This week in horse racing: Dec. 26 offers more than just opening day at Santa Anita

By Jeremy Plonk  (Xpressbet Editor-in-chief) 

December 22, 2022 02:04 PM

While the day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day in parts of the world, it’s long been known as opening day at Santa Anita in the horse racing community. But Dec. 26 racing action will take on its biggest lineup ever this Monday when Gulfstream Park, Laurel and Fair Grounds also put on major stakes events.

Santa Anita’s start to the newly named Classic Meet on Monday will lead into Friday through Sunday racing until June. The opening day features include Santa Anita Derby and Pennsylvania Derby winner Taiba in the Grade 1 Malibu. It’s a final push toward potentially unseating Travers winner Epicenter as this year’s champion 3-year-old colt. Five other graded stakes round out the $1.5 million in purse offerings at “The Great Race Place.”

Gulfstream, for the first time, will open its Championship Meet in conjunction with Santa Anita’s opening day on Dec. 26. The Championship Meet begins with renewals of the Tropical Park Derby and Tropical Park Oaks on the turf. At Laurel, its Christmastide Day card features six stakes races worth $100,000 each. Fair Grounds begins its road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks with nine stakes races, including the $100,000 Gun Runner and $100,000 Untapable for the soon-to-be sophomores.

What To Watch For This Week

Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs run virtually unopposed in domestic Thoroughbred racing on Saturday’s Christmas Eve schedule … Sunday’s Christmas racing lineup has only Northfield and Cal Expo evening harness from the US, but includes international simulcasts throughout the day from France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Friday Weekend Firestarter

Trainer Joe Orseno’s runners are having a fantastic December at Gulfstream Park and we’ll try to catch the latest chance in Friday’s Race 8. He has #9 Adios Gary in this turf allowance spot. Orseno runners are winning 28% this month with a $1.45 ROI for every $1 bet. Adios Gary picks up the red-hot rider Jose Ortiz, needing only minor improvement off recent second- and third-place finishes. The rider change could put him over the top

1/ST BET App Top Handicapping Tracks of the Week

The free 1/ST BET app allows you to apply millions of data points across dozens of handicapping factors in mere seconds and immediately place your wagers. Here’s where the artificial intelligence was most dialed-in last week by win percentage:

41% Remington Park

41% Mahoning Valley

39% Turf Paradise

36% Fair Grounds

32% Hawthorne

Tracks With Most Reliable Favorites Last Week (By Win %)

57% Turf Paradise

52% Remington Park

48% Charles Town

46% Fair Grounds

44% Mahoning Valley

Tracks That Were Longshot Havens Last Week (Most Winners 10-1 or More)

8 Aqueduct

7 Oaklawn

6 Gulfstream

5 Fair Grounds

5 Charles Town

5 Delta Downs

America’s Hot Jockeys Last Week

Gerardo Corrales (11-26, 42%) // Turfway

Constantino Roman (6-16, 38%) // Hawthorne

Jose Ortiz (6-17, 35%) // Gulfstream

Jose Alvarez (6-20, 30%) // Remington

Irad Ortiz Jr. (8-28, 29%) // Gulfstream

America’s Hot Trainers Last Week

Victor Barboza (4-7, 57%) // Gulfstream, Tampa

Dale Capuano (4-7, 57%) // Laurel

Paulo Lobo (4-7, 57%) // Turfway, Mountaineer

Ray Ashford (5-9, 56%) // Remington, Zia

Chris Hartman (4-8, 50%) // Oaklawn, Fair Grounds

Santa Anita Tournament Monday at Xpressbet

Xpressbet will offer a series of low-entry ($80) qualifiers Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday towards Monday’s $1,500 Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge. Top prizes include cash and entries into the Pegasus World Cup Betting Challenge and the National Handicapping Championship. For contest races, registration and more, visit

– Statistics courtesy Betmix 

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