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Handicapping News and Notes Santa Anita February 5

Week six of the winter meet at Santa Anita concluded on Sunday with a sloppy main track and no turf racing for the weekend. The Arcadia oval was pelted with rain throughout the weekend and it took its toll on everything from poor attendance, short fields due to numerous scratches, and lots of “chalk” on the mandatory payout of the pick six on Saturday. The track had hoped for a $10 million pot with the mandatory payout but ended up with $6.8 million in the total pool. There were 18,742 winning tickets in the sequence and the payout for the 20 cent wager was a meager $296.30. There were 3 winning favorites in the sequence and two of them were odds on. The pool started over on Sunday and the c/o into Thursday’s program is $28,086. Thursday and Friday look clear but there is some rain in the forecast for Saturday, but nothing like we had this past weekend. Through six weeks of the meet, favorites are winning at 33% here, which is the national average.

They only ran two stakes over the weekend due to the rain and the other two were re-scheduled for this Saturday for the turf, the San Marcos for older runners at 9 furlongs, and the Baffle stakes, for sophomores down the hill. The two that were left was the Robert Lewis stakes for 3 year olds, a prep for the Santa Anita Derby, and the San Pasqual, for older horses and a prep for the Santa Anita Handicap. Baffert’s Mucho Gusto, a Turfdom Best Bet, easily won the “Lewis”, but after the late scratch of Nolo Contesto, he really didn’t beat much in the process. Only five ran and he rated nicely for Talamo just off the pace, and went on to win by five in the good time of 1:41.81 over a sealed track that was playing on the fast side. He still looks to be a second stringer for Baffert with Game Winner and Improbable being his best sophomores for Kentucky at this point. “Gusto” paid $3.20 to win and won like a 3 to 5 shot should win. In the San Pasqual, the “gutty” Battle of Midway outdueled the favored McKinzie, who was 1 to 2, and beat him by a half length at the wire. The winner paid $6.80 to win for Hollendorfer and the difference was that “Midway” was on the outside of the favorite down the lane. Battle of Midway is very sharp right now, tries hard every race, but 9 furlongs is his max when it comes to distance. The 10 furlongs of the Big Cap will be a challenge for him. The runner up also seems to have distance limitations as well. 

With the two turf stakes carried over from last weekend, the track will run four stakes this Saturday. Along with the San Marcos and the Baffle, both on the turf, the track will have the 7 furlong San Vicente for three year olds. Baffert’s Coliseum, who ran so poorly in his last race after missing the start, will be the favorite and heads up that field on the main track. He worked a bullet six furlongs under Mike Smith in 1:12.20 last Wednesday, and if he gets out of the gate, will be tough to beat.  The other Grade 2 stakes for Saturday will be the Thunder Road, a mile on the turf for older runners. Let’s hope the rain holds off and those 3 turf stakes do run. Then on Sunday they have the Las Virgines, a Grade 2 at a mile on the main track for soph fillies, and the Grade 3 Sweet Life stakes, a sprint down the hill for soph fillies.

A British company called Colossus Bets has obtained a operating license in the state of Oregon and hopes to offer a new wager to the U.S. tracks with a cash out option on multi race wagers. The cash out option has been available in other countries for quite some time and has become increasingly more popular. The Stronach Group, which owns and operates at least half of the race tracks in this country is very interested, and so am I. The way the cash out option works is that the track will buy back your ticket if you are alive in a multi-race wager with one or more legs remaining. How many times have you been alive in a pick four, a pick five, or a pick six, and not feel very good about the remaining legs, maybe due to a track bias that has developed, or some late scratches that affect the pace of the race. Now the track will buy your ticket and you will still show a profit should you take the cash out option. The track assumes the risk of the wager and the percentages are all figured into the payout. With sports wagering becoming more and more popular in this country (it’s on the ballot for 2020 in California), racing has to do more to keep its existing customers. This would be good for horse racing, stay tuned.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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