Last Saturday I spent my first day watching horse racing at Arapahoe Park.

For someone who has always been one of those girls-who-love-horses, it’s amazing that I’ve never done this before. Sure, it’s way out in the middle of nowhere (actually it’s by the Aurora Reservoir just off E-470 and Quincy). And it lacks the park-like quality of East Coast racetracks with their lush turf and flower beds. But despite the vaguely dust-bowl quality of the windy location on the eastern plains, Arapahoe Park certainly does offer a fun way to spend a summer afternoon.

For me it’s all about watching the horses, and guessing which one looks good for any given race. My husband is all about the gambling angle, but we’re happy to stick with our little $2 bets. And using our oh-so-complex scientific formula for picking horses — which includes choosing the prettiest horse, the horse with the coolest name, the longshot, and/or the one that my 5-month-old son seemed to prefer — we correctly picked the winners for two of the six races we caught that afternoon. Not bad at all. We didn’t exactly win big, but we made enough money to break even for the day. And since admission was only $3 per adult (kids are free since they can’t bet) and drinks were cheap ($4 glass of wine for me, $2.50 for a beer for hubby) you can afford to try your luck a little.

Crowd-wise, it’s not the Kentucky Derby. We did see the occasional sundress and straw hat, and several of the gals were sporting halter tops and high heels. We also saw a sizeable cowboy element, complete with Wranglers, summer-straw cowboy hats, boots and big buckles, and a lot of just average folks, from young families to older folks who seemed rather intent on knowing all about each jockey, trainer, owner, horse, and track.

Sadly it’s the end of the summer season, and we’ll have to wait until the 2008 season starts to try our luck again. So let’s see… that gives me about nine months to figure out how the hell to read those tricky programs. Maybe I’ll try to have more than beginner’s luck on my side next time.