While the old saying “a good horse can come from anywhere” is certainly true, it’s also true that good horses are more likely to come from some places than others.
A great example comes from California, where a greater emphasis is placed on dirt racing than turf racing. That’s not to say that California can’t produce good grass horses, but compared to the East Coast—which has many more tracks, many more turf courses, and a greater number of high-class turf races with significantly higher purses—the turf divisions in California are generally weaker than on the East Coast.
This seems particularly true with California’s turf two-year-olds, who are often (though not always) disappointing dirt runners trying a different surface rather than bluebloods with turf pedigrees and bright futures on grass. And as a result, the Jimmy Durante Stakes (gr. III) at Del Mar—a one-mile turf race for two-year-old fillies—has been a wildly productive race for handicappers familiar with the class advantage enjoyed by East Coast shippers.
The streak began in 2015 when Mirage, Wake the Dawn, and Family Meeting made the cross-country trip to face their Californian rivals. Wake the Dawn never fired while finishing eighth, and Mirage had a rough trip while checking in fourth, but Family Meeting saved the day by rallying to a half-length victory at 37-1, paying $76.60 for every $2 win bet.
The following year, Defiant Honor and Journey Home traveled to represent the East Coast in the Jimmy Durante. Both looked logical enough on paper, but they were only the second and third choices behind the California-based With Honors. So what happened? Journey Home paid $17.80 while rallying to victory, Defiant Honor completed a $1 exacta that paid $36.70, and With Honors rounded out a $1 trifecta that yielded $111.30.
Three more East Coast shippers—Daddy Is a Legend, Data Dependent, and Raucous—made the trip in 2017. In a field of twelve horses, they managed to sweep the trifecta at odds of 5-2, 4-1, and 6-1; the logical $1 trifecta paid $96.80.
For good measure, Elsa, Pivottina, and Monette made the East Coast proud in the 2018 Jimmy Durante as Elsa produced a big finish to win at 11-1 (paying $24.80) and Pivottina rallied strongly to finish third, beaten only a head for second place.
The takeaway? When it comes to turf racing in the United States, particularly turf racing for two-year-olds, the East Coast has the best horses even if bettors don’t necessarily recognize it. And that subtle but significant fact can repeatedly produce impressive payoffs!