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Racing’s big day!

Oct 21, 2003 3:23 AM

Breeders’ Cup day once again will showcase the world’s top horses, competing for the most money offered in a single day of racing.

Even though several "big names" will be kept out of the field, the list of thoroughbred superstars is significant, topped by Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, Derby pacesetter Peace Rules, Travers winner Ten Most Wanted, last year’s Classic winner, Volponi, and the highly-regarded Perfect Drift, which recently whipped Mineshaft, who would have been favored in this year’s top event had he not been hurt.

At press time, 101 horses were pre-entered for the 2003 Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which will be run on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

The 20th Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, consisting of eight Grade I races with purses and awards totaling a minimum of $13 million, returns to the Arcadia racetrack, where the inaugural event was christened in 1984.

Funny Cide leads the contingent of outstanding 3-year-olds taking on older horses in this year’s 11/4 mile, $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. After winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but falling short of the VISA Triple Crown with a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, Funny Cide returned to the races in August, running third in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park behind front runner Peace Rules.

In addition to hot and heavy action on the racetrack, Las Vegas casinos will crank it up for expected overflow crowds in their race and sports books.

At the Palms, race director Fred Crespi is expecting standing-room-only bettors and enthusiastic crowds.

"The folks will have a great time," Crespi said. "Besides a lot of action, we’re giving away Breeders’ Cup T-shirts with every $20 wager, and jockeys’ bobblehead dolls with every $50 wager."

Another great spot to enjoy the races will be the Stratosphere and sister properties, Arizona Charlie’s (Decatur and Boulder Hwy.)

To spice up the betting, the Stratosphere and Arizona Charlie’s race books will offer a twin quinella starting at $2,500 (house money plus 75% of player bets) on selected races throughout the day. (A twin-Q requires picking the first two finishers in two different races.)

In addition, the race books will be giving away free food and holding cash drawings throughout the day. Prior to the action, the Stratosphere will host a handicapping seminar on Friday night, moderated by Jerry Jackowitz, founder of Jerry’s Power Page, a Las Vegas tip sheet, and Jay Kessler, Stratosphere’s race book host and handicapper.

On the Strip, Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas will be the epicenter of Breeders’ Cup action with a huge party for locals planned for Bally’s Grand Ballroom. For a $75 entry, customers will get all the food and drink they can humanly consume while watching the action on big screen TVs.

"This will be the biggest event since the Kentucky Derby, and everyone will have a great time," said race and sports director Johnny Avello.

Bally’s will also host a free handicapping seminar on Friday that will feature live interviews with jockeys Gary Stevens and Kent Desormeaux, racing columnists Steve Christ and Mike Watchmaker, and Washington Post columnist/handicapper Andy Beyer.

"That’s actually an all-star line-up, but I can promise you we’ll have a few more surprises," Avello said.

Not to be outdone, the Rampart Casino in Summerlin is hosting a big bash in its modest race and sports book. But what it lacks in size it will make up in fun, says sports book manager Eric St. Clair. "Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, it’s party time," he said. "We’re offering free champagne and sandwiches all day, until everyone has gone home or gone drunk. You won’t want to miss this."