Here Comes the Turf Triple — Grass Racing Celebrates Its Own Triple Crown

Written By Dave Bontempo on July 8, 2022 - Last Updated on July 30, 2022
A solo horse running on the wide dirt track at Belmont Park

Turf lovers unite.

This majestic racing style sets the stage for a spectacular summer showcase. Some of that happens this weekend.

A triple crown circuit for fillies and mares headlines Saturday’s card at Belmont Park.

We will preview the unique series, check events from other tracks, monitor new developments for the July 23 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park, and feature our weekly “Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots” in this Playfecta roundup.

Nationwide bettors can access Saturday’s action and a summer-filled series of excellent races via TVG.

The turf series

The $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational serves as a turf version of the Kentucky Derby. It kicks off a three-race summit of the nation’s top horses in a grouping that includes the Saratoga Derby on Aug. 6 in Saratoga and the Caesars Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park. The date for the latter is yet to be determined. Purses for all three are $1 million.

Although it’s a turf super event, bettors will recognize some of the participants from the actual Kentucky Derby, run on dirt, in May. Classic Causeway, who finished 11th in the Run for the Roses, will try to win a big one on turf.

Tiz the Bomb may have real turf credentials. He finished ninth in the Derby but second in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf last November. One of the knocks on him entering the Kentucky Derby was that his better efforts had been on turf. That’s a plus this time.

Bettors will also recognize Emmanuel, who flattened out early in the Road to the Kentucky Derby competition. But he won his turf debut in the $200,000 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park in June. Napoleonic War, also entered in this race, was a closing second.

The natural turf horses who figure to gain substantial play include Stone Age and Nation’s Pride, who finished a respective sixth and eighth in the 1 1/2-mile Epson Derby in Great Britain in June.

This race is loaded with intrigue.

Is Tiz the Bomb a natural turf horse? Do Emmanuel and Napoleonic War have an edge based on a race over the track? How good is the talent of European shippers, who usually dominate high-level American turf races?

There is a legitimate angle for several horses, and value should be prominent in this initial field of 13.

How wide open is the filly race?

Concert Hall, listed as the early 3 -1 favorite, comes off a fourth-place finish in the Pretty Polly Stakes in Ireland.

A favorite who did not win in the last outing, coupled with the shipping angle to Belmont and a wide-open field of 10, will encourage betting from gamblers who like midsized contenders and long shots.

The Belmont Oaks goes off as Race 7. The Caesars Invitational is Race 9. In the filly turf series, the $700,000 Saratoga Oaks unfolds on Aug. 7, and the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks returns to Belmont at a date to be determined.

Here is an overview of variables for Belmont bettors on Saturday. The card starts at 1 p.m. Eastern.

  • Race 4, the Suburban Handicap, is for $400,000 and has a small field of five. Easier to handicap, but the betting must be precise. Bettors may bang one exacta or go heavy on a win play.
  • Race 7, a big field in the Belmont Oaks.
  • Race 8, the Victory Ride Stakes for $150,000. A moderate field of 7.
  • Race 9, a big field in the Belmont Derby.
  • Race 10,  a $75,000 race. A huge field of 12. Some bettors may believe they have a feel for the track at this point and play this one with confidence.

Delaware Park steps up

Delaware Park takes a rare moment in the spotlight with its best package of the season. Its card begins at 12:30 p.m.

Live patrons love the intimate feel of the facility, which has been bolstered in recent years by having a casino on its premises. Although the quality of racing has fallen off under new management this season, this is a true Saturday “Fecta-cular” for the track, its best card of the season.

Races 3-8 will be of particular interest to gamblers. They unfold from 1:30-4 p.m. EDT.

The third is the $100,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes. Race four is a maiden-special weights event with 11 horses: big fields, no clear favorites, and real price potential. The fifth is the $100,000 Dirt Battery Stakes with nine horses. Race 6 is the Robert Dick Memorial Stakes for $200,000 with 10 entries.

