HomeThe ShuffleBelmont Park Parties Like It’s 1776

Belmont Park Parties Like It’s 1776


With Independence Day on a Thursday this year, the tracks can be flexible about which day to celebrate. Belmont Park makes it a trifecta with its Stars & Stripes Festival July 4-6 but saves the best for last: Saturday’s million-dollar Belmont Derby Invitational.

Strike up the band. Watch the parade, check out the fireworks and bet the horses.

This holiday week, Belmont Park will celebrate Independence Day(s) with its Stars & Stripes Festival, Thursday through Saturday, July 4-6, but saves the best for last.

Boom, it’s the $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational, the first leg of the newly inaugurated Turf Trinity. Pop goes the $750,000 Belmont Oaks and $700,000 Suburban races. The $300,000 John Nerud and $250,000 Dwyer round out a grand explosion of $3 million in purses on one card.

It’s an exciting way for Belmont to go out with its abbreviated meet, cut short by about two weeks because of construction. The slack will be picked up by Saratoga, which opens July 11 instead of its customary late-July launch.

On July 6, Delaware Park chimes in with the $300,000 Delaware Oaks and $200,000 Kent Stakes.

The big money comes out again one week later, on July 13. Delaware Park supplies the $750,000 Delaware Handicap, Saratoga has the $500,000 Diana Stakes and Indiana Downs offers the $500,000 Indiana Derby.


Watching the Bankroll

Many tracks load up weekend racing, giving bettors a glut of great action. So much, in fact, that you may have to be selective about where to spread the bread. Checking projected win and exacta payouts in the final minutes before post can help determine which wagers are worth a stab.

For smaller fields during the week, you’ll be forced to reduce the number of wagering possibilities and perhaps increase the bet, because payouts can be paltry.


Santa Anita: Here Comes the Blame Game

The Santa Anita saga saw 30 horses put down during the track’s last meet. The drama reached a new level this week when the Stronach Group, the track’s operator, banned Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on charges he drugged his horses, some of which had to be destroyed.

While this looks a bit ridiculous—the Stronach Group itself is accused of running races on days when bad weather should have shut them down—this is the kind of finger-pointing at least gets the safety discussion started.

Legislation hinted at in my last column became reality last week as the California Horse Racing Board was granted the right to recommend that any track in the state be shut down for safety reasons.

Worth noting: during its safest conditions, racing suffers a loss of roughly one horse per 1,000 starts. That number has practically tripled recently, with the surfaces and drug enhancements getting most of the blame.

When public attention gets high, safety measures often follow. High-profile tragedies do spur safety enhancements, like the soft walls and head rests in cars following the death of Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR.


Around the Horn

Here’s something to watch for in baseball bets. When two teams of roughly the same ability meet in a three-game series, look for the team losing the first two to salvage the third game.

On Sunday, June 30, that was the outcome for Cleveland, St. Louis, Philadelphia and the New York Mets. Wouldn’t that have been a neat little parlay? If a bad team faces a strong team, this bet makes less sense, but bounce-back factor games present good betting chances.

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Dave Bontempo, a multiple award-winning writer and broadcaster, has covered sports for the Associated Press, ESPN, HBO and Showtime and called boxing matches on every major network. Dave is a winner of the Sam Taub Award for broadcast excellence given by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and is a member of both the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame. He writes regularly for sportsquare.com and Global Gaming Business magazine.

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