By Jim Wells
Friday nights offer a special blend of racing and music and occasionally enhance the evening with a variety of promotional activities. This time nostalgia became part of the mix.
It was Eighties Night, a celebration of a decade known for a variety of bands, movies and characters, and employees from various levels did their best to recognize the occasion, as did a smattering of patrons.
Alexis Pearson, who sells Kevin Gorg’s tip sheet at the main entrance, was privy to a variety of wardrobes and comments.
One fellow came in, she reported, and said “eighties night. I thought they said it was ladies night.”
Ms. Pearson wasn’t certain this patron was serious, although others were.
“I think I saw more employees in getups than customers, though” she added
And so it went on a stormy night that included a delay after race five because of lightning and a torrential downpour that included rain that fell downward, sideways, right and left, every direction but up. The delay eventually was changed to a cancellation of the remaining races.
Yet, much had taken place by that point. Paddock analyst Brian Arrigoni made his appearances in a long stringy wig, emulating a member of an eighties heavy metal rock band, while doing a much better job of handicapping by picking the first three winners on the card.
“You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first three,” he bellowed.
It so happens that the wig he was wearing once belonged to Gorg, a previous paddock picker better known these days for his outside the dressing room accounts of Minnesota Twins and Wild games. Gorg’s tip sheet included the first three winners on the card as well.
As that information was delivered to the pressbox, media boss Jeff Maday noticed that Ms. Pearson handed Arrigoni one of Gorg’s tipsheets. “Oh, that’s where you got those selections,” Maday chortled.
Then there was handicapper supreme, the Oracle, acing a quiz as part of the evening’s festivities to win an eighties trivia contest. The toughest questions on the quiz:
What company made the first color arcade game?
What was E.T.’s favorite candy?
What was the first video ever to play on MTV?
The answers: Atari, Reese’s Pieces, Video Killed the Radio Star.
Former jockey Mark Irving, now an Earl of tourism at Canterbury, escorting patron groups throughout the premises, represented a band member from any number of groups in his native England with a stand-up, razor-sharp Mohawk cut.
And video producer Jon Mikkelson, in a Dino Ciccarelli jersey, celebrated the player and team that preceded the Minnesota Wild….the North Stars.
Jake Samuels became a recognizable face in the jockey colony with his memorable remark on Extreme Day after winning the Ostrich race. “Well, it’s nice to win this one,” he said, “because I’m not winning on horses.”
That has changed bit by bit for Samuels who rode another winner Friday night, Skippy’s Strike, who went gate to wire in the fifth race for $15,000 claimers.
“All I had to do was let him go,” he said. “He did the rest. He made it easy.”
And, as it turned out, the location for the Friday’s celebration was
was quite appropriate at that.
After all, it is impossible to celebrate the eighties without a nod to the arrival of horse racing in 1985 at its current location.