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If you can’t get to Louisville for this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, there’s no better place than trotting to your favorite Las Vegas race book for an afternoon that in some ways might even beat what Churchill Downs has to offer.

Just like they will at the track on Saturday, every race book in town treats this weekend as their premiere event of the year and will go through great measures to impress the thousands of new guests who will walk through their doors.

For the race books, Saturday’s Derby isn’t just about simply taking the cash and printing the tickets. There’s so much more to it. It’s about showing off what is great about horse racing and enjoying an afternoon in the book. It’s about trying to show all the bettors who play once or twice a year what they’re missing on a daily basis.

The race books have gone overboard with every type of utility imaginable to make Saturday the ultimate show piece for prospective buyers. For those who want the free stuff while betting the Derby, the race book has you covered. Caps, shirts and glasses for everyone, while supplies last.

For those who demand a great video presentation to accentuate all the great racing angles NBC provides, the race books have gone through all avenues to ensure that on Saturday everything is in proper order with HD pictures seemingly bursting out of the screens.

For those who aren’t sure about how to bet horses, yet want to, but may be intimidated, don’t be. The staff is waiting for you with open arms. The writers have all been told by their managers you are exactly the type of person they want. The race book wants to educate you and hopefully turn you into a regular player.

It’s all about churning the money for race books. It’s the only department in the casino that can virtually guarantee 18% of the entire handle, the cut each book gets on their end from the track.

To enhance their chances of maximizing that 18%, race books offer a variety of prizes, comps, handicapping sheets and seminars with experts who break down every horse.

All this week different race books will be offering free seminars with the top horse handicappers in the land like Richard Eng, Richard Saber, Dave Tuley, Patrick McQuigan and Ralph Siraco. That’s a murderer’s row lineup of handicappers who give all their data and information for free to the public, because the race books want the bettors to win and churn that 18%.

To get an early jump on who we should be looking at this week, I asked veteran race book director Lou D’Amico his thoughts on the Derby. The respect runs deep for D’Amico in Las Vegas. He’s seen it all in his 35 years of running race books and got his start in town being hired by Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal at the Stardust.

“This year’s Kentucky Derby is a wide open race with the favorite in the race being Bob Baffert’s horse, Bodemeister,” D’Amico said. “The odds on Bodemeister should be about 5-1. The second choice in the wagering I believe will be Union Rags at about 6-1. This will give the betting public value in a great betting race with 20 horses being entered.”

D’Amico likes to find the best value and looks beyond the favorites, especially in the Derby, with hopes of hitting a nice payout, and he has his eyes fixed on one Saturday.

“I’m looking at Take Charge Indy, a horse out of AP Indy, to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. His last race was a winning effort in the Florida Derby on March 31 with jockey Calvin Borel who knows his way around Churchill Downs. I also think the following horses could get into the number and make for a nice exacta and trifecta: Union Rags, Dullahan, Gemologist, El Padrino, Bodemeister and Daddy Nose Best.”

Sounds good enough for me, but D’Amico also says to be cautious at some of the post positions that will be announced on Wednesday.

“Post position and track condition are very important for a race like this. I will eliminate horses that will come out of post 1 and posts 17, 18, 19 and 20. These are just not my favorite in a race like this. I also will be looking to see if the track comes up sloppy because I feel a horse should have mud breeding along with distance ability in his blood lines to run 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May.”

D’Amico can be seen for another season on the TV show The Linemakers on Discovery’s Velocity channel, which starts shooting again in August at the South Point.

So now that I have some horses from Lou, I’ll listen to confirmation from other experts later in the week and put together a nice combination of wagers that can yield big rewards because of the massive pools created by all the Derby action across America.

My girl will be all made up with her sun dress and the biggest hat she can find. We’ll go to our favorite race book, grab a few Woodford mint juleps and enjoy the festivities in Las Vegas that Churchill Downs would have a hard time matching.

Enjoy your day at the races!

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