What To Watch For On TwinSpires at Del Mar Opening Weekend

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TwinSpires Staff

July 14th, 2016


The Major League Baseball All Star game festivities are over, but the massive week of sports action in San Diego County continues on Friday when Del Mar Thoroughbred Club opens its nine-week summer meeting.

With entries out for the first weekend of action, here are a things to look forward to at opening weekend at Del Mar.

It is impossible to discuss Opening Day at Del Mar and not start with the party. The crowd present for the first day of the meeting is different than any other day. While there are certainly diehard racing fans onsite, the majority of attendees are there to celebrate and with Opening Day falling on a Friday instead of a Thursday this year, the party promises to be that much crazier.

Most professional horseplayers in the area will understandably wait until Saturday or Sunday to hit Del Mar for the first time in 2016, but the vibe on Opening Day is vibrant and refreshing and something I recommend everyone experience at least once in their lifetime.  The 22nd annual Opening Day Hats Contest headlines the non-racing activities on Friday afternoon, but as they say in My Fair Lady, you should wear your hat every day, not just on hat day.

While the party is massive, the racing on Opening Day is strong as well. A ten-race card offers handicappers a number of challenging events and horizontal sequences. As usual, The Oceanside, the traditional Opening Day feature, presents a full field of three-year-old grass runners competing at a distance of one mile over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.

Graded stakes winner Dressed in Hermes for the Budget Stable and trainer Janet Armstrong, as well as Italian import Moonlight Drive for Racing Hall of Famer trainer Bob Baffert headline the 14-horse field. Dressed in Hermes returns to California after mid-pack finishes in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs and the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park. Moonlight Drive makes his second start in the States after a strong debut back in February at Santa Anita against high-level optional claiming company. While both of these runners have solid chances to hit the wire first, there are several others that also have a shot and will provide greater value at the pari-mutuel windows.

The first graded stakes event of the Del Mar summer meet takes place on Saturday with the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap as the ninth race of the ten–race card. The race won last year by She’s Not Here drew a strong field of females including the aforementioned winner, Hronis Racing’s Nancy From Nairobi, multiple graded stakes winner Prize Exhibit, and 2015 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes winner Her Emmynency. Much like all of the turf races over the first two days, it appears a competitive group.

In addition to the Yellow Ribbon, Saturday’s card also features the 27th Running of the Wickerr Stakes. The $75,000 event drew a field of nine and will be run at a mile over “the green.” Vyjack makes his Southern California debut for new trainer Phil D’Amato.

The Sunday afternoon feature is the Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes. The $250,000 event is for three-year-olds and up and run at a mile and an eighth over the lawn. A solid bunch is expected including Shoemaker Mile winner Midnight Storm, Ashleyluvssugar, Bolo, Finnegans Wake, Ohio, and Flamboyant.

All three days of racing present incredible wagering opportunities for handicappers, including my favorite wager, the Players’ Pick 5. The Pick 5 can be enjoyed by horseplayers of all kinds given the fifty-cent domination and has a “tasty” low takeout rate of fourteen percent.

In addition, all cards will have a fifty-cent Pick 4 over the final four races. Check out the Twin Spires promotion “Outcap Da Shap” and try to out handicap me and win more than the track payout.

The start of the meet is here. I cannot wait for Friday. What a great meet it should be “Where the Turf Meets the Surf!”