Joe Takach

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Hollywood Park to Del Mar is the most important “changeover” on the major Southern California circuit!

With that in mind, let’s pretend that we’re a competent trainer who enjoys a reasonably good winning meet at Del Mar each and every year.  Trainers who would fall into that category would include names like Frankel, Drysdale, Mandella, Baffert, Hess, Ellis, McAnally, Mitchell, Julio Canani and Wally Dollase just to name a few. 

Ok, so you’re a month away from the best meet of your calendar year where each and every one of your owners are letting you know in no uncertain terms how they can’t wait to go to the seaside oval, be seen in the ultra-prestigious walking ring with the other owners, and hopefully end up in the winner’s circle for picture taking in the post-race.

What do you do?

Simple, you’re in a “win-win” situation!

You are under no pressure to run at Hollywood Park for the next month and you can “rest” your entire barn as much as possible and/or ship them to Del Mar a bit early to allow these well-intended seaside invaders to purge their lungs of the Los Angeles basin’s polluted air.  They replace it with the pristine ocean breezes of Del Mar, where the salt water is less than 500 yards from the backside.  Talk about “fresh” air!

Trainers who stop running their better horses early in June at Hollywood Park are surely thinking along these lines.  Get the barn as healthy as possible, ship a 100 miles south to “Paradise” and run for purses that are much higher at every level.

When you give it even more thought, it’s really a win-win-win situation!  The horse wins (he goes on a working vacation at the seashore), the trainer wins (money and prestige every time one of his runners notch a win at Del Mar), and the owners win (they rub elbows with fellow wealthy owners in their never ending quest to keep up with the Rockerfeller’s and Vanderbuilt’s!).

This situation also repeats itself back East as Belmont winds down and Saratoga looms large in the immediate future.  The reasoning is exactly the same.  “Black Ink” won at Saratoga or Del Mar is worth much more in the breeding shed (with very few exceptions)!

That understood, if you are one of those winning trainers, you are looking over last year’s condition books in anticipation of what will occur this summer.  You know exactly where horses under your shed row will “fit” and what you should be doing right now as far as morning workouts go for any upcoming races early in the new meet.

With that in mind, how do we as handicappers know who will be “ready” for opening day/week and who won’t?

Let’s start off with recurrent winning Del Mar (Saratoga) trainers who “appear” dead at the moment.

The first one to come to mind is Bob Hess who just won his first race in the 9th week of this long 13 week Hollywood meet and is now incredibly only 1 for 34! 

Has Bob Hess suddenly become brain-dead?

Hardly!  In fact, he was overheard in the paddock after his first win saying “why run your good horses at this meet for half the purse money”?

He gets no argument from me!  I know he’s been holding back-------he does every year at this specific Hollywood meet, but not quite so dramatically as 1 for 34 after 45 days of racing!!! 

I have a good “gut” feeling that his horses will all suddenly “wake up” at Del Mar and ring the register at “top” dollar, with 4 digit payoffs the “norm” until the public and the “hot dog lady” catch on!  This would hardly be the 1st time the Hess barn suddenly got “chilly” in the months of April, May and June only to ignite like a California wildfire at the seashore oval!

In other words, Bob Hess is about to do a “180”!  (If you are playing Belmont at this moment, is there a Bob Hess “counterpart” lurking in the shadows someplace ready to explode at Saratoga?).

And who else on the Southern California circuit looks “ready”?

How about Darrell Vienna?  He has only started a dozen horses at Hollywood but still has a nice win percentage thru the 1st week of June (9 weeks).  If Vienna is true to form, he’ll start that many runners within 3 weeks at Del Mar!

Ron McAnally is “eerily quiet” at the moment and has been for a while.  When he gets back on target, he’ll once again be winning at a 20 % plus clip---and where better to begin his comeback than at Del Mar 2001?

No matter what circuit you play, whenever one meet is ending and another right behind, you as a handicapper should be thinking ahead looking for a betting “edge” of any kind.  Seeing who is “hot” at the moment and who isn’t will be surely helps your chances of ending up in the “black” for the meet if you properly interpret what is before you.

On the other side of the coin, the Jack Carava barn is in a 3-way battle for the training title at Hollywood Park.  Simply put, by the time Del Mar rolls around, this barn will have most likely already fired their best shots in search of  that training title and fleeting notoriety.  Unless Carava “platoons” his stock in the next 4 weeks, he’ll be hurting at Del Mar!

Cliff Sise is also doing well at Hollywood with his small stable.  That success can’t go on forever and most likely turns around in the negative come opening week at Del Mar.

I could go on and on, but the purpose of this writing wasn’t to clue you in on Del Mar 2001, but rather to show you EXACTLY what you should be looking at from meet to meet on any continuous circuit!



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