Betting the horses paid off in Las Vegas of all places

LAS VEGAS — The heat was on. Quite literally. Temperatures were in the high 90s last weekend when I visited Las Vegas for a three-night stay. I vowed to return home a winner, but you know how that works out.

When I retired for the night Saturday, I was down $290 after losing three baseball parlays (don’t teams bunt anymore?) and dropping another $40 on some crazy slot machine at the bar. Being a horse racing writer, I had to try my luck at the mechanical horse races after dinner. That turned out well. I hit a 91-1 shot for a buck, but it put only a small dent in my deficit.

The dinner was superb. My brother, friend and I ate at Oscar’s, a fantastic steak house in downtown Vegas. If you like steak as much as I do, you’ll love Oscar’s. It’s pricey but worth every penny. If you go there, try the cream corn. Delicious.

When I returned to my room at the South Point Hotel and Casino (more about that later) that night, I knew I had to devise some sort of plan to drag myself out of my financial hole. I refused to go home with a lighter wallet than when I left home.


I decided the best route was the early Pick 5 at Belmont Park with the reduced 14% takeout. So I got on my phone, purchsed the PP’s for Sunday’s Belmont card and mapped out what at the time was a $48 ticket. It was reduced to $24 when one of my two selections in the fifth race was scratched.

If you’re a horse player or enjoy gambling on sports, the South Point is a great spot. There are separate rooms for wagering on the horses and betting sports. Lots of seating with a TV at each station. Want to bet Belmont? Just switch the channel. Like some horses at Ellis Park? You’re there with just a flick of your finger,Oh, and did I mention the hot dogs? From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can buy a dog for only $1.50 and they aren’t your normal cheap hot dogs you get at the ballpark on Dollar Hot Dog night. I had two of ’em and could have had more, but remember, I was there on a mission: to reclaim my lost cash.

First leg of my Pick 5, Big Hazel, came in at 18-1 in a five-horse field with Dylan Davis aboard. Only negative was that I didn’t bet the horse separately. If my Pick 5 doesn’t come in, I don’t benefit from a horse that I felt was a real overlay. I had three horses in the opener and the best outcome for me occurred. Not often you get 18-1 in a five-horse field.

The second leg I had two horses – the favorite and third choice in the wagering. The favorite, Collaboration (8-5) with Davis in the saddle, prevailed by two lengths. I was alive after the first two legs, but still kicking myself for not betting Big Hazel separately in the opener. Talk about a brain cramp.

Race 3 was key because I had four horses in the fourth leg and my best-bet single in the fifth. If I could stay alive into the fourth, I felt good about my chances. Two horses were included on my ticket in the third and as the field turned for home, one of them had a view from Coney Island he was so far back. Juggler, the third betting choice, bobbled at the start, trailed throughout and was eased through the final furlong. But Davis (did I mention I love Dylan Davis?) came through with his third victory of the day, guiding 2-1 second choice Central Pride to a 1¼-quarter length victory. Three down, two to go.

I figured I wasn’t meant to win the Pick 5 if I got knocked off in the fourth. I had four of the seven horses, including the first, second and fourth betting choices. I didn’t really have to sweat it out as Flavien Prat and Program Trading (3-5) won by two lengths, setting up the fifth and decisive leg of my Pick 5.

Why did I like the winner in the fifth, Lastchanceatglory? Well, the name itself screamed out at me. It was my last chance at glory before I headed home Monday morning. Plus, trainer Linda Rice had lost the horse in a claiming race and claimed it right back. That to me is a huge plus when handicapping a race. Lastchanceatglory, the 7-5 chalk, won by a length and the Pick 5 returned $510.25. I cleared $486.25 and was up $196.25.

Of course, I had to bet another baseball parlay for $100, lost that, as well as some side bets on horses and came home a winner to the tune of $35. But if I’d stuck to horse racing, I’d have made out much better. But hey, when you return home from Vegas with more money than you started with, you’re ahead of the game.

There’s a lesson to be learned there somewhere. Something like, “Mama, don’t raise your sons to bet baseball parlays.”

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

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