Jul 18, 2003
By: Joe Girardi
Saratoga and Del Mar open their respective doors on Wednesday July 23rd. Saratoga runs through Labor Day September 2nd and Del Mar goes a week longer until September 10th. Even though both tracks are on opposite coasts they have a lot in common.
Saratoga is the August place to be. Well it used to be until they extended the meeting; now it is the Summer place to be. Del Mar, like Saratoga, attracts many tourists as well as attracting quality horses. Many outfits point specifically for these meetings. Winning one race at these meetings supercedes winning 10 races at another meeting relatively speaking. It is about the after parties, the bars, the getting up in the morning to watch the horses workout. It is about relaxing in the cool crisp country air or enjoying the sunshine that San Diego has to offer.
But what it really comes down to after all the other stuff is out of the way is to walk out of the racetrack a winner. When playing these meets following certain jockeys and trainers can lead to profitable days. At Del Mar last year the leading rider was Patrick Valenzuela, who scored with18.8% of his mounts and the in-the-money percentage of 50.2% was very high considering he had 245 mounts. Valenzuela is a very strong rider that can ride from on the pace or off and can ride both on the dirt and turf; don’t leave him out of your exotics.
With reigning wins leader, Laffit Pincay Jr. now retired look for Mike Smith to pick up some of his mounts. Smith rides for one of Pincay’s main trainers, Bill Spawr, and Smith had a pretty decent meeting last year with 22 wins. With his Hall of Fame induction this August maybe he can get back to that form. He rides the best mare in the country in reigning Horse of the Year AZERI and he is another jockey who rides well in all instances. Smith should also offer value at the windows and he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
When playing the Del Mar turf course one jockey to look at is Corey Nakatani. He was successful in 25% of rides over the turf last year (11 wins from 44 mounts). David Flores was another who fared well over the turf course scoring with 23.1% of his rides and finishing with a solid in the money percentage of 59%. It is important to note that when riding a turf course at these relatively short meetings you must know the ins and outs to be successful. Corey Nakatani and David Flores both ride it well along with Pat Valenzuela who finished first 21% of the time. However, you will be able to get more value with Nakatani and Flores.
On the trainers side of the things Bob Baffert will probably lead again however, he is usually overbet at the windows. Two trainers to look for that can help you make a profit are; James Chapman with a 41.2% winning percentage and an in the money percentage of 58.8%. Vladimir Cerin is another to watch closely who had a win percentage of 24.2% and an in the money percentage of 66.7%.
Switching coasts to Saratoga and the “graveyard of favorites.” Last year’s leading jockey was Edgar Prado who dethroned Jerry Bailey. With 54 wins Prado defeated Bailey by 10 wins and third place finisher John Velazquez by 13 wins. However, these three jockeys will command the top mounts and will command the money at the windows. Three jockeys to look at for value are Shaun Bridgmohan, who is very competent and rides all surfaces well, Richard Migliore, the veteran who had a solid meeting last year with 22 wins and an in the money percentage of 44% and the third jockey is not a year around New York rider but when Mark Guidry has a mount pay attention, this Louisiana native can really ride.
Switching gears to the trainers the leader last year was Todd Pletcher who scored 19 times for a win percentage of 19.6%. He easily dominated the Belmont Spring/Summer meeting and will come up to the Spa loaded again. However, the public has caught on the chances of getting value are not that good. Bill Mott who finished second is having a good year but not the kind of years he used to enjoy. His horses however may offer some value and must be respected. A few trainers to follow when playing for value are Linda Rice (35% win, 60% ITM), Randy Schulhofer (27.3% win, 63.6% ITM), and Allen Jerkens (17.1% win, 51.4% ITM). Jerkens, still one of the best trainers in the game, tends to get overlooked at the Spa.
Good Luck opening week and if you can get out to either track it will no doubt make your Summer.
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