Brian Golden

He didn’t attend the opening of the Western Hotel on Lancaster BLVD.

Nor did he saw off the fabled broomstick handle Chuck Yeager’s broken ribs required to close the canopy on the X-1 the morning he broke the sound barrier.

And really, he didn’t scout ahead for the 20 Mule Teams to safely reach Boron.

It only seems the late Bill Gillis was there for all those things.

The beloved curmudgeonly icon of the Valley Press was there at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

He was at Edwards Air Force Base the day Vice President Lyndon Johnson came out to visit the leading edge of our space program.

All those things were business.

The horse racing satellite wagering facility at the original Antelope Valley Fairgrounds site on East Avenue I, now that was personal.

VERY personal.

Gillis would be so proud this weekend.

The little slice of Las Vegas, otherwise known as The Turf Club, will host the Valley’s biggest party for the Belmont Stakes.

Walk into The Turf Club at the main entrance to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds and you’d swear you were 250 miles to the east in a Las Vegas sports book.

Just as The Belmont is one of the crown jewels of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, The Turf Club is one of the jewels of the Fairgrounds complex.

Manager Suzie Eslick and her staff run a mile and a half about avery five minutes to spoil gamblers and just plain horse lovers with food and drink specials and promotional giveaways.

With the place wallpapered with jumbo screen TV’s there’s always a race going on somewhere to watch.

And, to wager on, of course.

The Turf Club is just the latest proof that when the city of Lancaster gets around to doing something, the results are often spectacular.

The Performing Arts Center, the National Soccer Center and the Mausoleum, um, The Hangar, all took a little while to get going.

You can judge for yourself how they made the wait worthwhile.

It gives another Valley racing community, the motorsports community, hope that when Ron Hornaday Fairgrounds Raceway is finally built at the Fairgrounds Grandstand, it will be worthy of the NASCAR superstars who’ve promised The Pride of Palmdale they’ll be here for the grand opening race.

It’s become one of our Valley’s great new 21st Century traditions, the chance to watch The Belmont Stakes at The Turf Club.

It will mean watching “Secretariat” on DVD Friday night.

Gillis explained another Valley tradition to me shortly after I came to work at this newspaper, back in the Paleolithic Age.

“Hey Golden,” Gillis said in that endearing mutter of his. “Make sure you put the point spreads in your stories.

“This is a bettin’ Valley.”

Get there early Saturday for a parking space at the Bettin’ Valley Fairgrounds.

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