Florida Horse Racing Returns After Last Week’s Torrential Rains

Written By Dave Bontempo on April 21, 2023
Florida horse racing returns after rain

Welcome back from the storm.

Florida horse racing bettors can resume normal pursuits this weekend. They scurried for cover last weekend when Gulfstream Park canceled racing Thursday and Friday because of heavy rainfall and severe weather on April 12 in South Florida.

The impact included tornado warnings, flooded streets, and the closing of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and schools throughout the area.

A reported 18 inches of rain fell at the track in a 2 1/2-hour time period on Wednesday, far more than forecasted by weather services. The flooding prompted track officials to cancel the card, but the action picked up on Saturday.

Tampa Bay Downs returns after longshot came through last weekend

The heavens opened up in a different way at Tampa Bay Downs, where a 59-1 longshot triggered our “Bennies From Heaven” phrase in a superfecta that paid nearly $18,000.

Weather reports look favorable this weekend, as both Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs are set for cards. Gulfstream goes Thursday-Sunday, usually with a 12:40 p.m. first post.

Tampa Bay has cards Friday-Sunday, usually with a 12:20 p.m. first post.

Florida bettors can participate online with the TVG app. Or they can wager in person at the tracks or simulcast outlets.

With the conclusion of the Florida Derby at the start of the month, and the Kentucky Derby just a few weeks away, most of the sport’s fastest horses won’t be on display. But that’s okay. This is an excellent time to develop some handicapping angles and enjoy the sport with little pressure.

Here’s some help establishing the base that could lead to a big payday.

Gulfstream Park’s Saturday Card

This is going to be a sample of the Royal Palm weekend program. There are several races with multiple-sized fields and some with six or seven.

There’s a specific wagering and budgeting approach to each that can benefit bettors.

Let’s take the first race, for example. It has the usual big field, the turf surface and the potential for a nice payout.

At midweek, I haven’t seen the odds and have no idea who the bettors will favor. But let’s look at the race anyway to seek some feel for it.

The event has a field of 12 on the turf going 1 1-16 miles.  It is maiden claiming for $28,000. In other words, nobody in this field has won a race.

Bettors will make someone a favorite, but no horse is prohibitive in this group.

Pick your favorites

Should you play this race, the first objective is finding a potential base of contenders.

Looking at this field, you’ll find a matchup between the 5 horse, Money Map, and the 6, Chenti. Money Map finished just ahead of Chenti in a previous race, close enough that if you like one horse, maybe you should like both.

Most Wanted Man, the 4, and America’s Guest, the 9, have a class drop from maiden special weights. Most Wanted Man ran sixth and America’s Guest ran ninth.

The drop from maiden special weights to normal claiming often impacts the results of these early races.

A weak finish at maiden special weights could produce a mid-pack or Top 3 finish in the maiden-claiming world.

Will that matter here? We don’t know.

These four horses could be the initial angle of the opening race. Many of the others have run in turf races, although without distinction. Perhaps you’ll include them Saturday because they look on the muscle or have a good recent workout. That’s all part of the assessment.

At mid-week, there could be some horses added to the field and there could be a couple of first-time starters, which are not easy to evaluate.

The race could be worth playing if you have strong feelings on Saturday.

Or you could take the local favorite

Another angle could involve Money Map. He is entered by Saffie Joseph Jr., the leading trainer at Gulfstream Park, and owns Storm Cat Breeding. The stable is known for producing horses excellent on the turf. At this level, those are two excellent assets.

What if you trusted those angles? Where’s your possible bet?

Besides betting the 5 to win, combine the 5 with the common opponent, the 6, and the maiden-special weights droppers, the 4 and the 9.

At this point, you would have two different choices about investing $12 and much depends on what the betting board indicates.

The first is to take the 5 in a $1 trifecta key with those horses. That would look like a $1 trifecta key with the 5 having to win and the 4,6 and 9 having to fill out second and third.

Back it up and it’s the 4-6-9 in the first and third slots, the 5 in the second spot.

You could also put the 5 in a 10-cent superfecta key. Keep those same horses and add any two, especially if they are longshots. You would put the 5 in the first and second position with all of these horses.

If you don’t like those strategies, see what’s behind door no. 3

Method no. 3. Suppose you like the 5 and the 6.  Take $12 and make two $6 stabs in the trifecta pool. You’d put the 5 and the 6 in separate $1 trifecta boxes, which gives you three horses. Take, for example, the 4-5-6 box and the 5-6 9-box. Or take the 5 and 6 in a box with a big longshot.

As you can see, there are many ways to go, and I have no idea if the 5 is the horse. What’s important is your method. Even in a field that looks impossible to handicap, you can find something. And doing the work at least gives you a little feel for the race, which makes it more fun.

At the maiden and low claiming levels, you can also count on a horse “waking up” one day and just being in the mood to run, defying past performance.

Narrowing the field down to a core group of possible contenders, mixed with some wagering methods, can make this process enjoyable. Especially if you understand that you can do everything “right” and still scratch your head after the race.

Gulfstream was up to its old longshot tricks on Saturday.

There is usually at least one race like this on every card.

Practiko captured the third race at 7-1 with Sonny Leon aboard.

Florida bettors are becoming more familiar with the jockey who rode 80-1 shot Rich Strike to a shocking Kentucky Derby triumph last year and who now races more often here.

Maptidude was second at 11-1, completing a $2 exacta of $279.

Omni King rallied for third at 6-1, capping a $1 trifecta that paid $974.

First-time starter Pay Zone was sent off as the 2-1 favorite and held fourth, wrapping up a 10-cent superfecta that paid $505.14.

Titanic Tampa Bay

We featured jockey Scott Spieth here a couple of weeks ago as the Tampa Bay jockey slowly closes in on 5,000 wins.

He’s got a little way to go, but one of his most memorable notches in the belt came last Friday.

In a maiden turf race (sound familiar?), he guided Bourbon Blast home at 59-1. Cool Front was second at 7-2, completing a $733 exacta.

Third went to 6-5 favorite Sneaky Cheeky and the $1 trifecta paid $1,162.

Classy of Course secured fourth at 10-1 and the $2 superfecta paid $17,988 or just shy of $900 for the 10-center.

How some bettors may have cashed: refer to the Gulfstream method for Saturday’s Race 1 about taking two horses you like in separate $1 trifecta boxes with a possible bomb.

In this race, Cool Front and Sneaky Cheeky were both short-priced. A gambler could have taken a couple of different $1 trifecta boxes with them and hope to have included the big longshot.

There’s always a chance to back into something, regardless of race level.

Good luck finding a Cha-Ching bundle this weekend!

Photo by Shutterstock
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer. He writes NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City, iGaming Player and others. For PlayFL, he will focus on the world of Florida horse racing. 

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