Portland is known for its many facets: hipsters secretly loving everything they hate, brewing beer by any means necessary and a bottomless hunger for vintage clothing. What is seldom associated with the Rose City, however, are its horse races where, not surprisingly, you find all these common traits plus more.July 21st marked the 69th birthday of Portland Meadows, which still stands as the welcoming hive-five horse track when you’re traveling north on I-5. This past Sunday marked my second venture to the Meadows and while there were plenty of other ways to fill an afternoon, I couldn’t miss opening day’s distinct mix of women in fancy hats, men in colorful suspenders and the ever present river folk.
Upon arrival, we became aware there was also a beer festival happening inside. For those of you accusing the track of being too far north to “still be Portland,” I assure you they represent as well as any other part of the city. While the beer festival struck the fancy of those in search of craft brews, I was more focused on the $1 MGD’s they keep on draft. In many ways, the Meadows is my ultimate Sunday: free entry to a venue where I can lose a minimum of $1 per race or $1 per beer. And those ladies in the big hats I mentioned? They take their day at the races very seriously, and I am not mad at that. Same with the gentlemen in suspenders, if that is your flavor. The rest of the crowd came donning their lucky shirt or best bucket hat and joined me in the cheering for Lightning’s Thunder ‘to show,’ or in other words place in the top 3.
After a few bets, we wandered up to the third floor but were quickly turned away after being informed seats in the ‘Turf Club’ go for $10. But our Sunday afternoon was still great, and we got to see some incredible horse racing.Bankroll concerns? Don’t fret. Here’s our rough guide to betting.Besides beer being dirt cheap, not to mention a steak dinner for $5.50, the actual world of betting at Portland Meadows is one of a kind. Ultimately, your status as a baller or buster determines the types of wages you make. Wagering a Trifecta, for example, entails picking the first three horses to finish in the exact order they finish, while the Superfecta requires you to pick the first four horses to finish in that exact order, one, two, three, four. For the more cautious or less experienced betters, you can wager a “Win” where the horse has to finish in first, or “Show,” in which your selection must finish either first, second, or third. Of course, my personal favorite is the Daily Double, where your pick must win two consecutive races. And I can attest, it feels amazing when your horse takes back-to-back races…even if all your buddies are in the bathroom.Photo by: Mark McGinnis