As the fall meet at Rosecroft Raceway begins Sept. 16, the past-performance lines for many of the Maryland-based horses will look a little different than they have in the past. And if you’re handicapping and wagering on the races, it’s important to pay even closer attention the first few weeks.
Ocean Downs, which held its customary meet from early June through September, this year was part of a race classification experiment using Trackmaster ratings. So when you read the Rosecroft program, you’ll notice race classifications that run—from lowest to highest—called Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum, at times along with a 1 or 2 to designate a lower or higher class of that particular category.
The names replaced the previously used A-B-C classification system at Ocean Downs, but with the added reliance on ratings created by Trackmaster.
Whether the system was a success or not is open for debate. There were some races with wide variations in horses’ earnings in the last five starts—the system that has been consistently used at Rosecroft to classify many races. Rosecroft Racing Secretary Pete Hanley is again using the “earnings in the last five starts” classification system coupled with an “earnings per start in 2018” secondary condition to help even things out as racing transitions to the Raceway on the Beltway for the fall.
Along with the impact of race classifications in the near term, the usual angles still apply as the meet begins: Ocean Downs in a half-mile track and Rosecroft is a five-eighths-mile track; it was difficult to win from behind at Ocean Downs, but at Rosecroft there is far more movement, and it’s hardly unusual to see horses rally from sixth through last at the half-mile mark and win races.
There also are some horses that just don’t seem to race that well at Ocean Downs for the most part, but they did pretty well during the Rosecroft winter/spring meet. A few examples on the opening-night program are Capital Builder (Race 2), James Riverside (Race 4), Manattack (Race 6), Dancing Rusty and Cousin Brucie (Race 7), Simple Man (Race 11) and Arpeggio Hanover (Race 12).
As always, proper classification is key, as is post position on a half-mile track. Horses that went big miles at Ocean Downs—and more recently Harrington Raceway, another half-miler—particularly while parked out for at least a half-mile should enjoy a return to the bigger track at Rosecroft.
Hanley put together a very strong 12-race card for the Sunday opener, and that’s with Harrington having its own quality program the following night. There are two open paces this evening, one for $10,000 (Race 2) and the other for $12,000 (Race 8), that bring together many of the Rosecroft regulars.
Here’s a look at a few races on the first card of the meet:
Race 2 (Open 2)
Russell Foster, one of the leading drivers at Rosecroft, was listed on three horses when the overnight was published and settled on OK Fantastic, who races for trainer Joe Hundertpfund Jr. The 8-year-old’s 1-for-18 record this year doesn’t provide a true picture given consistently sharp efforts in the Gold class at Ocean despite parked-out trips on the half-miler. There is the potential for a contested pace here, and OK Fantastic certainly can pace a strong final quarter-mile. The 7-1 computerized morning line seems a bit high despite post 9—4-1 odds would certainly be fair—and the race could very well set up for him.
Race 8 (Open 1)
Kiss a Dragon, owned and driven by Foster, had a very good meet at Ocean Downs considering he was up against it style-wise on the half-miler. Like his stablemate Hi Sir (entered in an open pace at Harrington Sept. 17), Kiss a Dragon can win on the lead, parked first-over, or off of excess cover. The inside draw (post 2) should put him closer to the action early and he has done his best work at Rosecroft. As usual, the race probably goes through Hickory Aloha, who almost always leaves quickly from the gate and recorded his lifetime mark here last spring. Kiss a Dragon is 3-1 on the computerized morning line; expect less than that when the pools close.