RSS Feed for this Blog

Monday, February 28, 2005

Cape Town / Calder

- When Southern Africa took the Borderland Derby yesterday at Sunland Park, it was the second stakes winner in a week for Cape Town (Seeking the Gold); the first being the impressive 3 yo filly Cape Hope, who took the Gaily Gaily at Gulfstream last weekend. These were the 11th and 12th stakes winners for Cape Town (5% of foals), whose first crop are 5 year olds this year. That crop included 2003 3 yo filly champ Bird Town, who took the Kentucky Oaks and the Acorn, and who recently has dropped a foal by Empire Maker given the silly name of Bird Empire.

Cape Town, a total outcross through his first 5 generations, is out of the Seattle Slew mare Seaside Attraction, who also won the Kentucky Oaks, in 1990. She died in 1996, but not before producing, in addition to Cape Town, graded stakes winner and current sire Cape Canaveral, Red Carnival, a group winner in England, and 1995 2 yo filly champion and three time Grade 1 winner Golden Attraction (dam of promising 3 yo colt Big Top Cat). All three were by Seeking the Gold’s sire Mr. Prospector, so the entire litter was bred on very similar lines; in fact, she had a fifth winner named Mercer Mill, who is by another son of Mr. P, Forty Niner.

Cape Town stands for $20,000 at Overbrook Farm in Kentucky. He was 14th on the third-crop sire list of the end of 2004 with earnings of over $4.8 million. He won the Holy Bull and Florida Derby at Gulfstream in 1998, but ran 5th in Real Quiet’s Kentucky Derby. Six of his 12 stakes winners, including Bird Town and Southern Africa, hail from Northern Dancer line mares.

- Here’s a look at some 2 year olds with a buzz at the Calder sale tomorrow by people who know a lot more than I do (though most of these comments are by the horses' consignors, so...); looks like a couple that I mentioned previously made it on this list. Meanwhile, the buyers are in place, and everyone is optimistic.

The sale barns were busy as top buyers such as Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager John Ferguson, Demi O'Byrne of the Coolmore Stud team, and Terry Yoshida of Shadai Farm in Japan got their last look at the horses before Tuesday's auction, which will begin at 11 a.m. (EST) at Calder Race Course.
In addition to veteran buyers of 2-year-olds at Calder, there might be some newer faces. Shigeyuke Okada of Big Red Farm in Japan is expected to make his first appearance at the auction. Rick Nichols, a key adviser to Shadwell Stud's Sheikh Hamdan, who traditionally has been a yearling buyer, was seen in the barn area looking at juveniles. Representatives of California wine tycoon Jess Jackson, who has become a major player at Thoroughbred auctions in the last several years, also have inspected horses. [Bloodhorse]

Select 2 Year Olds at Calder

- A filly by Arch worked a furlong on the turf in 9 4/5 seconds, breaking the 10 second barrier at the second under tack show for Tuesday's Fasig Tipton select 2 year old in training sale at Calder. The times were faster in general than the first set of breezes, which were conducted into stiff head winds. A filly by Songandaprayer had the fastest time on dirt, and the first year sire by Unbridled’s Song has the most entries, nine, of any other freshmen sire here. A good sale is anticipated, with some top buyers present, though not Fusao Sekiguchi, who paid $4.5 million for Fusaichi Samurai at this sale last year.

Some nice pedigrees, of course, far too many to detail here, but here are some that caught my eye. You need Acrobat Reader to download the PDF files of the catalog pages. I’ve included the breeze times from the two shows in parenthesis; a dash means he/she didn’t participate in that session.

Hip 7 is a Boundary (Danzig) colt (10.3, -) whose second dam is champion mare Waya, one of my all-time favorite race mares, a powerful late closer and conquerer of males in the G1 Man O'War amongst her many graded stakes wins, and with much black type in her siblings and descendants.

Hip 9 - Seeking the Gold colt (11, 10.3), a half to three winners; second dam is Weekend Surprise, the dam of A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.

Hip 53 - Seeking the Gold colt (10.3, -), out of multiple graded stakes winner Capote Belle, her second foal.

Hip 55 - Storm Boot half brother (11.1, 11.1) to Medaglia D’Oro.

Hip 68, an A.P. Indy colt (-, 11.1) out of a graded stakes winner whose third dam is Sweet Tooth, the dam of Alydar.

