Those accustomed to the short fields out in Southern California may do a double take when they see the first three days of entries at Del Mar. Only one race with less than 11 entries on the opening day card today; just two races with less than eight throughout the entire first three days. And that includes ten and 11 race cards on Thursday and Saturday respectively.
While the Polytrack will not be replaced with your precious real dirt until next year, a new 80 foot-wide turf course is in place that allows for full fields like the one featured in the traditional opening day Oceanside Stakes, which will be run with a full field of 11 (scratched down from 13), rather than split into two divisions as in the past.
One thing that surely remains the same is the weather.
The opening day (Thursday) of the Del Mar horse races will start with some low morning clouds that will give way to midday and afternoon sunshine. [Accuweather]
Well, what else is new? You can probably predict that with about a 95% chance of certainty just about every day there. It’s just perfect. (And the forecast for Saratoga this weekend is pretty damn good as well.)
So, we will have our usual extensive menu of Del Mar previews here – Horses in Focus, and our Left Coast guru Justin Finch’s Top Play of the Day. Check for those around midday, as we do wait for scratches in order to make them as real-time and relevant as possible. Not that it’s ever going to rain and wash races off the turf, but still. In addition, you can read his daily full card analyses exclusively at TVG.com. (And also Mike Beer’s Saratoga full card analyses exclusively at NYRA.com. We have some pretty cool partners, don’t you think?)
Back to the Oceanside Stakes, a peek at our preview page indicates that this is a race which may present some interesting wagering opportunities. As we’ve noted in the past, the Spotlight Figures, about which you can read more here, are a great way to quickly identify some possible overlays (and underlays).
Just takes a quick glance to see that the two top Spotlight Figures belong to horses listed at generous morning line odds. Patriots Rule (8-1) has really improved in his three starts since switching to grass; earning triple-digit figures in his last two (the 100 is the Spotlight Figure because it was earned in a race at the same one mile distance as today’s race).
He’s done so rallying from far back despite adventurous trips each time, as detailed in our long chart comment. And note that in his two-back effort, he closed despite a pace that was dawdling throughout (as denoted by the pace figures, for the race leader, shaded in blue. More information on our pace figures here.) Those rallies have helped him earn the best late pace rating in the field, at 103.
On the other hand, Home School (15-1) earned his 100 Spotlight Rating on the front end – in a race in which he stalked a hot pace (denoted by pace figures in red) – and he shows a subsequent solid such effort as well.
Whereas he was hooked up in pace duels in each of those last two efforts, Pace Projector predicts a smoother journey today with a clear lead after 1/2 mile.
In addition, Love Rules All (15-1) is no slouch on Spotlight Figures either with a 99.
He comes off two of those, but each came on the downhill course at Santa Anita at 6 1/2 furlongs; this is his first try beyond that distance. His breeding ratings indicate a clear predilection for the shorter distances. But he’s obviously fast, and could be worth throwing in there somewhere at those morning line odds.
Bottom line is that the wider turf course is already paying dividends with a wide open turf stakes with a selection of horses that should present some fair odds. Best of luck and have a great Opening Day!