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Plenty of fun and action on opening day

In my column last week I stated there would be more people just hanging around on opening day at Del Mar than there would be betting, and lunch and a few beers would use up most of people’s bankrolls.

This past Wednesday Del Mar had a record opening day crowd of 45,309. But, despite the record crowd, the handle was down almost 4 percent from last year’s previous record crowd.

The weather was beautiful (as usual), the girls with their hats were outstanding (as usual), but the opening day card, for betting purposes, left a lot to be desired. Then on Thursday the first race just had a four horse field and the second race had a five horse field. So why does the handle continue to drop … need I say more?

Friday, opening day at Saratoga, they had more horses entered than the total first two days at Del Mar . They also had a big crowd, but the same thing happened this year that happened last year – the rains came, the turf races had to be dumped and there were a ton of scratches.

So let’s try and sort this whole mess out. Saratoga has the best racing with the best jocks and the best horses but they must contend with the weather.

Del Mar has small fields usually but they have great weather, the beautiful ocean, San Diego and the Gas Lamp district with some of the best restaurants you ever ate at.

La Jolla is right down the road with more great restaurants overlooking the ocean and some super night life. Plus it is a short drive from Vegas.

We have Saratoga with the best racing possible, if Mother Nature would cooperate. But we still have the humidity. I have been there and can testify to that.

They do have some good places to eat, the prices are reasonable and downtown Saratoga jumps at night.

I can take the short drive of five hours to Del Mar or get on a plane and take the five hour brutal flight to Albany, then rent a car and drive to Saratoga and hope the weather will be fine.

After weighing my options I will stay in Vegas for the most part, bet Saratoga while sitting in an air conditioned book, have an adult beverage and, if I go broke, use my players card to get something to eat.

I may jump in the car and take the short drive to Del Mar just for the cool ocean air. Once there I can still bet on Saratoga, if I have any money left after paying for my room, but I will have a good time and won’t worry about the weather or catching a plane back to Vegas.

So after weighing all the options Del Mar wins for me. I can enjoy the entire package, and that cool ocean air is well worth the gamble, short fields and all.

This past Saturday I had an extra sawbuck so I took a little drive down to Jerry’s Nugget to take a shot at their horse contest at Del Mar with a prize pool of $500. The last two weeks I have written about going back in time and Jerry’s is a real trip back to old Las Vegas.

All you have to do in the contest is pick five horses from the eight races, and the resulting pari-mutuel payoffs will determine the top point-receivers. First place pays $400 with second place getting $100. Plus each winner gets a dining certificate for Jerry’s great restaurant. (That alone is worth the price of admission!)

The big guy behind the counter, director Mark Dufty, is old-school and greets you with a big smile. The place is jumping with bettors, not just bettors but hard core bettors who are not there for the ambiance but for the horses and sports.

They don’t care about any pretty girls with summer hats, but what the odds are on the 10 horses in race two.

Jerry’s Nugget has been known for a long time for its great food at down to earth prices. Well they really outdid it with a carving station in the race book. I got a race coupon from one of the friendly staff and for two bucks I got a carved turkey sandwich on a beautiful six inch roll that was just outstanding. Way better than any carving station at any race track.

How they do it I don’t know, but they will see me again and, win or lose, the turkey sandwich is worth the trip. Incidentally, they also have the best looking brisket you’ve ever seen. Mark told me it’s the best. Next week, why don’t you take a little road trip to North Las Vegas and for 10 bucks take a shot at the horse contest … but don’t miss out on the sandwich.

In next week’s column I will be covering the Hall Of Fame Game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys as we get set for the upcoming football season. It can’t get here soon enough for me and the Gaming Today crew, so if you don’t subscribe to GT get it now!


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