I really enjoy watching and betting on two-year old racing this time of year. High profile owners and trainers debut their best stock at Saratoga, Del Mar, etc., and you have a chance to see potential stars when they start their racing careers. Like watching Lebron James in high school, I suppose. I put a bet on such a runner this weekend, and while she ran a decent second, she was no match for a horse who had run earlier in the year. No big deal, I win some, I lose some, but I wanted to see how often first time starters win generally. I usually don’t bet first timers, but felt good about this one. Well, in racing through July 24 at Saratoga and Del Mar this summer, first time starters have won 3 of 18 maiden special weight races (16%). That’s not a huge sample size, granted, but I think it’s safe to say racing experience in maiden races is, if not critical, a huge advantage. Yes, first time starters do win, but a race is different from anything else a young Thoroughbred has been asked to do, and even the most talented ones don’t win first out. Just ask American Pharoah, Arrogate, California Chrome, Point Given, Sunday Silence and Secretariat, among many others. There’s also the case of horses who have had several starts, and have yet to win, and that’s where our ability as handicappers comes in, to decide when a horse has had enough chances, and doesn’t deserve our wager. Bottom line, prior racing experience is invaluable in maiden races.
A horse who did win first out, and one of my favorites of the last ten years or so, is 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky. He was such a consistent and versatile runner and won two Eclipse Awards. He’s also the sire of Accelerate, who scored one of the biggest upsets in recent racing history over the weekend, beating five cents on the dollar favorite Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap (Gr. 2) at Del Mar. Lookin At Lucky has just needed that “big horse” to really make it as a stallion, and maybe Accelerate will be it. He also had Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee this year. His foals are much like him: smart, game, versatile, and for $17,500, you’re getting a lot of class for the money.
So, Arrogate got beat, running a pretty flat fourth. He burned almost $2.5 million in bets in the process. Maybe he simply needed the race? It had been four months since he last ran. Either way, the Pacific Classic becomes a lot more interesting now, right? And you know, he may not be crazy about Del Mar, but the Breeders’ Cup is at Del Mar this year, so….stay tuned.
Lady Eli is amazing. She was a Breeders’ Cup winner at 2, and was undefeated through her three-year-old year before contracting laminitis. She recovered, and may be as good as ever, as her race last weekend in the Diana (Gr. 1) at Saratoga showed. Fifth after six furlongs, she made a furious rally past two excellent race mares in the last quarter-mile, and got up to win. More on Lady Eli here, she’s something else
The first two finishers of the opening day feature at Saratoga, the Schuylerville (Gr.3) for two-year-old fillies, ran without Lasix. While more trainers are choosing to run their two-year-olds without Lasix, it’s still much more common to use the medication, so that Schuylerville result is noteworthy. more on Lasix here, but this just scrapes the surface of the topic
Awesome day of racing this Sunday at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Come for the 50th running of the Haskell, stay for the other four excellent graded stakes races. The Haskell looks like a pretty competitive race, with Belmont runner-up Irish War Cry the 5-2 favorite, and Chad Brown’s undefeated Timeline the 3-1 second choice. It’s a million dollars on the line, and NBC is covering it Sunday. Good stuff.
At Saratoga Saturday, the Preakness winner Cloud Computing takes on the Kentucky Derby champ Always Dreaming in the Jim Dandy Stakes. Who was Jim Dandy you ask? He beat 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox in that year’s Travers Stakes at odds of 100-1. Neither Cloud Computing or Always Dreaming will be that high of a price, but with both in the race, you should get decent betting value on each. And yes, 6/5 or even money on either of those is decent betting value.
Last thing. I’m mostly a Thoroughbred racing fan, it’s what I was first exposed to when I was getting into horse racing, and the sport I know the most about. Recently though, I’ve really gotten into Quarter Horse racing from Los Alamitos (shout out to a legend in Ed Burgart, who retires in 2018) and harness racing from venues like the Red Mile, the Meadowlands and Hoosier Park. In fact, the $1 million Hambletonian is set for next Saturday at the Meadowlands, and should be a great race. Hambletonian history All of this said because equine athletes are some of the best in the world, and I’m in awe every time I see them run, whatever breed they are. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a day at the track, or gone to a farm, you owe it to yourself, whether you’re a huge racing fan, like betting and drinking or just find being around animals to be time well spent.
“To get from New York City to Saratoga, you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years.” Red Smith, sportswriter and racing fan
Enjoy the racing this weekend, check out the Haskell on NBC Sunday (check local listings, it’s at 5 eastern) and good luck!