Hip 99, an Aptitude (A.P. Indy) (11, 22.4) half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner and current sire Richter Scale.

Hip 112, a Thunder Gulch colt (11.1, 10.1), a half to MGSW Roar Emotion.

Hip 183, a colt (22, -) who’s one of five entries by Freud, the first year NY-based full-brother to Giant's Causeway who is causing a bit of a splash early in the sales season. Hip 183's third dam is Priceless Fame, a half to Bold Forbes, and producer of sire Saratoga Six.

Hip 223, a Forestry filly (11.2, 11.2), from the family of sire Southern Halo and $2.8 million earner General Challenge.

Hip 235, a Dixieland Band colt (11, 11); his second dam is the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Affirmed Success.

Hip 242 is a Fusaichi Pegasus colt with relatively pokey breezes (23.3, 23.2), but he's a half to MGSW North East Bound.

Hip 269, a Songandaprayer filly (11.1, 11)whose second dam is the dam of Preakness and Belmont winner Risen Star.

Hip 280, a filly by first year sire Broken Vow (Unbridled) (11, 22.4) whose second dam produced champion sprinter Artax.

Hip 333, a Silver Charm filly (10.2, -) who's a half-sister to millionaire grade 1 winner Precocity.

Hip 354, a Storm Cat filly (10.3, -) out of a stakes winner and a half to two stakes winners, including Turko’s Turn, the dam of champion colt Point Given.

Muddled in Maryland

- With the dust settling in Maryland after the House of Delegates narrowly passed slots legislation on Friday, one thing is clear, and that is, that nothing is clear as to what the final legislation will look like….if there is a final legislation. An article in the Washington Post yesterday discusses how the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Michael Busch, a Democrat and a slots foe, holds all the cards on the slots legislation which is still a long way from resolution, given the vast differences between the versions passed by the Senate and the House. Busch has vowed that he will not compromise, but denies that his position is influenced by personal events.

In the three years since Busch became speaker, he has never been coy about his views on slots. Lawmakers have mused over the notion that the roots of his opposition lie with the gambling problems that consumed his father, who died in 1997 in a flophouse on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

But the burly, silver-haired speaker brushes off that suggestion, saying he merely wants to prevent the state from handing out valuable gaming licenses to a few well-heeled, politically connected insiders.

"I just don't think slots is good public policy," Busch said Friday, after the legislation passed the House. [Washington Post]
Busch goes on to make it clear exactly what his motivation was in shepherding through a bill that would provide for slots at only one track, Laurel Park.
Lawmakers have contemplated a range of proposals, several of which identified by name the sites where slots would go. The bills essentially pledged licenses to such wealthy horse track owners as Joseph De Francis and William Rickman and to developers and businessmen such as Baltimore bakery magnate John Paterakis Sr., National Harbor's Milton Peterson and the family of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos.

Busch said it was that, more than anything else, that helped shape the House's alternate proposal this year
Though the House bill would provide $100 million per year to purses, the Senate bill would do more to enrich racetrack owners as the actual operators of the parlors. In addition, the House bill increased the harness industry’s share to 30% from 10%.
The harness side argues that 30% of the betting at the state's major tracks takes place at Rosecroft. The Thoroughbred side counters that, regardless of where it's bet, 90% of horse wagering in the state is on Thoroughbred racing. [Bloodhorse]

Cajun Pepper never heats up as Southern Africa wins Borderland Derby [Thoroughbred Times] Couldn't put it better myself.

Saint Liam, who is scheduled to arrive from Florida on Thursday, was given high weight of 122 pounds for the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap, which will be run for the 68th time Saturday. [LA Times]

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Who's Got the Movie Rights?

- More exciting than the rally by El Terrible (Numerous) to take the 6 furlong Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita (and even better than the particularly terrific call by Trevor Denman) was the postrace interview with his trainer on HRTV. Her trainer is Bradley Ross, and this was, incredibly, his first starter as a trainer after 33 years as a blacksmith. He breathlessly, unable to even speak as he watched the replay of the stretch run, told of how he's for the most part given up his day job out of his belief in this 6 yo mare who was a graded stakes winner in Argentina, but who hadn't started since August of 2003. He said that he and the mare had "really connected" and that "I decided we just had to get it done." He went on animatedly to make sure we all knew that in addition to the layoff, she'd missed a workout plus three days due to the rains, and when he started issuing rambling thank you's, the interviewer did a great job by noting the irony of such an extended speech on Oscar night. Miss Terrible is by Numerous (Mr. Prospector), about whom I posted recently.


