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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 4:04 PM

Are you ready for the DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS?

There is one place where you should be, and that is at Santa Anita Park where the Winter Race Meet has its traditional Opening Day on December 26.

Below we’ll take a look at some of the angles that can be gleaned from last and past years’ last days of December and January Racing at the venue. But first let’s take a look at the most important reason for getting involved from day one of the meet…THE PAYOFFS.

Just as always last year was a VALUE PLAYER’S BONANZA.

Over the course of the opening week…

*Average Win Payoff - $14.20…Only 7 Winning favorites From 42 Races (17%)
*Average Exacta Payoff $103.60
*Average Trifecta Payoff $746.90

As we look at a few reference points moving into the opening weeks…what to look for, etc. keep those numbers in mind and get ready to be involved from the start. It will be WELL WORTH YOUR TIME AND INVESTMENT.

(WHY DO THE OPENING DAYS PAY SO WELL?)

One thing to understand about those payoff numbers above is that much of it is because the switch to Santa Anita from most recently Los Alamitos and before that Del Mar is that each of these three locations, while including a number of the same barns and riders, is as different from each other as the earth is from the moon is from the sun.

Del Mar’s dirt surface is distinctly different in texture than that of the other two. The turf course at Del Mar is less accommodating to different distances around different graded and arcing turns than that of Santa Anita. Los Alamitos has no turf course so many horses either take the 5-6 weeks off or might travel to Golden Gate. At Del Mar a turf sprint is a conventional one turn grass race whereas at Santa Anita you have the famous, or infamous for many, downhill turf course which breaks from the gate, bends one way and then in the opposite direction before coming off the final turn, across a brief dirt path and through the stretch.

Quite frankly, history has shown that the less well informed bettors, concerning which horses, outfits and jockeys are in effect “for the courses” wager as though Del mar, Los Alamitos and Santa Anita can be analyzed using the same parameters.

It takes a few weeks or even a month for the betting public to make the adjustments. The most important lesson to take from this general observation is that there is NO REASON TO WORRY THAT NO ACTION ON A CERTAIN HORSE MEANS NO CHANCE.

(AH, BUT IT CHANGES QUICKLY)

We told you to get in early because within a matter of two weeks the bettors adjust, the jockeys re-familiarize themselves with the surfaces and the prices begin to moderate.

In contrast to those opening week prices let’s take a look at 6, 6 ½ and 7 furlong dirt sprints from the opening of last year’s meet on the day after Christmas until the last day of January.

As you will see below. Handicapping these three type races (surface and distance) reveals a most consistent winning profile of dead speed or close up pressing/stalking speed.

6 Furlong Dirt Sprints
40 Races…7 Wire-To-Wire Winners
33 Remaining Non Wire-To-Wire Winners
Only 6 Winners Further Off Pace Than 4 Lengths At First Call
Only 4 Winners Further Off Pace Than 4 Lengths At Second Call
Average Position At First Call…3.8
Average Position At Second Call 2.6
Average Lengths Off Pace At First call…2.0
Average Lengths Off Pace At Second Call…1.4
15 Winning Favorites…37.5%
Average Payoff For All 40 Races $9.27

6 ½ Furlong Dirt Sprints
20 Races…1 Wire-To-Wire Winners
19 Remaining Non Wire-To-Wire Winners
Only 4 Winners Further Off Pace Than 3 Lengths At First Call
Only 4 Winners Further Off Pace Than 3 Lengths At Second Call
Average Position At First Call…4.5
Average Position At Second Call 3.9
Average Lengths Off Pace At First Call…3.4
Average Lengths Off Pace At Second Call…3.0
8 Winning Favorites…40%
Average Payoff For All 20 races $10.11

7 Furlong Dirt Sprints
17 Races…1 Wire-To-Wire Winners
16 Remaining Non Wire-To-Wire Winners
Only 3 Winners Further Off Pace Than 3 Lengths At First Call
Only 5 Winners Further Off Pace Than 3 Lengths At Second Call
Average Position At First Call…3.8
Average Position At Second Call 3.5
Average Lengths Off Pace At First Call…2.1
Average Lengths Off Pace At Second Call…2.1
7 Winning Favorites…41.7%
Average Payoff For All 17 Races $15.65*
*Bistraya Paid $103.00…Average Of Other 16 Winners $9.94

These statistics tell you that the dirt sprint races are the most formful and the least regarding, so play carefully and accordingly.

(TWO JOCKEYS THAT WILL IMPACT THE MEET)

As has been the case in recent years, jockeys such as Mike Smith, Rafael Bejarano, Gary Stevens, Joe Talamo, Tyler Baze and more recently Flavian Prat and Stewart Elliot have made for a competitive jockey colony.

That being said, there are two jockeys that are more than worth considering.

The first is apprentice sensation Evan Roman, the likely Eclipse Award Winner and newly transplanted east coast jockey Rajiv Maragh.

Roman is already well known among local punters and just rang up the riding title at the abbreviated Los Alamitos meet.

New to the southern California bettor is Rajiv Maragh.

Maragh is on record that he has always wanted to compete in Southern California and when agent Nelson Arroyo reached out to him, he decided to make his move

"I've always been a big fan of Southern California racing. I grew up watching it and always admired the top horses and top jockeys to come out of there," Maragh said. "It was always something that I hoped I'd be able to get to do and Nelson reached out to me a few weeks ago. He felt like now would be a good time to come out and that I'd be a good fit in the colony. I felt like I'd give it a shot.”

Maragh is no newcomer or second tier rider. He is a four-time Breeders' Cup winner who has managed a respectable 12% success rate in 2017 riding against the top jockeys in the country. In the spring, he guided Irish War Cry to victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes and a runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes.

As a newcomer to the circuit but with a sharp agent he is likely to get solid mounts but might still be overlooked a bit in the early going. Pay attention.

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