03/14/2003 12:00AM

Change of pace: Meet and greet jockeys


Las Vegas is one of the leaders in horse racing simulcasting. It has more simulcast locations - race books - within a small radius than any other locale in the United States, maybe anywhere.

Watching races on the televisions here, you can distance yourself from the realities of racing. Even when jockeys fall and are injured, which happened several times recently at Santa Anita - including to fan favorites Laffit Pincay Jr. and Julie Krone - you are removed from the experience while watching in a race book. It's not the same thing as watching at the track.

Next week you will be able to see a pair of jockeys, both Hall of Famers, in person at the Coast Casinos. On March 19, Gary Stevens will make an appearance at the Gold Coast Hotel Casino. The newly remodeled property at the corner of Valley View and Flamingo Road will have a full morning of activities for racing fans.

Stevens, who has won over 4,500 races - of which many in attendance will remember with fondness or frowns - will greet fans when the doors open at 9 a.m. at the property's showroom. Coffee and donuts will be served during a question-and-answer period, which will be followed by a $5,000 handicapping contest. Those entering the contest will have a chance to win an autographed copy of Stevens's book, "The Perfect Ride."

Some of the jockey's most memorable races will be shown, including those aboard the likes of Silver Charm and Point Given. In addition, there will be a sneak preview of Stevens, the movie star, in a clip from the film "Seabiscuit," in which the three-time Kentucky Derby winner plays legendary rider George Woolf. The movie, based on the best seller by Laura Hillenbrand, is scheduled for release in July.

The action switches to The Orleans Hotel Casino at Arville and Tropicana Avenue March 24, where there will be a retirement celebration for jockey Eddie Delahoussaye. The winning rider in the 1982 and 1983 Kentucky Derby recently retired as a result of injuries sustained in a spill at Del Mar last summer. Delahoussaye will be honored and autographed pictures will be given out. There also will be a free handicapping contest on Gulfstream Park. The contest, with a $1,000 winner-take-all prize, is free.

Delahoussaye, the newly turned bloodstock agent, will be joined by northern California's perennial leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, and they will take questions from the audience. Everything is free and it starts at 9 a.m.