Baseball’s not so All Star game takes place this week at Petco Park in beautiful San Diego and it will be a very slow week for the race and sportsbooks here in Vegas.
Del Mar opens on Friday instead of its usual Wednesday debut. Oh well, times keep on changing but I have friends who refuse to change and that may not be a bad thing.
When I was working behind the counter in the 1980’s and 90’s this would be the time of the year when anyone who had vacation time coming would need to take it as no one could take a trip during football season. I notice that isn’t the case any longer.
This would be the time of the year to get in the car with some horse betting buddies, get out of the heat and head to Del Mar. At that time we could actually stay at the Del Mar Hilton for around 60 bucks a night. Split two ways (for those of you without a computer) that would be $30 each. Plenty of money left to bet the ponies, go out and have a good meal at night.
The best part of Del Mar back then was you could actually bring in a cooler loaded with beer and whatever food you wanted for the day. We would go out the night before, get a case of beer, bread and cold cuts to make sandwiches, then load the cooler. The next morning we would drive the designated cooler keeper over to the track early to procure a good spot under one of the umbrellas right by the big tote board.
This was the spot to be as we could catch some of the bettors we knew were getting the steam horses. It wasn’t a matter if the horses would win, but how much they pay. The main guys we waited for were Marty the (can’t mention his nickname) and Frankie “Eyelashes” These horses usually paid well because this was before pari-mutuel betting in Vegas.
Most of the money would be moved in Vegas and not go into the pools. There was no money coming in from out of state sources. The pools were just the money bet on track.
Frankie, rest his soul, liked me more than most. I once saw him punch a guy in line at the Stardust knocking him out with one punch. We thought the guy was dead, but he did wake up a little later.
So Eyelashes comes up to me and whispers in my ear, “I’m going to give you a first time starter running on Friday.” It was Thursday. He then says, “If you give this horse to anyone they will never find your body.”
I really wish he didn’t give me the horse because how could I not tell my friends. Well, he did smile as he left to go about his business so I figured it was ok, but I did wait till Friday around 10 minutes to post to tell my friends they should make a nice bet on a horse by the name of Frankie Eyelashes. Yes, that was the horse’s name and he romped at 25/1.
Those were the days and we had the best seats at Del Mar at no cost, under the umbrellas was first come. There are no more umbrellas, coolers or drinks allowed and a room at the Del Mar Hilton, I believe, is around $300 a night. But the cool air is worth the five hour drive and there are plenty of good spots to stay. The food… well it is San Diego. There’s the Gaslight District and Little Italy… no problems finding a great spot to eat.
Plus, the Padres are at home the first week of August at beautiful Petco Park.
So what about my friends who do not want to change? I have friends who do have cell phones, which was a huge step for them. The only time they turn them on is when they need to make a call, after that the cell phone is turned off. One of my friends who just goes out during football season has a home land line phone with no message taking. If he doesn’t answer forget about it. His cell phone also takes no messages.
He may read this column if someone brings him a GT, do you hear me JZ?
I was asked the other day if we took turns bringing the cooler and waiting for the gates to open. We never had to as Jim Long loved to do it and had around three beers done before we got there and maybe two salami and cheese sandwiches.
Del Mar is well worth the trip and spending the extra cash. Sometimes it’s good to just get out of Dodge. You never know, there could be a Frankie Eyelashes in your future. You could be walking around lucky at Del Mar and not even know it.
If you do make the trip, when you get to the track go down to the paddock and look for my friend Tom Quigley. He just may have a horse or two or you can ask him which of the first time starters looks best in the paddock.