Saturday horse racing unveils its majesty this weekend with a sweeping panorama of choice.
Nationwide bettors observe opposite worlds in the day’s highest-paying events and can access the action on TVG where available.
Well-known turf horses vie for a $500,000 purse in the 1 1/8-mile Diana at Saratoga in the afternoon. Several unknowns go 350 yards for a whopping $744,000 and change at Delta Downs in the evening. Yes, the fabled Dirt Futurity is back. Blink, you miss it. Handicap, you may hit it.
This week’s Playfecta roundup includes several tracks offering a plethora of good racing, the harness racing world sporting the $600,000 Meadowlands Pace, and the miracle that resided in plain sight for bettors last week in our Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots segment.
Here we go.
Saturday at Saratoga Race Course
Three superb races mark Saturday’s Saratoga card, for different reasons, with a common denominator being that they are on the turf.
Race 3 has a large field of 12 listed for an $88,000 race. Large fields and turf ensure excellent value on midpriced spot plays and long shots.
Race 9 has a field of 11 for its $115,000 event.
Sandwiched inside of them is the Diana, Race 8, a prestige summit of elite horses. The only problem for bettors is that this is a small field, six. Most players will have budgetary room for perhaps one win bet and one exacta combination.
The horses for this 1 1/8-mile race are Bleeker St, Creative Flair, Technical Analysis, Rougir, Dalika, and In Italian.
Bleeker St. has been a locomotive, going 6-for-6 and notching wins at the Meadowlands, Tampa, Churchill Downs, and Belmont. Her odds of 6-5 are not great, but they might even be lower at post-time. She has won at 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 miles.
Creative Flair was in the Turf Triple Crown last year, gaining third in the Saratoga Stakes and fourth in the Jockey Club Stakes at Belmont. She dropped to a Grade II, won the 1 1/8-mile Balanchine in Dubai in February, and is 3-1 here.
Technical Analysis did all that was asked in winning the Grade III Gallorette in May at 3-5 but has not won at this distance.
Rougir was the 3-5 choice to win the New York Stakes but was decisively beaten when Bleeker St. made a sweeping move from last place and ran down the field at 5-2.
In Italian was caught up in a vicious speed duel in the Grade I Just A Game Handicap and finished a leg-weary third. A more conservative trip would help here. She has never run at this distance.
Dalika could not prevail in a Grade 3 in her last outing and has never won at this distance. Sherobably will be the long shot in the field.
Saturday horse racing around the nation
The Frank De Francis, $150,000
Prince George’s County
The Big Dreyfus
$100,00 Blue Sparkler
$125,000 My Dear Stakes
Four other races with purses of $100,000 or above
When you think you’ve seen it all …
… there is always a surprise.
Here’s one for Saturday.
Delta Downs is paying out more than $1 million in purses Saturday for some of the shortest races in the business. Welcome to the Dirt Futurity, with a distance of 350 yards. Its purse: $744,302. Yowza. What does that pay per step?
The break means almost everything. To have such a high purse award means that a segment of the horse racing world loves the sprints. Handicappers with an angle can make out, just as they would in a longer race. Gamblers can gauge a pattern of the short races by viewing a sample of them, which begins at 7:15 p.m. EDT. See a pattern enough times and you might play it with confidence.
Paco Lopez: the wrong message?
Public sentiment is that Monmouth Park jockey Paco Lopez got off too easy with a five-day suspension from a July 1 incident. He switched lanes without clearance aboard Midnight Diva, forcing LaCosta to clip heels and be out of the race.
Nik Juarez, aboard LaCosta, initiated an altercation with Lopez afterward and was given eight days’ suspension. Juarez managed to keep LaCosta and himself from falling but considers Lopez a dangerous rider, with precedent established.
Lopez has received lengthy suspensions on multiple occasions for riding infractions, including a 14-day suspension this year for his ride in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Aboard In Due Time, who finished second, Lopez caused a collision that prompted a spill for two horses. Twice in the first half of 2019, Lopez also received 30-day suspensions from Gulfstream stewards for careless riding.
Lopez, eight times the meet-leading rider at Monmouth Park, holds a commanding lead in the current Monmouth riding standings with 48 victories through July 12. Juarez is seventh with 10 wins.
Bettors love Lopez’s aggressive style, but he doesn’t stay in his lane.
If New Jersey commissioners wanted to send him a real message, they could have made his suspension start next week. That would drive Lopez away from either the $1 million Haskell Stakes or the other big races on the card July 23.
Harness racing: Meadowlands offers signature card
TVG bettors also can access the Meadowlands, a racing cathedral, or the harness-racing industry in East Rutherford, NJ.
The Big M not only hosts the $1 million Hambletonian on Aug. 6 but also one of the big cards of the year this Saturday — the Meadowlands Pace program.
The $600,000 Meadowlands Pace highlights a 14-race card, which is so huge that all of the major events on the program will be shown live to a national television audience on Fox Sports 2 (FS2). The television coverage shows the magnitude of the event.
The show will be broadcast from 8 to 11 p.m. EDT.
During the night, a total of eight stakes races — with purses totaling $2.34 million — will be sprinkled throughout the card.
The $500,000 William Haughton Memorial
The $432,000 Hambletonian Maturity
The $250,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial
The $200,000 Del Miller Memorial
The $150,000 Mistletoe Shalee
The $175,000 Dorothy Haughton Memorial
For the big race, Beach Glass and Market Based will draw heavy money by virtue of winning the elimination heats last week. Night Hawk, who just missed in the qualifier, also will be respected in the odds.
Why bettors like harness racing at the Meadowlands: the distance is usually the same, 1 mile. There is no variable like the race being too short for a closer or too long for a horse stretching out. This makes handicapping a little simpler, giving people the feeling they can compete.
Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots — A classic story
Belmont was buzzing last week after the first leg of the Belmont Derby, the first leg of the Turf Triple Crown.
That’s because Classic Causeway pulled off a monstrous upset at 26-1, followed by 2-1 chalk Nation’s Pride, 5-1 shot Stone Age and 32-1 bomb Grand Sonata in fourth.
Classic Causeway paid $55.50 to win, $19.80 to place and $9.90 to show.
The $2 exacta was $408.
The $1 trifecta was $469.
The $1 superfecta paid $16,717, or $1,671 for the 10-center.
How do many big payouts occur? Some luck and some magic.
What broke right for bettors who cashed any part of this ticket:
It was Classic Causeway’s turf debut. Yes, he has Storm Cat breeding, which is good for turf, but his connections appeared to be taking a shot to see if their horse would like the turf. Classic Causeway, along with Tiz the Bomb, had run in the Kentucky Derby on dirt and been nowhere near the money. That’s why he had such a big price. But he benefitted from something that occurred before the race.
Classic Causeway is a speed horse. He was expected to lock horns with Emmanuel and be compromised, allowing Nation’s Pride and Stone Age to run him down late. They were the two most established turf horses in the field. But Emmanuel scratched late. Goodbye, speed duel. Classic Causeway got the lead early, and nobody went at him until it was too late.
So Classic Causeway wound up loving the turf, avoided a speed duel because of the scratch, and finished ahead of two horses who figured to run well. Some bettors likely took the logical turf horses with a few others in separate $1 trifecta boxes, each of which cost $6. If one of those boxes included Classic Causeway, that was the ticket to riches.
Grand Sonata was not an easy one to get. He had been beaten by Napoleonic War earlier in the year in the Transylvania Stakes. But he was able to turn the tables and hit the board here.
That wasn’t easy to predict, but hey, if it was easy, everybody would win.
Good luck this week.