May 12, 2010

USA: Elizabeth Vannet, 97, has been going to the races for more than 80 years

SEATTLE, Washington / The Seattle Times / Sports / May 12, 2010

Advice from Elizabeth Vannet, 97-year-old horse-racing fan: 

Avoid betting on the horses that don't want to be there. 
And eat your vegetables.
By Scott Hanson,  Seattle Times staff

AUBURN — Elizabeth Vannet has her routine down when she goes to Emerald Downs.

She walks to the third-floor window overlooking the paddock when the horses are being saddled, then goes outside to watch when the horses are paraded on the racetrack.

"Some horses are just so proud of themselves, and others just don't want to be there," she said. "The key is finding those who don't want to be there and not bet on them."

Elizabeth Vannet, 97, places a bet at Emerald Downs. Vannet still goes to the horse races more than 80 years after she first started. Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times

It's a strategy that certainly has passed the test of time. She started going to the races more than 80 years ago. And at age 97, Vannet remains in love with the sport, something that is readily obvious on this Saturday afternoon.

Vannet, who looks much younger than her age, is wearing a bright red hat that has five large horse pins and a couple of buttons from Longacres, the Renton track that closed in 1992.

Vannet, who is also quick to point out the horse pin on her jacket, lives by herself in Queen Anne, and does all of her wagering herself.

"Heavens no," she said, when asked if someone went to the betting window for her. "That's half the fun of it."

She takes her handicapping seriously. Seriously enough that she wanted to be interviewed well before the races began.

Her passion for horses was kindled during a visit to the Pendleton (Ore.) Roundup when she was 10. She attended her first horse race pre-Depression during Herbert Hoover's term as president. Vannet's aunt owned a horse and took her niece to see it run at Portland Meadows.

"She gave us money to bet, but we had to bet on her horse," she said. "I don't think it won."
No matter. A fan was born.

Longacres was a favorite outing for Vannet and her husband, and later the couple would take the bus to Emerald Downs for weekend racing. She wasn't about to quit going after her husband died in 2002.

Elizabeth got a big hug from the bus driver when she went by herself for the first time.
It was about that time that her son, David, decided he would take his mom to the races.

"He didn't want any other fellas hugging me," Elizabeth quipped.

Vannet says humor is one of the things that helps her stay sharp. She also reads the newspaper every day and loves to travel.

"Traveling is my hobby," she said.

In March, she celebrated her 97th birthday by taking a Hawaiian Island cruise, and has more trips planned.
Of course, there will also be more trips to the races.

"I like the idea of still being able to do it," she said.

Vannet said "you never think about things like that when you're younger" when asked if she thought she would still be going to the races at her age.

But she has some advice for someone else aspiring to that.

"Eat your vegetables," she said. [rc]

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