12/14/2001 1:00AM

More holiday, less handicapping


When California racing takes a welcome eight-day break in its schedule, Las Vegas race books will have to adjust. They will all be open for business, but there will be changes in the schedule of handicapping contests.

One thing for sure is overall parimutuel handle will drop without California racing.

"California is definitely first, New York is second," said Norm Kelley, race and sports book manager at Sam's Town. "At least New York is running, but there will be a drop off in the afternoons."

Kelley said Gordon Jones's daily picks would be up on the board "as always" in the back of the race book at Sam's Town.

Some contests that are still on this week include two losers contests at Boulder Station and The Palms. Boulder Station's Pick the Loser contest will be held on Monday and Tuesday. However, it will be suspended Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1 for Christmas and New Year's.

The Palms will conduct its Out of the Money contest Monday but its Wednesday and Friday free contests are suspended this week.

Jackie Gaughan's Plaza downtown will offer its twin quinella wager Wednesday through Sunday, according to Walt Wilczewski, racebook manager. However, its free Friday contest will be suspended this week.

Texas Station will have its handicapping contest on Monday, closing day of Hollywood Park. Jenny Melton, race and sports book manager reported that bonus carryover pools would be out paid Monday. The contest will return on Dec. 26, opening day of Santa Anita Park.

A pair of win and quinella contests on Wednesdays, at The Excalibur and Arizona Charlie's West, will be suspended this week and resume on opening day of Santa Anita.

A number of Friday contests will suspend for this week and return on Friday, Dec. 28. Santa Fe Station started a new free $1,000 contest last Friday and will resume it in two weeks. Also, Sunset Station with its Win and in the Money contest and Binion's Horseshoe's Shoe Q contest will suspend this Friday. The Las Vegas Hilton also will skip this week with its Super Q and free contest.

The four Coast Resorts properties (Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Barbary Coast) will suspend their King of the Hill contest for this week. Next week, King of the Hill will return with a new format. It will be offered on Wednesday and Friday with $1,500 guaranteed each day. The entry fee will be reduced to $5, maximum two entries per customer.

Finally, Micah Roberts, race and sports book manager at Palace Station reported that Station Casino's twin quinella would take a week hiatus and return on Dec. 26. Station prefers using races from the California tracks, and the tracks in that state will be dark.

All year long participating race books in Las Vegas offer race players contests to turn short money into long money. Here's one Christmas wish: That the Las Vegas tradition of offering value to its players doesn't change.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up Show