As you know by the weather outside, summer is here, and with it comes the annual Northern California Fairs racing season. With the rotating venues that start with the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet this week come several factors horseplayers should consider to optimize wagering value.
The takeout rates are not the same as what you see at Golden Gate. According to HANA (Horseplayers Association of North America), the takeout on Win/Place/Show bets is 16.77% as opposed to 15.43% at Golden Gate. Other increases in takeout include two-horse exotic wagers (24.02% vs. 22.68%), three or more horse exotics (25% vs. 23.68%), and the biggest change – the Pick Five (25% compared to the reduced 14% rate at Golden Gate). Choose your wagers wisely.
Moving to dirt from the Golden Gate synthetic Tapeta surface will lead to many form reversals. Give an extra look to horses based and training regularly over dirt surfaces. The surface change could provide overlays for the conscious horseplayer.
Look for trainers to try and make an impact when racing in their home towns. For instance, Jeff Bonde is from the Pleasanton area and many of his owners live nearby. That stable points to the Pleasanton meet each year, especially with well-meant two-year-olds. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
With Russell Baze now retired, look for Abel Cedillo and Juan Hernandez to be at or near the top of the jockey standings throughout the summer.
If you like to play on closing days when there are mandatory payouts in the Pick Six, Super High Five, and Pick Five, check closely going meet to meet as those pools are not necessarily paid out at the completion of each meet and could carry on to the next fair stop.
Be prepared for changes in the wagering menus from one fair stop to the next.
With two weeks left in a meet that started way back on Dec. 26, there are a few factors that could influence trainer intention as far as placement before races end on the 4th of July.
With no turf racing during the two week run at Los Alamitos, July 6-16, expect there to be more opportunities to get one last start on the local grass prior to the start of Del Mar on July 19. Horsemen figure to fill the entry box when it comes to the grass races the next two weeks. Note that a strong speed bias showed up in the turf routes last week when the weather heated up. Watch to see if this trend continues this week since warm weather is forecast throughout the week.
On the other side of that coin, owners and trainers are looking for horses to compete for the large purses at Del Mar. The Claim Box has been busier than normal the last few weeks and that demand should only increase the final two weeks at the Arcadia track. Horsemen know horses aggressively spotted during the next two weeks are likely to be claimed. Horseplayers should be aware that if a horse looks too good, it could simply be connections trying to dispose of damaged goods. After all, who wants to give up a live competitive runner right before the start of the Del Mar meet?
In other words, owner and trainer intent during the final days of Santa Anita becomes an even more important handicapping factor than usual.
Flavien Prat is the current Santa Anita leading rider with 34 wins, but he has withdrawn the appeal of a May suspension and will serve those three days this week (June 23-25). Prat was also handed a four-day suspension for his ride aboard that resulted in a disqualification of Spooky Woods from third in the Grade II Summertime Oaks last Saturday, and those days will be served the final four days of the meet July 1-4. That leaves the door wide open as far leading jockey goes, with Rafael Bejarano (31 wins), Joe Talamo (30 wins), and apprentice Evin Roman (28) having the best chance to take over the top spot.
There is a single ticket Pick Six Jackpot carryover of $176,727 going into Friday’s card.
Santa Anita, Friday, Race 8 – Rafter One (No. 9): Three-year-old ran off early going one mile when fitted with blinkers June 10. He is fit as he shortens back to a sprint, draws the outside post, and gets a rider switch to Kent Desormeaux. Look for rating tactics for a youngster bred to be a sprinter.