The start to the 2020 season may have been late, but opening week made quite the splash. The pandemic-shortened meet opened up with new jockeys, new trainers, new horses, and BIG PAYOUTS! While it didn’t quite feel the same without the roar of the crowd it was a sense of relief for many who appreciate the return to normalcy during these times of turmoil.
Things were different with a reduced crowd of gamblers practicing safe social distancing, but evidently nobody told the horses as we had numerous tight photo finishes. If opening week is any indication as to how the meet may play out, you may not want to be a favorite. With 18 races in the books the favorites won 3 times, 16.7%, which is well below the national average and below last year’s 39% rate. In a sport which has seen smart money dominate the industry and make it difficult to be rewarded, these two days were the opposite. The average win payout was an incredible $16.60 and with favorites losing and long shots coming home to score it also resulted in some massive pick 4’s and pick 5’s. The average pick 4 payout was $1,150 with the late Pick 4 pool averaging $90,000.
Meanwhile the new rage everyone is talking about is the 10% pick 5. It did what it was created to do and put more money back in the bettors’ pocket. If early indications are anything, this is going to one of the best bets around the country as the Pick 5 average payout was $32,744 which was aided by a record setting night Thursday when two lucky people (one of them on track via Curbside wagering), were rewarded for their excellent handicapping with a record payout of $56,264.90. While those successfully navigated their way through opening night Wednesday received a return of $9,223.15. The average P5 pool for the two days was $113,000.
A familiar face is back at the Park as Denny Velazquez returned after spending most of last season in Canada. It didn’t take him long to get acclimated with good friend Joel Berndt. Joel Berndt and Denny Velazquez aided payouts on Wednesday with first time starter Timujin Lady winning the debut at 14-1. They returned the next day to win the opener at 9-5 in gate to wire fashion. Francisco Arrieta will have his choice of mounts this year after dominating last year and continuing his success in Turf Paradise and then Fonner Park. He won four of 16 in two days, hitting the board with six others and rode two of the winning favorites. ( Look at the stats. )
As we look forward to next week, some handicapping takeaways early on are to pay attention to horses shipping in from Will Rogers Downs in Claremore, OK. Horses that arrived from Will Rogers appear fit and ready to compete as they won 4 of the 16 thoroughbred races. While it’s a small sample size the dirt is playing favorably to front end runners as you want to be within 2 lengths of the lead as we only saw one horse, Fender Bender (7-1), guided by Leslie Mawing come from off the pace to score!
Live racing returns Tuesday at 4:30!
Brian Arrigoni begins his fifth season as paddock
analyst and handicapper. Born and raised in St. Paul,
Brian has loved horse racing since he was very young
when he began attending the races at Canterbury with his
family. He attended Hamline University where he was an
All-American hockey player and graduated with degrees
in Criminal Justice and Political Science. Although Brian
grew up playing hockey, his heart was always at the track,
and his passion only continued to grow as he got older.
In 2016, that passion turned into a profession when the
local longshot won a competition for Canterbury Park’s
Paddock Analyst position. As a handicapper, he excels
in the challenges of multi-race wagers such as the pick 4
and pick 5. Brian has a desire to educate fans and freely
shares his racing opinions both on camera and through
social media. Follow his selections daily on Twitter: