Most people have a hobby. Some like to take fishing or hunting trips, others might prefer a game of poker or watching old movies. But for the three men who traveled across the country to attend the White Pine County Horse Races over the weekend, the track, the sport and the betting are the hobby.
And they take it to an extreme.
Chris Davis said he felt safe in saying that he traveled the furthest of anyone in attendance at Saturday and Sunday’s races. Davis, and his friend Gary King, traveled from Maryland just to soak in the atmosphere of Ely’s race track. It might seem like an absurd distance just to see some small town horse racing, but to the pair of men, it is a passion that dates back 20 years.
“I have probably been to 120 different horse racing tracks around the country, not including repeats,” Davis said. “I met Gary at a small track in Maryland back in the late 80’s and I couldn’t believe I found someone with the same enthusiasm for collecting tracks. Ever since then we’ve had a unique friendship and traveled the country to visit small town tracks.”
The two men refer to themselves as “track collectors.” Whenever possible, they sneak away from their hometown on the East Coast to visit horse racing tracks all around North America. In Davis’s opinion, the smaller the track, the better.
“I would pick a small race track over any of the big, famous ones every time because they have so much personality,” Davis said.
As fate would have it, fellow track collector Tom Miscannon also happened to be in Ely over the weekend to watch the races, having travelled from his home state of Florida, to claim the White Pine track as his number 340 in his track collection. It’s a number that he has been working on ever since he travelled the world during his 20-year career in the Navy.
“I had an extended stay in Belgium, and I decided to try and hit all the race tracks while I was there. From then on, wherever I went, I would seek out the local track,” Miscannon said.
On one particular stop in Australia, Miscannon’s desire to see as many tracks as possible turned into a month of seeing a new track almost every day.
“I hit 22 tracks in 27 days,” he said, adding that he ended up being interviewed by the local Australian media for his travels.
To the three mens’ knowledge, no one has visited more horse racing tracks in the world than Miscannon. It is a feat that he is turning into a book, though he doesn’t know just when it will come out. Still, even after seeing tracks from across the world, the track in Ely’s backyard still made quite an impression.
“The backdrop of the mountains behind the track is beautiful,” Miscannon said, adding that he too enjoys the unique nature of seeing a are with a small town audience.
“There is no one here today that is not going to cheer any hard than anyone at Saratoga would. These people love this sport and that is why the trainers and the owners come out here and bring the people of Ely this show.”