- Really game performance by Dubleo (Southern Halo) (pronounced by Vic Stauffer as ‘Double-O’) taking the Dave Feldman for 3yo’s on the turf at Gulfstream. As expected, Lord Robyn took the lead and after going :24 1/5, blazed deadly quarters of :22.1 and 22.3; Dubleo tracked about 4 lengths behind but still, he must have been going pretty fast to keep up, and I’m feeling good with closers Tadreeb and Crown Point. The next quarter was a slowing :25.2 as Dubleo took the lead, and he dug in bravely when Tadreeb pulled alongside and went on to a half length win, with Crown Point a fast-closing third.

So, as if we haven’t recently seen Todd Pletcher send out the impressive Forest Danger and Coast Line, here’s another one with scary potential. He’s now a neck short of 6 for 6 on the turf and 4 stakes wins, and has shown both speed and grit. He’s out of a Secretariat mare named Secret Red, who as I mentioned the other day is a half sister to champion sprinter Rubiano; she’s also a half to Tap Your Heels (Unbridled), the dam of last year’s Wood Memorial winner Tapit. [UPDATE: Fogot about Isola Piu Bella, another one for Pletcher!]

- Roman Ruler (Fusaichi Pegasus) worked 6 furlongs from the gate this morning, and seems headed for the Gotham at the Big A (yay). That race is scheduled for a one turn mile on the main track, however I read some comments by Nick Zito today expressing doubt that the main track would be ready and that the race could be run around two turns on the inner, a situation that was dissuading him from sending High Fly here for the race.

- A slightly belated word on All Along, the champion mare who passed away last week. I was at Aqueduct the day she won the Turf Classic on her Horse of the Year tour there, and though I can’t really say I remember anything specific about the race, I remember that I was there, and that’s only because she was too. I remember it feeling like the chilly, gray track was being graced by a visit from a foreign dignitary.

Happy Campers (mostly)

- Quite a day for Nick Zito, one of several happy trainers of Derby hopefuls yesterday; besides his aforementioned win with Sun King at Gulfstream, he also took the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay with his son of Fusaichi Pegasus, Andromeda’s Hero, who overcame an outside post and a wide trip around the first turn.

Early in Saturday's race, [assistant trainer Tim] Poole wondered if Andromeda's Hero would suffer the same fate as The Cliff's Edge, another Zito entry, did in last year's Sam F. Davis. The Cliff's Edge, who went on to finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby, shot wide off the first turn and had too much ground to make up, placing second.

``I was a little concerned around the first turn that he was as wide as he was and couldn't get over to save more ground,'' Poole said. ``He kind of ran the same race that Cliff's Edge did last year. He didn't have to come from as far behind as Cliff's Edge and got up a little faster.'' [Tampa Bay Online]
Andromeda’s Hero’s next start is uncertain, perhaps the Tampa Bay Derby. It’s hard to see why anyone would point for Gulfstream’s Florida Derby, scheduled for the awkward time of five weeks before the Derby.

- Other Derby developments:
- Harlington is out; the son of Unbridled out of Serena’s Song wrenched an ankle in the Risen Star. He seemed very green and this is likely for the best long term.
- Declan’s Moon works 7 furlongs, readying for next Saturday’s Santa Catalina at Santa Anita.
"He got a great workout," trainer Ron Ellis said. "Victor was just standing straight up on him. The best part was that he galloped out four lengths in front of Power Boy. The track was pretty deep today and if anything, it was a touch slow."[Bloodhorse]
Ellis also worked Don’t Get Mad. Patrick Biancone worked Risen Star winner Scipion and San Rafael winner Spanish Chestnut, and he’s happy with both.
"I am very, very happy with Spanish Chestnut," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "He's a horse who we've put a lot of work into. He needed today's breeze and he did it very well in hand.

