I’ve long suggested adding the Kentucky Derby to your bucket list. It is a unique piece of Americana in the heart of the bluegrass.
However, if you’ve already experienced $15 mint juleps and $200 seats, then let me suggest a cheaper alternative: Las Vegas.
The last few years, I’ve focused my week before the Derby column to things available to horseplayers in town. It’s a long list and most of it is free.
First off, there will be, not one, but two handicapping tournaments in town next week.
The annual LVH Pick the Ponies will be held over two days, May 1 and 2. The entry fee is $500 and total entries will be capped at 200.
The Treasure Island, home of the 2015 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, will host three days of qualifiers on May 2, 3 and 4. The top four finishers, each day, will earn a berth into the NHC.
The entry fee for each day is $250. Also note you must be an NHC Tour Member to compete for a qualifying seat. Non-members will be eligible for cash prizes only. Seating for 200 is available in the upstairs ballroom
There will be no shortage of Kentucky Derby handicapping seminars on Friday, May 2. There will be six casinos hosting these free events.
In chronological order, they are:
Sam’s Town, 4 p.m. — Jon Lindo of the Lindo Report and Mike Willman, Santa Anita Park public relations director
Sunset Station, 5 p.m. — Ralph Siraco of Race Day Las Vegas; Jerry Jacovitz of Jerry J’s Power Page
South Point, 6 p.m. — Patrick McQuiggan, South Point house handicapper; Toby Turrell, Southern California clocker; John Kelly, host of EOG.com; and Tom Quigley, VIP liaison at Santa Anita Park
Boulder Station, 6 p.m. — Gordon Jones, professional handicapper and author of “Gordon Jones to Win”; Jackson Meeker, Boulder Race and Sports book director
Plaza, 6 p.m. — Dave Tuley of viewfromvegas.com; Paul Bach of William Hill sports
Wynn Las Vegas, 7:30 p.m. — Steve Davidowitz, professional handicapper and author of “Betting Thoroughbreds”
As for myself, I will be a guest handicapper at the Mohegan Sun (Uncasville, Conn.) Kentucky Derby ballroom party, along with Matt Bernier from the Esquire TV series “Horseplayers” and Boston sports radio host Mike Mutnansky (WEEI, 93.7 FM).
Las Vegas locals will have rich Twin Quinellas bets to chase on Oaks and Derby days.
On Friday, Station Casinos and Fiesta race books will offer a $10,000 Twin Quinella using the Kentucky Oaks and another designated race. Then on Saturday, their Twin Quinella will be worth $20,000 using the Derby and another designated race.
Also on Saturday, the South Point will offer a Twin Quinella which has a carryover of $11,203. They also will use the Kentucky Derby and a race to be determined.
Three casinos, The Orleans, South Point and Treasure Island, each will host free ballroom parties Saturday. The Orleans and South Point will have unlimited seating, while the Treasure Island will seat 200, including contest players.
Most race books, too many to mention, will be offering free Derby souvenir items like hats, shirts, mint julep glasses, etc., with a moderate size bet. Check with your race book supervisor for details.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick