In July, NFL rates below a winner at Saratoga

One man yelled for
No. 2 to do something, but he wasn’t talking about Jimmy Clausen. He was begging a racehorse named Lil O’s Expression to get going in the fourth at Saratoga, hoping to cash on a 30-1 long shot.

It’s about the odds you would assign Clausen for completing a pass.

Lil O’s Expression faded on dirt.

Clausen does so weekly on grass.

The NFL lockout is over, football is back and extra security isn’t needed to control any chaos with those making bets. There is no denying the gaming popularity pro football produces, but not in late July. BINGO night at the retirement home causes more of a ruckus.

There were 30 or so gamblers inside the race and sports book at Red Rock Resort on Monday morning, and all but a few were more interested in Monmouth Park being open than anything Roger Goodell had to say on a television screen. Two gents were betting on the Padres, which means they’re not sane enough to have an educated opinion.

There wasn’t an NFL jersey in sight, although one horse player offered a certain quarterback he wouldn’t mind watching again: “I loved ‘The Mad Bomber,’ ” Irwin Shulman said. “Daryle Lamonica.”

At least he picked someone in better shape than Brett Favre.

“I didn’t expect any rush of people today because the (lockout ended),” Shulman continued. “I’m more worried about the No. 6 horse in the sixth race at Monmouth Park, Stroll for Acure, ridden by Jersey Joe Bravo. I could just as soon turn on an NFL game the last few minutes each time.”

The good news for Jason McCormick: A majority of locals think differently and are starving to bet the NFL, things will get busy real quick and color has returned to his face.

The sports book director at Red Rock breathed the sort of sigh of relief that could be heard from those in his position across the valley, knowing the local handle would return for another football season.

Locals drive NFL gaming. They dictate most everything.

That means the parlays and win totals and contests are also back. Who can forget the season-long contests such as ones offered at Red Rock, the chance to win $1 million dollars weekly by hitting on 20 NFL picks or $100,000 by hitting on 15?

“We were a little nervous,” McCormick said. “When you talk the NFL, you’re talking at least 25 percent of our overall handle for a year. When you take into account first halves and seconds and futures, it could be closer to 35 percent. Not having a season would have been devastating. You’re talking about 15,000 people making a trip through your doors for 17 weeks. This is their home away from home during the season.

“The NFL is not only about the race and sports book. It’s great for all of our properties. People from out of state come to bet legally here. They visit our restaurants and outlets before and after games. Those from the California market make trips here each weekend to watch and bet games.

“We had some contingency plans in place if part or all of the season was lost. But now we know there will be a full season of games.”

The lunacy begins now with free agent and rookie signings, meaning those fans wanting to bet win totals probably will get their wish some time next week.

McCormick and his peers will watch closely as training camps open, watch and read and try to decipher who’s in shape and who isn’t and who is going where and just how serious Peyton Manning’s neck injury is.

Victor Donald also will be watching. He’s a 43-year-old Bears fan from Arizona who lives in Las Vegas, which is better than a Favre fan from anywhere. Donald bets mostly single games and some parlays during the NFL season. He also likes the 15-for-15 contest for $100,000.

His friend actually won it one week last year, a guy who couldn’t tell the difference between a Patriot and a Viking to save his life.

Doesn’t it always work that way?

“I’m glad the (lockout) is over,” Donald said. “I’m interested in the win totals and what the books will come out with on them, interested to see all the free agents sign and who is on each team. But that will take awhile.”

Then he went back to playing the horses.

It’s late July. The lockout is over and football is back and nothing of any real consequence was lost.

The big news at Red Rock on Monday came from New Jersey, where a heat wave that swept across the state has subsided enough for Monmouth Park to open for racing a second straight day.

Stroll for Acure placed in the sixth race.

After all, who cares about Tom Brady when you have Jersey Joe Bravo to cheer?

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

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