"I'm delighted with Scipion's work. We're very lucky with his program as it fits better with the bad weather. If you look at the weather patterns, horses who've raced in the middle of the month are better off than the horses who raced at the beginning of the month."[Bloodhorse]
And Sweet Catomine worked 5f in :59 2/5 at Santa Anita, and trainer Julio Canani, no longer talking of shipping her to face the boys in Florida but now apparently firmly pointing towards the SA Oaks on Mar 13, was similarly pleased.
"She went in :59 2/5 and (Nakatani) wasn't even moving on her," trainer Julio Canani said. "She galloped out in :12 1/5 and got the seven furlongs in 1:26 1/5, so I'm obviously happy."[Bloodhorse]
Wow, isn’t it nice to hear of so many happy people?

- Next big battleground in the slots derby is Florida, where voters in two counties, which happen to contain three horse tracks, two dog tracks, and two jai-alai frontons, will vote on slots on March 8. Unlike other states, however, in this case the state governor, one Jeb Bush, is opposed. Morally opposed.
In a letter to the Christian Coalition of South Florida last week, Mr. Bush said any gambling expansion would have "a negative impact on the social fabric and economic health of our state," dismissed revenue projections as a "hollow promise" and warned of a "snowball effect."[NY Times]
Writing to the Christian Coalition...nah, he doesn’t sound like he’s gearing up for a presidential run, right? Bush could veto slots legislation even if the voters approve. An opposition group called No Casinos is gearing up for a fight, running TV ads and a website.
Now the gambling interests want to sneak casinos in by bringing slot machines to South Florida pari-mutuel facilities. And guess what? They’re promising doing so will help raise millions of dollars for Florida schools and education. Sound familiar?

With the support of groups representing law enforcement, education, seniors and faith-based communities, No Casinos will defeat this referendum and help preserve our valued quality of life. []
They also have a letter from Governor Bush on their site, you can read it here (pdf).

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Dave Feldman

No graded stakes that I can see for Sunday, but an interesting non-graded one at Gulfstream tomorrow, the Dave Feldman, a 60K grass race at 1 1/16 miles on the grass for 3yo. Some nice looking turf colts here. Lord Robyn (Robyn Dancer) was hapless on the dirt and was way up the track in a 25K N2L claiming race in October. Switched to the turf, he’s gone wire to wire three times in a row, the most recent in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on New Year’s Day with a career high 95 Beyer, a pretty remarkable turnaround. He’s been out for almost two months, and in the Form it shows a decent 14% win percentage in the 30-60 day category for his trainer David Fawkes; but Formulator shows that all his wins were within 33 days, and the results dropped off sharply as you get towards the upper range. I am getting carried away with this, right? The kids had the PC laptop all day so I’m just getting my hands on it now, since Formulator and Macs are about as compatible as Jose Canseco and half the major leagues. Dubleo (Southern Halo) has a bad post and comes off a nearly three month layoff, which may compromise any edge in class he may have over his abovementioned rival, who breaks from the inside 3. Dubleo, trained by Todd Pletcher, is 4 for 5 with a neck loss on the turf, with a Grade 2 win at Woodbine, and a Grade 3 win in the G3 Generous at Hollywood in his last start; his lifetime best fig is 92. His dam, Secret Red (Secretariat) is a half sister to 1992 champion sprinter Rubiano. Both of these colts want the lead, and that could set things up nicely for a couple a closers. Crown Point (Honor Grades) has a nice post from the 4 spot, and came from off the pace to win the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont last fall. He hasn’t run since trailing an unchallenged Lord Robyn in the Trop Park Derby, and he should have more pace help today. That was his last race and his trainer’s record with layoffs around 60 days are better than what is shown in the Form. Tadreeb (Theatrical) is a deeper closer than Crown Point, and trailed him in the Pilgrim, then returned 1/29 with a game winning run in an allowance, beating a hot even money Pletcher import from Argentina. He gets Bailey, who will have to maneuver from the 11 post to save some ground, but this looks like a colt ready to improve. He has the same workout pattern as his last of two one-minute breezes, and should be gaining ground through the stretch.

Of course, there's a chance of heavy thunderstorms tomorrow, in which case this could all go down the drain. It was fun though.

Notes: Sat Aft at Home (with occasional updates)

- Does anyone else think that this guy calling the NYRA races sounds a lot like Durkin?

