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Winning Angles for Triple Crown Raceday

Winning Angles for Triple Crown Racedays

by Rich Nilsen

Undercard Stakes on the Triple Crown Cards
KY Derby Day Woodford Reserve Turf Classic G1
  Humana Distaff H G1
  Distaff Turf Mile G3
  La Troienne S. G3
  Churchill Downs H. G2
Preakness Day Dixe S. G2
  Hirsch Jacobs S. G3
  Sir Barton S.
  William Donald Schaefer G3
  Gallorette H G3
  Maryland Breeders' Cup G3
Belmont Day Manhattan H. G1
  Acorn S. G1
  Woody Stephens G2
  Just A Game B.C. H. G2
  True North B.C. G2

The stakes on the undercard of racing's Triple Crown days have become nearly as popular as much as the big races themselves. Serious handicappers don't just show up for the classic races. They wager with both fists during the day. Lose too much on the undercard and one may not attack the Triple Crown race the way one was intending.

Wise advice begins with picking your spots. Let's say you are a Pick-3 player, such as yours truly. Determine who the strong and weak favorites are on the card. Focus your attention on the races which you feel you have the best chance of successfully taking down a nice score. Sounds like good advice for any race day, but it’s especially important on days like this when many handicappers wager amounts well beyond their normal budget.

Tapping into the Archive Result Charts at, we will look at a few undercard stakes that have developed some noteworthy trends and had a big impact on these popular, major race days.

Despite a significant six-figure pool each year, the Pick-6 has not been hit correctly in five of the past eight years at Churchill Downs. The Derby undercard has proven to be very difficult for horseplayers on the first Saturday in May.

One stakes that has contributed to those results has been the Distaff Turf Mile (G3). In three of the last eight years, there has been a huge upset with the winner returning over $40. The public choice has had a dismal record of one win, one second, and one show during that span. Last year Wend failed to hit the board as the 6-5 favorite.

Trainer Bill Mott has had the most recent success in this race, winning twice, finishing third once, and earning a strong second with Sand Springs in 2005. With a very short run into the first turn, give the edge to a runner drawing a middle (4-7) or inside post (1-3) and ridden by a capable turf jockey.

Late Pace Ratings, which measure the closing kick of a runner, are especially helpful for grass races. Only Past Performances offer this valuable tool, so consider upgrading your handicapping information especially for this important day of racing.

The Sir Barton is run on the main track and is a popular race carded for three year olds. Closers from mid-pack or further behind have taken six of the last eight runnings. Only one favorite in those years was able to score, when Burning Roma ($4.00) took the 2001 renewal. Last year's favorite, Ah Day, finished off the board.

Trainer Nick Zito has captured two recent runnings of this race and he finished third last year. The same success has not befallen high profile trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas. Baffert has had the beaten favorite three times in the last eight years, and Lukas accounts for two more beaten favorites.

The Manhattan Handicap is one of two other Grade 1 races (the other being the Acorn S.) on the Big Apple's biggest day of racing. The short list of winning trainers in recent years reads like a Who’s Who of the best turf conditioners in the country: Bobby Frankel (three times), Christophe Clement (one, three seconds), Bill Mott, and Wally Dollase.

Older runners age five and up have accounted for most of the winners, including a clean sweep of the top three positions in 2006. The older horses have won six of the last eight runnings of the Manhattan. What handicappers should be looking for is a proven 10-furlong turf competitor. In 2005 top miler Artie Schiller was pushed beyond his best scope and finished third.

Although Belmont has had its share of good prices on the undercard, it has been the chalkest of all the Triple Crown days. The public choice has won at just under a 40-percent rate over the years.

With so much money on the line, it's critical that you have the information to help you win. was the first company to offer handicapping information via a computer and modem back in the late 1980s, and to this day, still offers the best in horse racing data. Recommended products for these days include the Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances and the HR Daily Clocker Reports. The HR Daily Clocker reports are free and unlimited for the 2007 Churchill Downs Spring meet.

As for money management keep the rubber band around your bankroll until you’ve found the right spots. The payoffs can be huge on the undercard, so focus your bets around the races where you have the strongest opinion and attack appropriately. Then, hopefully you’ll head into the feature event with plenty of cash and the confidence to take down an even more lucrative payoff. Good luck!