03/29/2012 2:56PM

Weekend Primer: Sink your teeth into the Pick 18


It's fitting that baseball season has begun because the folks at Fair Grounds have decided to play a doubleheader race card on Friday.

Due to race day cancellations and a Louisiana state law that says all the purse money for the season must be paid out, Fair Grounds will stage an 18-race card on Friday. That's right. Eighteen.

Think of it as a day-night double header -- there's a 1-hour break between races 9 and 10. Ambitious multi-race handicappers will be happy to know that you can play a 10-cent Pick 18. As DRF's Marcus Hersh points out, there are no open allowances on the card. So don't be shy about trying to spread -- but watch out, even at 10 cents a combo the cost can get out of hand pretty fast.

It's likely the winning ticket won't hit all 18 races; there is a mandatory payout in place to whoever gets the most correct.


This is the biggest weekend of racing to date in 2012, with the Dubai World Cup and key Kentucky Derby prep races at Gulfstream Park and Fair Grounds.

The $10 million Dubai World Cup is the centerpiece of a nine-race card that totals a whopping $27.2 million in purses.

[DUBAI WORLD CUP: Free PPs, video preview, watch the races live]

So You Think (New Zealand) has been installed as the pre-race favorite at 5-2 for the 1 1/4-mile race, with the Japanese-bred Smart Falcon the second choice at 5-1. American entries include Bob Baffert's speedster Game On Dude from the outside post position and Bill Mott's female 3-year-old champion Royal Delta. She will bid to become the first female to win the World Cup in its 17-year history.

Racing begins at Meydan at 9:10 a.m. ET. The Dubai World Cup is estimated to go off at 1:40 p.m. ET.

Back in the States, current Kentucky Derby future-pool favorite Union Rags will face stiff competition in the form of fellow top Derby hopeful El Padrino in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

[FLORIDA DERBY: Video previews, watch Saturday’s full card live]

Out West, Baffert has two of the five horses in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks: the favorite Eden’s Moon and the longshot Bella’s Fantasy.


The $1 million Louisiana Derby will feature Risen Star runner-up Mark Valeski, who will be a coupled entry with Mr. Bowling. Finnegans Wake, who mounted a late rally to finish third in the March 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, may be a horse to watch.

Expect a big crowd for the race card, which also includes the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, with many fans from the state of Kentucky in town for the Final Four. The Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals will be playing on Saturday night for a spot in Monday's national championship game.