As we sit mired in the oppresive heat that Louisiana summers usually bring, a refreshing change is coming.
No, I'm sorry folks... no cool fronts will be visiting our area anytime soon but I speak of the opening of both Delmar in California and Saratoga in New York.
Usually when these two meetings get going, I get pumped up because these two tracks by far have the deepest races in terms of talent and also provide ample opportunities to make some serious cash. Handicapping these two tracks from my perspective is a unique challenge because, when you look at the body of races that these two tracks will offer, it tests your wares as a handicapper. I embrace the challenge and am very much looking forward to both meets.
Delmar opens up on Wednesday where great depth of top tier fields will grace us in their 72nd racing season. The one thing that truly stands out to me is the view of the Pacific Ocean. From where the racetrack is positioned, the ocean is right there. Hence, the catchphrase that Delmar uses thanks to Bing Crosby: "Where the Surf Meets the Turf at Old Delmar."
I have never been to Delmar but if the opportunity ever presents itself (mainly hitting tomorrow night's Powerball jackpot in excess of 100 million dollars) then I would be happy just to say I can spend a day at this beautiful racetrack. Where else can you say that you can bet on great racing and afterwards walked over to take a dip on the beach? That is the equivalent of racing and summer paradise at least from the Calfornia point of view.
Looking into the upcoming season at Delmar, over these next 37 racing days there will be a litany of races with major importance as we head towards the Breeders Cup this fall at Santa Anita. The centerpiece race of this meeting is the Pacific Classic, a million dollar race for older horses. You can possibly see Game On Dude who was second in last year's Breeders Cup Classic as a headliner in that spot.
As far as the jockey's race is concerned, the complexion of it took an interesting turn a few weeks ago. Perennial leading rider Joel Rosario will be in New York this summer instead. That move opens it up for guys like Rafael Bejarano who has been on fire lately and Joe Talamo, a Marrero, La. native. Those two are part of an extraordinarily deep jockey colony which is usually the case at prestigious meets such as this one.
All-in-all it should be a great meet with plenty of excitement and great racing at Delmar.
Shifting coasts we look to Friday which will mark the opening day of Saratoga's 144th racing season. Before i dive into the details of the meeting, let me offer up my thoughts of why Saratoga is a great place to attend races. Like Delmar, I have never been to Saratoga but their atmosphere is completely different than Delmar. Whereas you have the heachfront laid back vibe on the West Coast, at Saratoga their vibe is akin to a country club atmosphere. The location of Saratoga is in a rural setting and offers up a relaxing kind of feel.
The one thing that has been tagged on Saratoga from a racing perspective is that the track is home to the "Graveyard of Favorites." As a handicapper, I couldnt agree more; my strategies for every season at Saratoga is simply to find value. Of course, I would do that anywhere but with the high betting volume that Saratoga has, the opportunities abound for nice scores.
Over the next 40 days of the Saratoga meet which runs through Labor Day, there will be great racing with the centerpiece race, the Travers, known as the midsummer version of the Kentucky Derby. With I'll Have Another and Union Rags both sidelined, it will be interesting to see who can step up.
The jockey colony like Delmar is exceptionally deep with top-tier riders such a Ramon Dominguez and Javier Castellano and also the addition of Joel Rosario. Expect one heck of a race for the riding title. Rosie Napravnik is a sleeper who has been on a roll at Belmont and is one to watch as well.
Another thing to watch from both Delmar and Saratoga is the two-year old racing where we could potentially see future stars of our sport. That aspect to me is exciting as well to watch.
Overall, this time of the year for a horse racing fan and handicapper such as myself is a horse racing summer paradise. It should be a lot of fun.
Who knows? Perhaps a Travers exacta box for my good friend Ed Daniels could be in the offing as well.
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