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BEST PLACE TO LOSE YOUR SHIRT Minneapolis 1999 -

Casino gambling is a fool's game (aside from blackjack, which is boring). The lottery is for weenies. And we wouldn't buy a pull-tab if you paid for it. For those of us who like our betting with a dose of actual skill, there's the local bookie or there's the ponies. We'll take the ponies--the only (legal) game in town where you're wagering solely against your fellow handicappers. It's especially a pleasure from mid-May through late August, when the simulcasting palace that is Canterbury Park opens its stables to in-the-flesh equine protagonists, and bettors can dope out the past performances and debate the merits of exacta versus trifecta wagering 'neath the gleaming Shakopee sun. This year's race meet begins Saturday, May 15 (Preakness Day!) and ends August 22, with the annual Minnesota Festival of Champions showcase. Post time is 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission costs only two bucks, and parking and programs are free, which leaves all the more money to invest at the betting window.

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