “But it has generated talk, and that's good.”
When the day arrived, however, the only thing extreme was the weather. The rain and humidity made conditions on the track unsafe, so they canceled some of the Extreme Day card. The weather also kept away the fans, which was the entire point of the gimmick to begin with. Disappointed but not discouraged, Calder tried again later in the year. They rescheduled their promotion for Nov. 25, 2006, and when the day arrived the weather cooperated. Extreme Day would go forward.
The “extreme” races on that Saturday’s card:
- The Fast N’ Furious Stakes – two furlongs on dirt
- The Methusela Starter Stakes – a race for 5 year olds and older
- King George’s Wrong Way Starter Stakes – 1 ¼ miles on turf going the opposite direction (clockwise)
- The Gray Pride Stakes – a $45,000 starter stakes restricted to horses that are gray or roan in color
- The World’s Fastest Daily Double – two races run simultaneously on the dirt and turf courses
- Plus, a 70-yard foot race between the jockeys
Extreme Day presented some extreme challenges. The track announcer, Bobby Neuman, had to call two races at the same time in the World’s Fastest Daily Double. He made a mess of it, naturally, but said that was part of the fun. Likewise the King George’s Wrong Way was initially set to run on dirt, but the jockeys protested and said they’d prefer to run it on the turf course. Calder agreed.
In the end, the X Games fans didn’t flock to the track. Only about 7,000 people showed up that Saturday (7,195 was the reported attendance). But the event was fun enough for Calder to do it again in 2007. Once again the weather didn’t cooperate, and rain poured on them during Extreme Day II. That year, however, the show went on.
2007 GRAY PRIDE STARTER STAKES
The Wrong Way Stakes was moved off the turf to the dirt and became the “Right Way” when they decided to run them in the conventional, counter-clockwise direction because of the weather.
The returning champ of the Fast N’ Furious Stakes, Rain Song, showed up to defend her extreme-day titles — she won both the Rocket Man Stakes in July 2006 and the Fast N’ Furious Stakes in November 2006 — but was beaten by a neck by Caller One, a 10-year-old gelding who hadn’t won a race since the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March 2002.
2007 ROCKET MAN STAKES
One new race for the second (or third, depending on how you look at it) installment of Extreme Day was a $10,000 claiming race where bettors could wager both on the outcome of the race as well as the order of horses at the halfway point.
The following year, Calder decided to scrap Extreme Day. The fans just didn’t materialize.
“We always planned to have Extreme Day for just two years,” Dunn told BloodHorse at the time. “It got us some media attention but did not attract large handle.”
Bobby Neuman, I’m sure, was relieved.