We Like Big Fields And We Cannot Lie — Weekend Lineups At Gulfstream And Aqueduct Are Ripe With Potential

Written By Dave Bontempo on December 10, 2021 - Last Updated on December 31, 2021
Stakes races at Aqueduct Park

Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct Race Track delivered a pair of eye-opening payouts in their respective stakes races last weekend. Here comes another Saturday Fecta-cular. (See what we did there?)

Horse-racing bettors have two distinct wagering avenues regarding loaded programs at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida, and Aqueduct Racetrack in New York. Gulfstream has a noon EST post time for its 11-race card. Aqueduct’s nine-race program begins at 12:20 EST.

Across both tracks, some races provide medium-sized fields and the opportunity to hone in on a favorite for a win bet. Alternatively, a second betting option is to hit long shots with potentially large returns.

Most races have large fields, the prospect of enormous payouts and difficulty separating the ability level of the horses. This encourages wagers like 10-cent superfecta boxes, 50-cent trifecta boxes and some betting with “keyed” horses that cover a large group of betting entries inexpensively. Both tracks also delivered a monumental payout last week, which deserves a second look.

Let’s unpack all this.

Gulfstream Park stakes report

Here are the leading jockeys and trainers at Gulfstream Park as of Dec. 8.

  • Paco Lopez, nine wins, $398,855 earnings
  • Edgar Zayas, six wins, $296,628
  • Tyler Gaffalione, four wins, $160,200. Gaffalione has an excellent in-the-money-performance mark. He has finished first, second or third in 14 of 22 mounts.
  • Edwin Gonzalez is next with three wins but has $214,474 earnings.

Top Trainers

Saffie Joseph Jr. is off to a big lead with five winners and $305,398. He’s had the most entries by far — 29 in all. Defending training champion Todd Pletcher has been an infrequent presence thus far. Watch for him in bigger races. His horses always merit consideration.

Last week, we mentioned the Joseph-Zayas trainer-jockey connection, along with Paco Lopez, who has won eight straight riding titles at Monmouth Park. We thought that would be a good place to focus on handicapping.

All had a banner weekend. Lopez and Zayas are leading the way among jockeys, and Joseph towers above other trainers thus far. The Joseph-Zayas connection remains hot.

On Thursday, Joseph Jr. saddled three straight winners, Spectacular Gal ($4.40) in Race 6, Amazing Trip ($9.80) in Race 7 and Running Legacy ($7.80) in Race 8.

Zayas rode three winners, scoring aboard Buenisimo ($7.40) in Race 3, Spectacular Gal and Amazing Trip.

This is a potent wagering angle on one race. What about a multitude of them?

There is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow

The 20-cent Rainbow 6 gross jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $300,000 at Gulfstream Park on Friday after going unsolved for the fifth racing day in a row Thursday. Bettors must pick the winners of six consecutive races.

The Rainbow 6 sequence will span races 4-9 on Friday. It is usually the final six races on every Saturday card. The Rainbow 6 jackpot is paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70% of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30% is carried over to the jackpot pool.
Should the Pick 6 not be paid out Friday, it will roll into Saturday. It can snowball to a million dollars in a couple of weeks.

The carryover historically reaches seven figures at various junctures of the meet. There are occasional mandatory payouts throughout the meet. They occur on the weekends and attract significant betting attention because the entire pool is paid out regardless of whether anyone picks the winner of all six races.

Bettors delight: The Gulfstream long shot

Big fields have been leading to big payoffs in the early races of Saturday cards for at least the last couple of seasons. It happened again on opening week.

The returns from Saturday’s opener saw Benefactor triumph at 10-1. Farley was second at 24-1. Poco Charlie rolled in third at 5-1. Inclusive rounded out the top four at 5-1.

The $1 trifecta paid $3,650. The $1 superfecta returned a whopping $32,497.

We can often look back on a race and find an angle that may have enabled some bettors to back into a payout (like keying a favorite first and second with major long shots.). But not this time. Hats off to anyone coming even close to this one.

