Newsletter: Racing! Digging down into the Santa Anita numbers 


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as we figure out which bets are working at Santa Anita.

Santa Anita came out with figures of more than $1 billion in all-sources handle at its recent marathon meeting. So, we thought we would dig down in the numbers and see where the success could be found.

Now, the cynics (yes, there are a few of you out there, and that’s my biggest understatement of the year) will point to the fact that there were 35 more races and three more live racing days than last year. Guess what, that didn’t really change the results. I ran the numbers based on average by day rather than year over year to see where the gains came.


First, in overall handle it was $755,408,958 in the 2017 season and $847,007,302 this year. Now, these figures are only live handle run at the track. It doesn’t include revenue from out of zone, such as people betting Golden Gate, and also betting other tracks outside California, which Santa Anita would get a cut of. So, adding that in you get the $1-billion figure.

OK, where are the gains?

-- Win betting was up 5.2%.

-- Exacta betting was up 5.4%.

-- Daily double was up 6.4%.

-- Pick 3 was up 5.8%.

-- The pick 4 was the only one down, at 10%.

-- Now, here is the clincher, the lower takeout pick 5 (14%) was up 11.1% from $43,151,698 to $49,883,674.

-- The pick five was a new bet and it brought in $32,602,347.

-- The pick 6 was up 19.4%, but that’s a total luck factor based on carryovers and especially having a massive one on closing day. Although, you can presume based on the other results the numbers would also be up.

-- In case you wondered, the top bet remains win, at $175,901,919.

-- Exacta is second at $142,075,727.

I didn’t include every bet and, in fact, show betting was down about $1.4 million. You wonder if that, along with the penny, is something whose time has gone.

It seems to me that Santa Anita made some smart moves when it comes to betting. Personally, I would like to see the late pick 5 match the early one for lower takeout. But that takes a sign-off of a lot of parties, although I suspect Santa Anita boss Tim Ritvo would be willing to give it a try if others would agree. How about it?

Los Alamitos thoroughbred review

Is it too soon to be talking about next year’s Kentucky Derby? Why, of course. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put Instagrand on your early watch list. The 2-year-old colt bought for a hefty $1.2 million won Friday’s $40,345 maiden special weight feature by an impressive 10 lengths. The race was over five furlongs.


The win by the Jerry Hollendorfer colt wasn’t a surprise to the bettors, as he paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10. No Treble was second, and Pullfromthecloud was third.

“He broke really well,’’ jockey Drayden Van Dyke told Bob Mieszerski of Los Alamitos. “Some of them came up to challenge me on the turn, but he was just galloping around there. When it came time to ask him he just exploded.

“I had worked him out of the gate before, and every indication he gave me was that he would run very well first time out, but you never know until they do it.’’

Los Alamitos thoroughbred preview

Saturday’s nine-race card starts at 1 p.m. Six of the races are for claimers, and five of the races are 5½ furlongs or shorter. And, of course, remember that Los Alamitos doesn’t have a turf course.

The feature is the eighth at about 4:30 p.m. It’s an allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares 3 and up running a mile for a total purse of $45,000. There are 10 scheduled starters.

The favorite is Starr Of Quality at 5-2. She won at 4-1 in her last start, an allowance at Santa Anita on May 3. That race was also a mile. Bill Spawr is the trainer, and Tiago Pereira is the jockey. There were high expectations for the second favorite, Vexatious, who is at 3-1. She had run a series of graded stakes without luck and hasn’t raced since August.

Big races preview

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Saturday. All times PDT.

10:06 Woodbine: $100,000 Charlie Barley Stakes, 3 year olds, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Machtree (2-1)

11:53 Woodbine: Grade 2 $175,000 King Edward Stakes, 3 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: Tower Of Texas (2-1)

12:09 Belmont: $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes, fillies and mares 4 and up, 1 mile on turf. Favorite: La Sardane (5-2)

12:50 Churchill: $100,000 Debutante Stakes, fillies 2 years old, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Restless Rider (5-2)

1:18 Woodbine: Grade 2 $175,000 Dance Smartly Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 1¼ miles on turf. Favorite: Holy Helena (5-2)

1:23 Monmouth: Grade 3 $100,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Imperative (2-1)

1:51 Woodbine: Grade 1 $250,000 Highlander Stakes, 3 and up, 6 furlongs on turf. Favorite: Imprimis (5-2)

1:55 Monmouth: Grade 3 $100,000 Eatontown Stakes, 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Favorite: Elysea’s World (5-2)

2:18 Belmont: Grade 2 $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Midnight Bisou (8-5)

2:30 Gulfstream: Grade 2 $250,000 Princess Rooney Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Curlin’s Approval (6-5)

2:36 Woodbine: $1 million Queen’s Plate Stakes, Canadian-bred 3 year olds, 1¼ miles. Favorite: Telekinesis (5-2)

2:56 Churchill: Grade 3 $100,000 Bashford Manor Stakes, 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Toothless Wonder (7-2)

3:01 Monmouth: Grade 1 $300,000 United Nations Stakes, 3 and up, 1 3/8 miles on turf. Favorite: Money Multiplier (5-2)

3:02 Gulfstream: Grade 3 $250,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: X Y Jet (4-5)

Jose Contreras LRC pick of the day

SEVENTH RACE: No. 2 Secreto Primero (5-1)

He was not able to sustain his move once he got the lead and had to settle for fourth as the betting favorite. He was claimed out of that effort by a sharp barn and will now switch to the dirt for the first time since early 2017. He’s got enough tactical speed to settle in the middle of the pack and that’s a good kind of running style to have for this long stretch drive.

Friday’s result: Don’t Stalk Me never really got engaged but rallied for third well back of the lead two.

Jose Contreras is an excellent handicapper and well known on social media and familiar to racing fans watching on TVG. You can follow him on Twitter at @losponies or check him out at his website.

Ed Burgart’s LA play of the day

FIFTH RACE: No. 4 Thrillofbeingfirst (3-1)

She lands leading rider Jesus Ayala for the first time and has shown ability versus tougher fields despite lugging inward steadily in every start. I liked her runnerup debut three outs ago when facing winner SC Coronada, who returned to qualify for the Kindergarten Futurity. Her main rivals, One Way Woman and Tamura, failed to improve in their most recent starts.

Final thought

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And now the stars of the show, Friday’s results and Saturday’s entries.