Live racing during the first two weeks of the Oaklawn Park season presents handicappers with opportunities and challenges that can result in lucrative payoffs but also long bouts of tearing up tickets.
Understanding the 2-3 letter designations that accompany each horse’s past performance line in Daily Racing Form, Brisnet and Equibase, and the relative racing quality at those tracks, helps sorting things out, at least a bit.
Handicappers encountered a common mishmash last Friday in the season’s first race, a $7,500 claiming race at 6 furlongs. Of the nine horses who went to post, three last raced at Remington Park (RP) in Oklahoma City, and the other six came from outposts as diverse as Zia Park (ZIA) in Hobbs, N.M., Laurel (LRL) in Maryland and Hawthorne (HAW) in suburban Chicago.
Before the weekend was over, 246 horses, coming from 37 different racetracks, with 37 different designations, as well as nine first-time starters with no last-race designations, took part in the season’s first 27 races.
A.P. Corsair, representing the sometimes-overlooked Remington contingent, won the first race and returned $17.80 to win, topping a series of attractive payoffs: $1 exacta ($181.50), $.50-cent trifecta ($490) and $.10-cent superfecta ($807.80). That’s what Remington horses do.
Runners who last raced at Remington and Churchill Downs (CD) accounted for 126 of the weekend’s 246 starters and 16 of the 27 winners, with Churchill horses winning 11 races ($9.80 average winning payoff) and Remington horses winning five ($28.80 AWP). Portobellos Jewell ($90.40 in second race Sunday) helped spike the Remington average, which was still $14.80 without the long shot, but the Oklahoma horses generally draw less respect and pay better than those coming from Kentucky.
No other track was represented by more than one winner, but that will change. Any horse who last raced at Gulfstream Park (GP) in Hallandale, Fla., or Fair Grounds in New Orleans (FG) will receive as much respect as any Churchill horse, but there won’t be as many of those because both tracks are hosting live meets of their own.
What you can learn is what tracks to downgrade, at least in the early going, until their trainers find the right level of competition.
Below is a table detailing racetracks represented by opening-weekend starters, the location and designation of those tracks, how many races that track had at least one horse in, total starters each track had, along with 1st-2nd-3rd-4th standings, W%, top-four% and average winning payoff, if there was a winner.