And then comes the biggie, the $500,000 Delaware Handicap with a field of seven.

Early morning-line status went to Miss Leslie and Battle Bling, who locked horns in the Obeah Stakes last month at Delaware. Miss Leslie prevailed by half a length. It’s hard to separate these two.

An interesting aspect of any big race is that owners and trainers may take a stab at it whether their horse appears ready or not.

Witness the case of Mandaloun last week in the Stephen Foster. He’s the Kentucky Derby winner from 2021 — favored in the field — and ran a dull fourth.

That’s why these races sometimes pay more than one might think. The favorite isn’t always ready.

Delaware concludes its Saturday Six Pack with a 12-horse field in a low-level $16,000 race.

Castillo is recuperating at Monmouth Park

According to Dr. Angelo Chinnici, the track’s medical director, Isaac Castillo, the second-leading rider at Monmouth Park, will miss “two to three weeks” with a cervical injury following a spill.
Castillo was injured when the Gregg Sacco-trained Insatiable took a wrong step and stumbled in Sunday’s ninth race, pitching Castillo forward onto the turf course. He was taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune City for X-rays, which revealed a cervical injury.

Chinnici said orthopedic specialists would closely monitor Castillo during his recovery.
The spill came a day after Castillo set a personal best with six winners on the Monmouth Park card. He is second in the Monmouth Park jockey standings with 30 winners, eight behind leading rider Paco Lopez.

Haskell news from Monmouth

Nineteen horses were nominated to the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes on Saturday, July 23, at Monmouth Park, including a pair from nine-time winning trainer Bob Baffert, racing secretary John F. Heims announced.

Baffert, who last won the Haskell Stakes in 2020 with Authentic, nominated Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba and Pinehurst. Earlier this year, Baffert assigned different trainers to handle several of his horses to comply with racing-commission suspensions he is fighting and/or serving.

According to Dennis Drazin, the head of Monmouth Park operator Darby Development, Baffert has now cleared protocol with racing commissions and would be eligible to run at Monmouth if he chooses. Drazin said Baffert had not made an indication either way.

Baffert’s name still rings magically in New Jersey. American Pharoah, trained by Baffert, helped establish a Monmouth Park record attendance of 60,983 for the 2015 Haskell, which he won.

Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting, Florida Derby winner White Abarrio, Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife, Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon, and unbeaten Jack Christopher — who has won a pair of Grade 1 races for trainer Chad Brown — were among the nominations for the 55th edition of the $1 million Haskell Stakes.

Trainer Rodolphe Brisset nominated Peter Pan Stakes winner We the People, Western River, and Kuchar to the Haskell.

One way or another, it will be a loaded field.

Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots

We stay at Monmouth Park, which delivered three superfectas exceeding $66,000 (for a $2 payout) in races 6, 7, and 9.

The biggest was Race 7.
Mercury Heat prevailed at 7-1.
Bahama Pearl was second at 42-1, completing the $569.
Third went to Ofalltheginjoints at 6-5. He completed a $1 trifecta payout of $918 after losing in a photo for second.
Fourth was Twisted Peers at 15-1.

The $2 super paid $25,125, or $12,562 for the $1 version and $1,256 for the 10-center.

Where the money was: Bahama Pearl in second at a huge price and Twisted Peers in fourth at a solid number.

How some bettors may have cashed: A little bit of luck. Boxing five horses in a 10-cent super costs $12. That would have given gamblers half the field here.

Some bettors who took two favorites and the right three long shots could have backed into this. It would have been frustrating for the “key” players, who might have taken the favorite in the first and second slots. He lost the photo for second.

Otherwise, you couldn’t feel bad if you weren’t near this one.

Earlier races in this financial explosion included Race 6, with a $2 superfecta of $25,125 and Race 9, which paid $21,968.

It’s expensive to play the $1 and $2 supers, but their payouts indicate how the 10-centers, which can be played for much less, can return a lot for a small investment.

Good luck with the races this weekend.

Saturday offers an outstanding product.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

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