Sundays: Dollar Day at Golden Gate Fields


Golden Gate Fields: Where the Bay Comes to Play…

Last weekend I was so broke, anxiously awaiting  payday on Monday. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to spend my money on this… Dollar Day at the horse races at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley. I ended up like Charlie Sheen, “winning.” I mean, how can you really lose when everything only costs $1?

Rain or shine, you too can spend your last dollar and have an adventure just outside the city. Just take the BART (Richmond line) and get off at North Berkeley. There’s a FREE shuttle that runs every half hour, and drops you off right outside the race track. Once you get there, General Admission is only $1. Head upstairs to the main level and make your way through a maze of gambling weirdos and low-income families. Go directly to the far end of the track, where they sell tokens to get your $1 beers, sodas and hot dogs. The hot dogs are kind of pathetic and shriveled, but if you slather them in enough ketchup, mustard and relish – they taste pretty good. Remember to order two beers at a time, since they are on the small side.

Buy a $1 program and head down stairs to where they show off the horses running in the next race. If you are really cheap, you can always ask to look at someone else’s program. The horses are kind of janky looking – probably D grade on the thoroughbred scale. I always chose the most muscular looking ones that had some spunk in them. After you’ve chosen your lucky horse, head back up to the main deck to the betting hall. You can use the machines to place your bets, but I always prefer to talk to the people working the booths for the human aspect of it.

I’m not a big gambler, so I bet responsibly. I threw down $2 bets on a couple of different horses. By the end of the day, I felt really cool, putting, “$2 on Swiss Editor MD to win and $2 on Moons Pride to show.” Once you hear the guy down on the sideline of the track, blowing his horn, be sure to pay attention. I love it when the guy on the megaphone shouts, “And they’re off!” and then breaks into his crazy mumble as he follows the horses bolting towards the finish line. Even if I only put $2 down on a horse, it made it a whole lot more exciting to watch the race. I screamed out the horse’s number or name and high-fived my friends when my horse won. I loved going to cash in my ticket to find out I won a whopping $3.60, which I just used to bet again for the next race.

There’s a total of eight races that start at 1 pm and finish around 5 pm. They stop selling the $1 beers are  around 4:30, so be sure to stock up so you have enough to last until the end. Overall, I had an extremely entertaining and low-budget day. Even if you don’t want to gamble, I recommend going for the pure satisfaction of people watching. And the horses are cute, too.

Dollar Day every Sunday
Golden Gate Fields
1100 Eastshore Frontage Rd.
[Berkeley]
www.goldengatefields.com

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About the author

Heidi Smith - The Ultimate Scavenger

Originally from San Diego, Heidi migrated north to study journalism at SFSU and interned for the SF Bay Guardian writing music stuff. She later embarked on a study-abroad program in both Denmark and Holland, and basically never came home. For six long years, she froze her ass off in Oslo, Norway, pretending to be a viking princess, trying to figure out how to survive in the most expensive city in the world. The other two years were spent frolicking on the beach in Spain - sipping on sangria in between being tossed around Europe working as a stressed-out journalist. Heidi currently works at for a non-profit cultural exchange program, helping others experience life from a different perspective. She is thrilled to be back in SF, magnetizing the obscure, and scavenging the city for fun, free things to do.
  • Colleen

    Swiss Editor MD is my horse now….happily retired from racing.