At least once a week, after the crowds have filed out of the Stella Artois Grandstand and I’m locking up the bathrooms, someone will walk up to me and ask, “are the races over?”
I’ll laugh and say “yes, they’re over, but come back tomorrow. We start at 1:45.”
Everyone who asks this question does so with a genuine feeling of excitement, like there’s something they’ve been missing out on that they want to experience. There’s action, whether it be for sport or gambling, and they want in on it.
There’s a horse race every half-hour, contests and promotions that will keep the family entertained for a few hours each day, and a variety of experiences to be had depending on where you decide to set up camp. Here’s just a sampling of where you can sit and what you can do in the grandstand this Thursday through Sunday, and over the final week of the fair, July 4 – 7.
12 Noon – Horse Racing Seminar with Dennis Miller and Chris Griffin
The races won’t start until 1:45, but if you want to get a head start on picking winners, get to the front of the grandstand at noon where racing publicist Dennis Miller, track announcer Chris Griffin and a special guest or two will be dissecting the day’s races. In addition to giving out picks, they’ll be raffling off prizes like hats, t-shirts and fair tickets, so it’s quite possible you could be a winner before you even place a bet.
If you forget to write down who the panelists like, pick up a copy of Dennis Miller’s free tip sheet where the racing programs are sold. Miller has been a Bay Area sports writer and handicapper for decades and is our resident expert on the Northern California racing circuit, and horse racing, in general. If it’s your first time at the races, be sure to pick up a free copy of his yellow tip sheet at the program stands.
1:00pm – Pick your seats
The Stella Artois Grandstand has many options when it comes to seating, starting with free chairs on the track apron. The track’s “apron” is the paved area between the rail and grandstand, and many locals will bring their own folding chairs and stake out space in the shade to set up their home base for the day.
Didn’t bring a chair? No worries, mate, just grab one of the many freebies near the stairwells on the first level of the grandstand. Just don’t take it home with you.
If you’re looking for a more elevated view of the races, ascend one of the three main staircases to the second level. There you will find ample, bleacher seating on the right or left side of the box seats.
Looking for your own private box for the day? Reserved Box Seats are for sale daily, starting at about 1pm in the center of the second level grandstand, just across from the box seat area. For just $5 per seat, you can have your own private box close to the finish line, which is like sitting at the 50-yard line for a football game or center ice for a hockey game. And once you have your box seat ticket, you won’t have to worry about hearing the five words veteran race-trackers dread most:
“Sir, you can’t sit here.”
If you’re in the mood for a more refined dining experience than a corndog or turkey leg, but still want to be in the open air of the grandstand, check out the Trackside Terrace at the far right end of the second level. For $45 per person, you can enjoy a day at the races in a restaurant-style setting, with a sumptuous buffet style lunch and cash bar.
Looking to beat the heat?
For $5 more than Trackside Terrace, you can have the same experience in air-conditioned comfort in the all new Sky Lounge. Located on the 4th floor of the grandstand, Sky Lounge offers spectacular views of Pleasanton racetrack, and multiple flat screen TVs give you the opportunity to watch and wager on races from around the country in an upscale lounge setting. For just $50 per person, you can spend the entire day eating, drinking and betting on anything that moves, whether it’s on the track right in front of you or on the opposite side of the country.
Depending on the day of the week, you’ll have 7 to 10 races to bet on at Pleasanton, and a variety of free contests for kids and big kids alike. Here’s a quick summary of the daily events in the Stella Artois Grandstand:
1:45pm – First race
The first or first two races at Pleasanton are often for “emerging breeds” – mules, quarter-horses or Arabians. You can tell the mules by the compact body and floppy ears. If you thought mules were too stubborn to race, think again. There’s enough horse breeding in them to fly 250 yards down the home stretch. If you happen to see a mule named Read My Lips on the first race of your program, it’s probably the best bet of the day. He’s won his last six races at Pleasanton, including the first race on opening day for the past two years.
2:50pm – Hippity Hop Race after the 3rd race
If you have kids between 7 and 10-years-old in tow, they can sign up to compete in our Hippity Hop Race, which takes place after the third race, every Friday through Sunday. The Hippity Hop race takes place right on the racetrack in front of the grandstand, giving kids the chance to win fair tickets and a ride wristband. Your kids won’t want to miss a chance to feel what it’s like to bounce across a real dirt track in front a grandstand full of fans. Kids can enter at the Win-Place-Show booth on the first level, on the paddock side of the grandstand. There’s no Hippity Hop race on Saturday, June 29.
3:25pm – Putting Contest after the 4th race
Kids don’t get to have all the fun in the grandstand, as we have contests for grown-ups, too. The first is the $10,000 Pleasanton Putting Contest. Enter at the Win-Place-Show booth before the 4th race and your name could be drawn to attempt a 20-foot putt from our practice green in the infield. If you sink the putt or are one of three players who get closest to the pin after the 5th of July, you’ll be invited back to the Finals on Saturday, July 6.
On July 6, the three qualifiers will attempt a 60-foot putt. If any finalist sinks the 60-footer, he or she wins $10,000!
Not bad for a free contest.
3:55pm – Beer Roulette (a/k/a Even/Odd $2 Beers) in the 5th race
You might have heard of Horse Racing Roulette, but we’ve got a far more popular version – Beer Roulette in the 5th race each day. Depending on the week – this week it’s odd numbered horses – the horse that wins the 5th race could slash the prices of all draft beers to just $2 in the grandstand until the 6th race goes off.
If you’re attending the races this week, June 27 – 30, any odd-numbered horse that wins the 5th race will deliver $2 beers until the 6th race jumps. If you’re attending the week of July 4-7, any even-numbered horse that wins the 5th race will trigger $2 beers in the grandstand.
Even if you don’t have a bet on 5th race, you can still root for $2 beers.
4:30pm – Win, Place and Show Contest after the 6th race
Our most popular contest is Win, Place and Show, and it’s also free and super easy to play. Visit the Win-Place-Show booth, and drop your entry into the box with the number of the horse you think will win the 6th race. If your horse finishes first, second or third, your name could be drawn from the corresponding box. If your horse wins and your name is drawn, you’ll win a $75 betting voucher. If your horse finishes second and your name is drawn, you’ll get a $50 voucher. If your horse is third and your name is called, it’s a $25 voucher.
It’s a FREE contest so there’s no reason not to sign up and play every day you attend the races at Pleasanton.