Shapiro: How to Bet the La Jolla Handicap
BY SCOTT SHAPIRO
Saturday’s co-feature at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is the La Jolla H. (G3), a 1 1/16-mile race for three-year-olds conducted over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
The 2016 rendition of the La Jolla came up strong with several ways for handicappers to look, including a number of value options with realistic chances to hit the wire first.
The pace should be an honest one given the presence of #1 Free Rose, #5 Mr. Roary, and #10 Imperious One. This should set things up for a thrilling stretch drive in a race that has a number of runners with a strong turn of foot over the grass.
The two favorites on Russ Hudak’s morning line are Monster Bea and Moonlight Drive, the top two finishers out of the meet’s opening-day feature, the Oceanside Stakes. Both merit respect.
#8 Monster Bea put forth a career best effort in his first start out West for the Peter Miller barn. The son of Hat Trick was in solid form in Kentucky for star trainer Mark Casse before heading to California, but moved forward quite a bit in the Oceanside. While he certainly is in with a chance on Saturday given his strong effort over this surface, I think he is a play against at a short price given that a regression seems likely.
#3 Moonlight Drive came with a strong run in his stateside debut on February 15 at Santa Anita Park for Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert. He was then sidelined for some time before returning in the Oceanside last month. He sat a great trip that day but was no match for Monster Bea’s late run. However, I think he clearly needed the race “off the bench” and should improve immensely in this second start off the layoff. The Italian import gets Flavien Prat in the irons for the first time in the La Jolla. He is the horse to beat and a must use.
#9 Ebadan was my top pick in the Oceanside. The Neil Drysdale runner was a bit farther back than I anticipated in the mile event, made up significant ground on the far turn and into the stretch, but encountered traffic trouble and was cost all chance. I do not mind the rider change from Santiago Gonzalez (who moves to #2 Liam the Charmer) to Norberto Arroyo, Jr. Arroyo has found his way to the rail to save ground over and over again this meet and I expect another solid ride from the veteran jockey in this spot. I am not sure if the son of Holy Roman Emperor was good enough to win last time but at a price of 12-1 on the morning line, I am willing to gamble that he will run big on Saturday. He is my value play in the La Jolla.
In an ideal scenario, Moonlight Drive and Ebadan finish 1-2 or run first and third.
Other than my top two choices, I am interested in a few other runners in this spot.
#2 Liam the Charmer scratched out of the Oceanside due to an extreme outside draw. He is well rested and should be ready to fire a big shot on Saturday for trainer Michael McCarthy.
#6 Lucky Bryan showed a powerful late kick in his last for John Sadler and Hronis Racing. If he can run back to the late effort he can certainly compete with this group. Victor Espinoza returns to ride the Lookin At Lucky colt.
#7 Burger and Fries is the “wild card.” The French-bred makes his first start in North America on Saturday for trainer Patrick Gallagher. He has been training quite well in the mornings and a 12-1 morning line price makes him worth using in exotics with my top two betting choices.
#4 Dressed in Hermes appears to have matured a bit earlier than some of his rivals. He is the class of the field and gets Kent Desormeaux up for the first time. A good trip is realistic but I expect at least one, if not more rivals, to be better than the Janet Armstrong trainee. I will include underneath in the exotics.
Here is how I will play Race 9, the La Jolla Handicap:
$4 Exacta Box: 3-9
$2 Exacta Wheel: 3,9 with 2,3,4,6,7,9
$2 Exacta Wheel: 2,3,6,7,9 with 3,9
$.50 Trifecta Wheel: 3,9 with 2,3,4,6,7,9 with 2,3,4,6,7,9
$2 Trifecta Wheel: 3,9 with 2,3,4,6,7,9 with 3,9
$2 Trifecta Wheel: 3,9 with 3,9 with 2,3,4,6,7,9
Here is how I will attack the horizontal wagers:
In the race preceding the La Jolla, #7 Straight Fire looks like a standout. He was extremely impressive in his debut for a barn that does not have their runners “cranked” first time out. He should move forward again and win the eighth race at s short price.
I will play $10 Daily Doubles starting in Race 8 with Straight Fire over my top two choices in the La Jolla Moonlight Drive and Ebadan (7 over 3,9). (Cost = $20)
I will also try to hit the final pick 3 on the Saturday afternoon card starting in Race 8. Here are my Pick 3 tickets:
$2 Pick 3: 7 with 3,9 with 5,6,7,9 ($16)
$1 Pick 3: 7 with 2,3,6,7,9 with 5,6,7,9 ($20)
$1 Pick 3: 7 with 2,3,6,9 with 5,6,7,9 ($16)
Overall cost of bets that include the La Jolla = $170
Good luck and see you at the windows!