A rare VIP weekend at Santa Anita Park for opening day

Oct 1, 2013 3:06 AM

We had a rare treat over the weekend when we attended opening day at Santa Anita Park at the invitation of Tom Quigley, the track’s VIP Player Concierge. We’re not sure we qualify as a true VIP, but Tom certainly made us feel like one.

The 79-year-old race track sits in a valley surrounded by the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains in Arcadia, California, just outside of Los Angeles. It is an easy four hour drive from Vegas or a short one hour flight.

We got to enjoy the new Eddie Logan Suite (formerly the Arcadia Suite), part of a $15 million renovation project initiated by Keith Brackpool, chairman of West Coast operations for the Stronach Group, owners of Santa Anita. The suite sports an open air balcony looking over the club house turn. Definitely a great view!

Much of the work is complete, but some of the upgrades, like the updated Chandelier Room with its new outdoor balcony overlooking the track, won’t roll out until Breeders’ Cup, November 1-2.

The mezzanine sports a new horseshoe-shaped bar and offers some healthy food choices such as the salad and juice bar. But there were also delicious looking carved sandwiches for those with a bigger appetite and traditional stadium-type food is still available at various locations.

We noticed a number of long tables with lights where handicappers can spread out their programs, Racing Forms and tip sheets. It reminded us of a Vegas sports book.

Another thing that reminded us of Vegas was the large screen TVs that seemed be everywhere. In fact, some walls were covered with TVs. A huge improvement over the small monitors in out of the way places that used to be found at race tracks.

The screens showed odds for various betting pools, replays from several different angles and races from other tracks around the country. Yes, just like Vegas, you can bet horses at a number of different race tracks.

The big plus of being at the track is you get to see the horses live. And, there are plenty of handicappers who will tell you a horse has “tells” (just like poker players). You can walk down to the paddock area where the jockeys mount up to watch the horses up close, looking for swishing tails, twitching ears or nervous snorts. Or, if you prefer, you can watch from the Turf Club, which has an area with an open balcony overlooking the paddock area and the path to the tunnel that leads to the track.

It was a fun day. The weather was beautiful, the mountains were relaxing, the food was delicious (the best lamb chops we’ve ever had) and the racing was exciting.

The idea behind the makeover, according to Brackpool, is to give race goers an experience that makes them want to return. We think he’s on to something – we certainly want to go back.

MOBILE APPS: Early last month South Point launched their new mobile sports wagering application, Nevada Sports Books, which allows you to place real money wagers directly from your smartphone.

They are the fourth company in Nevada with a downloadable betting app. The others are Station Casinos, Cantor Gaming and William Hill.

We downloaded it, of course, and found it to be very easy to use and convenient. We can deposit money or collect winnings at Cannery, Eastside Cannery, Rampart and Virgin River in Mesquite, in addition to South Point.

Now we can compare real-time lines of four major bookmakers right from our phone. How great is that!

See you around town.

Eileen DiRocco is the owner and publisher of GamingToday, the bible for gaming news “you can bet on.” Contact Eileen at [email protected].

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