How to Bet the Del Mar Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

August 15th, 2018

If you have a strong opinion on who will win Saturday’s $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, I’m impressed, because on paper the race looks like a very competitive event without any clear standouts.

Actually, let me clarify that a bit. At first glance, it certainly appears that #6 Itsinthepost is the horse to beat in this 1 3/8-mile turf test, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I). Trained by Jeff Mullins, Itsinthepost has won four graded stakes races in 2018 alone and has been a top-notch competitor in long-distance turf races for a couple of years. If this race were being held at Santa Anita, arguably his favorite track, I’d be viewing him as by far the most likely winner.

But of course, this race is not being held at Santa Anita. It’s being held at Del Mar, where Itsinthepost has compiled a frustrating 0-for-10 record. Some of his efforts here have been respectable, including a runner-up effort in the 2017 Del Mar Handicap, but he could only finish ninth of ten in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. II) over this course last month, his most recent start. That disappointing run was particularly noteworthy since it was Itsinthepost's first truly poor run in at least two years—he's has been remarkably consistent overall and just doesn’t misfire like that.

So if you think that Itsinthepost is vulnerable on Saturday, then the Del Mar Handicap becomes a much more wide-open event. With that in mind, I’m going to throw my support behind #5 Unapologetic and #10 Ritzy A. P., who ran 1-2 in a 1 ¼-mile allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita two months ago. For Unapologetic, it was his second straight victory following a decisive triumph in a similar allowance race going 1 ½ miles three weeks prior, so we know that the distance of the Del Mar Handicap won’t be an issue. In fact, Unapologetic actually won an allowance race over this course and distance last summer.

As for Ritzy A. P., he’s spent the majority of his career running shorter distances, but as a son of English Channel out of an A.P. Indy mare, he’s bred to relish the longer distance of the Del Mar Handicap. Furthermore, he demonstrated that he’s in good form by winning the Joseph T. Grace Handicap at Santa Rosa just one week ago, and the quick turnaround seems like a sign of confidence.

Here’s how I would play the race:

$10 to win on #5 Unapologetic $3 exacta: 5,10 with 5,6,10 ($12) $2 exacta: 5,10 with 11,12 ($8)

Good luck!