In horse race betting, when the odds are 1-5, the chalk is supposedly a lock. But in Las Vegas, we know better. There are no locks in horse or sports betting, as even the best can get beat.
We saw that in full force last weekend when four overwhelming chalk horses — Beholder, Flintshire, Klimt and Runhappy — got beat in their final Breeders’ Cup prep races.
Now there are good losses, and there are bad ones. Beholder, Flintshire and Klimt ran second and showed enough that they are still viable contenders in the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 4 and 5 at Santa Anita.
But sprint champion Runhappy was asked to run a mile in the Ack Ack at Churchill Downs off a nine-month layoff. Either he was a very short horse or he told us he wants no part of a mile distance. Regardless, his was a bad loss.
There are 10 more Grade 1 prep races this weekend at Belmont Park, Keeneland and Santa Anita. The five stakes at Keeneland offer full fields. But the four races at Belmont Park drew six horses each, and only five entered the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
I would hate to think that there are not enough talented runners. One thing I do know is quite a few trainers have opted to train their stakes horses up to the Breeders’ Cup rather than run them.
I see some similarity between the way trainers handle their horses and how baseball managers handle their starting pitching.
Pitchers used to start every fourth day in a four-man rotation. It was no big deal to throw 250 to 275 innings in a season. Now, managers use a five-man rotation, limit the pitch count to 100 and reduce the workload to 200 innings in a season.
The Triple Crown schedule is an example of the way horses were raced in another era. Three Grade 1 races in five weeks was not an unusual agenda in the past.
Today, if a horse runs once a month, that’s a busy resume. If a stakes horse runs every six weeks, that’s considered taxing.
No wonder horse owners have an impossible time breaking even in this sport. While you never want to race an injured horse, a healthy horse standing in its stall doesn’t earn a penny, either.
Horseplayers have two key contests coming up at Santa Anita Park and The Orleans.
The Autumn Handicapping Championship will be at Santa Anita on Saturday and Sunday. It is a live money format with an entry fee of $4,500. The first five finishers will claim a berth into the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship from Jan. 27 to 29 at TI.
There are also two $1 million bonuses that the winner of the AHC becomes eligible for. The Fall Classic is Oct. 13 to 15 at The Orleans. It is a win-only format with a $500 entry fee. The top finishers claim a berth into the Horseplayer World Series from March 30 to April 1 at The Orleans.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can buy his Santa Anita picks at www.racedaylasvegas.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @richeng4propick.