How to Bet the San Diego Handicap

Profile Picture:

TwinSpires Staff

July 22nd, 2016


The eyes of the racing world will be on the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club at approximately 6:10 p.m. (PT) on Saturday when 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome returns to the races for the first time since his impressive score in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26.  Chrome will be tested in Saturday afternoon’s feature as Bob Baffert and Kaleem Shah send out the son of Big Brown, Dortmund, in the first race of his four-year-old campaign.

California Chrome drew well to the outside where he likes to be, which should allow him to find a perfect spot early on right off the pace of Dortmund. The son of Lucky Pulpit has been installed as the 4-5-morning line favorite and will be extremely tough to beat. While the San Diego is not a race that is likely to yield any huge payouts due to the compact field and two short priced runners, I do think there are ways to attack it squarely and come away with a profit.

Here is my wagering strategy:

With the scratch of #1 Hard Aces on Friday morning, the use of vertical wagers in the San Diego Handicap took a big hit. I recommend treading lightly and playing one or two cold trifectas in what will either be a five or six horse race depending on whether #3 Soi Phet remains a starter.

I have no desire to try to beat California Chrome. He has been training forwardly, draws well and should sit a perfect trip with his tactical speed. While the likeliest outcome involves Dortmund running second, there is a much better chance of him finishing out of the exacta than Chrome not hitting the wire first.

#7 Win the Space has been installed as the 8-1 third choice, but I am expecting a regression off of two career best efforts in back-to-back starts at Santa Anita. The most recent was a runner-up finish in last month’s Grade I Gold Cup. Given the potential “bounce,” I think he has a great chance to finish out of the trifecta on Saturday.  

#5 Follow Me Crev was competing at high level this winter at Santa Anita Park and was pointing for a run at the Santa Anita Handicap before suffering an injury that sidelined him until mid-May. His return in the Grade 2 Californian was poor, but perhaps the additional time off will get him back on track for trainer Vladimir Cerin. I am going to hope he can find his way into the trifecta and will build my vertical wagers based on Chrome winning and Follow Me Crev hitting the board.

Here are my suggested tickets:

$5 exacta: 6 with 5
$5 trifecta: 6 with 2 with 5
$2 trifecta part wheel: 6 with 5 with ALL
$2 trifecta part wheel: 6 with ALL with 5

Given the likely short priced winner and the short field, the horizontal wagers are the better way to attack the San Diego. I do not advise spreading too deep if you are singling Chrome, as that will be a very common strategy unlikely to produce a big payout.

I am going to attack the pick 3 sequence starting in Race 7 with the San Clemente.

It is the best betting race on the 10-race card and offers plenty of ways for a handicapper to go.

The turf route races have not been kind to frontrunners early on at Del Mar and the pace should be honest in the San Clemente, so I am going to lean on a few late runners. #2 Lady Valeur is a Multiplex filly that I have always fancied. She cuts back a furlong and should sit a great trip under Rafael Bejarano. She is my top pick at 8-1 on the morning line. I will also include the second choice on the morning line #3 Be Mine for the strong connections of Phil D’Amato and Flavien Prat. Finally, I will toss in #8 Mirage at a big price for trainer Simon Callaghan.

In the middle leg, I will use two runners #2 Princess Kendra, a filly that goes first off the claim for trainer Bill Spawr. Spawr is an incredible 37% with this move and he “legs up” veteran jockey Kent Desormeaux in the six and a half furlong sprint. I will also include #8 Tooluckysupermoon. This five-year-old mare should be prominently placed by Martin Pedroza and could be tough to catch late if she sets moderate fractions.

Here is my suggested ticket in Race 7: 

$5 Pick 3: 2,3,8 with 2,8 with 6

The short field and presence of Chrome makes the San Diego a tough race to find value, but hopefully we can be right and take home a nice profit.

Good luck!

Photo courtesy of Frank Sorge/