- It seems weird that HRTV doesn't give Gulfstream any priority whatsoever. It’s considered by many to be the top winter meet in the country, so I would think that its races would be highlighted, yet it seems sometimes as if it’s almost an afterthought. There’s two minutes to go until a nice maiden race, the 6th, and after televising a race from Tampa Bay, they’ve switched to a post parade at Santa Anita, and now they just pick up Gulfstream with a minute to go. Seems weird to me.

- It’s the Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream but you didn’t find it live on HRTV! It’s a Grade 3 stakes race at what will be their signature track once it’s rebuilt, I don’t get it! Isola Piu Bella avenged her even money loss last month to gt the money for Pletcher. Daydreaming proved to be a bad 4-5....but that seemed so obvious. What an easy game.

- When Hal’s Image started to fade around the turn in the 10th at Gulfstream today with Sun King, Survivalist, and Monarch Lane all within striking distance at one point, track announcer Vic Stauffer got carried away and said “Hal’s Image is confronted by three potential Derby horses.” Well, would you Sun King earned a “Wow” from Stauffer as he cruised uner the wire after a single flick of the whip by Edgar Prado for an easy 5 length win in a final time of 1:36.03, getting the last furlong in around 12 1/2 seconds. Zito has said he prefers a more traditional approach to the Derby, and will likely race Sun King twice more, if things go well, before the Derby

No Cheating in Florida

- It’s serious business to mess with a horse race in Florida, where jockey Larry Mejias was arrested when found with a buzzer before a scheduled ride at Tampa Bay Downs on Thursday. Check out the charges filed against him:

Mejias was arrested and charged with two felonies - one count of cheating; one count of attempting to arrange, conniving the results of a horse race - when a Hillsborough County Deputy spotted an illegal device in Mejias' left hand. [Tampa Bay Online]
Cheating? That’s a felony in Florida? For one thing, I guess it doesn’t apply to presidential elections; and secondly, does that mean that a SWAT team would descend upon Pro Players Stadium if cork was found in Carlos Delgado’s bat? More seriously, do trainers there get led away in handcuffs if they have a drug positive? Isn’t that an attempt to connive the results of a race? I’ve never read of anything like that, but if this guy was, the question would have to be why not?

Slow Saturday

- Most of the Derby prep action takes place in Florida today; as I’ve mentioned, possibly more than once(it's a slow day), Sun King will go in the 10th race allowance contest at Gulfstream today. It’s a chance for Pletcher’s Monarch Lane (Maria’s Mon) and McGaughey’s Survivalist (Danzig) to prove their worth, but all they’ve beaten thus far is maidens, while Sun King has two close thirds in grade 1 stakes, so he really lays all over this field. Among those chasing him will be Bushwacked. He’s by Yes It’s True, out of Launch Site, think about that! At Tampa, Zito sends out Andromeda’s Hero (Fusaichi Pegasus) for his first trip around two turns in the Sam Davis, and he’s drawn the 12 post. Last year Zito sent The Cliff's Edge to the Sam Davis, where he started from post 11 and finished second at 1-2 odds before taking the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass two races later. [Louisville Courier-Journal

- In Maryland

Racing officials seemed almost shellshocked by the nail-biting narrow margin of victory, the pitfalls that remain before the bill would become law, and a last-minute amendment that inflamed a long-simmering dispute between the thoroughbred and standardbred factions.
Although raising money to help racing was the original motive for considering slot machines, racing became less and less a priority as the debate raged on. Some legislators saw racetrack owners as rich and greedy, unwilling to help themselves before asking for a slots handout. [Baltimore Sun]

- Looks like at least 8 will go against Saint Liam in next Saturday’s Big Cap at Santa Anita.
Besides Strub champion Rock Hard Ten, the likely favorite, others who will probably run are Imperialism, Musique Toujours, Supah Blitz, Truly A Judge, Grand Reward, Island Fashion and Congrats. Island Fashion, a 5-year-old mare, ran second to Southern Image last year. A distaffer has never won the race. Saint Liam will try to become the first out-of-state shipper to win the Big 'Cap since Broad Brush came from Maryland in 1987.[LA Times]
Bobby Frankel says however that his G2 San Antonio Handicap winner Lundy’s Liability will probably go, though he doesn't sound confident. Not only is he [Saint Liam] the best horse, he hasn't missed any training," Frankel said. [Daily Racing Form]

