Harness racing’s premier event, the $1 million Hambletonian, will be renewed Saturday at the Meadowlands. It’s a rare date in which the standardbreds can garner some national attention away from summer’s thoroughbred mega-meetings at Saratoga and Del Mar. The Hambo elimination winners Rebuff and Jiggy Jog S headline the 3-year-old trotters with Rebuff expected to be favored Saturday.
But Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney will be the unmistakable headliner this week. The $1 million Breeders’ Cup Classic prep has ascended to the Spa’s second-most important race of the meet, trailing only the Travers later this month. Superstar miler Life Is Good will try to stretch his gas an additional eighth of a mile when he meets 2021 Triple Crown veteran Hot Rod Charlie and the red-hot Olympiad. At 1 1/8 miles, don’t be shocked if Olympiad is able to outlast favorite Life Is Good.
Del Mar features a mandatory payout in its Rainbow 6 on Saturday, one that could lure a pool in the $5 million-plus range with a carryover of nearly $500,000 heading into Friday’s action. The Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch, a key step in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff division on the West Coast, headlines Saturday’s Del Mar stakes.
Mountaineer’s West Virginia Derby also fights for elbow room on a loaded Saturday of horse racing. The seven-stakes card boasts the $500,000 Derby with a field that includes Fountain of Youth winner Simplification, Belmont Stakes third-place finisher Skippylongstocking, Peter Pan winner We The People and recent Pegasus Stakes victor Home Brew.
For those betting Mountaineer on Saturday, here are the key local stakes stats since 2013.
Percentage of winning favorites: 29%
Average win odds: 3.9-1
Hot trainers: Bret Calhoun (3-3, 100%), Joe Sharp (4-9, 44%), Brad Cox (7-19, 37%)
Last track location for winners: Indianapolis (11), Prairie Meadows (10), Churchill (9), Mountaineer (8)
Friday Weekend Firestarter
Saratoga offers the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-old turfers Friday. Given the widespread inconsistency of this group, lightly raced Double Clutch may offer the most unknown ceiling and potential. He rallied stoutly to finish second in the Manila Stakes at Belmont at a 1-mile trip and should appreciate this same distance for patient trainer Rusty Arnold. The Hall of Fame will be only his fourth lifetime start.
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:
— Thistledown: 38%
— Assiniboia Downs: 35%
— Mountaineer: 34%
— Prairie Meadows: 33%
— Finger Lakes: 32%
Tracks with most reliable favorites last week (by win pct.)
— Prairie Meadows: 56%
— Assiniboia Downs: 52%
— Louisiana Downs: 52%
— Presque Isle Downs: 44%
— Delaware Park: 42%
Tracks that were long-shot havens last week (most winners 10-1 or higher)
— Saratoga: 9
— Laurel: 8
— Del Mar: 5
— Canterbury: 5
— Charles Town: 5
— Ellis: 5
— Woodbine: 5
America’s hot jockeys last week
— Alex Gonzalez (7-14, 50%), Mountaineer
— Kylee Jordan (7-17, 41%), Prairie Meadows
— C Fusilier (6-16, 38%), Evangeline Downs
— John McKee (7-19, 37%), Belterra
— Carlos Lopez (6-17, 35%), Charles Town, Laurel, Delaware
— Vicente Del-Cid (12-36, 33%), Evangeline Downs, Louisiana Downs
America’s hot trainers last week
— Ronney Brown (5-8, 63%), Charles Town
— Tim Hamm (6-13, 46%), Thistledown, Presque Isle, Belterra, Saratoga
— Kevin Attard (5-11, 45%), Woodbine
— Christophe Clement (6-19, 32%), Saratoga, Laurel, Colonial
— Saffie Joseph Jr. (6-20, 30%), Gulfstream, Saratoga, Del Mar
Fun in the Sun Contest Every Saturday
Handicapping Saratoga and Del Mar? Put it to extra use and make money in the process with the weekly Xpressbet.com Fun in the Sun Contest. The last five races at Saratoga and the last five races at Del Mar require $10 win bets to play, and the entry fee is just $25 for weekly and season-ending cash prizes. Harness contest players also have the $300-entry Hambletonian Challenge tournament Saturday (with $30 Thursday and Friday feeders). Visit Xpressbet.com/tournaments for more.
Statistics courtesy of Betmix.com