The frigid weather along the eastern seaboard has resulted in many cancellations for tracks like Aqueduct, Laurel, and Parx.
Horseplayers are like the old post office delivery men, though. They continue to play through rain, sleet, snow, and the even the mean neighborhood dog.
Right now Santa Anita is a prime beneficiary.
With Aqueduct closed all of last week due to weather, Santa Anita has seen an increase in all sources handle of 16%, including a 23% jump this past Saturday compared to the same Saturday card in 2017.
But that is not the entire story. On track handle is up 9%, and those patrons haven’t had to deal with a blizzard or impossible road conditions to get to the Arcadia track.
Field sizes are averaging almost 9.4 runners per race, giving horseplayers more options for rolling bets like Daily Doubles, Pick Threes, Pick Fours, Pick Fives, and Pick Sixes. The bigger fields also make the in-race wagers like Trifectas and Superfectas more attractive.
Lowering the minimum bet on Trifectas to $.50 has increased the popularity of that wager.
The new late Pick Five, even with the 23.68% takeout, has proven to be a popular addition. The late Pick Five this past Saturday had a handle of $335,147. The player friendly early Pick Five with a 14% takeout handled over $614K the same day, but the handle still signifies the bettors like it.
The biggest benefit Santa Anita may realize from the east coast cancelations is the extra exposure of their product to players back east. California for years has had a reputation of small fields and races that can be dominated by low priced favorites from top trainers.
If the product on the track continues to improve, SoCal may just win back some players that are waiting for the sun to come out back east.
Tracking the 3-Year-Olds
The start of the New Year brings attention to the newly-turned 3-year-olds as they begin their paths to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
Some of the most noteworthy news regarding 3-year-olds this week:
Grade-I Frontrunner Stakes winner Bolt D’Oro will miss his intended 2018 debut in the Feb. 10 Grade-II San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita due to a muscle pull. He is back in full training now but the Mick Ruis trainee can’t afford any other setbacks if he is to get two preps in before the Kentucky Derby.
Springboard Mile winner Greyvitos recently underwent surgery to remove a bone chip in his knee. The hope is the Adam Kitchingman trainee can recover in time to have one prep – The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland are on the radar – prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Ax Man, impressive debut winner at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day for trainer Bob Baffert, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96 and will be pointed to the seven furlong Grade-II San Vicente Stakes Feb. 10.
McKinzie, who won the Grade-I Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity via DQ in December and is also trained by Baffert, removed the blinkers and won the Grade-III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last Saturday handily from just off the pace, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.
Mask, trained by Todd Pletcher, was allowed an easy lead on the way to a daylight win in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.
According to Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free, the top Beyer Speed Figures earned so far by 3-year-olds of 2018 (type of race and track where the number was earned in parenthesis) are:
Bolt D’Oro: 103 (Grade-I, SA)
Strike Power: 102 (MSW, GP)
Good Magic: 101 (Grade-I, DMR)
McKinzie: 99 (MSW, SA)
McKinzie: 97 (Grade-III, SA)
This week’s key 3-year-old prep races are the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday and the Smarty Jones Stakes on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday card next Monday at Oaklawn Park.
New Weekly Contest
As a general rule, horseplayers in Las Vegas are treated as well or better than anywhere else in the nation. Comped Daily Racing Forms, drinks, food, and free handicapping information by top handicappers are among the bonuses for the regular horseplayer participation.
A new addition is the weekly South Point Handicapping Challenge at the South Point Casino. For a $10 buy-in, horseplayers compete for a $500 winner-take-all prize as follows:
Players must make $50 in daily mythical win, place, show, Exacta, and/or Trifecta wagers at tracks designated by the South Point.
The contest runs each Sunday through Friday, and each contestant must play at least three of the six contest days to qualify.
Tracks like Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park figure to be a major part of the contest, but those players who follow tracks like Turf Paradise and Sunland Park on Mondays and Tuesday get their chance, too. You can sign-up as soon as the Saturday prior to each Sunday contest. Give it a try!
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Thursday, Santa Anita, Race 5, The Nine O (post 8). Trainer intention is the angle here. This is one of those new Maiden races restricted to home-breds or horses that sold for $100K or less at auction. The Nine O is a perfect conditions fit since she cost exactly $100K at auction, and this is the first starter for trainer Dan Blacker for the high profile Spendthrift farm. Have to think the barn wants to make a good impression for their new client.