Big names occupy one end of the horse racing spectrum on Saturday. Big fields occupy the other.
Between those two ends, opportunities abound for nationwide bettors, who can access the best of the industry via TVG.
Here’s a look at a few industry highlights coast to coast, along with our weekly “Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots.”
Big names in the East
Line ’em up at Saratoga
Here comes the Jim Dandy, and this field is loaded. That’s why it has only six participants.
Epicenter is in. He’s due for a major victory after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Talk about a dilemma: The Kentucky Derby was, in a sense, too long, at 1 1/4 miles. Just as he was putting away from Zandon and ensuring victory, Rich Strike came from nowhere to steal the race from him at 80-1.
Two weeks later, he runs in the Preakness. This is a little shorter at 1 3/16 miles. And he ran out of real estate. Epicenter was held back way too long before making a move, and he finished second to Early Voting, who had the early lead.
Now we go to 1 1/8 miles at the Jim Dandy. Early Voting will probably get the early lead again. Epicenter has less track to work with, and he must be pushed sooner rather than later. That’s the backdrop of the Early Voting-Epicenter rematch.
Zandon was right there in the Derby, making a strong late move. He should contend again in the Jim Dandy.
Tawny Port was seventh in the Derby, running better than most expected. Western River finished a beaten fourth in the Peter Pan but was running well late on a sloppy track. There are fewer horses here, so maybe he’ll get a better trip and that will get him in it.
Top horses from the Jim Dandy will appear at the $1.25 million Travers on Aug. 27.
Recent lessons about parity
This is not a 1 + 1 = 2 or an A + B = C year in the horse racing industry. It’s recent nuance, not even recent form, that’s showing the way in big races.
Take the Haskell last weekend at Monmouth Park, for example. The celebrated Taiba and the oft-beaten Cyberknife thundered down the homestretch together in this $1 million race. Both had overtaken Jack Christopher, the 4-for-4 favorite who, it turned out, could not stretch out to 1 1/8 miles.
Taiba had beaten Cyberknife easily enough in the Kentucky Derby. From a class perspective, he should have won from here. And he gave a great effort. But Cyberknife nudged him at the wire and set a track record in doing so.
Even when a horse does everything asked, as Taiba did, another horse can find a groove and set a record.
In this year of parity, no horse appears capable of being dominant. That’s why bettors feel comfortable going against the favorite and playing a particular angle
Big names, West Coast
Some familiar faces dot the landscape at Del Mar, home to a couple of big Saturday races just outside of San Diego, Calif.
Country Grammer, who won the $12 million Dubai World Cup in March, returns as the 5-2 favorite to win the $300,000 San Diego Handicap.
These are excellent betting odds, as are the 4-1 chances given Royal Ship and Mandaloun and the 5-1 assigned There Goes Harvard, who triumphed at 1 1/4 miles in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
Tripoli has two excellent performances at Del Mar. He finished second in this race last year and then won the TVG Pacific Classic. If he runs to that form, 6-1 will be a supremely nice price on him.
Value is dripping all over the win line because oddsmakers can’t predict which horse is about to run a big race.
The $400,000 Bing Crosby is intriguing too.
Shaaz is the lukewarm favorite at 7-2 after getting third in the Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star.
Desmond Doss, 10-1, comes off a six-furlong win in the Thor’s Echo at Santa Anita.
American Theorem, 4-1, beat Principe Carlo (6-1) and Get Her Number (10-1) in the Triple Bend, Grade 2 at Santa Anita.
Around the U.S.
Here’s a quick look at the action happening at other tracks around the nation.
Monmouth Park has at least one good-sized race every weekend.
Saturday, it’s the Tyro Stakes for $100,000, on turf. It has a field of seven. Turf races also abound in races seven and nine. There are also double-digit field sizes with racing levels as low as $5,000. This is when “looks” players (who pick up a clue by watching a horse’s body language in the post parade) may thrive. At this level, it’s easy to be skeptical of the favorites.
Laurel Park in Maryland touts an interesting five-race package.
That is made up of the $100,000 Deputed Testamony, the $75,000 Jameela Stakes, the Star DeNaskra, the Miss Disco, and the Ben’s Cat.
Bettors who see the same level of racing on a card may get a feel for hot jockey-trainer combos and how the track is playing.
Gulfstream Park has the $75,000 Bear’s Den and a slew of big fields at a low level. This means potential prices.
In the first race last Saturday, no horse was listed below 4-1. The $ 1 superfecta, for anybody who could nab it, paid $7,639. This means that the track has become long shot heaven, especially in the second and third positions.
That leads us to …
Bombs Away, Salute to Long Shots
Sometimes you can even get this at a high level.
We go to Saratoga for the Caress Stakes last Saturday.
Robin Sparkles won the race at 21-1.
Souper Sensational was second at 8-1, completing an exacta of $443.
Cary Edith was third at 15-1, completing the $1 trifecta of $1,888.
Fourth went to Miss J. McKay at 2-1. The $2 superfecta paid more than $23,000, or $1,150 for the 10-center.
They let Robin Sparkles steal it. The long shot broke alertly to the lead and barely hung on. Fifty more yards and three more horses would have passed her. A brilliant ride by Javier Castellano paved the way for a monster payday.
It also helped bettors that Bout Time, 5-2, and Caravel, 2-1, both ran off the board.
Good luck finding your Bombs Away Long Shots. There are a few in there this week.