Santa Anita Park starkly contrasts the nation’s racetracks right now.
While most of them experience a lull in the two-week period leading up to the June 10 Belmont Stakes, Santa Anita sizzles.
The Arcadia oval not only sports a major-stakes weekend, but holds a Memorial Day card that kicks off the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In series.
The winner of Monday’s $500,000 Shoemaker Mile Stakes will be the first of many invited back here for the Breeders’ Cup weekend, Nov. 3-4.
As this develops, California-based Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert savors his record-setting eighth Preakness with National Treasure and eyes the Belmont Stakes.
Here are the weekend California horse race betting highlights.
- Friday — An eight-race card starting at 1 p.m. Entries are also drawn for the Shoemaker Mile.
- Saturday — A nine-race card highlighted by the $200,000 Triple Bend and the $100,000 Daytona Stakes.
- Sunday — Five stakes races total $300,000. The Snow Chief and Melair Stakesa are each worth $150,000. The Fran’s Valentine, Thor’s Echo and Crystal Water Stakes run for $100,000,
- Monday — The big slate of stakes races headlined by the Shoemaker.
The card includes the $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles and the $400,000 Gamely.
Shoemaker Mile Stakes launches the road to the Breeders’ Cup
Santa Anita literally marks the start and the finish of the Breeders’ Cup Road. Racing’s greatest event unfolds at the Great Race Place Nov. 3 and Nov. 4.
The qualifying process also begins Monday at Santa Anita. The Shoemaker is a “Win And You’re In Event” for the Breeders’ Cup.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series consists of 80 graded stakes races worldwide.
Winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
The winner of the Shoemaker Mile, contested over a mile on the turf, will receive an automatic starting position with fees paid into the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
The Shoemaker Mile is the first of 41 Challenge Series races in North America this year and will be televised live on FanDuel TV.
In the US, 11 of the 14 divisions comprising the Breeders’ Cup World Championships races will be represented by one Challenge Series winner per region (East, Midwest and West).
The winner of the Shoemaker Mile will be the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Western region representative in the World Championships. The Aug. 12 Fourstardave Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course (East) and the Oct. 7 Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland (Midwest) are the other regional qualifying races in the US for the FanDuel Mile division.
Trainer Phil D’Amato is expected to enter three graded stakes winners in Monday’s headliner:
- The 5-year-old gelding Gold Phoenix (IRE), winner of the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita in March
- The 4-year-old Balnikhov (IRE), who won last month’s San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate Fields
- The 6-year-old gelding Hong Kong Harry (IRE), who won last year’s Del Mar Mile (G1) and Seabiscuit Handicap (G2), and was recently second in the Old Forrester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
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Mandatory Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot Monday
Could it get any better for California horse racing betters?
Yes, it could. And it did.
Santa Anita will have a mandatory payout of the Rainbow 6 Jackpot on Monday.
The Rainbow 6 is a 20-cent minimum wager. If there are no single-ticket winners on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, track officials estimate Monday’s pool will approach $3 million.
Entering Friday, the Rainbow 6 carryover stands at $201,326.24.
The track is guaranteeing a $1 million payout on both Saturday and Sunday if there is a single-ticket winner.
In the event there is a $1 million payout to a single ticket winner on Saturday, there is no such guarantee in place for Sunday.
What a weekend. California bettors can access the action on their apps, at the track or via simulcast locations.
For horse-racing bettors, it’s a golden time in the Golden State.
Rematch in the Triple Bend Stakes
Spirit of Makena goes for his fourth win in five outings and battles Forbidden Kingdom in the Triple Bend Stakes in a rematch of their March 11 battle in the San Carlos.
A definitive stalking rally made Spirit of Makena a comfortable winner in the San Carlos, with Forbidden Kingdom second. Howbeit was a strong closing fourth is entered in this seven-furlong race.
An earlier move would give him a realistic shot to hit the board.
Baffert aims National Treasure for Belmont Stakes
National Treasure is going to New York audition the Belmont Park surface.
If he likes it, Baffert plans to enter him in the June 10 Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles.
National Treasure triumphed in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, using a masterful ride from John Velazquez. Breaking from the rail, Velazquez guided National Treasure through dawdling fractions of 23.95 for the first quarter of a mile and 48.92 for the half.
That preserved just enough late run for National Treasure to nip Blazing Sevens and Kentucky Derby champion Mage, who was too late.
Baffert may have done his most masterful job in crafting National Treasure for his record eighth Preakness Stakes triumph.
He had scratched National Treasure from the San Felipe in March and returned him for a belated fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby in April.
During Preakness week, Baffert said National Treasure was rounding into form.
That became true.
National Treasure is turning into a better horse than many once thought. His final Preakness time of 1:55.12 is faster than Triple-Crown winning Justify (1:55.90 in 2018) and American Pharoah (1:58.46 in 2015), both in the slop.
Other potential Belmont Stakes starters for Baffert are Arabian Lion, winner of the Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard, and Reincarnate, who most recently was 13th in the Kentucky Derby.