Betting methods to consider in a big field, in which you believe long shots are prominent: a 10-cent superfecta box with five horses costs $12. A 10-cent superfecta box with six horses costs $36.

Aqueduct Race Track stakes races

With 46 stakes races worth nearly $6 million in purses, the 56-day winter meet opened Thursday, Dec. 9, and will run through Sunday, March 27.  The general overview is a Thursday-Sunday lineup through February, with a Friday-Sunday schedule in March.

Jockey Irad Ortiz has been suspended for 30 days for what’s considered overly aggressive riding last weekend. He will have a limited presence in New York for the immediate future (but should be prominent at Gulfstream).

Here are the jockeys and trainers who will get betting attention, based on the fall meet statistics below.

Top jockeys as of Dec. 5

  • Luis Saez 17 victories
  • Jose Lezcano 17 victories
  • Dylan Davis 16 wins
  • Manny Franco 12 victories
  • Javier Castellano 11 victories

Leading trainers

  • Todd Pletcher 13 wins
  • Christopher Clement 11 wins
  • Chad Brown 11 wins

Saturday preview

The collections won’t be easy to amass, but there are prices galore up for the taking on Saturday. The nine-race card contains fields so loaded that most have double-digit entries.

Betting considerations

  • Win. Hit the win line on any horse you like in the big fields. It will pay well.
  • 10-cent superfecta boxes. A five-horse box costs $12 and gives a bettor five entries to try hitting the top four spots.
  • Want to squeeze in one more horse? Pick the right one, a key, and put him in the first and second position with five other horses.
  • 50-cent trifecta box. Pick four horses for $12 and hit a payout when three of them finish.

The featured race on Saturday is the $100,000 Garland of Roses stakes.

  • Glass Ceiling, with Dylan Davis aboard, is considered the early 6-5 favorite.
  • Call On Mischief, ridden by Lezcano, is 5-1.
  • Song Rice, with Castellano in the irons, is 7-2.

No odds will be final until post time.

Aqueduct: Bookend bombs create financial fireworks

Aqueduct had a similar bombs-away blast for a Superfecta Slam on Sunday. The winner and fourth-place horses, both long shots, were coupled with the second and third-place horses, who were relatively short priced. The long shots acted like bookends, cradled around the short-priced horses in the middle of the superfecta.

Check out this bonanza from Race 9

  • Justintimeforwine triumphed at 50-1.
  • Tackle was second at 4-1.
  • Brazillionaire hit the third slot at 5-2.
  • Mr. Fidget squirmed his way into the fourth spot, by a nose, at odds that were listed at 90-1.

The $1 trifecta paid $557.50. The $1 superfecta returned just shy of $18,000.

What happened: Justintimeforwine, the early speed, set fractions that looked impossible to sustain. He ran the quarter-mile in 22.73, the half-mile in 46.62 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.91. It looked like there was no way this speed horse could prevail in 1 1/16 miles. And indeed, the stalkers came up to him in the homestretch. But somehow, he pulled away to triumph.

When one looks back, was there the argument of the Aqueduct inner turf favoring speed? Not necessarily, when you consider that Mr. Fidget came from dead last to get fourth place in a photo finish.

The big money hit with Mr. Fidget’s improbable rally: a superfecta with 50-1 on top and 90-1 fourth. One of the 5-2 co-favorites ran out of the money.

Why it was conceivable: In a 12-horse field with the favorites at 5-2, there was no short-price horse hitting the board. It was a matter of getting lucky with the right long shot.

How some bettors could have backed into it: Taking two of the shorter-priced horses, Brazillionaire and Tackle, in separate $1 trifecta boxes. Hopefully, the 50-1 long shot was on one of them.

Takeaway: When you see a 12-horse field and the favorite is above 2-1, there’s a lot of money coming. The only question is whether you can grab it.

Photo by AP | Bill Kostroun
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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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