Del Mar: How to bet the San Diego Handicap

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

July 24th, 2020

It’s easy to understand why #5 Maximum Security (1-1 on the morning line) is favored to win Saturday’s San Diego H. (G2) at Del Mar.

The 4-year-old has crossed the wire first in nine of his 10 starts, most notoriously in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1), where he was disqualified for causing interference on the far turn. The son of New Year’s Day rattled off wins in the Florida Derby (G1), Haskell (G1), and Cigar Mile (G1) last season, was voted champion 3-year-old male, and kicked off 2020 on a grand note, when he battled to victory in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup.

But Maximum Security will face several new challenges in the San Diego. He will return from a five-month layoff and make his first start for Bob Baffert, who took over training duties following the Saudi Cup. This transition has seen Maximum Security adopt a completely different workout regimen, with a steady series of fast workouts replacing the long, slow gallops that used to mark Maximum Security’s morning exercise.

Maximum Security will also pick up a new jockey in the San Diego. After regular rider Luis Saez tested positive for COVID-19, Abel Cedillo picked up the mount, and while Cedillo is a skilled jockey, he lacks the familiarity Saez has gained riding Maximum Security in seven straight races.

It’s also worth noting Maximum Security will carry a hefty 127 pounds in the San Diego, five to nine more than his rivals.

Maximum Security’s talent and tenacity could be sufficient to overcome these obstacles, but as the even-money favorite, there isn’t much value playing him to win.

Instead, I’ll take a shot with #1 Higher Power (7-2), who showed an affinity for the occasionally tricky Del Mar main track when he crushed the 2019 Pacific Classic (G1) by 5 1/4 lengths. This powerful victory produced a 110 Brisnet Speed rating, which is better than the fastest figures posted by Maximum Security.

Higher Power recently returned from a layoff to finish second in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita, and he put up a 105 Brisnet Speed rating. He has trained sharply since then and figures to take a step forward in his second start back, which sets the stage for an upset victory, if Maximum Security fails to bring his "A" game.

We won’t invest too heavily in the San Diego, but a win bet on Higher Power and a straight exacta will give us a chance at a decent payday on a small budget.

$12 to win on #1 Higher Power
$8 to exacta: 1 with 5
Total: $20

Good luck!