How to Bet Del Mar: Tips from Shapper Da Capper

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TwinSpires Staff

July 12th, 2016


The Del Mar summer meeting is upon us, and that means perfect weather and incredible wagering opportunities each day on the Southern California circuit.

After a dull end to the Santa Anita meeting due to short fields and no turf racing, horseplayers can now look forward to more challenging cards and wagering opportunities.

Opening day is Friday, July 15, and the meeting runs through Labor Day, so let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind when betting on racing at Del Mar, as well as a few wagers that can be most profitable during the nine weeks “Where the Turf meets the Surf.”

For opening day handicapping information, CLICK HERE.

The turf sprints are much different at Santa Anita and Del Mar, so use the past performances down the hill cautiously.

The downhill races at Santa Anita are quite different from most turf sprints and require a combination of speed and endurance, whereas the Del Mar five furlong sprints are more traditional and are usually won by those prominent early. Additionally, there are horses that  have an affinity for the downhill course at Santa Anita or the tighter-turn shorter course at Del Mar but not both, so finding such horses can be profitable.

Try to spread out as much as possible in lower level N2L and N3L claiming events.  

A lot of the Pick 4 and Pick 5 sequences throughout this meet will include one of these “grab bag” events. They can be a great place to “bust out” as they produce quite a few prices. There are a number of reasons why, but the simplest answer is how good could a horse be if the connections are willing to let them go for so cheap. It is often class droppers or those coming off a win that may look best on paper, but are over bet.  Try not to take a short price and use as many runners as your budget allows you in horizontal wagers.

Take note of the rails being out on the turf course.

Some turf courses are more affected by the rails being out on given days than others. At Del Mar, the rail being out to protect the inside of the course has a tremendous impact on the outcome of the event. Make sure to check the changes daily and note that speed is very dangerous over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course when the rails are out.

Much like most big meets, certain owners and trainers point toward success at Del Mar.

Just because certain connections did not perform well at Santa Anita over the past few months, does not mean that trend will continue at this meeting. Often times owners and trainers are going light in the early summer, so they can be frequent visitors of the winners’ circle at Del Mar. Syndicates like Great Friends Racing exist solely to have fun and win in San Diego. Conditioners like Bob Hess, Jr. regularly have success at Del Mar, but seem to struggle the rest of the year.

Beware of form reversals from horses that have had previous success at Del Mar.

Whether it be due of the change in climate or an affinity for the surface itself, horses that appear to have lost their form elsewhere, but have performed well at Del Mar often rediscover their past success down South. Be sure to be mindful of the “horse for course angle” at this meet.

Suggested Wagers:

Players’ Pick 5

This is my favorite wager in Southern California, in large part due to the low takeout percentage.  It involves the first five races on the card and can be played in fifty-cent dominations. The payouts are always great and whether you have a small or large budget, the fifty-cent increment allows for all types of players to get involved with a shot to hit a nice score.


With all the attention on exotic wagers, the classic Win/Place/Show bet can often be overlooked, but it still remains a great way to attack a card.  The takeout is fair and hitting one or two winners can lead to a winning day instead of a frustrating one.

Place Pick All

This wager no longer exists at Santa Anita Park, but remains on the wagering menu at Del Mar. It requires the horseplayer to pick a horse in each race that finishes first or second. If there is a card where you think a favorite or two is vulnerable, this may be a good way to score out if it is “your day.”

The Del Mar meet lasts nine weeks. Remain patient and wait for the right opportunities. The start of this meet can be tough with a lot of large fields and evenly matched groups. Good luck!

Outcap Da Shap Pick 4 Challenge

The Pick 4 is available anywhere, but the opportunity to win some extra money beating me is only available at (I’m Shap).

Three days a week, I’ll offer a late Pick 4 with a maximum budget of $100/day (but you can bet as much as you want). If you hit and I don’t, you split $1,000 with those who outcapped da Shap. Click the image at left to learn more.

Scott Shapiro is a California-based handicapper and writer. He will be blogging for all meeting long. Follow him on Twitter.