Los Alamitos Horse Betting Meet Kicks Off This Weekend

Here’s a twin bill Ernie Banks would have appreciated.

Los Alamitos Race Course, one of California’s four premier horse betting venues, summons the spirit of doubleheaders — a specialty item the Chicago Cubs legend loved — in a rare package of afternoon and evening racing Sept. 17-18 and Sept. 24-25.

It’s the horse racing version  of “Let’s Play Two,” a phrase Banks issued during an age when MLB doubleheaders were common. They are quite rare now. And oh, how Dodgers fans would love seeing this team play a one-admission pair.

Single-admission doubleheaders are all but extinct.

Except in Cypress.

The horse racetrack sandwiched between Anaheim and Long Beach launches its seven-day fall meet on Friday at 1 p.m.

On Saturday, it’s the first double dip. The card starts at 12:30 p.m. and features the $75,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes at 1 mile. The racing may end around 5:30 and 30 or so minutes later, boom, here comes the nightcap.

Now it’s the 300-, 350-, 400-yard races, along with 4 1/2-furlong affairs. These are the sprints, a totally different dynamic than the afternoon distance races. 

The schedule repeats Sunday, with the Dark Mirage Stakes at 1 1/16 miles producing the afternoon feature. And then comes the night-time show.

The Los Alamitos Special headlines the Sept. 24 card and the 6 1/2-furlong Capote Stakes unfolds on Sept. 25.

Bettors can access the action at the track or via the TVG app. They can even utilize a TVG deposit window on the grounds.

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Los Alamitos Race Course Details

Admission is generally $3, but one price covers both cards according to Orlando Gutierrez, the marketing director for Los Alamitos Race Course.

Gamblers can make it a full day.

“We see a lot of our great, loyal people out here taking in both cards and this is also something the trainers and the jockeys love,” Gutierrez told California Casinos.

“You can come out here at 9:30 a.m., get your form and start handicapping all the great racing at the East Coast tracks like Churchill Downs and Aqueduct. By about 12:30, you can shift your attention to our thoroughbred program and then the night one comes at you fast and furious.”

The evening program features many 300-, 350-, and 400-yard races, augmented by a 4 1/2-furlong distance that requires horses to navigate a turn. Gutierrez said the track’s 550-yard straightaway is the longest in North America, setting up exciting finishes in the longer races.

Los Alamitos expanded its track to 1 mile in 2014, addressing the closing of Hollywood Park with a surface to entice some longer races.

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More Than a Novelty Racetrack

It’s one thing to enjoy the facility as a bridge between the Del Mar Racetrack and Santa Anita Park meets.

But the track has its own pedigree in the quarter horse-racing world. Two major events are coming up.

One is the $1 million Golden State Million Futurity on Oct. 30. The second is the $2 million Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 11, which  creates a benchmark.

“Whenever the Breeders’ Cup is not in California, we have the richest race in all of California,” Gutierrez said.

How fitting. Del Mar and Santa Anita are renown for their deep horse-racing history.

And Los Al is the nation’s quarter-horse king.

The Los Alamitos meet is the perfect program to link the just-completed Del Mar meet with the fall Santa Anita schedule, which begins Sept. 30.

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A Look Back at Del Mar

It was a strong meet for the famous oval outside of San Diego.

The track featured a slew of nationally televised events, the sport’s biggest trainers and jockeys, and perhaps the Horse of the Year. California bettors will monitor Flightline, who destroyed a talented $1 million TVG Pacific Classic field, to see if he can complete a magical season at the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 5.

Juan Hernandez ran away with the riding title.

Perennial champ Flavien Prat went east to tackle the Saratoga circuit, leaving the door open for Del Mar riding supremacy. Hernandez emphatically shut it.

He essentially wired the field, finishing with 49 victories to Umberto Rispoli’s 27. Hernandez won five graded stakes at the summer meet, including Saturday’s Grade II John Mabee Stakes aboard Avenue de France.

The trainer’s title became a dead heat. Bob Baffert and Phillip D’Amato slugged it out the whole way before finishing at 19 wins each. Baffert trailed by one, but tied it with a win by Cave Rock in the Del Mar Futurity, his last mount.

It was D’Amato’s third summer title at Del Mar and fourth overall. He had one more chance with Flint Stroll in the 11th and last race of the day, and meet, and finished third.

D’Amato shared the title with Richard Baltas in 2017 and won the fall meet title last year. For Baffert, it’s his first title at Del Mar since 2003 when he capped a streak of seven consecutive titles.

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The final day had a reasonable Pick 6 carryover of $166,281.11.

That’s not bad considering the last mandatory payout had occurred just one week earlier.

It will be interesting to see if Del Mar continues the three mandatory Pick 6 days moving forward. That’s up from two last year. On one hand, the mandatory payout spikes the handle on the day it is distributed. It’s a good short-term pop for a given Saturday.

On the other, if it is allowed to build up further, the payout can be bulging at the seams and become the subject of a titanic betting snowball at the end.

Del Mar had a far bigger number on its first payout on Aug. 6, with a carryover of more than half a million entering the payout day. Bettors swarmed in on the distribution day and put several million dollars more into the pot.

Neither the second nor third mandatory payout carryover came close to the first one. 

Gulfstream Park in Florida, for instance, has a longer meet than Del Mar and has perhaps one fewer distribution day. It usually disperses a final payout in the neighborhood of $3-5 million and waits until one day after the big races. The track will gain a substantial amount of handle on Florida Derby day. Rather than pay out the pot then, it waits one day, hoping to cajole additional business. It has worked for them in the past.

These are interesting choices for the tracks.

And as they ponder those decisions, California bettors turn the page.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for California Casinos, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018.