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HRN Original Blog:
First Time Turf

Saratoga/Del Mar Start Loaded Grass Stakes Calendar This Week

 

There are few things in life that excite American horseplayers more than the start of the summer meets in New York and Southern California. Whether it is the historic vibe of Saratoga Springs or the breeze from the Pacific Ocean that helps provide the flawless climate and picture-perfect ambiance at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, racing fans know they have roughly a month and a half of ecstasy to look forward to starting on Thursday afternoon. While the Travers Stakes and the Pacific Classic headline the respective meets, fans also know these meets offer some of the best day-to-day grass racing the United States has to offer.  Between two-year-old races for up and coming stars, and the plethora of stakes events on the lawn during the next month and a half, it is arguably the best time of year for North American thoroughbred turf racing.

 

Saratoga’s 151st year of racing commences with two stakes events on the turf in their first weekend and does not ease up at any point until the meet culminates on Monday September 1st. The Sir Cat Stakes, won in 2013 by Todd Pletcher trainee Winning Cause, is an overnight stakes race for three-year-olds run at one mile. The $100,000 opening day event has a strong group of 28 nominees including five from Pletcher’s barn, Mark Hennig’s Cabo Cat and Christophe Clement’s Green Mask. While the race is limited to non-graded stakes winners on the grass, it certainly promises to be a stacked field of talented young colts.

 

Saratoga’s first Saturday of racing is highlighted by the Grade I TVG Diana Stakes at a mile and an eighth for fillies and mares three years old and upward. The $500,000 affair has an incredibly strong list of nominees including probable starters Stephanie’s Kitten, Discreet Marq and Abaco. Also in the mix is Alan Goldberg trainee Tannery. Goldberg won last year’s event with Laughing and may have his sights set on back-to-back wins with the Irish bred daughter of Dylan Thomas. Much like the Sir Cat Stakes, the Diana promises to get NYRA’s calendar of summer grass racing off to a flying start.  The Lucky Coin Stakes, a turf sprint for older horses, concludes turf stakes racing for opening week at the Spa.  The race named for the retired daughter of Hadeer should offer New York bettors yet another excellent opportunity on Sunday afternoon.

 

While the runners remain a mystery for the grass stakes events over the remainder of the racing calendar, the quality of the fields is all but guaranteed at the prestigious upstate New York meet. Whether it is the Grade II Lake George Stakes won last year by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Kitten's Dumplings, the Grade II Fourstardave Handicap owned by champion colt Wise Dan the last two years, or the Grade I Sword Dancer at the grueling mile and a half distance, there is little doubt Saratoga’s lawn will see some of the nation’s most talented equine athletes from July 18th through the end of the meet on September 1st.

 

Del Mar’s stakes races on the turf may not rival Saratoga’s quality, but their calendar of top level grass races certainly is not far behind. The opening day running of the Oceanside Stakes and Sunday’s Grade I Eddie Read Handicap get things rolling where the “Turf meets the Surf ” and much like Saratoga things do not stop until the meet closes in early September. The $100,000 Oceanside, contested at a mile, has drawn a full field and should not only be a great race to watch, but also to wager on.  The entrants include Jerry Hollendorfer’s California bred colt G.G. Ryder who is 5 for 9 and 2 for 3 over the turf, as well as Glen Hill Farm’s son of Elusive Quality, Enterprising, who returns after a brief freshening with Mike Smith up for the mount.  It should be a wide-open affair with plenty of value to be found for the Southern California horseplayer. 

 

In addition to the first week's grass races, the rest of the Southern California turf calendar is packed with equally noteworthy happenings. The Grade II $250,000 John C. Mabee Stakes on August 10th for the ladies, as well as the August 16th Grade I Del Mar Oaks for three-year old fillies, are two of the more significant graded events scheduled.  The Grade II Del Mar Derby and the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf for two-year olds conclude the meet’s turf stakes contests and should involve some of the up and coming stars of the West Coast.  One can be sure that California’s most talented grass runners will be present throughout the entire meet in San Diego.

 

There is much to be excited about as we approach the start of Del Mar’s meet on Thursday and then Saratoga’s opener on Friday. Please be sure to stay tuned to “First Time Turf” as I will be analyzing, giving selections and providing suggested wagers for many of the key midsummer turf races including a breakdown of this Thursday’s Oceanside Stakes as well as Saturday’s Grade I TVG Diana Stakes in the coming days. For complete coverage of the entire Saratoga meet feel free to visit shapperdacapper.com each day for my plays of the day and my boxcar selections.

 

I cannot be anymore excited for my favorite time of the year! Hopefully we can make some $$$$$ and have some fun in the process!!! 

 

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 MEET SCOTT SHAPIRO

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Scott has been a fan of handicapping and following thoroughbred racing since Garden State Park was rebuilt in Cherry Hill, NJ in 1985.  His first memories of the racetrack include the 1985 Jersey Derby won by Spend a Buck and the 1990 Met Mile clash between Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Housebuster, but it was not until his mid to late twenties that Scott became confident he had a knack for choosing winners. Scott points to the summer of 2007 in San Diego while working on a masters degree in American History near Del Mar Race Course as the time where he took his handicapping, his communication skills and attention to detail to the next level.  It was at this time where he had his first real big score.   He had four of only five winning combinations in the now extinct “Place Pick All” on a $8 ticket netting himself $40,000. 

 

Since his time spent in San Diego, Scott has lived in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado, but has found a way to make racing a big part of his life no matter his place of residence.  A few months after hitting a monster pick five at Santa Anita Park in February of 2013, Scott started his website, shapperdacapper.com showcasing his selections, analysis and commentary on North American racing. Scott loves playing tournaments on Derby Wars and constructing pick four and pick five tickets when there are vulnerable favorites.  His favorite all-time horses are Captain Bodgit, A.P. Indy, and Charismatic and his favorite jockey is Joel Rosario.  Scott is also a die-hard fan of University of Wisconsin athletics and is in several fantasy football leagues.

 

Scott is planning a move back to the San Diego area in 2015 so he can be closer to the horses on a daily basis. He managed musicians for several years and continues to do so in a part time role when not focused on his writing and research.

 

He can be found on twitter at @shapperdacapper or on his Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/shapperdacapperhorsesandsports. He also releases daily selections and analysis of NYRA and Southern California racing on his website www.shapperdacapper.com.