by Taylor Kalkbrenner
As I am beginning this blog, I have already experienced a tremendous amount of new things. For me, The Meadows Racetrack and Casino is not a typical environment of mine but I am starting to develop a feeling of comfort at this place and am so excited for this new journey!
The first time I was ever at the Meadows was a couple of years ago when I came for a friend’s birthday. Since I was headed to the bowling alley, I had no interaction with the racetrack. Now that I think about it, I wish I would have had more of an interest. I had always been curious on how all of the betting worked but I had never got myself involved.
When I found out that one of my good friends works at the racetrack on Saturdays, I immediately knew that I wanted in on the action. Two Saturdays ago, I came to the racetrack with her and was amazed about the excitement of the races and anticipation that led to betting and possibly winning on a race.
As I was wandering around aimlessly, I found out that my name was drawn to compete in a match race. Nerves and fears came upon me as I realized I would actually be out on the track like a professional harness driver. We headed over to the paddock and I met my competitors that I would be against in the match race.
My competitors included MMA fighter Justin Steave and Pittsburgh Sportsline Hosts Alan Levine and Jim Frazier. As nervous as I was, my other competitors were experienced in the match races and reassured me that it was nothing but a good time. We headed out to the racetrack and I got in the sulky with the driver, Aaron Merriman. Once we started the race, I felt comfortable since Aaron obviously knew what he was doing. The whole time he talked to me about his experience with harness racing and how he came about to the sport. He also told me how he would drive from Ohio to race and I think the dedication shows how much people truly love this sport! The adrenaline was unreal and I couldn’t have asked for a better first time at the racetrack, especially since we came in second! It was such a good experience to truly understand the sport of harness racing.
The following Saturday, I returned to the racetrack eager to learn more. Suzie Valdisera noticed I was by myself so she struck up a conversation. She is a horse owner so she gave me some tips and tricks on how to bet and the process of figuring out what horse to bet on. We didn’t get into too much detail, but she began to tell me information about her and her husband and how they came about to betting and owning horses. She started to point out some of the drivers to me and some of the horses and who their owners were. I even got to follow her along when she made an actual bet. She started explaining the actual betting process to me but that was very over my head so I will most definitely get more experience later on.
I came back on Tuesday to receive more exposure to the track and continue becoming more comfortable with a racing atmosphere. I looked over a program and feel that I am ready to come in fresh to learn the ins and outs of betting and to also learn the true dedication that brings the betters, owners, and drivers back to the racetrack.