Horse racing is best known for its biggest racing days, namely the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. This year, 1/ST RACING is setting out to create an all-day racing extravaganza across its two premier winter tracks — Gulfstream Park in Florida and Santa Anita Park in California — that would add it to the list of major national racing events. On March 5th, fans and bettors will experience what’s being called 1/ST SATURDAY.
America’s Best Racing wanted to learn more about what 1/ST SATURDAY has in store, both for the casual racing fan and for horseplayers. We learned in speaking with 1/ST RACING’s Peter Rotondo (official title: 1/ST Sailing Master) that creating a wide-ranging betting experience was front and center from the conception of 1/ST SATURDAY.
ABR: We know you have big plans on March 5th. But first, in a nutshell, what in the world is 1/ST SATURDAY?
Peter Rotondo: When Aidan Butler brought me aboard the 1/ST pirate ship one of the first assignments was to get to work with the team on this mega day that was being built on March 5th. 1/ST SATURDAY is what we hope to be a future winter/spring destination for big days run by 1/ST racetracks. The Stronach Group’s consumer-facing brand is 1/ST, so we’re continuing to get the name out there so fans understand who and what 1/ST is in the marketplace. Of course, 1/ST SATURDAY is an easy to remember play on words and the goal in the future is that on the first Saturday of every month, from January through April, horseplayers and fans look to the 1/ST racetracks as the ultimate destination.
First things first (see what I did there) is the 1/ST SATURDAY in March with 15 total stakes races from Gulfstream and Santa Anita. I’ve been around a long time, and we’ve never seen this many stakes on one day scheduled and distributed by one entity, so this is something special.
ABR: We know betting action and fellow horseplayers are usually top of the mind for you. What have you got to offer them on 1/ST SATURDAY?
Rotondo: First off (I’ll be here all night with the puns), name another big day where the races were scheduled every 30-ish minutes? Add in the fact that for 3 ½ hours when Santa Anita kicks off its card, we’ll go every 15 minutes with mostly stakes races. I say mostly, but Santa Anita will save a couple for late in the card. That is a horseplayer’s dream.
With that in mind, we’ve added two Pick 5s to the wagering menu. We’ll be using the Stronach 5 rules with a $1 minimum and 12% takeout on what will be called the “1/ST COAST to COAST PICK 5s.” This is pure action and an obvious nod to serious horseplayers. One Pick 5 will be all grass stakes and one will be all dirt stakes. They will criss-cross between Santa Anita and Gulfstream and should be a ton of fun on top of what are already two huge wagering cards.
ABR: What’s the benefit in playing those “Coast to Coast” Pick 5s as opposed to any other Pick 5?
Rotondo: The 12% takeout is the key here. I think we all want to find ways to offer lower takeout wagers. As I learn more about how to get it done, I’ll be pushing hard for more innovative wagers. Our friends Paul Matties and Jonathon Kinchen are top-notch horseplayers who are always a phone call away to assist us with new ideas and talk through how we can improve the wagering product.
We want to make sure everyone can find these wagers so here are the instructions:
1/ST Coast to Coast ALL TURF STAKES Pick 5
1/ST Coast to Coast ALL DIRT STAKES Pick 5
*Races that are to be included in the wager will be announced on Tuesday, March 1st
Please follow instructions on how to bet the coast to coast wagers:
Look for the “1DN” (Dirt) and “1TN” (Turf) under the track/event menu at self-service machines or “1/ST Turf P5” and “1/ST Dirt P5” on your ADW (on-line wagering account). If making the wager with a clerk, please ask for either the a) 1/ST Coast to Coast Dirt Pick 5 or the b) 1/ST Coast to Coast Turf Pick 5.
ABR: Beyond the wagering menu, will there be any special contests available for horseplayers?
Rotondo: Of course! The 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge is here with a $3,500 buy in ($2,500 to play and $1,000 to the prize pool). It’ll be fast and furious with nonstop action all day. The 1/ST squad is seeding the pool with $25,000 and offering up cash prizes as well as seats to all the big tourneys from the NHC, BCBC to the Pegasus Betting Challenge.
And, yes, the Pegasus Betting Challenge WILL be back in 2023 after taking a year off due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict with the NHC!
ABR: For folks who are just getting involved in horse betting who might be a little risk-averse, you’re also offering a free-to-play contest involving all of the big races on 1/ST SATURDAY. Tell us about that.
Rotondo: That’s right. We’ve got a free-to-play contest, and I look at it as a cherry on top of an amazing day of action. We’re in March, so we wanted to start “the Madness” a little early with a $5 million jackpot to anyone who can pick all 15 stakes winners. Obviously, extremely difficult but you’ve seen “Let It Ride,” sometimes you are walking around lucky and don’t even know it!
If you don’t get that lucky, you (and a guest) still have a chance at winning an all-expenses paid VIP trip to the Preakness Stakes on May 21st. As you know, Preakness is arguably the most fun event in racing so there’s a chance to win some prizes as well as that $5 million March Madness lotto ticket! Fans will be able to enter the contest starting on Wednesday, March 2nd, at www.1st-Saturday.com.
ABR: Where can fans can tune in to watch the races? Is there any special programming specifically for people who want to get in on all of this betting action?
Rotondo: We have you covered in every way shape or form, from live national broadcasts of the races to streaming shows. Here’s a quick overview:
TVG – All day with on-site coverage from both venues.
CNBC – 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. (ET) - NBC Sports will produce a two-hour show with seven LIVE Stakes races, including Triple Crown preps – the San Felipe and Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes. Britney Eurton will host with Randy Moss and the Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey alongside. Nick Luck is shipping in from the UK to Gulfstream Park, while Eddie Olczyk is taking a break from his NHL duties to head west to Santa Anita.
Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park Simulcast Shows – The teams at both tracks will play off each other and be integrated during that 3 ½-hour stretch where the action comes at you every 15 minutes.
In The Money Media Players’ Show – Live Feed – Our friends at In the Money Media, hosted by Peter Fornatale and Matt Bernier, will be live from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. (ET) and 6 – 7 p.m. (ET) on Gulfstream and Santa Anita social media channels to cover the action, while bringing on horseplayers to offer wagering strategy and, of course, follow the 1/ST UBC Leaderboard.
Road to the Derby Live! – America’s Best Racing will host streaming coverage of the two big Derby preps on 1/ST SATURDAY: the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita and the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. Coverage starts at 5 p.m. ET and will stream across ABR’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Road to the Derby Live! also will stream on on Gulfstream Park's Twitter feed and Facebook and YouTube channels as well as Santa Anita's Twitter feed and Facebook and YouTube channels.