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Dollar Day pays off for Tampa Jai-Alai

After just two trial runs, Tampa Jai-Alai officials aren't convinced their "Dollar Day" promotion is solely responsible for increased attendance and handle figures on Mondays.

But they wouldn't bet their last buck against it.

"We're just experimenting with it to see how the public reacts, but in talking with the fans, they seem to like it," fronton general manager Giles Ellis said.

Hot dogs, popcorn, beer, sodas and admission to the clubhouse have been $1 at Monday matinee and evening performances since Oct. 5. Additionally, a $2 daily double or a $3 perfecta wager can be made for just $1.

"The play in doubles and perfectas have shown a marked increase," Ellis said. "People are used to the $1 trifecta box, but this opens up all our (exotic) bets to them."

More important to the fronton, other numbers are up.

It has averaged 782 fans and nearly a $60,000 handle for this month's two Monday matinees. In comparison, the three Monday matinees in September saw an average of 639 fans and a $51,000 handle.

The evening numbers are even better. In October, the average for two Mondays has been 765 fans and a $58,000 handle, up from the 576 fans and $48,000 averages from the final three Monday evenings in September.

"I'm leaning toward doing some form of it on a regular basis," Ellis said.

Who's hot: For the week ending Tuesday, the winningest players at the fronton are: Valdez (four wins, five seconds and four thirds in 24 early games); Dennis (five wins, five seconds and 10 thirds in 37 early games); Dan (11 wins, six seconds, one third in 35 early games); Amlas (six wins, three seconds and nine thirds in 36 middle games); and Darrell (seven wins, four seconds and eight thirds in 38 late games).

Shopping for a bargain: Last year at this time, kennel owner Paul Scheele bought what he considered a promising greyhound at the National Meet, the weeklong schooling races and subsequent brood and racing stock auctions in Abilene, Kan.

He spent $5,000 on the dog, Pleasant Katie, which has become a pleasant surprise. She recently won the $40,000 Distance Championship at the Tampa Greyhound Track.

"She turned out to be a hell of a deal," he said.

That's why Scheele and so many of his brethren attend the weeklong meet. Although social functions such as a barbecue and National Greyhound Association Hall of Fame inductions dot the agenda, it's not just fun and games.

"People put their businesses on the line out here," Scheele said. "This gets bigger and bigger every year."

More than 800 greyhounds, born between April and September 1991, raced in age groups Monday and Tuesday. The winners in each race advanced to a championship round on Friday, while each second- and third-place finisher qualified for Flight 1 and Flight 2, respectively, consolation rounds.

Prize money is minimal ($560 for the championship round winners, $180 for Flight 1 winners and $39 for Flight 2 winners), but dogs are showcased for Saturday's auction.

"I'm not looking to spend $25,000, but after watching the dogs run, you know they can run, so it's just a question if I can get some kind of deal like last year," Scheele said.