25,000 Reasons to Play Opening Day at Santa Anita with TwinSpires
By Lucky Kalanges
As I get older, pragmatism trumps idealism. I find this to be true in life and gambling. Long gone are the days when I was cocky enough to play $32 Pick 6 tickets and be disappointed when I didn’t get at least five of six winners.
To be honest, I don’t think I was ever that good, it just felt that way. If I didn’t have the money to cover more combinations, no problem - I would just out-handicap everybody.
Fast forward 15-plus years and I seldom play the Pick 6. In Southern California, my preferred circuit, I’ve replaced the Pick 6 with the pragmatic Players’ Pick 5.
The reasons are simple:
· It’s a quarter the cost of a Pick 6 ticket ($.50 vs. $2).
· The takeout is lower, returning more as a percentage wagered to bettors.
· 5 legs are easier to hit than 6.
· The payoffs, while not life changing, are more often than not worth the time and investment.
Before the Pick 5 was added to the SoCal wagering lineup, the $32 ticket I would play in the Pick 6 covered just 16 combinations. Now, the same $32 played in the Pick 5 gives me the ability to cover four times the combos (64). And while I consider myself a more disciplined player, I am not the handicapper I was 15 years ago. I need extra combinations the Players’ Pick 5 affords me.
It turns out I am not alone. On opening day at Santa Anita last year, the Players’ Pick 5 handled $449,675, more than twice as much as the Pick 6 – the bet Southern California made famous. It is also important to note this is over the first five races on the program, which are typically subpar betting affairs compared to the last six.
This year at TwinSpires, we’re giving you even more reasons to play the Players’ Pick 5 – 25,000 more to be exact. Starting opening day at Santa Anita, you can qualify to win the weekly $5,000 Pot O’ Gold, which we will be awarding every Sunday (or carrying over) for the next five weeks.
The objective is simple: Hit two winning Pick 5 tickets during the same race week at Santa Anita, one on any race day before Sunday and another on Sunday.
Opening week is a great time to start because there stands to be fewer qualifiers for Sunday’s $5,000 pot, given there are only two days to qualify, Friday and Saturday. If you hit the Pick 5 either this Friday or Saturday, Sunday is a virtually must play day since you’re eligible to win or split $5,000 with all other qualifiers who cash a ticket on Sunday.
If you are a regular Pick 5 player or just a value hunter, I hope you enjoy this opportunity to play for a nice pot of extra cash with TwinSpires. Just hit that one Pick 5 on or before Saturday and it will add extra level of excitement to your Sunday afternoons leading up to the Superbowl.
Opening Day Players’ Pick 5
With a welcome abundance of downtime during the holidays, I was able to take a peek at the opening day card at Santa Anita this Friday and offer a brief look at a pair of races in the Players’ Pick 5 sequence.
The Players’ Pick 5 for opening day appears quite challenging with fields of 12, 9, 14, 13 and 11 scheduled before scratches. I found it difficult to apply my preferred angle of attack, building my ticket around a single and going deep in what I think is the most wide open race.
The third and fifth are a couple races in which I was able to narrow down the top contenders.
In RACE 3, I don’t feel I can leave #5 BOUND FOR HEAVEN (4/1) off my ticket. The third time starter from the Art Sherman barn enters off a near miss effort in which he recorded the top last race Bris figure of 74. He has good early speed, a valuable commodity on this surface over which E (Early) speed types won at a 42% clip in 24 races at the 6 ½ furlong distance during the fall meet.
He enters off a bullet drill at Los Alamitos and catches a field without a lot of other early speed types. I do like one of his potential competitors for the early lead as a potential longshot play. #11 SECRET TEMPLE (12/1) could be a factor if he reverts to his debut race three back in which he set the pace at Los Alamitos and held on for second to a horse that returned to win again. He earned a Bris 71 figure for that race and any improvement on that number would make him a contender. His subpar subsequent efforts came over the polytrack at Del Mar, where he flashed his characteristic early speed before throwing in the towel early. A return to the speed favoring dirt at Santa Anita could make him a player at a nice price.
The other race where I might be tempted to zero in on a single horse is RACE 5, in which #3 MAL VERDE (3/1) appears to have a pace advantage over the bulk of the stretch runners in this field. The John Sadler trainee earned a solid Bris figure of 91 in a win over this track and distance in his last race. It was 76 days ago, but he has performed well off a layoff in the past, earning his top Bris number of 96 off the bench racing down the hill this summer at Santa Anita.
His competing speed for the lead is to his immediate inside in #1 SON OF WAR (8/1) and #2 CRUX (6/1). He appears quicker than both with an average E2 figure of 99 to 94 (for Son of War) and 85 (Crux). Whether rider Tyler Baze chooses to clear them for the lead or stalk either one, I don’t think he’ll have to work as hard early as he did in his last race, which makes me think there is room for improvement over his 91 figure.
If either Son of War or Crux scratches, he would be a logical single. While having to single the morning line favorite in a turf race isn’t my preferred approach to any multi-race bet, I had a hard time finding a horse that stood out among the numerous closers in the field. And given contention runs deep in at least three of the other legs of the sequence, I feel obliged to take a stand in this one.
Whether you’re tying a bow on another year of playing the horses like I am this Friday or not, I wish you the best of luck both this weekend and in the coming year.