2014 Del Mar Opening Day Picks and Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/16/2014
The two greatest meets in North American horse racing open this week. Del Mar, just outside of San Diego, opens on Thursday then Saratoga opens in upstate New York on Friday. There is no better experience as a horse racing fan than a day at one of the great summer meets. Opening day is a particular thrill with the pageantry and hope on full display. Every owner, trainer and jockey is unbeaten, and they believe they can stay that way all summer. They won't, of course, but their enthusiasm is contagious. Here's a look at four of the most interesting possible bets on opening day at Del Mar with some picks and predictions.
Before we get started, it's important to note a significant milestone this year - it is the last year that Del Mar will be run on Polytrack - the synthetic surface that I am far from alone in hating. At the end of this meet they will be tearing out the failed experiment and replacing it with dirt. That will lead to much better racing - as it has at Santa Anita since the change was recently made. Also, for people who watch Del Mar frequently, we need to adapt to a change in the turf course. In anticipation of hosting the Breeders' Cup in 2017 the track was redesigned and the turf can now feature more horses than the maximum of 10 that they were unfortunately limited to until now.
Race 2 - Maiden Claiming
It's always nice to get a win early in a meet, and we'll try to do just that here. The horse that stands out as a good value in this race is Stored Attaq (6/1). He has only raced once - a second-place finish at Pimlico. Now he has moved clear across the country and is racing for entirely new connections. The change should serve him well, and we should see more of a spark than we did last time. Against a relatively weak field he presents some nice value here.
Race 6 - Maiden Special Weight
One of the best parts of the Del Mar meet is that it is when we get to first see some of the great young two-year-old prospects that California has to offer. We will see some better ones on Saturday, but this race features a couple of interest. Pulmarack, who is at 9/2 on the morning line, is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer - a guy who reminded us how good he can be with two year olds last year with champion Shared Belief. Rafael Bejarano has the ride, and he should be hungry as he returns to riding on this card for the first time since a serious injury at Santa Anita in May. Those two could be dangerous, and the horse has talent. You also have to respect the likely favorite, London Legacy (7/2). He has already raced twice, finishing second both times at Santa Anita. He's talented, and the experience could make a difference here.
Race 8 - Oceanside Stakes
This is the feature race on the opening card as always - a turf race for three year olds that acts as a prep for bigger races later in the meet. The likely favorite, Enterprising, has been an impressive horse, with wins in three of his last four. His regular rider, Gary Stevens, is injured, but Mike Smith is a more than worthy replacement. He could easily win, and he'll factor in my exotics. There is a price I like better, though - Patriots Rule at 8/1. His trainer, Robertino Diodoro, is one I know well because he used to train in my neck of the woods. He is extremely talented, and people are figuring that out. This horse doesn't get the respect he should because he has been primarily at lesser tracks in Northern California. He has been training beautifully, though, and should be more than ready for this challenge. If he goes off at his 8/1 morning line or better then he will be a steal in exotics or to win.
Race 9 - Claiming
In this race one horse really stands out. Diamond of Blue (5/2) is the favorite, but not nearly as much of one as he should be. He is returning to racing for the first time since last summer at Del Mar. He has been training extremely well, though, and is again of the Hollendorfer-Bejarano connection that I am optimistic about today. This horse is better than this race, and he should be able to prove it.
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