July 20, 2017: Vacation? Beach or Mountains?
We’ve been… uh... suggesting to get out there and have fun at a track near you this summer, but if it’s time for a summer vacation, your timing is perfect. Why? The two premiere race meets of the season started this past week, Del Mar and Saratoga. Let’s see, mountains or beach? Either place will provide you with plenty to do. While Saratoga has history on its side, this year, Del Mar will draw more interest than usual because it is the location of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. Over the past few years, Del Mar has undergone many changes like new dirt and grass surfaces, and with the BC taking place there, many trainers will be taking advantage of the summer meet to give their BC prospects a sneak preview of sorts. This Saturday, the fans at Del Mar will get to see the number one ranked horse in the world, Arrogate, run in the Grade 2 San Diego. It’s kind of funny that the winner of the world’s two richest races this year will be running for a purse worth a mere $300,000, but he needs a workout to get ready for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic later in the meet considering he hasn’t run since Dubai. California Chrome took the same route to the BC last year, so, Bob Baffert is taking a page out of Art Sherman’s play book.
Now, how do we handicap these much-awaited meets? It’s tempting to just concentrate on the graded stakes since they are sure to draw the top horses in the country and the rest of the daily cards typically are a mix bag of state bred, high-to-low priced claiming, and MSW races. Of course, many fans look forward to these two meets because of the high-level Maiden Special Weight races. They are the races featuring two-year-olds, who are making their racing debuts and are of interest because there is a chance of seeing next year’s Triple Crown race winners. American Pharoah made his race debut at Del Mar. Unfortunately, he lost to Ohm, but that isn’t surprising (Ohm, remember him, didn’t think so). The problem with handicapping these so-called baby races is that the Derby pointed horses are bred to go long distances, but the first races they run are at shorter distances. Instead of picking those regally bred Derby types, we might want to look at speedsters who can go wire-to-wire in the short distance MSWs. It’s a tough call, where we’ll need our Pedigree Handicapping skills.
With handicapping decisions like the ones these MSWs present, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Even those graded stakes, which populate the weekend cards; you will find full fields of the best runners. You will need to get out all your handicapping tools unless you go with those state bred races, then you may as well play jockeys or trainers instead of the horses, since these types take turns winning against each other on a regular basis. Whose turn will it be today is a phrase you’ll find yourself repeating as you handicap these types of races.
So, just how much handicapping you’ll want to do on your vacation is all up to you. Just remember to have some fun watching the best the game has to offer in settings that are unparalleled in the sport.
July 13, 2017: Summer of Fun at a Track Near You Continues
If you haven’t been to a race track near you this summer, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? “Oh, it’s too hot or it’s going to rain.” you whine. If you’d rather waste your summer away sitting in your air-conditioned house, then at least live-stream some cards. Last week, with stakes races going off every five minutes, you certainly had your handicapping work cut out for you even if live-streaming them all. But remember though, it’s summer, and the word “work” with handicapping is not to be used, unless of course, you find that kind of work fun.
If you have been having fun handicapping the Ohio, Belmont, and Iowa Derbys the past couple of weeks, then there’s more this Saturday with the Indiana Derby and the Los Alamitos Derby. However, the highlight of the weekend has to go to Songbird running in the Delaware Handicap. It’s the only Grade 1 of their meet and it typically draws the best older fillies and mares. It is a race Songbird’s owner, Rick Porter would like to win more than any other. Why? It’s the premier race at his home state track. Ironically, he tried to win it with eventual Horse-of-the-Year, Havre de Grace in 2011, but she finished second. So, will this be the year for Mr. Porter to have his dream fulfilled? We’ll have to watch to find out. The race is certainly worth watching just to see a great filly race once more. Songbird was the top three-year-old filly (and probably top three-year-old period) last year. Her only defeat came when she lost by ever a small margin to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. With Beholder retired, who can match her talent? This unknown is the reason we need to follow her this year.
From a Tail Handicapping perspective, it will be a difficult race to bet. You could try to beat her and go with a long shot(s), after all, Harve de Grace did lose there. Or you could try and work on those Pick bets. We’ve been practicing our wagering skills with the ten-cent superfectas so far this summer, so, why not use the same strategy, but with multiple races. You may have singled the favorites on top of a superfecta, and with a Pick bet, you can single Songbird in that leg of the multi-leg wager. then choose several contenders in the other legs. Be careful of the bankroll however; as the Pick bets usually have a fifty-cent minimum.
If you are still trying to get the hang of the superfecta, then keep at it, and if you want to move on to something different with a Pick bet, then go right ahead. It’s a summer of fun at a track near you!
July 6, 2017: Road Trip Anyone?
Are we having fun yet? What are you waiting for? For you diehards, those refusing to give into fun at the track, this weekend’s stakes will sure test your handicapping tools for turf racing use. Arlington Park has its Arlington Million Preview day with a slate full of turf races, ditto for Belmont Park. Now, don’t get confused with the names Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks on the Belmont card. Even though they are on the turf, they are races restricted to three-year-old colts and fillies respectively hence the names Derby and Oaks apply.
If you aren’t ready to handicap a “Derby” on turf, then you have the Iowa Derby being run on dirt this Saturday, where a few of the Kentucky Derby runners will be entered. If you are near the Mid-Atlantic region, Delaware Park has the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks, and again, the “Oaks” in the title tips you off that the three-year-old fillies are running against each other. With all these tracks around the country having such good cards, how can you not take a road trip to watch some live racing? We’ve been recommending a visit to a race track near you just to hang out with friends or family on a summer’s day. The perfect opportunity will present itself for those of you living around Boston, as Suffolk Downs is having the first of three weekends of racing. At one time, the New England racing circuit was bustling seeing the likes of Seabiscuit and Cigar. Sadly, we won’t have too many more chances to visit Suffolk Downs since the property has been purchased for develop ala Hollywood Park a few years ago. So, don’t wait much longer to visit a race track near you, whether it is a place like Suffolk, Delaware, Belmont, Arlington, or Prairie Meadows, the site of the Iowa Derby, because they have so much fun to offer race fans new and old alike.
It’s summertime, so, homework won’t be attached to your visit unless you want to exercise that brain. How about practicing structuring bets by playing those ten-cent superfectas, like we were talking about last week. Sure, you can goof off and just do quick-picks for a dime each, but there are many alternate ways to structure this bet type. If you come down to four contenders, then perhaps box your superfecta. Maybe, you’ll just want to key the favorites on top of the bet and fill the third and fourth place spots with long shots. You could go wild and put the long-shots on top with the favs underneath. With the price of a dime, you can practice all you want without worrying you’re blowing your bankroll after the first race. Of course, if a dime bet is beneath you, think of hitting the “all” button for one of the spots and see how fast the price goes up! You could have everyone in the group give a horse and structure the bet that way. Be creative, after all imagination is a part of Head Handicapping.
There’s much fun to be had by going to a race track near you, so, get up and go, because summers don’t last forever and neither do race tracks.