For many casual sports fans horse racing starts and ends each spring with the Triple Crown, but for horseplayers there is nothing better than the dog days of summer.
The horse racing action heats up with the opening of Saratoga and Del Mar this week, with the top jockeys, trainers, owners, and horses converging within a stone’s throw of the Pacific Ocean at Del Mar and in upstate New York in Saratoga Springs.
Del Mar gets underway on Wednesday with a 37-day meeting that runs until Labor Day. Daily purses will average $650,000 with 43 stakes on the schedule with purses that total $7.8 million.
The track has seven Grade I stakes on the menu this summer starting with the Eddie Read Stakes on the grass on Saturday. Others are the Bing Crosby Stakes at six furlongs (July 28), the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at 1 1/16 miles (August 3), the Del Mar Oaks at nine furlongs on the turf (August 17), the Pacific Classic at 1 ¼ miles (August 25), the Del Mar Debutante at seven furlongs (August 31) and the Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on September 4, which is closing day.
Peter Miller is coming off his first training title at Del Mar last summer where he won 21 races from 104 starters. Miller edged Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled 20 winners from 85 starters.
Miller got off to a fast start last summer and then was mired in a 0 for 31 streak at the end of the meeting, picking up three wins on closing day to wrap up the title.
Also competing for the training title will be Doug O’Neill, who was third with 18 wins last summer, and John Sadler, who was fourth in the standings with 15 winners.
O’Neill was suspended for part of the Del Mar meeting last summer and his horses ran under his assistant Leandro Mora, who won 10 races from 42 starters.
The jockey title figures to be competitive as well between the top four from last summer. Rafael Bejarano won the title with 52 winners, followed by Joe Talamo (43), Garrett Gomez (39) and Edwin Maldonado (24).
Chantal Sutherland, who won seven races last summer is back from her brief retirement and will ride at the meeting again as well.
Saratoga gets underway on Friday for a 40-day meeting that runs until Labor Day. The Spa will run six days a week, with Tuesday dark.
The 150th meeting at the historic track will include 53 graded stakes with purses of nearly $15 million. The highlight of the meeting each summer is the $1 million Travers on August 24.
Last year’s Travers ended in a deadheat between Alpha and Golden Ticket, and this year’s race could end up topping last year’s exciting finish.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Preakness winner Oxbow, and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice are all pointing toward a showdown in the Travers.
Oxbow will tune up for the Travers in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 28, while Orb and Palace Malice likely will make their next start in the Jim Dandy on July 27.
The jockey race will be intriguing this summer with the retirement of Ramon Dominguez, who won the title last summer with a record 68 winners from 288 mounts. Dominguez was involved in a spill at Aqueduct on January 18 and he announced his retirement last month.
Javier Castellano is coming off winning the jockey title at the Belmont Park meeting where he won 72 races, 14 more than runner up Junior Alvarado. Castellano was second in the Spa standings last summer with 51 winners.
John Velazquez won the title at the Spa in 2010 and 2011 and won 30 races last summer for fourth after missing time coming back from an injury.
The deepest jockey colony in the U.S. will also include Joel Rosario, Jose Lezcano, Julien Leparoux, Rajiv Maragh, Rosie Napravnik, Cornelio Velasquez and Junior Alvarado.
The trainer’s title likely will come down to Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown. Pletcher won the title the last three years with Brown second the past two meetings and he was third in 2010.
Pletcher's juveniles dominated last summer, winning 23 juvenile races and 21 of those were maiden races. He sent out an amazing list of juveniles that included Charming Kitten, Dreaming of Julia, Kauai Katie, Notacatbutallama, Overanalyze, Shanghai Bobby, Palace Malice, and Revolutionary,
Pletcher and Brown will have plenty of competition this summer. Among the out of town trainers that will spend the summer at the Spa include , Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, Jonathan Sheppard, John Shireffs, Tom Amoss, Wayne Catalano, Eddie Kenneally, Charles LoPresti, Michael Matz, Graham Motion, Kenny McPeek, Dale Romans, Al Stall, and Ian Wilkes.
Mike DempseyMike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup. The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes. Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick. Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively. No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track! Mike's Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card. Join Mike daily with top picks from Aqueduct or Gulfstream Park. You can also get his Weekend Best Plays Report in his Multi-Track package or sit at the track with him for 30 Days with his Monthly Horse Package!
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Jerry SessaJerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to VegasInsider.com. When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins. Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.
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