Sports

Making a good bet at Emerald Downs

"Play ball!"

"... And they're off and running ...."

Two opening days in the same week are a bit too much for this traveling scribe so I opted to stay home Tuesday while the Seattle Mariners opened the home campaign against the Los Angeles Angels and will visit Safeco Field Saturday and Sunday after attending the opening of Emerald Downs horse racing track in Auburn.



The Mariners

The American League West leading M's opened at Minnesota last week and split with the Twins, losing two tough 6-5 games in the middle of the set, then moved to Oakland to battle the A's and swept three, the last one a nail-biting 1-0 win for Eric Bedard.

Does that sound weird or what: the first-place Mariners?

So it's only seven games, but a 5-2 start isn't too bad.

New manager Don Wakamatsu showed off his team for the first time Tuesday before another sell-out crowd of 46,000 plus. Last year attendance was 46,334 when Seattle beat Texas 5-2. In 2007 they beat Oakland 4-0 in the shortest home opener on record, two hours and eight minutes.

In their checkered history, Seattle is 17-15 in openers. By the way, Seattle was 8-22 in road openers going into the Minnesota game and the last time they opened a season on the road was at Cleveland in 2006. They lost 8-5. The home opening record is 20-12

I'll look closer at the Mariners next week.



The horses

The thoroughbred horses open a long campaign in Auburn Friday night with first post at 6 p.m. and some 12,000 are expected to help Ron Crockett and Co. open another season.

In an effort to lure a good crowd, Em Downs is giving away 40, 32-inch LCD televisions, with drawings after every race. All you have to do is attend the race, put your name in a drawing box and wait to be called, 18 and older, of course.

Handicappers usually take a beating on opening weekend as it's the first time out for jockeys and horses and trainers really don't know how good their charges are this early in the season, even though most have been at the track and working since February.

Emerald Downs is much less expensive than a seat at Safeco. Adult admission is $7 this year ($5 with an Emerald Downs Rewards card) and 17 and younger are free. Grandstand and box seats are extra.

Preferred parking is $7 and valet parking is $10 and all other parking is free with free shuttle service direct to the track entrance.



Wagering

In answer to several requests, here's how to wager on a horse race. It's not very complicated. The $2 program gives the history of each horse with the post position number. You can make a $2 bet on a horse to win, to place or to show. That's first, second and third.

Then there are the exotic wagers: exacta, trifecta, superfecta, pick three and pick four.

Those wagers are $1 and up, of course, depending on how much you want to spend.

_ Exacta - You must pick the first and second horse in each race. If either horse finishes first or second, you win.

_ Trifecta - A little riskier. You must pick first, second and third. If you can hook up a couple of favorites with a longer shot, the payoff can be big.

_ Superfecta - This is first, second, third and fourth. You can box this one for about $24, but add a fifth and the price goes to $60.

___The pick three and pick four involves choosing winners in three straight races, beginning with race three and then picking winners in the last four. I have never won this, folks.

Races at Emerald Downs start at 6 p.m. and weekend and holiday racing opens at 2 p.m. Attending in person is great fun, but you also can have fun watching and wagering at 7 Cedars Casino, which will be aboard for every race again this year.

With the economy in huge slide, it will be interesting to see how attendance is at the track and what the handle will be each day. With the parity in horses these days, nobody gets very rich at the track unless they hit a really, really long shot.

That will be the plan Friday night and Saturday afternoon.



Scooter Chapman can be reached via e-mail at scooter@olypen.com.





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