Florida horse racing bettors entertain news and developments on two fronts.
One concerns the weekend races in front of them.
The second involves Triple Crown news, which has heavy Sunshine State connections and a flash point with Todd Pletcher, the leading money-winning trainer at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.
Let’s break down all the Florida horse betting action.
29 races at Gulfstream Park this weekend
Gulfstream continues its Royal Palm Meet all weekend, starting at 12:50 p.m.
There are nine races Friday and Sunday, and 11 on Saturday. The Saturday card also is stacked with several double-digit field sizes. That produces races which are harder to hit, but pay well.
There are also several events with six- and seven-horse fields, which are easier to handicap and pay less.
The week started with the Rainbow Pick 6 guaranteed at $100,000. This pot involves hitting the final six races every day. From the pool, 70% is paid each day to every ticket holder bearing the six winners.
If a singular ticket has it, the whole pool is cashed. But that’s a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. On most days, 30% of the pool carries over and the pot swells until the track decrees a mandatory payout day.
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, which fashions a DK Horse betting app now available to Florida bettors, touts the Rainbow Pick 6.
“People love that Pick 6 and I do too,” Avello told PlayFL. “You can be looking for a big score, but you don’t have to invest a lot to become part of it.
“You can invest $10 and get 50 combinations. If you want to bet more before that payout day, when the pot is building, you can do that too.
“There are many different strategies, and they are affordable.”
Florida was one of the first states to approve the DK Horse racing app, which essentially puts a sportsbook in the palm of one’s hand or a computer.
Gamblers can bet and watch the races and replays, reflecting a trend that gradually sweeps the nation. (A New Jersey simulcast facility, for example, just ceased operations because online gaming options limited their live handle.)
Whether one bets online or at the track, here is an updated look at Gulfstream Park’s power brokers at its live meet.
Leading jockeys by earnings, rounded to the nearest $1,000
- Leonel Reyes $1,184,000
- Edgar Perez $809,000
- Edwin Gonzalez $803,000
- Emisael Jaramillo $796,000
Leading trainers by victories
- Saffie Joseph Jr. 20
- Jose Francisco D’Angelo 19
- Rohan Crichton 8
- Antonio Sano 8
Top trainer and jockey lists change here when the national circuit attracts Gulfstream’s top winter performers to richer races.
It’s important to know who’s getting the betting support here when playing Gulfstream.
Most of these jockeys and trainers will be represented over the weekend.
A look back at a big Gulfstream payout
Gulfstream usually produces a beauty of a payout, at least once, every weekend.
Here is one from last Saturday that comes under the heading of “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
It was Race 3 on the grass, with only seven horses.
But it paid a whopping $404 for the exacta and $589 for the $1 trifecta.
And some may have stumbled into it.
Tepper, the 6-5 favorite, ran third.
Hubris, the 7-2 second choice, ran second.
But longshot Fast N Steady rallied past them and prevailed at 24-1. He made a surge in the stretch and got up by a head.
Some bettors like to take two short-priced horses with a longshot in the $1 trifecta box. It only costs $6. What you hope for is your top picks to run second and third, beaten by the longshot.
That’s what happened here. Fast N Steady was the second-longest shot on the board. There was also a 50-1 shot who did not hit the board.
But the two favorites with the right longshot, and, presto, our high-paying upset of the week.
Pletcher, Triple Crown developments
Pletcher has his fingers crossed on Friday. That’s when Forte, the Florida Derby-winning 3-year-old scratched from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with a foot injury, works out in front of a veterinarian.
If Forte passes that test, Pletcher intends to put Forte in the June 10 Belmont Stakes.
Pletcher has won four Belmont Stakes races and hopes to have a strong hand this year. He has indicated that Tapit Trice, seventh in the Derby, will go in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
Florida fans also recall Tapit Trice winning the Tampa Bay Derby with a definitive move in March. His late-running style may fit the longer Belmont.
Kingsbarns, who captured the Louisiana Derby, is also under consideration for the Belmont. So is Prove Winner, a recent winner at Churchill Downs.
Naturally, Pletcher is disappointed that Forte can’t go against Mage in a Florida Derby rematch. That had been perceived as a dream battle, but Forte was forced to miss the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
And it appears Mage will miss the third.
Connections for the Kentucky Derby winner have indicated they are pointing to the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. They would have entered the Belmont in search of a Triple Crown sweep, but Mage came up just short in the Preakness.
Analyzing Mage’s 3rd-place finish in the Preakness
The late scratch of First Mission, who would have probably engaged eventual winner National Treasure in an early speed duel, hurt Mage’s chances. That would have set the race up for Mage to pass tiring speed horses down the lane.
But with no pace to shoot at, Mage could not pass a horse who had been masterfully preserved through slow fractions by Johnny Velazquez.
Mage needed to be close to the earlier pace, but that’s easier said than done.
“Look, you couldn’t make Zenyatta (a famed late closer) run near the pace just because you want him to,” Avello said. “Mage caught a tough break with the scratch of First Mission, no doubt about it. Without that, the race probably sets up to give Mage a good shot at winning.”
Mage just missed getting up to catch victorious National Treasure and runner-up Blazing Sevens, who ran a big race.
Florida fans know all about Blazing Sevens, who has been steadily improving since finishing out of the money behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth.
Slowly, but surely, his trainers are getting races into him and getting the most from him.
The Fountain of Youth, a Florida Derby prep race, thus featured Kentucky Derby favorite Forte, Kentucky Derby winner Mage and Preakness runner-up Blazing Sevens. Not bad.