This week in horse racing: Dubai World Cup, Louisiana Derby

By Jeremy Plonk  ( 

March 22, 2022 09:11 PM

Eleven of the world’s top older horses match strides in the $12 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday in the United Arab Emirates, kicking off a fantastic day of racing that also includes the $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. 

American superstar and recent Pegasus World Cup winner Life Is Good will be heavily favored and formidable in the Dubai World Cup. He’ll be joined by 2021 Triple Crown series veterans Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon.

Some of this year’s Triple Crown prospects will get a final rehearsal in New Orleans in the Louisiana Derby. Expect for Risen Star Stakes winner Epicenter to be the favorite as thoroughbred racing’s all-time winningest trainer, Steve Asmussen, aims for a record-tying fourth career win in the Louisiana Derby. I have Epicenter tabbed on top in the field of nine over Zozos (2-for-2 lifetime and making his first stakes bid) and the late-running Call Me Midnight (upset winner of the Lecomte Stakes).

Handicappers following stakes races at Fair Grounds over the past year have witnessed the following trends:

Stakes favorites: 35.7% wins, 66.1% top 3

Average $2 winning stakes payout: $17.28

Top stakes jockeys: Reylu Gutierrez (6-20, 30%), Joel Rosario (4-14, 29%), Florent Geroux (5-24, 21%)

Top stakes trainers: Dallas Stewart (5-14, 36%), Bret Calhoun (5-19, 26%), Steve Asmussen (6-30, 20%), Brad Cox (5-25, 20%)

What to watch for this week

Last year’s champion 2-year-old filly Echo Zulu makes her 2022 return Saturday on the Louisiana Derby undercard when she headlines the Fair Grounds Oaks, a key steppingstone to the Kentucky Oaks … Turf sprint handicappers get a pair of co-features Saturday at 5 furlongs at Gulfstream Park with the Texas Glitter Stakes and Melody of Colors Stakes … New Mexico’s biggest thoroughbred program of the year is Sunday at Sunland Park when the $500,000 Sunland Derby is renewed. Sports talk radio personality Jim Rome owns Straight Up G, one of the expected favorites … Sunday’s card at Tampa Bay Downs boasts six stakes races for Florida-breds.

Friday weekend firestarter

Let’s get the gambling weekend off to a fast start Friday. Santa Anita trainer Brian Koriner has won with four of his last nine starters and will be sending out No. 7 Square Cat in Race 3. Square Cat has been knocking on the door in sprint races and stretches out to a route trip for the first time. That’s a power move by this trainer, whose horses have a $2.76 ROI for every $1 bet when moving sprint-to-route since the start of 2021.

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:

— Penn National: 42% 

— Sunland Park: 39% 

— Mahoning Valley: 38% 

— Parx Racing: 35% 

— Turf Paradise: 35% 

Tracks with the most-reliable favorites last week (by win pct.)

— Gulfstream Park: 48%

— Sam Houston: 44%

— Penn National: 42%

— Tampa Bay Downs: 41%

— Aqueduct: 40% 

— Golden Gate Fields: 40%

Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher)

— Oaklawn Park: 7

— Fair Grounds: 7

— Tampa Bay Downs: 6

— Charles Town: 5

— Laurel Park: 5

— Turfway Park: 5

America’s hot jockeys last week

— Angel Rodriguez (7-11, 64%), Penn National

— Armando Martinez (8-21, 38%), Fonner Park

— Kevin Roman (7-19, 37%), Fonner Park

— Manny Franco (7-25, 35%), Aqueduct

— Luis Saez (8-24, 33%), Gulfstream

— Stewart Elliott (6-19, 32%), Sam Houston

America’s hot trainers last week

— Jonathan Thomas (4-4, 100%), Gulfstream, Laurel

— Wayne Potts (6-11, 55%), Aqueduct, Oaklawn

— Jose Francisco D’Angelo (5-10, 50%), Gulfstream

— Ronney Brown (6-15, 40%), Charles Town

— Jamie Ness (6-15, 40%), Laurel, Parx

March means money

1/ST BET and Xpressbet are giving away $20,000 during a month-long March sweepstakes. To participate, simply make wagers on either platform and earn entries into random drawings for each bet you make. Prizes will be drawn and announced at the end of the month.

Statistics courtesy Betmix

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