Two Breeders’ Cup Berths at Stake at Santa Anita Park This Weekend

The road to the Breeders’ Cup again passes through Santa Anita Park in another loaded California horse race betting weekend.

The famed Southern California oval hosts a pair of “Win and You’re In” challenge events on Saturday, bringing the winner an all-expenses-paid  erth in the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 4-5 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.

Racing at Santa Anita unfolds Friday through Monday this weekend.

The Friday, Sunday, and Monday cards are sandwiched around a blockbuster Saturday program.

Friday highlights include a nine-race card with big fields in races 1, 6, and 9. It starts at 1 p.m. There are five turf races.

Sunday’s highlights:

  • Zuma Beach Stakes (Grade 3), 2-year-olds, 1 mile (turf) – $200,000
  • Surfer Girl Stakes (Grade 3), 2-year-old fillies, 1 mile (turf) – $200,000
  • Swingtime Stakes, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 mile (turf) – $80,000

Monday’s holiday card is the only Monday on the Santa Anita fall meet.

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Breeders’ Cup Focus on Saturday

Saturday offers a blockbuster 10-race card.

Here are the signature races, which California bettors can access at the track, any of the off-track locations, or via TVG:

  • American Pharoah Stakes (Grade 1), 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles – $300,000 (Win and You’re In)
  • Rodeo Drive Stakes (Grade 1), 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/4 miles (turf) – $300,000
  • Chandelier Stakes (Grade 2), 2 year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles – $200,000 (Win and You’re In)

Besides the big events, Santa Anita offers five excellent turf races with big fields and potentially nice payouts in a card that starts at 1 p.m.

  • Race 1 has 12 horses in a $50,000 maiden-claiming event. That is the perfect breeding grounds for a big betting payoff, as good horses will be overlooked in the large field.
  • Race 3 has 12 entries for a maiden special weights battle.
  • Race 7 has 12 horses in an optional claiming event.
  • Races 9 and 10 have 10-horse fields.

The opportunities are significant, but the choices are enormous and can get expensive.

Here are some betting methods — beyond the win and place bet, which already goes at the top of the list — for gamblers to take a shot at big money without the entry fee getting out of hand. These wagers would be considered if you expect a couple of longshots to run in the top three and you think a favorite is being overplayed. And they would unfold in large fields.

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The Wheel

Take a $1 exacta with any horse over the entire field. In a 10-horse field, that costs $9. You might also back-wheel by taking the horse second. Bettors are looking to combine their favorite horse with a longshot.

The key to a payout is the favorite running out of the first or second spot.

The 10-Cent Superfecta Key

This costs $12.

Take one horse and “put him first and second” with five others.

Example: Take the 1 with the 2-6 horses. The 1 must win and the others must fill in the second-through-fourth positions.

Follow by taking the 1 second with the 2-6 horses. The 1 must finish second and the others must fill in the first, third, and fourth spots. This bet will be made by people who think the field is so wide open that longshots will light up the board.

An expanded version of this philosophy is to box six horses for $36. This will only be worth it if a few longshots run in the top spots.

Here’s a look at Saturday’s big races.

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American Pharoah Stakes

The Grade I American Pharoah is a prep to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Bettors have every reason to suspect Bob Baffert will saddle the winner of the American Pharoah Stakes. He has half the field.

It’s only fitting, perhaps, as Baffert trained American Pharoah, the 2015 Triple Crown winner.

Baffert has four entries among the eight runners and probably only needs one to claim victory.

Cave Rock

Has the look of a special horse, winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in just his second appearance in September. He was already at 2-t0-5 odds.

Cave Rock blitzed the half-mile in 43.65 seconds, the six-furlong mark in 1:08.55, and the seven-furlong mark in 1:20.99. This is a logical, although significant, step up for him in distance.


Did all that was asked in winning his debut at 1 1/16 miles at maiden special weights at Los Alamitos Race Course in September.

National Treasure

Triumphed at Del Mar in maiden special weights and now moves up.


Was twice second in maiden special weights races and would have a lot to do.

The Non-Baffert Horses

Man Child

Has hit the board in all three starts. The win came in a sprint and he was in the money at the Grade III Best Pal. This is Grade I and a stretch out in distance. Tall task.


Second to Gandolfini at a mile in maiden special weights. Hasn’t won in four tries. Monumental jump.


