Go Big Or Go Small, But Whatever You Do, Head To The Track This Weekend For Impressive Lineups

Written By Dave Bontempo on July 23, 2022 - Last Updated on July 31, 2022
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This is quite a weekend for horse racing fans and bettors.

There is big-name marquee Saturday racing coming from Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Saratoga in New York, and it’s opening weekend at Del Mar in California. Gamblers expect that.

But there’s also the little-known race track that could, Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, which offers several significant 440-yard races Saturday a $1 million payday for quarter horses on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, Ruidoso’s $1 million Futurity pays the same as the biggest payday of the week, Monmouth Park’s Haskell Stakes.

Who knew?

The national scope of racing presents enormous opportunities to bettors, who can access the action via TVG for afternoon and evening cards.

We’ll also examine our weekly “Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots” segment in this week’s Playfecta weekend panorama.

Monmouth offers an intriguing potpourri

The four major Haskell Stakes horses each have a major strength and a significant concern. That’s what makes this a great handicapping challenge.

Here’s a look at the Haskell, set for 1 1/8 miles.

Jack Christopher

Why you bet him
He’s 4-for-4, winning both with sprints and at 1 mile. He loves to be near the lead and may have it at speed-favoring Monmouth Park. He won impressively in the Woody Stephens, seven furlongs, as a stalker, so he is versatile.

Why you don’t
Two turns is two turns, much different than one; more variables come into play. He must also stretch out to 1 1/8 miles, a task he’s never had to do. If the pace is taxing early, he must prove he can get the added distance.


Why you bet him
Lightly raced. Won the Santa Anita Derby in his second outing. Had Beyer Speed figures above 100 in each of his first two races. The third race was the Kentucky Derby, and he was game for a mile. Only his fourth race. He’s already a major stakes winner. As a stalker, he can benefit from any speed duel. Bob Baffert trains him. Baffert owns the Haskell, with a record nine wins. He’s trying for 10.

Why you don’t
He has to ship. Maybe he doesn’t like Monmouth Park. Maybe 1 mile is his distance, not 1 1/8 miles. Maybe the 11-week layoff since the Kentucky Derby will make him sluggish.

White Abarrio

Why you bet him
He won the Florida Derby, and those graduates are usually well represented. White Abarrio galloped 1 1/4 miles around the Monmouth Park Oval at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday and is sending all the right signals of being ready, according to the connections for this horse.

Why you don’t
He ran a weak 16th in the Kentucky Derby. Always looks like a nice horse but not an explosive powerhouse. He’ll be in many tickets, perhaps just not at the top of many of them. Viable to win, though.


Why you bet him
Back form. He won the Arkansas Derby, a major prep race.

Why you don’t
He then ran 18th in the Kentucky Derby. He did capture the Matt Winn Stakes, barely, and that’s a step down from this. Is recent form better than back class?

Wild card considerations

Howling Time and Cyberknife finished nostrils apart in the Matt Winn. If you take one, you’ll want to consider the other. They both look one notch below the favorites in terms of back class. But they are both a great price.

Saratoga weekend horse racing highlights

Three terrific races mark the Saturday “Fecta-cular” at Saratoga.

First up is the American Oaks, Race 5. More Triple Crown names are on display in this five-horse field. That includes Secret Oath, fourth in the Preakness. It also includes Nest, who ran a solid and game second in the Belmont Stakes. They are both serious chalk.

The field includes Nostalgic, Society, and Butterbean. Nostalgic was 11th in the Kentucky Oaks, won by Secret Oath. Society was second on the Monomoy Overnight Stakes. Butterbean just won the Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadow.

Next up is Race 7, an 88,000 Maiden Special Weights turf race. Nice level, high enough to coax owners’ interest, and a 12-horse field, big enough to pay.

Race 10 is the $200,000 Caress Stakes. It has a field of 10. There could be good prices both on the win line and exotics.

Del Mar: Nighttime is the right time

The fabled California track opens with an excellent weekend, including a stacked Saturday card that starts at 5 p.m. EDT.

The headliner is the $200,000 San Clemente Stakes. It’s 1 mile on the turf. There is no early horse commanding attention, but there is a huge 13-horse field entered in Race 11.

This is great for two reasons. One, it’s a tremendous betting race. Two, this can give handicappers some insight about how the Del Mar turf might play this year, without the presence of rain, of course.

The card has several $80,000 plump fields and much to offer.

Right on Ruidoso

Our readers know about the famous, most publicized tracks. They love to discover little-known establishments that don’t enjoy the same publicity. We found one in New Mexico.

What popped up Saturday and Sunday? A package of races going the classic distance of … wait for it … 400 or 440 yards. Yes, it’s a summit of the quarter horses, a realm unto itself for racing bettors.

Here’s the package.


Race 5 — The 440-yard, $100,000 Rainbow Quarter Horse Invitational.


Race 10 —The 400-yard, $1 million Futurity.

There are several additional races packed with big fields and significant payouts all weekend long.

How to handicap

Racing forms always help. So does looking at several earlier races at these distances to determine a running style that best fits the distance. Any race length, when viewed enough times by a gambler, can be handicapped. The break is significant in these shorter races, but there is little time to recover as opposed to 300-yard sprints.

Handicappers can check out Ruidoso all season long. It runs Friday-Sundays until Sept. 5.

Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots

Here is a look at two races that paid well for bettors, given different circumstances, last Saturday.

The first is a tidy payout at Monmouth, based on the “key” logic we often describe here.

Makin It Look Easy prevailed in the ninth race at 8-1. Zuboshi was second at 3-5. Bahama Pearl was third at 6-1, and Aiken To Belong rounded out the superfecta at 20-1. Zuboshi got to the lead at speed-favoring Monmouth and was nailed just before the wire by Makin It Look Easy. The exacta payout wasn’t bad, $89.60. The $1 trifecta paid $167, and the 10-cent superfecta returned $140.60.

Not huge, but neither was the investment if the right key was established.

The key that worked was putting Zuboshi in the first and second slots in the trifecta or superfecta. Placing him first or second around the others cost only $12, and what else were you going to do with a horse who figured to run in the money and was 3-5?

The other was just crazy and is a hallmark of Gulfstream Park.

Saturday, Race 9.

Royal Harry came off the pace to win at 6-1.

Cross Haste ran a big one and finished second at 60-1. The exacta paid $618.40, deservedly.

Cash It at 5-1 was third, and the $1 trifecta paid $1,823.

Suegaar, 14-1, completed the $2 superfecta for $63,658, the $1 superfecta for $31,829, and the 10-center for $3,183.

Why it paid: Who knew that Little Big, at 9-5, would be caught in a speed duel and run fifth?

Or that Tuna N Stamps, at 5-2, would completely miss the start of the race and run out of the money?

Nobody did. And that, as Robert DeNiro said in the movie “Casino,” is why it paid so well.

Good luck finding your angle this weekend.

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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