Call it the eye of the horse racing storm. The “sport of kings” will soon hit another gear for West Virginia online horse bettors in the Kentucky Derby qualifiers.
This weekend, lodged between the first and second stages of Kentucky Derby qualifying races (and augmented by terrific nationwide Saturday cards all winter), offers a chance to assess the local and national circuit.
Horse racing odds in West Virginia
Here’s what bettors see:
In West Virginia, a full Wednesday-Saturday live racing slate is scheduled this week for Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, which had to cancel its March 12 card because of severe winter weather.
Post time is 7 p.m., and bettors are enticed to consider long shots at this proven payout machine. The fundamental cause is low-level claiming races, large fields or both.
A couple of weeks back, two consecutive races at Charles Town yielded nearly $50,000 combined in $2 superfecta payouts.
While that figure is rare, “Charlie’s Town” remains fertile ground for large payoffs and was up to its old tricks last Thursday.
An eight-horse field produced a $2 superfecta payout of $6,156. What made this one unique is that it didn’t feature four long shots. Bettors might have nabbed part of it (the 10-cent superfecta) by keying a couple of favorites with some underdogs on the same ticket.
So, what happened?
Love California, the daughter of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, rallied to win the seven-furlong race at 11-1.
El Milagra, the 4-1 second choice, surged from midpack into second. The 8-5 favorite, Decreed, went out too fast, got leg weary and finished third.
Play Charades, a 50-1 long shot, rallied seemingly all the way from Maryland to secure fourth position. And that spiked the return.
What made the payout remarkable was two favorites finishing in the second and third spots, bookended by a midrange long shot in first place and a bomb in fourth.
Some bettors could have backed into a piece of the pie. A player who liked El Milagra could have taken 10-cent superfecta wagers, putting him in the first and second position with five other horses. The cost is $12. In this case, it would have returned more than $307.
If a gambler has the right key with five others in an eight-horse field, there’s an excellent chance for the ticket to hit.
West Virginia horse racing options
Naturally, it’s always hard to hit the right superfecta combo, but Charles Town offers surprisingly large payouts in short fields, because long shots are live.
One more factor:
This was maiden-claiming $5,000, close to the bottom of the barrel from a class perspective. A horse who can improve slightly is a contender at this level. And it’s always hard to trust the favorites.
While Charles Town continues rolling, the Mountain State will soon creep inside of one month until it sports two live racing facilities.
Mountaineer, in New Cumberland, is due to open on April 18.
The combined package will give West Virginia seven days of live racing most weeks.
That’s an enviable distinction. Most other states feature a couple of dark days every week and highlight one major track for a specific time.
National picture horse betting
WV bettors have been wagering in loaded cards every weekend from Gulfstream Park in Florida, Santa Anita in California, Oaklawn in Arkansas and Aqueduct in New York, among others.
That’s enabled them to follow the Kentucky Derby prep picture, in which winners of qualifying races have been awarded 50 points.
We’ve reached a natural bridge between the initial tier of qualifying races and the primary circuit, which launches March 26. Horses with the top 20 qualifying point totals in races ranging from the fall of 2021 into early April are eligible for the Kentucky Derby.
Contestants are ready to go
Here are the early contenders for the May 7 Run for the Roses. All of them will be eligible:
Classic Causeway won the Sam Davis and Tampa Bay Derby races at Tampa Bay Downs and leads the qualifying pack with 66 points.
Epicenter, who won the Risen Star Stakes, is right behind with 64 points.
Other notables include Forbidden Kingdom, Morello and Simplification. They won the San Felipe Stakes in California, the Gotham Stakes in New York and the Fountain of Youth in Florida, respectively.
Un Ojo, who won the Rebel Stakes at 75-1, also is in the mix. And we’re just warming up for the high-profile 100-point preps.
Set your calendars. Significant events loom in ensuing Saturday time slots. Here come the 100-pointers.
On March 26, it’s the Louisiana Derby from Fairgrounds and the UAE Derby from Dubai. Next, on April 2, it’s the Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby and Jeff Ruby Stakes.
The following week, on April 9, it’s the Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Blue Grass. Follow this three-Saturday package closely, and you’ll get an initial handle on who you like for the Derby.