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This is a great week for us horse players here in Las Vegas as the Del Mar meet opens Wednesday.

It gives many of us a chance to get away from the heat and out of town for a few days or a week as we head off to San Diego and on to Del Mar.

The scenery is beautiful with the beaches and the girls. Plus, there will be some betting on the ponies and good eats with so many great restaurants to choose from.

I have been making the trek for over 30 years and still look forward to it even though it’s not what it was 25 years ago when you could get there early, bring your cooler full of drinks and eats, sit, bet ponies and take in the view.

There were the same players each and every year, always with good tips. It has gotten more complicated of late – no more coolers or big beach umbrellas to sit under. At least the weather is still great, girls remain nice to look at and the food, though a little pricy, is still top notch.

When the Del Mar Hilton, located right across from the track, first opened we would stay there for $59 a night. They had a nice bar plus you could park your car in their lot at no cost and take the free shuttle over to the track.

The last time we stayed at there I think it was around $250 for the room and $15 to park your car. And that was each and every night!

At least the shuttle was still free. All and all it is still worth the trip. If you have never been there just take a few days, get away and you will have a great time.

Del Mar will have a few new things for the bettors this season. A few years ago they had the “Battle of the Sexes,” which was a match race between Julie Krone and Pat Valenzuela. This year is a match race called “Battle of the Exes,” which will feature Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith riding against his ex-girlfriend the gorgeous Chantal Sutherland.

This match race will take place Sunday, Aug. 7, just in case you want to take a little trip and watch it. By the way, P Val beat Julie Krone by a nostril when riding Chester’s Choice against Woke Up Dreaming.

And, Aug 7 just happens to be Ladies’ Day at Del Mar, so look for Chantal to garner much of the support.

Also for the first time, Del Mar will be offering the 50-cent players Pick Five, which has become a very popular bet at the Hollywood meet. The only difference is at Del Mar there will be no payoff for four-out-of-five as there was at Hollywood Park.

Del Mar will also feature each Saturday a “horse against horse” bet within the race as they do here in Las Vegas with the big events like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup.

One person you will not see at Del Mar this season is Ernie Mann, a Vegas race book legend. Ernie is now betting the ponies in heaven, having passed away last week at the ripe age of 89.

Ernie and his twin brother Evans were long-time fixtures at the Stardust and later the Gold Coast race book. Although he spent more time playing the ponies than anything else, Ernie was an accomplished professional artist. His water color paintings are proud possessions of friends and racebook managers all over town.

Ernie was also well known for this intricate Pick Three and Daily Double tickets as well as his bets on Jack Van Berg-trained and Chris McCarron-ridden horses. However, he will be most remembered for his ready smile and his gregarious nature.

Although he was called to the post for the final time, Ernie had a nice long life. He lived it his way and was one of the true characters who made hanging out in the racebook so much fun. We will all miss him and feel his presence every time in the book.

See ya at Del Mar.

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