Saturday, Sept. 5, 1953 | 6 a.m.
Horse racing had an unsensational Las Vegas beginning yesterday with 8200 paid customers wagering $252,663 on the fine race card. The beginning was less than sensational from the standpoint of the size of the racing facilities - the pari-mutual/sellers and cashiers could easily have handled twice that much had their equipment been working.
Seventy-five horses made the circuit on races ranging in length from five and a half furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth.
Lefty James, owned by Nevadan J. Kell Houssels, and with the nation's 1952 leading jockey, Tony DeSpirito, aboard, won the feature race, the Mirage Handicap which enriched the owner of Bymeabond with a total of $10,650. A Houssels entry, Nevada John, also won in the second race.
In the grandstand and clubhouse, chorus girls mingled with housewives, hotel owners with bartenders, with an average of $30 being bet by each and every paid admission.
At the close of yesterday's session, President Lou Smith offered his apologies to the track fans because of the failure of the totalizator to function properly. Smith said that all tickets will be issued by hand today and this should assure prompt service.
There were still many things to be done at the track to make it the polished venture that the owners would like to have: first of which would be the elimination of the Australian-type ticket selling machines.
Another major bug still to be ironed out by the Jockey Club is the paralyzing traffic jam of motorists attempting to attend. Only one entrance is provided for racing fans, and many cars were forced to wait almost an hour on the clogged highways approaching the track, before gaining entrance to the parking lot. Hundreds gave up after a long wait, and returned home.
Adequate change in the cashiers' windows, paper cups for beer drinkers instead of the breakable zombie glasses now in use, and an improved public address system would give the operation more of a professional appearance, according to the complaints voiced.
However, there were more than enough reasons to show that the track officials went to great expense to provide comfort for the patrons. The furnishings in the clubhouse are probably unmatched at any track in the nation.
Despite the last-minute labor troubles that threatened to destroy the work of both Lou Smith and Alfred Jay Luke, the reception given to racing in Las Vegas could not be considered worse than the initial season of Santa Anita park back in 1933.
Also not to be forgotten are the efforts of Federal Judge Roger T. Foley, in whose court bankruptcy proceedings were handled, and who demanded and made sure that a financially well-founded organization was set up here.
Although the success of a track depends on the class of horses it attracts, the Las Vegas Jock Club appeared well on the way to becoming everything its' promoters have dreamed of.
Another $10,000 handicap tops the nine-race program scheduled for today. The feature is the Vacationland stakes for two year olds at five and a half furlongs, with Alberta Ranches' Zee Bull favored in the field of 13 names to start in the juvenile stakes.