By Noel Michaels
The second half of November and early December is truly one of the great times of year for horseplayers.
Thanksgiving weekend has something for all racing fans, and the premier tracks are set to offer up one last hurrah to cap-off the fall post Breeders’ Cup racing season. And the few weeks following Thanksgiving, there will be extra helpings of great racing all over the country.
Important and high-quality late fall racing revolves mainly around three tracks – Del Mar, Churchill Downs and Aqueduct – through early December. This is great for handicappers because it makes it easy to narrow their focus to three simulcast signals, perhaps in addition to another track or two of personal preference.
These three tracks are rolling out their remaining stakes and filling up their condition books with turf races before transitioning to winter racing, so there are plenty of opportunities to score big on the turf – and quite a few on dirt, too.
The top races include the Cigar Mile (G1) at the Big A on Dec. 5, and the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27.
Churchill Downs and Del Mar close for the season on Nov. 29. On closing weekend, Del Mar will host its season’s final two Grade 1 races, the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 28 and the Matriarch on losing day. Aqueduct will stay open all winter, of course, but graded stakes races wrap up with the end of the fall meet on Dec. 6.
This year, the Big A will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but then offer stakes on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Aqueduct is great for turf racing horseplayers throughout November. The track utilizes two turf courses and blow out tons of turf races in the condition book the rest of the way until turf racing becomes impossible in New York. In addition to the Cigar Mile, NYRA’s other top stakes are the Remsen (G2) and Demoiselle (G2) for 2-year-olds, and the Go For Wand (G3) – all set for Nov. 5.
Churchill: Falls City Handicap (G2), 3&up, 1 1/8 M
Churchill: Cardinal Handicap (G3), F&M 3&up, 1 1/2 M (T)
Del Mar: Red Carpet Stakes (G3), F&M 3&up, 1 3/8 M (T)
Aqueduct: Comely Stakes (G3), 3yo fillies, 1 1/8 M
Churchill: Clark Handicap (G1), 3&up, 1 1/8 M
Churchill: River City Stakes (G3), 3&up, 1 1/8 M (T)
Del Mar: Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), 3&up. 1 1/2 M (T)
Churchill: Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), 2yo, 1 1/16 M
Churchill: Golden Rod Stakes (G2), 2yo fillies, 1 1/16 M
Aqueduct: Discovery Stakes (G3), 3yo, 1 1/8 M
Aqueduct: Long Island Stakes (G3), F&M, 3&up, 1 3/8 (T)
Del Mar: Hollywood Derby (G1), 3yo, 1 1/8 M (T)
Del Mar: Seabiscuit Handicap (G2), 3&up, 1 1/16 M (T)
Del Mar: Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3), 2yo, 1 M (T)
Aqueduct: Fall Highweight Handicap, (G3), 3&up, 6F
Del Mar: Matriarch Stakes (G1), F&M, 3&up, 1 M (T)
Del Mar: Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3), 2yo, 1 M (T)
Aqueduct: Cigar Mile (G1), 3&up, 1 Mile
Aqueduct: Remsen Stakes (G2), 2yo, 1 1/8 M
Aqueduct: Demoiselle Stakes (G2), 2yo fillies, 1 1/8 M
Aqueduct: Go For Wand Handicap (G3), F&M, 3&up, 1 Mile
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.