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Annual Night at the Races

On Saturday evening, February 18th, we went to the annual "Night at the Races" put on by the West Side Irish American Club on Jennings Road in Olmsted Township.

The club was packed with some 240 people in attendance and we were seated at Table #24 not far from the big screen where the races would be projected. Also at our table was a man named Ken who immigrated to the United States via ship back in April, 1951 when he was only two years old. His family was from County Mayo in but he was actually born in England. Of course Ken was very young at the time but he remembered that the ship that the ship's name was "Washington" and that it was so big that it couldn't actually dock at the wharf so its passengers had to disembark by way of a tugboat.

For, those who have never been to a horse race the way it works is that in the weeks leading up to the race the sponsors and/or attendees are given the opportunity to a "buy" a semi-make-believe horse and name it whatever they chose. There are 11 races and 10 horses per race. Each of those 10 horses are assigned a number 1-10.

People who come to the party then bet on the horses (in small amounts like $2.00) largely on the basis of colorful names or who the owners happen to be.

The big climax comes when the person coordinating the races (in this case it was Mr. Bill Gielink, a seasoned pro) randomly selects a DVD of an actual horse race and projects this race onto a big screen for all to observe. As the "real" horses race the announcer (i.e. Mr. Gielink) calls it using the names of the imaginary horses assigned to the "real" numbers.

For example, let's say an imaginary horse named "Pekiwinks" in the 2nd race was assigned the number "5"; if the real number "5" horse racing on screen won the race then so did "Pekiwinks" and those who bet on him/her split the pot and the owner of "Pekiwinks" got a trophy.

In this case there really was an imaginary horse in the 2nd race named "Pekiwinks" who did win and so we won $5 against a $2.00 bet. Other horses that we bet on in other races had such flashy, funny names as "Booze Cruz", "Dolly Lama" and "Koookie Cookie."

To be sure there were also sideboards and raffles. One of the prizes was a first class "Cub Cadet" snow blower but, due to the recent weather shift to Spring if not light Summer conditions, it was not as coveted as it would have been a month ago.

As we were leaving, we stopped to talk to a person who turned out to be an immigrant from New Zealand, she smiled and said, "oh, you must be in the middle of the fight."

Our big regret was that we didn't think ahead and purchase a horse. As we said to Mr. Kevin Hayes, who was one of the event organizers, we could have named it the "Margaret W. Wong Super Express" !


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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