Hot Tips and Cold Beers at Golden Gate Fields [PICS]

Horse Racing at golden Gate FieldsA weekend day spent outdoors is like nothing else: the Bay breeze rustles your hair as you slather on sunscreen and take a long swig of dollar-priced beer; your lady has her nose stuck in some magazine and seems to be reading intently; you think she’s forgotten all about you, but then she hands you a five-dollar bill and says:

“Northern Lights for the win. She has a pretty name.”

Never happened to you? You oughtta get out to the track more. We recently visited Golden Gate Fields in Albany, just north of Berkeley, for photo day, to catch the action up close and get some insider advice.

Here are some useful terms and a handful of pictures:

trifecta (or triple) — A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order.

underlay — A horse racing at longer odds than he should.

morning glory — A horse who performs well in morning workouts but fails to fire in actual races.

bug boys — Apprentice jockeys. [On the program,] they put a little mark by the name so [you] know who the apprentices are. Ours look like asterisks, but because they were old style printers, they would look like a bug.

Tapeta — Specifically engineered turf. This stuff that looks like someone shook their vacuum bag on it [take a look up close to see these colorful nuances], that’s supposed to be there. when they bring the stuff out there are truckloads of fibers, a very special sand, and a wax polymer which is spread on. So this stuff, theoreticaly, never gets dry and it never gets wet.

leg-up — When a jockey is hoisted onto their horse, swinging one leg up, over the top of the saddle.

the best bet — Working in the industry you hear all sorts of “betting tips” from betting the gray horse to betting the horse that just went to the bathroom.  Honestly, the best betting tip is to bet the horse that you like–and know your limit.

the “win” bet — For newcomers, never overlook the simple “win” bet.  For $2 you just pick a horse that you think will win. As for picking the horse, that’s the fun part. You can crunch stats or simply play the name; either way, for a small investment like $2, you’re going to get excited seeing your horse charge down the stretch.

For more terms, check out GGF’s Horse Racing Dictionary. Or just visit the track yourself and learn as you go. Of course you’ll want to visit on Derby Day, the first Saturday of May, but there are also plenty of incentives to visit this fall. Dan Cirimele, Director of Marketing at Golden Gate Fields, who provided us with the definitions above, notes:

Dollar Day Sundays are every Sunday during live racing. During the fall, we host live racing and display all the NFL games. Plus–general admission, general parking, programs, hot dogs, sodas, and beers are just a buck each.”

That may be the best tip we’ve heard. Live racing returns this Thursday; the first Dollar Day is Sunday. See the full calendar here.

Thanks to Dan Cirimele and Jerry Aldovar for their help with this story.


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David is Wingtip's storyteller. In addition to editing the Modern Gentleman's Blog, he has written for Wax Poetics, The Source, SF Weekly, and the East Bay Express, and others. His inspirations include Rumble Fish, Paul's Boutique, and Balzac. He studied English at the City University of New York at Hunter College and journalism at the University of Southern California. He lives in Berzerkeley with his wife and daughter.

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