Photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Cashing a ticket on an odds-on favorite may not be the most exhilarating aspect of racing, but it does beat ripping up a losing ticket.
While there’s a favorite in every race, there are some situations where a favorite is much easier to back.
As much as some handicappers loathe betting on races contested on wet tracks, turf races that are washed off the sod can often become a pushover for horses who were entered as main track only starters.
On Jan. 29, rain showers forced Gulfstream Park to move its turf races to the sloppy main track, and presented Sonja’s Angel with the opportunity her connections had been hoping for.
Entered in that day’s second race as a Main Track Only starter, Sonja’s Angel was coming off a strong win in her last start. She took a $15,000 optional claimer in that lopsided triumph and was moving up to a $25,000 optional claimer.
It was a tougher field in theory, but in this spot, as the lone MTO entrant, Sonja’s Angel was actually facing easier competition in tackling grass horses in the mud.
Though Sonja’s Angel had not won in three previous tries on a wet track, she had two seconds and a third. She also had four wins in her last six starts on dirt, making her a very obvious choice in a small field of five.
So obvious, in fact, that she went off as a huge 3-10 favorite.
Yet as paltry as that might seem, a $2.60 reward actually seemed generous after Sonja’s Angel splashed her way to an easy and decisive 5-length triumph.
THE LESSON: As tricky as mud races can be to handicap, Main Track Only entrants with the proper resume often hold enough of an edge over grass runners to merit support even at odds-on prices.
SONJA'S ANGEL'S PAST PERFORMANCES OVER THE LAST YEAR