Take The Plunge: Horse Racing Is Back In West Virginia

Posted on June 11, 2020

West Virginia sports betting customers gain the best of both worlds, night racing at their own state tracks and afternoon events from the nation’s top establishments, over the next few days.

The live racing occurs Thursday-Saturday at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Sunday-Tuesday at Mountaineer Park, all at 7 p.m. and with good-size fields.

Even without spectators, the tracks offer a consistent schedule and a familiar brand, especially to WV horse betting fans.  Thankfully, betting apps are available for those wanting to bet.

Besides in-state night action, bettors observe a loaded afternoon lineup throughout the weekend.

That includes:

  • The $300,000 Ogden Phipps Saturday at Belmont Park
  • A 12-card program with large fields on Saturday highlighting Gulfstream Park in Florida
  • Full programs at venerated Churchill Downs in Kentucky and Santa Anita in California.

Each track offers something different and presents its own set of betting variables.

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Horse racing at Charles Town sizzles

Big fields and unique distances for some races mark the intriguing Charles Town menu.

There are several things that have endeared this establishment, which resumed racing May 14, to bettors:

  • Its evening schedule has always accommodated players who don’t have availability during the day.
  • There is always the chance for major longshots to win.
  • Fields are large. There are several nine and 10-horse fields entered over the next three days. This ensures multiple betting entries and respectable payouts.
  • Special race lengths. There are several 4 1-2-furlong races here, a distance few tracks offer.

There is a strategy to the 4 1-2-furlong race.

One turn is involved, so positioning is important. Speed from the middle of the track is often rewarded here, based on the advantageous position it gives a jockey on the turn.

A slew of horses in the 4 post prevailed last Saturday night. Some of them were in the 4 1-2-furlong tilts. Give that a good look, especially with a name jockey.

There are tricky 6 1-2-furlong races too. While not exclusive to Charles Town, they present a puzzle. Six furlongs is a sprint. Seven furlongs is considered a distance race.

What’s between them? This. It’s a blended distance, attracting owners who want to see if their six-furlong horses can run a bit further and those who hope their seven-furlong horses can hit their best stride a little earlier.

Finally, the track has some good class payouts. Saturday’s card starts with two allowance races and a maiden special weight race, all with purses above $20,000.

Bocachica leads the pack

There are leading jockeys to consider. They are often hooked up with top trainers and the bettors will play them with confidence:

Leading jockey Arnaldo Bocachica is an accomplished rider, delivering some longshots of 50-1 or higher to victory at places like Gulfstream Park over the years.

Here, he gets shorter-priced mounts and rides well. He is an astute jockey and often makes well-timed moves.

Denis Araujo and J.D. Acosta are also top-flight riders.

Mountaineer, A Different Angle

Bettors were glad to get Mountaineer back on May 31. The track presents a different set of dynamics.

The first four races Sunday night have entries of 10, 10, 14 and 12 horses, which range between a class level of maiden-claiming $4,000 and claiming $4,000.

Maidens have never won a race. The claiming $4,000 group is near the bottom of the racing totem pole.

What that often means:

  • You can be skeptical of the favorites. They may run pretty well or not at all. There is often no sustained history of good performances.
  • Bet longshots liberally. It doesn’t take much improvement from one race to the next for a horse to be able to win at this level.
  • Look for small improvements in race conditions. A horse may have been posted outside in a two-turn race in his last effort. That added a couple of hundred yards to the trip.

Move that horse from the 12 to the 6 position, for example, and this animal is already perhaps three lengths better than before. That may be enough.

Low-level claiming horses take turns beating each other, unlike at higher levels, in which patterns repeat more often.

Can’t figure out anything on a particular race? A 10-cent superfecta box with five horses costs $12.

That can make sense if you have lukewarm respect for a favorite and think he can run in the mix, maybe third, behind a couple of the longshots you put on the ticket.

Around the Circuit

The biggest race of the weekend is the $300,000 Ogden Phipps from Belmont Park.

Ollie’s Candy is the betting favorite and Point of Honor will also gain strong respect. Ollie’s Candy won the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn in April and Point of Honor was third.

The winner of this 1 1-16-mile race gains automatic entry into the Breeders Cup, Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

Last year’s winner, Midnight Bisou, finished second to Maximum Security in the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race, in February.

Belmont’s Saturday card starts at 1:15 p.m. and has large fields. The track just announced a staggering first-week wagering total of more than $76 million, all without spectators.

Thank you, horse betting fans.

Gulfstream Park has been the home of the longshots, as the large fields have created competitive racing. It should be more of the same for the South Florida facility, which operates on a Friday-Sunday program, starting at noon, and a Wednesday card.

Santa Anita runs Friday-Sunday with first post at 4 p.m.

Top jockeys there so far are:

  • Flavien Prat
  • Abel Cedillo
  • Umberto Rispoli

Santa Anita has been routinely clearing $1 million handle in many races.

Churchill Downs bettors are loading up on the Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 wagering pools. (Picking the winners of consecutive races).

In the last race on June 6, more than $700,000 of the 1.1 million pool came from that category.

This realm is enticing to bettors because the takeout percentage is far less than what exactas, trifectas, and superfectas demand.

Churchill Downs runs Thursday-Sunday at 1 p.m.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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