HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 20, 2022 – Tail-gate parties aside, American horseplayers do not embrace steeplechasing. I asked a friend about it once. He said “sorry, I don’t bet my money on horses that leave the ground.”
Other players who feel the same way may want to adjust their attitude; they maybe missing a good bet. I once studied the results of steeplechase races, mostly in New York, over a two-year period.
Favorites won at close to a 50% rate, allowing me to reason, as I told my buddy, “good horses don’t fall.”
My guess is that the lack of interest has more to do with unfamiliarity than anything else. In Europe whole meetings are devoted to this niche. In fact, the annually prestigious Cheltenham Festival is a huge destination meet.
The point here is that you don’t have to bet your money to enjoy the up-and-over game. Wednesday’s, G1 Smithwick Memorial was a great example. After 2-1/16 miles, a camera was needed to decide the winner.
Down Royal, trained by Kate Dalton and ridden by husband and co-breeder, Bernard, proved more photogenic than Chief Justice, a gallant a chivalrous runner-up, allowing the mare to take his measure in the last jump.
The championship-defining G1 Jonathan Sheppard Stakes would be a more challenging test at the longer trip of 2 miles and three-eighths for this old hard-knocker. The longer trip and likely presence of Snap Decision and 2021 Eclipse champion The Mean Queen would be formidable obstacles to overcome.
But the jump-up set put on a good show Wednesday, and Saratoga would be just a little less special without this underappreciated part of the game.
SARATOGA RACE COURSE
RICK VIOLETTE STAKES Race 9
The Skinny: This state-bred event goes through favorite Dakota Gold, who won his three-year-old debut prepping for his Spa return where he broke maiden, albeit on dirt, last year.
His next start was even better, going two turns to break his turf maiden so impressively he was made 5-2 favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He finished well without threatening, after racing 3-4-5 wide all the way around.
But Coinage is more battle tested. He exits eight straight open stakes, many of them graded, after being good enough to win Saratoga’s G3 With Anticipation as a juvenile. He had a tough trip in his last run, and still moved forward. Class relief should prove the key here.
DESERVING FAVORITE: Dakota Gold (4-5)
EARLY LINE VALUE: Coinage (5-2)
STRAIGHT AND EXOTIC WAGERS: Coinage to win at 2-1 or greater. Exacta Box 3-4