Last week we showed you one of the most important angles in handicapping which was determining the shape of the race. This week we’ll cover a topic of equal importance, which is “track class.” All race tracks are not created equal! Track class simply refers to how good of horses are running at a certain track. Horses that run well at the bigger and better tracks are likely to have success when they leave that track and go run somewhere else. In this article we’ll go through most of the tracks across the United States and talk about how strong these tracks are in comparison to others.
The Big Boys
Oaklawn Park: The track always produces quality three year olds, both male and female. The last five Horse of the Year winners have run at Oaklawn. Their claiming horses usually have a lot of success at places like Prairie Meadows, Remington Park, Lone Star, Louisiana Downs, and other tracks around the country as well.
Del Mar: This is California’s most popular track, and probably its most competitive track as well. It runs in the Summer and is used by many trainers to prep their horses for Breeders Cup races.
Santa Anita: While Del Mar is the most popular track in California, Santa Anita is not too far off. They’ve hosted several Breeders Cup events in the fall, and also run a winter meet that always produces high-class three-year olds.
Gulfstream Park: All the big time east coast trainers send their best horses here for the winter. Gulfstream produces countless triple crown contenders, as well as horses from all other age groups. The top trainers in the game bring their heavy hitters to compete here every winter.
Churchill Downs: It’s the most famous race track in America, and for good reason. The Kentucky Derby is ran here, and the track has hosted Breeders Cup races on several occasions. Winning a race at Chruchill Downs is a big deal.
Keeneland: Even though they only operate two short seasons, winning at Keeneland is special. The racing is extremely competitive, and horsemen come here to prep for the triple crown and Breeders Cup races.
Fair Grounds: This New Orleans based track is known for having one of the best surfaces in the country, and is used by several trainers as a starting off point for their horses season. While the Fair Grounds can produce several runners at the high levels of racing, their claimers also dominate when they leave there and run at the other tracks in Louisiana.
Monmouth Park: Even though the owner status of the track has been in flux for a few years now, this New Jersey track still has quality racing year in and year out.
Saratoga: When talking about race tracks, there are none better than Saratoga. The track is the home of the best two-year old
racing in the country, and all the stars from every division in horse racing run here as well. All horsemen dream or running and winning at this track.
Belmont: Although it will never match Saratoga in the state of New York, Belmont is a very solid track in its own right. The Belmont Stakes is ran here, as well as many other great stakes races.
The Middle Class
Hollywood Park: Hollywood Park has its share of great horses, but overall it is the weakest of the big three tracks in California.
Delaware Park: This track is known for producing good two-year olds, but the day-to-day racing is average.
Calder Race Course: Calder is a notch below Gulfstream in the state of Florida, and focuses on state bred horses a lot more.
Tampa Bay: The track runs the same time as Gulfstream, which hurts its stock. The track focuses on low-end claiming races for the most part.
Arlington Park: Arlington has some major turf races on “Arlington Million Day” but the last few years the day-to-day fields have been somewhat small.
Hawthorne: The track focuses mainly on claiming races, but has prep races for both the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup.
Prairie Meadows: Iowa bred horses are the main focus here, but the track has a decent class of claiming horses. They also hold the Iowa racing festival which attracts a few shippers from around the country that boosts its class
Golden Gate: Located in Northern California Golden Gate doesn’t get the attention like the other California tracks do, but can sometimes provide us with very good horses.
Ellis Park: Ellis Park can sometimes be forgotten in the state of Kentucky, but their claiming horses are usually pretty decent.
Turfway Park: Turfway can also be forgotten in Kentucky. They mainly run claimers, but have been successful several times in producing a quality triple crown or Breeders Cup horse.
Pimlico: The track holds the Preakness Stakes every year, but their day-to-day racing is average.
Aqueduct: This track has to constantly fight the weather as it is located in New York and runs during the winter. Many east coast horsemen elect to take their best horses to Florida for the winter.
Remington Park: Remington has good two-year old racing, as well as decent claimers.
Parx Racing: The track has a very long meet and at times it can get watered down, but they do run some decent stakes races in the summer/fall.
Lone Star Park: This track has lost some luster in recent years, but still is one to respect. The stakes races still draw decent fields.
Colonial Downs: Turf racing is what Colonial is all about. They have a few big stakes races there which always make for an entertaining meet.
The Small Timers
Turf Paradise: Mostly state bred runners at this track.
Fairplex: Small track in California
Fairmont: Located in St. Louis, low caliber claimers
Hooiser Park: Focuses on Indiana Breds and low claimers. They do have a few nice stakes races in the fall.
Indiana Downs: Also focuses mostly on Indiana breds and low claimers
Delta Downs: Mostly Louisiana breds and small claimers. They do have one very big day of racing where the run the “Super Derby” worth $1,000,000.
Evangeline Downs: Almost all Louisiana breds.
Louisiana Downs: Focuses on Louisiana breds and low claimers.
Laurel: Maryland breds and small claimers. Occasionally you’ll see a decent stakes race thrown into the mix.
Canterbury: Minnesota breds and small claimers.
Suffolk Downs: Small Claimers
Sunland: New Mexico bred and small claimers are mostly what you’ll see. Like Delta Downs, they have one huge event that actually runs this weekend called the Sunland Derby. That race is worth $800,000.
Zia Park: New Mexico breds and small claimers.
Finger Lakes: Located in western New York, mostly small claimers
Will Rogers: Oklahoma breds and small claimers.
Portland Meadows: Beautiful track, but mostly small claimers with an occasional stakes.
Charles Town: Like Delta and Sunland, Charles Town has a couple of huge race days, but mainly they have West Virginia Breds and small claimers.
Mountaineer: Same as Charles Town. A few big days of racing, but usually state breds and small claimers.