GRAND PRAIRIE -- The 2012 thoroughbred racing season got off to a rousing start Thursday night at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie with Gold Element winning the first race of the night, the 6 1/2-furlong $50,000 Premiere Stakes.
The 5-year-old gelding, who went off at 4-1 odds, held off stable mate Red Coyote in a dueling stretch drive to hit the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front.
The start of the racing season signals a rebirth of sorts for Lone Star Park with new owners Global Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma now at the helm.
Opening night attendance was 8,874, up 3 percent over last year and the largest since 2007.
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"We're excited about our new season with Global Gaming. We have the new [Bar and Book], a new chef, a nine-concert series; we couldn't be happier about the prospects for our season," Lone Star Park vice president G.W. Hail said.
Racing fans were greeted at the front gates by Bill Allen and his five-piece Texas Dixieland Jazz Band. The group of old-timers are veterans of Lone Star's opening day.
"We've been doing this since 1999," Allen said. "We love being a part of the tradition."
People from all walks of life found their way to the Grand Prairie track to be a part of that tradition.
Waxahachie resident Brad Moss and his 5-year-old son, Hunter, stood under the live oak trees near the saddling paddock watching the horses and their mounts make their way down the tunnel to the track.
"I told Hunter we could either go to the Rangers opening day game last week or we could go watch the horses," Moss said. "He picked the horses."
A group of veteran handicappers sat nearby huddled over a picnic table making their picks for the day's slate of races.
"I came straight from work," said Eric Johnson, still clad in his green scrubs from his shift at Arlington Memorial Hospital. "My dad used to bring me to Fairmount Park in St. Louis when I was a kid and he'd let me bet a dollar on the first race of the day. I haven't missed an opening day at Lone Star in seven years."
Wimp Free Racing Stables, the syndicate co-owned by Star-Telegram sports columnist Randy Galloway, acquired the stakes-winning Gold Element just two months ago per the recommendation of longtime trainer Brett Calhoun.
"I've run horses out here since the track opened and being from Grand Prairie, to have a horse in this race and to see him win, that's about as good as it gets," Galloway said.