- You know it’s a slow week when this makes the racing headlines: Kingmambo to miss a few days of stud duty with minor leg injury [Thoroughbred Times]

- Looking for the Forums at Thoroughbred Times? Well, it’s still there, somewhere, but it’s been turned into somewhat of a secret society. Editor Mark Simon advised users (the ones who could still find it) that due to incidents of “libel, rumor, and false innuendo” they are “evaluating any continuing involvement with the Forum.” Meanwhile, the links are gone from the website and you can only get on if you have a bookmark saved. NYRA completely shut down their forum recently for similar reasons.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Notes: Feb 25

- Brad Free of the Form writes today (subscription only column) that Bandini, Golden Shine, and Don’t Get Mad are all likely to be overbet off their last races, and that they all very well may lose.

The mere fact that a horse finishes fast in one race does not mean it will finish fast in a subsequent race, particularly when faced with a different pace scenario. Bandini, Don't Get Mad, and Golden Shine all ran well and appeared to finish fast. They were supposed to, because none did much serious running early.
When the pace quickens at upper class levels, seemingly good horses unravel. While it is possible Bandini, Don't Get Mad, and Golden Shine may reproduce top form when they chase faster fractions against tougher company, the expectation is unreasonable. Handicappers who appreciate the subtleties of pace might anticipate the exact opposite - for all three to regress when they chase real fractions. Depending on how low their odds, they may create a wonderful opportunity to "bet against."[Daily Racing Form]
OK, well Bandini and Golden Shine set or pressed slow paces so that makes sense. But Don’t Get Mad closed far from pretty far back and did so covering the last 1/8th in a quick 11 1/5. I thought that was supposed to be a good thing, but Free is making the point that if the pace up front was slow, then in back it was glacial, and so Don’t Get Mad had plenty of juice left for the stretch. That makes sense, though it’s not the way one generally approaches evaluating a closer’s race, or is it? I usually figure that a slow pace compromises a closer’s ability to close, and a fast pace helps it, period. Why does this always have to get so complicated??

- Sweet Catomine a possibility to ship out for sunny Florida and go against the boys in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream if, as expected, rain returns to Southern California next week.
[Trainer Julio] Canani was literally speechless when he attempted to describe how Sweet Catomine was doing. After fumbling with his words, he finally got two of them out: "Oh, boy."[Bloodhorse]

- Afleet Alex also got a workout in at Oaklawn today. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.40 and a mile in 1:40.80. [Thoroughbred Times]

Slots Pass Maryland House

- In a blanket finish, legislation legalizing slots in Maryland passed the House of Delegates with 71 votes, the precise number needed to pass. Many lawmakers stood and cheered after the final vote was tallied. [Baltimore Sun] Next step is to try and reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions, which differ on the number of machines and their locations, with the Senate bill allowing for slots at up to 4 racetracks, and the House for only Laurel. As far as money for the racing industry:

House: Sets aside 15 percent of proceeds for local development grants to counties and Baltimore, with funds distributed based on lottery sales in each jurisdiction; 3 percent in grants to jurisdictions hosting slots; and 9 percent to enhance horse-racing purses and aid the breeding industry.

Senate: Earmarks 4.75 percent of proceeds to aid governments that host slots facilities and 5.25 percent for purses and breeding. [Washington Post]
In reading these stories I couldn’t help but notice an adjacent story about a panel in the same Maryland House debating a bill today calling for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and to invalidate in the state any such marriages performed elsewhere. Similar bills have failed in past years, and the measures are given little chance of passage this year. [Baltimore Sun] Given the Democrats’ 2-1 majority in each House of the Md legislature, it certainly doesn’t seem likely these bills will pass. But even if they did pass the measures and deny gay couples rights and privacy that others enjoy, I’m sure the state will still accept any money they gamble away on slots.

Friday: On and Off Track Action

- Relatively slow racing weekend coming up; besides the aforementioned Tampa stakes and Gulfstream allowance, the latter the 3 yo debut of Nick Zito's Sun King, third place finisher in the G1 Champagne and BC Juvenile last year, there’s a couple of graded stakes – the 9f Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream for 3 & up mares, in which Shug McGaughey’s graded stakes winner Daydreaming (A.P Indy) will make her 4 yo debut; and the 7f Grade 2 San Carlos at Santa Anita, where a couple of the top entrants may not even run. Like last weekend, the Fair Grounds may have the best betting stakes, the grassy Fair Grounds Breeders Cup, and I'll probably come back to that one later for a closer look.

