Saratoga & Del Mar 2013: Sanford Sunday

Harry How

Ah, it's that time of the year when we start watching juvenile stakes races.

Sunday stakes action around the country is once again focused on the coasts. Saratoga runs the G2-Sanford for juvenile males (essentially an allowance race that spits out black type), Del Mar runs the G2-San Clemente, and Woodbine the G2-Nijinsky.

If you haven't looked at the PPs for today, here's what you need to know about the Sanford:

Seven two-year-olds, all of which have just a single maiden win to their name (except for Debt Ceiling), will line up to the gate and run as hard as they can for six furlongs.

The more interesting wagering action for the Sanford is to attempt to pick how many in the Sanford field will actually be racing this time in 2014? Two? Three? More? I'd set the over/under at 2.5.

As I mentioned in yesterday's Saratoga/Del Mar stakes post, and in the comments, the trifecta of filly races at Delaware and Saratoga left a lot to be desired in my opinion. Royal Delta's run was excellent but came against pretty much nothing. Authenticity ran a good race in the Shuvee although the pace was non-existent. And Princess of Sylmar returned to her Kentucky Oaks form in the CCA Oaks, while Unlimited Budget decided to take a day off from racing.

The field size for each of the three filly stakes was poor caused in part by jamming each race on the same day. Sure one race was a mile and a quarter and another a mile and an eighth but, really, there was no way both the DelCap and the Shuvee were going to draw good, full fields. Instead we got a couple of small fields. And to be honest, at what point can we start to meld the 3yo races into the races for older fillies and mares. Traditionally we see that occur more towards the end of the year but do we really have the horse population to run graded stakes races for 3yo fillies and older fillies smack dab on the same day on the same card? Maybe we do, maybe we don't. I guess in the era of running stakes horses less in order to try and never lose a race we have to split everything up but, personally, I don't think it's the end of the world if by the end of July we start to push the 3yos in with the distaffers.

Unfortunately, stakes with similar conditions scheduled on top of each other is a pretty consistent trend over the last five to ten years and its led, predictably, to small field sizes in many of those races. The CCA Oaks used to be run at 10, 11 or 12 furlongs, was shortened to nine by NYRA in 2010, so it's not even a unique race in terms of distance any more.

I guess the ultimate point of my Sunday morning rant is the three filly stakes races yesterday, while involving some intrigue and enjoyment from the visual sense, were pretty much duds from a wagering perspective. The CCA Oaks drew just $484k in Win-Place-Show money, which is simply awful for a Grade 1 race at Saratoga. The Shuvee did better ($806k in WPS betting). The $20k claiming race in the nightcap drew $513k in WPS money. And that's just a simple, quick look at the WPS pools. I have no doubt if we looked into the exacta, trifecta and super pools (if there was even superfecta betting) we'd see similar weaknesses in wagering.

Anyway, that's my Sunday morning rant: Quit stacking similar kinds of stakes races on top of each other; the field sizes get crushed and the races become boring to bet. You'd think this would be an issue as important as not scheduling stakes races at two major tracks for the same post time but...well, you know.

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