The Breeders’ Cup slogan is “the best is yet to come,” but if you are a fan and a horseplayer, the next six weeks are the best right here in front of you. Both Del Mar and Saratoga are running, and this is the best our sport has to offer to both fans and bettors.
My first trip to each track came in the early ’80s when I traveled with my dad. He passed away in 1994, and we never had another occasion to visit either track, but we did get a chance to go to Beulah Park and Calder together, which was nice.
I was too young – a teenager – to truly appreciate what I was supposed to experience, which was each track’s history and tradition. As an adult, I can say each track has its own positives: Del Mar is aesthetically beautiful and attracts California’s beautiful people, Saratoga’s beauty is understated and pastoral in nature. Both venues attract legions of diehard fans, but also the top horses, owners, and jockeys in each region.
I’ve been back to each venue since my initial trips, and at the risk of offending some people, there is no comparison for me as to which track I prefer: Saratoga, hands down and without a doubt. It’s a personal connection and preference for me. Taking nothing away from Del Mar, the relaxed atmosphere of Saratoga resembles a country fair where not only can you rub elbows with Bobby Flay and Bill Mott but you can also engage them in real conversation. It’s almost like a fan fest because the stars are so accessible to the fans. And that goes for the horses as well. The Oklahoma training track at Saratoga was where I saw Wise Dan for the first time a few years ago and where I saw the game’s future stars. It just feels right to me. After the races you can go to your favorite watering hole, and the conversation just keeps going.
It’s for these reasons that I point my handicapping to Saratoga. It’s a proving ground for handicappers, just as Andy Beyer said in his book “My $50,000 Year at the Races.” If you can beat the track for the meet, you have proven your mettle as a horseplayer.
For tournament players, this is a great time to play tournaments as well because the fields at both tracks are filled with horses that have proven form or are trying to prove their worth to their owners. Every horse – or nearly every horse – is well meant and is running to win. Additionally, there is value galore on horses that are pointed to each meet by owners and trainers. The competition among jockeys is just as keen, which makes for very fairly run races.
The message for contest players is play more over the course of the next six weeks because if you can play Saratoga in a Monday contest instead of Parx – well, you just can’t let that opportunity pass you by – at least I can’t . . . and I won’t.
See you in the contests!