It’s a great weekend for California simulcast horse bettors.
They can embrace an elite level of championship competition separate from what’s already being offered at Del Mar Racetrack.
The biggest race of the industry, and indeed the whole summer, is the $1.25 million Travers Stakes, assembling the nation’s best 3-year-old thoroughbreds, on Saturday at Saratoga. Post time is 2:44 p.m. PT. Saratoga, overall, has a tremendous day-long card Saturday, accessible to California bettors via the TVG app. In total, the purses for one afternoon reach above $3 million.
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As a bonus, on Friday night, gamblers can wager upon the $1 million Charles Town Classic at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia. This one has a post time of 7:18 p.m. PT.
Because both cards contain a blockbuster event, they are supported by excellent undercards. The tracks hope to corner the betting market by stacking their top races to generate strong handle.
This practice has proven to be successful for the tracks and an excellent handicapping tool for players. Watching a series of races at one facility, especially one you don’t know was well as Del Mar, provides an instinct for whether speed horses, stalkers, or closers are winning most of them.
This may deliver an edge in determining one’s top choices for the big race, or for whichever one has the biggest investment.
Let’s look at each of these races, and the card that supports them.
Saturday’s Card at Saratoga — Travers Stakes
The Travers unfurls a flock of recent Triple Crown race participants. This event, along with the Breeders’ Cup in November, will likely determine horse-of-the-year honors.
The field of eight is going 1 1/4 miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby.
How big is this race? Essential Quality won it last year and later captured an Eclipse Award.
These are the post positions and early odds for the Travers, which won’t become official until post time per pari-mutuel rules.
|1. Cyberknife||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux||7-to-2|
|2. Rich Strike||Eric Reed||Sonny Leon||10-to-1|
|3. Ain’t Life Grand||Kelly Von Hamel||Tyler Gaffalione||30-to-1|
|4. Gilded Age||Bill Mott||Junior Alvarado||30-to-1|
|5. Artorius||Chad Brown||Irad Ortiz Jr.||9-to-2|
|6. Epicenter||Steve Asmussen||Joel Rosario||7-to-5|
|7. Early Voting||Chad Brown||Jose Ortiz||8-to-1|
|8. Zandon||Chad Brown||Flavien Prat||5-to-1|
Travers Stakes Betting Analysis
The betting board might leave bettors dazed and confused. Rich Strike is 10-to-1 despite winning the Kentucky Derby at a whopping 80-to-1. Early Voting is 8-to-1 despite capturing the Preakness Stakes.
Epicenter, whom both horses defeated, is the 7-to-5 favorite. What happened?
Epicenter came back and won the Jim Dandy, a Travers prep race, and left Early Voting in his dust. Based on the last race, he’s evolved and surpassed Early Voting, but do bettors agree? Rich Strike became the darling of the horse-racing industry with his miracle Derby dash from last to first. He later flopped at the Belmont Stakes, running sixth.
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The Travers also features a competitive, yet average, group of 3-year-olds. They take turns beating each other.
Cyberknife won the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey last month.
Artorius gets more respect than some would think because one of the minor stakes he won, the Curlin, happened at Saratoga. He also is lightly raced and gets the meet’s top jockey, Irad Ortiz.
Some gamblers may see a connection there and will back Artorius. Others will consider him overplayed on that angle and get a nicer price on the rest of the field.
The pace of the race figures to be Early Voting in front with nobody pestering him. It will be up to Epicenter, Zandon, and the rest to gain position close to the lead heading for home. Epicenter has narrowly bested Zandon, twice.
If one takes the horses with 1 1/4-mile experience, that’s a trifecta ticket with Rich Strike, Epicenter, and Zandon.
If you are playing on the TVG app, here is something else to consider: Early races provide an indication of whether the inside, outside, or middle of the track is playing best and whether the surface favors speed or closers.
Saratoga is speed-favoring, but any kind of a speed duel calls that into question.
The Saturday Saratoga undercard looks like a mini–Breeders’ Cup. The supporting cast includes:
- $750,000 Sword Dancer Stakes
- $600,000 Personal Ensign Stakes
- $600,000 Forego Stakes
- $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial
- $400,000 Ballston Spa Handicap
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Friday Night Fireworks in West Virginia — Charles Town Classic
Gamblers who like the big-race package concept can do it again with a special Friday night presentation from Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia. The track positioned its major event one night earlier than the Travers to avoid a conflict.
The undercard includes:
- $500,000 Charles Town Oaks Stakes
- $250,000 Pink Ribbon Stakes
- $250,000 Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes
- $250,000 Russell Road Stakes
This is as big as a West Virginia card can get.
Here’s a look at the Charles Town Classic, and the contenders:
Mind Control won the Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who has a knack for finding the right opportunity for his horses, guides Mind Control.
Officiating comes off a nice victory in the Cornhusker Stakes at Prairie Meadows in July.
Art Collector won the Alydar Stakes handily at Saratoga on Aug. 4. At odds of 4-to-5, he could have won by any margin his jockey wanted. He looked so strong in that race that he was brought back to West Virginia to try and repeat the 2021 Charles Town Classic victory he notched last year.
Last Samurai could be a live longshot. He won the Oaklawn Handicap at 12-to-1, defeating a pretty good field.
The rest of the field is taking a major step up.
Other Notable Horse Races Around North America
Monmouth Park (New Jersey)
The $200,000 Sapling Stakes headlines the card, which starts at 9:15 a.m. PT.
Woodbine Racetrack (Toronto)
No big races but an 11-horse field in the fourth for a $101,200 purse and a 12-horse field in the sixth. The ninth has a field of seven and a purse of $101,200. Card starts at 10 a.m. PT. Gamblers who hone in on specific tracks may see opportunities there.
Prairie Meadows (Iowa)
Start time 4 p.m. PT. The $100,000 Freshman Stakes is its biggest of the day.