On Saturday evening, February 16th, we went to the West Side Irish American Club in Olmsted Township for its 2019 annual Night at the Races presented by the West Side Irish American Marching Units and Cleveland’s St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’s Gaelic Football Club. Almost 200 people attended and we were fortunate enough to sit with Mr. Steve Pepin, one of the event organizers, along with his wife, Lindsay, and his dad, Pat, who generously shared their before dinner appetizers with us and were genuinely hospitable people.
Before the races started, we enjoyed a terrific dinner of ham, chicken, green beans and carrots, potatoes and salad. We also got an opportunity to chat with Mr. Bill Gielink, from STAR Night at the Races, who was charged with acting as emcee as well as the announcer once the races started.
It is a bit tough to describe the contest itself but we will try so, basically, what takes place at the event itself is that silent videos of 12 actual horse races are projected upon a large screen. It is up to the charismatic announcer (i.e. Mr. Gielink who did a fine job) to broadcast which horse is ahead at various intervals and the ultimate winner.
Okay so far? Let’s then go further and describe the goings-on before the actual races. As we wrote, there are 12 races and each race has a sponsor and consists of 10 competing horses. In the time period leading up to the actual event, attendees were given the opportunity to A) sponsor one or more of the 12 races and/or B) “buy” as many horses as they wanted and bestow upon the beast whatever name suits their fancy not necessarily within the bounds of good taste but nothing too risque.
Before each race, as one can imagine, all 200 participants got to bet $2.00 on whatever horse that they wanted. Then, the chimes were sounded, the horses were off, and it was up to Mr. Gielink to call out via microphone who was ahead, etc. in which he sometimes referred to the horses by number and sometimes by the recently anointed names.
At the conclusion of the race, the person (s) who “owned” the triumphant horse was awarded a trophy and a bottle of wine.
The key to this whole thing is the names assigned to the horses; it has been our experience that the more wild the name, the more likely a track-goer is to bet upon it. Along these lines, some of the cornier names were Beef Alternative, Forrest Jump, Dashing Dodger, Al CaPony, and Tator Trot.
Let’s look at race No. 2, which just happened to be sponsored by Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC. The names of the 10 horses owned by various parties were Katherine, Irish Pride, Shaun the Sheep, Annie Pat Joe, Johnny Carey, Running with the Boys (Now, that’s a good name!), Ballycroy Boy, Miss Claire, N.D., and K is the 1. Since we are fans of the cartoon Shaun the Sheep, we decided to place our monies on its equestrian counterpart. In the course of the race, we cheered for Shaun to pull ahead but, alas, he never did.
More fortunate than we were were Mr. Rory O’Neil and Ms. Amanda O’Neil, a sweet young couple also sitting at our table, who sponsored not one race but two. It just so happens that Rory and Amanda are expecting their first baby within the next several weeks so they appropriately named their own horses Baby Tyrone, The Great Bambino, and Stork Raving Mad, And sure enough, the Great Bambino proved to be a winner in Race No. 4. Congratulations to Rory and Amanda!