The Horse Racing Comeback That Fans Have Been Waiting For

Posted on May 15, 2020

This is the trifecta horse-racing fans have been dreaming of, and you can access action online at TVG.

The industry delivered three re-openings, one each for May 14-16, featuring big-name tracks. New Jersey bettors can access the action via 4NJBETS, powered by TVG.

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The complete horse racing schedule for that day is available each morning at 4NJBETS. 

  • Golden Gate Fields, which had not run since March 29 because of the coronavirus, re-started May 14.
  • Santa Anita Racecourse, which has not operated since March 22, announced its comeback for May 15 with a loaded card starting at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Churchill Downs, which was forced to move the Kentucky Derby from May 2 until Sept. 5, launched a shortened meet May 16.
    • Its opening day marked 11 races. Many had fields of 16 or more.
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So close to a complete horse racing comeback

The industry is one segment away from a near-complete comeback. That would require the Eastern circuit of Belmont Park and Saratoga in New York, Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, and Delaware Park. 

It’s coming. Just a little longer.

Here are the highlights of the new, fortified horse-racing schedule, which already includes:

  • Tampa Bay Downs: on Wednesday, then Friday-Sunday through May.
  • Gulfstream Park: Thursday-Sunday
  • Golden Gate Fields: Thursday-Sunday upon its May 14 return
  • Will Rogers Downs: Monday-Wed
  • Charles Town Racing: Thursday-Sat
  • Fonner Park: Mon-Wed through May

Santa Anita – “And Away They Go”

That was a phrase made famous at Santa Anita by legendary track announcer Trevor Denman at the start of every race during his 33-year career there.

And it is appropriate. Fans have been waiting for horses to burst from the gate.

Multiple betting options greet the return of one of racing’s signature facilities. The track is home to numerous prestigious events including both the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap. 

It has also hosted the multi-million-dollar Breeders Cup, the richest weekend in the industry, a record 10 times.

Because of the layoff, horses have not been running competitively. The return of the meet thus has large fields.

Most range from 10-14 horses, giving bettors multiple options. 

As at most tracks, they include:

  • Win: selecting the top finisher
  • Place: the horse finishing first or second
  • Show: the horse finishing first, second or third
  • Exacta: Picking the top two finishers of the race, in the exact order. (a box ticket is suggested.)
  • Trifecta: Selecting the top three finishers, in the right order. A $1 trifecta box with three horses costs $6. You can also “key” a horse. Take the winner with three other horses to finish in the second and third spots. A $1 trifecta key with three horses cost $6.
  • Superfectas: Getting the top four finishers in exact order. Extremely difficult, but this can also be attacked with 10-cent wagers.

Churchill – Back with Panache

This is another bellwether track, the home of the Kentucky Derby, and perhaps the face of the entire industry.

The entries for Saturday, the first day back, were enormous, with many listings of 16-18 horses. It means that races will be more difficult to hit but will pay handsomely because some good horses will be overlooked.

After the opening weekend May 16-17, racing will be staged Thursdays through Sundays with a special holiday Monday card on Memorial Day, May 25. Prior to the pandemic, the track had been scheduled to open April 25.

Post time for the first race each day will be 1 p.m. ET. 

A total of 125 races cumulatively worth $7,265,000 are offered in the first condition book, which covers May 16-June 5. 

The stakes schedule throughout the meet features 16 stakes totaling $2,250,000:

Saturday, May 23: Grade III, $150,000 Matt Winn (3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles); $100,000 Blame (4-year-olds and up at one mile); $100,000 Shawnee (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles); $100,000 War Chant (3-year-olds at one mile on turf); and $100,000 Tepin (3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf).

Saturday, May 30: Grade III, $100,000 Old Forester Mint Julep (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf) and Grade III, $100,000 Winning Colors (fillies and mares at six furlongs).

More stakes races will be announced moving forward.

Gulfstream – Rainbow 6 Reset

Time to re-boot.

Gulfstream Park paid a whopping $31,476 to holders of its Rainbow 6 winners on May 9.

This was a mandatory payout of the pool, which requires bettors to pick the winners of the last six races of the day.  Normally, the carryover jackpot is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. 

On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.

But on a mandatory payout, selected at random throughout the season and then on the final weekend, it’s a financial geyser.

This is like watching a slot machine about to erupt, with bells, whistles, and big money.

The popular multi-race wager had gone unsolved for 10 consecutive racing days since an April 19 mandatory payout. There was a carryover jackpot pool of $1,481,488.75 at the start of Rainbow 6 wagering Saturday. And of course, bettors wagered feverishly into it.

Anyone picking six in a row got the big return.

A 25-1 shot took the final race and sparked a $1 superfecta payout of $42,307 on that event alone. This also inflated the Rainbow 6 payout for the day’s final six races.

It will be built up again, as it went into Thursday with $600,000 guaranteed. Keep an eye on that rising number.

Expect the Unexpected

In the meantime, Gulfstream’s large fields continue paying well with a mixture of favorites and longshots.

The first race of weekend cards, which we have highlighted in past stories, remains a good source of cha-ching.

  • On Sunday, even when 6-5 and 2 -1 favorite ran in the top four, the $1 superfecta returned $815.20.
  • The 6-5 favorite triumphed, with a 10-1 shot second, the 21-1 shot third, and then the 2-1 co-favorite.

This is a sharp angle to latch onto. If you are confident of any two horses finishing in the top four, you might get lucky and “back into” the payout by selecting several horses to go with them on a box or keyed ticket.

On Saturday, the opener had horses of 14-1, 5-1, 3-1, and 11-1 in the top four slots.

The superfecta paid $4,241 and the $1 trifecta paid $649.20.

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Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a national multi-award-winning writer, and broadcaster, writes extensively on the evolving legalized sports-wagering world. Over the past four decades, he has called fights for all major networks, authored columns for the Associated Press, Atlantic City Press, and iGaming Player. He is in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame, the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame and a Sam Taub Award for broadcast excellence, given by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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