SI Vault
Jay Cronley
April 12, 1976
The author makes his maiden visit to an equal-opportunity quarter-horse track, Texas' Crosby Downs. The fans have equal shots at him
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April 12, 1976

'i'll Give $5 For Daylight'

The author makes his maiden visit to an equal-opportunity quarter-horse track, Texas' Crosby Downs. The fans have equal shots at him

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Crosby Downs is 30 highway miles northeast of Houston's core, or about 25 miles as the crow flies. The crow flies extremely low in these parts because of morning fog, and because there are no hills to worry about.

To reach Crosby Downs you get on the Beaumont Road and proceed past the Southern Bible College and the Sheldon State Fish Hatchery, make a left at Fritz' Auto Parts, and go into the heart of Crosby—no problem, because it is a small town with small arteries and its heart is very hard to miss. You turn right where everybody else is turning right, and this is Crosby Downs. Not Track or Park, Downs.

In Scotland golf is played on links, and in South Texas quarter horses are raced on downs, at least in spirit, because all there is to Crosby Downs is a dirt track and some shacks.

Quarter horses are raced here most Sundays at noon. But if your horse is entered in the first race, and you have been entered in the last church service, relax, this is a very casual operation. It is even more flexible than come-as-you-are. It is closer to come-as-you-used-to-be, when a horse race was to that tree and back, winner take all.

There are no trees on the dirt track at Crosby Downs. No improvements are scheduled, although there is talk about putting up a rain gauge. But it is hot and dry this Sunday and the wind is already loose.

It costs $2 a human head and $1 a horse's head to get through the gate, plus you get a program that lists the entries for the day's 19 scheduled races. Since this is Sunday, there is an inspirational message across the top of the program for persons of all religious denominations: "This is strictly a training track—no gambling allowed."

The program promises that the races will go off, rain or shine, both of which are liquids that can get the inexperienced dirt-track player in a lot of trouble, especially shine that has been sitting around for awhile.

You park in the infield, and you can watch the races from the hood of your car or from the rail or from the steps leading to the race announcer's perch, but whatever you do, don't get under those steps. The seating capacity for this wooden structure appears to be the announcer himself.

If you are not with a horse, or known by the regulars, it is a good idea not to take pictures or perform any act that could be misinterpreted as gathering evidence. It is best to sit on your hood and get the feel of it all.

A young boy, proudly carrying a dollar bill as if it were the flag, said he would take the worst horse in the first race for a buck. This sounded like a good bet to me. I gave him a horse so lifeless all it lacked was a slot on its back for quarters. I won. So did the boy. He volunteered to hold the stakes, took my dollar and went home. He is making somebody a wonderful son.

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