Finished a distant but resolute third in the Del Mar Futurity and may be better suited for the distance.

Rodeo Drive Stakes

The Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes is a prep to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Queen Of The Temple 

Ran a strong third to Neige Blanche in the Santa Barbara at 1 1/2 miles. Would have to make up a few lengths to hit the winner’s circle.

Fluffy Socks

Could be a great ticket underneath. Has a string of seconds on the New Jersey and New York circuits in the past couple of seasons. Comes off an inspired just-missed second in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga.

Does she have second-itis or can she get over the top?

Going to Vegas

Four seconds and a third in her past five outings. Another horse that likes to get in the mix but not win. Could be another excellent ticket underneath in exotics. Third in the Grade II John Mabee Stakes. Has some credentials.


Denied possible victory in the CTT and TOC Stakes at Del Mar because of tight quarters on the rail most of the way. A better trip could produce a better result. Eligible to improve.

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Neige Blanche

Was much the best with a strong run at 7-to-5 to win the Santa Barbara. Figures to be formidable again. But ran a puzzling fifth in the CTT and TOC Stakes.


Fourth in the John Mabee Stakes after running third behind Scarabea in the CTT and TOC Stakes. Has been over his head when running above allowance level.

Family Way

Has been in some high-class races. Was second in the Grade I New York at Belmont, third in the Grade I Beverly D at Churchill and second in the Grade 3 Ladies Marathon at Kentucky Downs. Could have a chance.

A Look Back at Santa Anita’s Opening Weekend

There was something for everybody.

Bettors who love high-quality races saw several graded stakes, including the Awesome Again, won by Defunded in a mild surprise.

Chalk bettors had their way with a slew of short-priced victories, which encourage a slam bet from big players.

And we had the longshots. Oh, did we have those.

Take your pick of the most exhilarating.

On Sunday, on a card which had belonged to the chalk, two terrific prices emerged in races 9 and 10. Combined, they paid out more than $100,000 in superfectas to the bettors.

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Dramatizer took the 10th at 13-to-1, parlaying a brilliant ground-saving rail ride by Mike Smith into a winning burst from the outside after he shifted lanes.

Sixteen Arches was second at 5-to-1, completing a $165.20 exacta.

Claddagh Cure came flying from dead last to nab third at 8-to-1, completing a $1 trifecta of $1,532.

And Almost A Factor was a huge factor, finishing fourth at 22-to-1 and wrapping up a $2 superfecta that paid $57,901, a $1 super paying $28,950, and the 10-cent super for $2,895.

Why it paid: It was a 12-horse field with no clear favorite. Another reason was a contentious speed duel at 1 1/8 miles that allowed the longshots to cover the field down the stretch.

This race unfolded as the gamblers were still buzzing about the ninth, in which Kleen Karma paid $83 to win a 6 1/2-furlong turf race.

Carpe Fortuna was second, Speed Lane got third, and She’s a Perfect Lady finished fourth.

The $2 exacta paid $615, the $1 trifecta was worth $5,773, and the $2 super was $44,133, boiling down to $2,206 for the 10-center. Again, big field on the turf. And this time, the speed horses stayed in the picture.

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Another Surprise on Saturday

Key Player won the opening race at 22-to-1.

One More Bid was second at 7-to-2, completing a $435 exacta. Third went to Dancing Rinca, 5-to-1, finalizing a $1 trifecta of $877. One Time Mark finished fourth at 20-to-1, rounding out a $2 superfecta that paid $12,509, a $1 super for $6,259, and the 10-center for $625.

Key Player made a last-to-first move up the rail and captured a photo finish.

Why it paid well: A longshot was on top and 2-to-1 favorite Quintecents ran out of the money.

On Friday, It’s My House delivered the first longshot bomb, prevailing at 35-to-1 on Opening Day in the allowance race feature.

He took the lead early and never relinquished, setting up an exceptional payoff for bettors.

It’s My House not only paid $73.40 to win, $19.60 to place, and $4.00 to show in a small six-horse field, but he led an exotics parade. The exacta returned $214 and the $1 trifecta was $233.

Bettors might have cashed this one by taking $1 trifecta boxes, each worth $6. A player could take the two favorites, Traegar and Redline, and put them in a couple of boxes with a different third choice. Hopefully one of those was the longshot winner.

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. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including California Casinos.