May is in play. Like a star thoroughbred, horse racing has launched a rally.

Three horse racing establishments gave New Jersey sports betting customers good news by extending or salvaging their meets in recent days.

First, Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Fonner Park in Nebraska extended their seasons through May. Then, Churchill Downs made it a good-news trifecta.

The track that had been forced to postpone the Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5 announced a 26-day meet beginning May 16. It will run until June 27.

Suddenly, bettors sport a reasonably-sized menu and some optimism that the industry may survive COVID-19.

With Atlantic City casinos closed and sporting events limiting action at New Jersey gambling sites, horse betting in NJ has become a hot ticket.

This weekend, they have:

  • Gulfstream Park
  • Tampa Bay Downs
  • Remington Park
  • Los Alamitos

And next week, add Churchill Downs come Saturday and Fonner Park’s Monday-Wednesday schedule.

That’s a wagering six-pack.

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Horse betting at Churchill Downs

Prior to the pandemic, the track had been scheduled to open April 25.

Now horse bettors can look forward to a May 16 start.  Racing will be staged Thursdays through Sundays with a special holiday Monday card on Memorial Day, May 25.

Post time for the first race each day will be 1 p.m. ET. All racing for the spring meet will be conducted spectator-free. That allows social distancing and the conducting of a sport that can be wagered upon remotely.

There will be a total of 125 races worth $7,265,000.

The stakes schedule throughout the meet features 16 stakes totaling $2,250,000.

On Saturday, May 23:

  • Matt Winn (3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles)
  • Blame (4-year-olds and up at one mile)
  • Shawnee (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles)
  • War Chant (3-year-olds at one mile on turf)
  • Tepin (3-year-old fillies at one mile on turf).

On Saturday, May 30:

  • Old Forester Mint Julep (fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf)
  • Winning Colors (fillies and mares at six furlongs).

This is encouraging because the re-opening follows Keeneland’s April meet postponement in the same state. The Churchill season features a nice package of six-figure purses bound to attract top horsemen.

For a sports betting crowd hungry for any kind of gambling news, more racing is certainly something to cheer about. It may even be a hint that things are slowly returning to normal.

Horse betting spotlight: Gulfstream Park

With Churchill waiting on deck, Gulfstream Park continues displaying the best live horse racing on the circuit.

More top trainers and jockeys stayed on the grounds after Keeneland’s cancellation, enhancing the track’s spring meet with bigger fields and higher-quality riding.

Gulfstream has a plethora of big names and connections, which figure into the betting propositions. It runs Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m., Saturday at 12:45 p.m. and Sunday at 12:45 p.m.

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The latest horse betting intel

It’s beneficial for sports betting enthusiasts to note this high-level summit of top performers.

Marquee jockeys can improve a horse’s performance perhaps 3-5 lengths by gaining a good position and timing major moves. Their inclusion on the card generates betting attention.

Big-name jockeys can become a handicapping tool. See two of them in one race? You might take a couple of $1 trifectas or superfecta boxes, placing their horses in all tickets and hoping for a couple of longshots to complete a nice payday.

Luis Saez and Tyler Gaffalione have been the hot jockeys, as in sizzling.

They are both well above 50% delivering horses in the first, second or third slots. Saez leads the meet with 33 wins and has earned $862,000 for his connections. Gaffalione was at $645,000 and Edgar Zayas $615,000 in early May.

And keep an eye on Irad Ortiz, who had a big outing on May 3 and has hit the board in an astounding 67% clip.

He continued his hot streak at Gulfstream Park while riding three winners on Sunday’s program.

The reigning two-time Championship Meet titlist pushed his win total to 15 since returning from a hiatus on April 25 with his fifth multi-win day.

Ortiz scored a pair of stakes victories aboard Network Effect in the $100,000 Big Drama and Gufo in the $75,000 English Channel during a three-win Saturday.

He came back Sunday to score aboard Etana ($2.40) in Race 1, Candy Crushem ($3.20) in Race 2 and Tournesol ($10) in Race 6.

Here are some of the top trainers at Gulfstream Park:

  • Joseph Saffie
  • Todd Pletcher
  • Juan Alvardo
  • Michael Maker

Pick 6: Rapidly rising jackpots

One of Gulfstream’s lures is its ongoing, quickly multiplying 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 for the final six races on the card.

The 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $1.75 million on Thursday.

The popular multi-race wager has been unsolved since an April 19 mandatory payout. Multiple tickets with all six winners were each worth $15,693.30 Sunday.

The Rainbow 6 jackpot is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners.

On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.

It grows quickly. Look at what happened in just two weeks. NJ horse bettors can get in on the action at 4NJBETS powered by TVG.

Dave Bontempo

About

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.