Plenty of interesting off-track action going on however:

- Slots legislation in Maryland expected to be voted on by the House today, with its prospects uncertain. There’s an interesting article in the NY Times today about Maryland Governor Ehrlich, who is the first Republican governor there in three decades and who presides over an otherwise overwhelmingly Democratic state. Ehrlich is pushing to get the slots legislation passed. He’s also been accused of politically motivated mass firings, and one of his key aides (now a former key aide) admitted to spreading false rumors of infidelity by a potential Democratic opponent. He sounds like someone that Karl Rove could be keeping an eye on.

- In an effort to save racing at Portland Meadows in Oregon, a bill has been introduced at track owner Magna’s request to permit simulcasting year-round; it’s currently only permitted when the track is open, and Magna is threatening to pull out unless that is remedied. They’ve already pulled the plug on dog racing for 2005 at Multnomah Greyhound Park, and lawsuits are underway from both sides. Our friends at Oregon Racing News ( have more stories on the situation; check them out and let’s hope everything there turns out OK.

- A jury in Rhode Island failed to reach a verdict on bribery charges against two executives (now former executives) of Lincoln Park. They were accused of conspiring to pay Daniel McKinnon,the track’s general counsel, $4 million which, it was alleged, was meant as a bribe to the attorney’s law partner, who just happened to be the Speaker of the Rhode Island House, in an attempt to facilitate approval of slots for the track, as well as to block approval of competing gambling sites. The defendants claimed they were merely rewarding the attorney, who did not accept the payment and was not charged, for his good work. It remains to be seen if the defendants will be retried.

- BACK ON TRACK, Rockport Harbor had his long awaited workout at Oaklawn this morning, after his recovery from a bruised foot:

According to Fox Hill owner Rick Porter, Rockport Harbor broke off at the three-quarter pole under jockey Willie Martinez and was a little rank early due to the lack of serious work in the last two weeks.

"His fractions were a little faster than we wanted in the beginning, but he finally settled," Porter said. "John (Servis) would have rather he gone slower early and finished up better but it was a very good work. He went in fractions of :11 4/5, :23 3/5, :35 4/5, :48 3/5, 1:01 2/5, 1:14 and 1:27 2/5. He galloped out a mile in 1:41 and came back great. He didn't take any water for 10 minutes." [Bloodhorse]

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Read It If You Dare

- If you think that you have a handle on the Derby picture (quick: where is Afleet Alex, when’s his next workout, what race is he aiming for, is he a dual qualifier, who’s his sire, his grandsire, his broodmare sire, his broodmare sire’s broodmare sire’s sire?), don’t read Steve Haskin in the Bloodhorse today. I did, and my handle on the situation now is as tenuous as Ayad Allawi's hold on his job. In taking a look at some longshots in the futures pool (50-1 or more), he makes a case for about a third of the foal crop of 2002 and half of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and provides a handy excuse for any contender you may have liked who’s finished up the track this year. Disappointed by Dearest Mon’s fifth in the Holy Bull? He broke bad, slipped, and got hit in the face by the Gulfstream dirt. Despondent over Iced Out’s fifth in the Risen Star? He ran into traffic on the turn and was all over the track through the stretch. Ready to move to Canada over Vitruvian’s distant second to Bandini? He was six wide on the first turn, 4 wide on the second, and still continued on through the stretch. So, here it is, read it if you dare.

- Some of the horses discussed by Haskin will be racing Saturday. There’s a one mile, one turn allowance race at Gulfstream which was split into two divisions, but the three horses of most interest, Nick Zito’s Sun King (Charismatic), Shug McGaughey’s Survivalist (Danzig), and Todd Pletcher’s Monarch Lane (Maria’s Mon) will meet in the 10th race. There’s also an extraordinarily badly named horse in the race called Spongbobhorsepants, they couldn’t even spell the name right. I liked the Spongebob movie as much as anyone, but have a little respect, please! What’s next, Bugs Horsey? Zito will also send Andromeda’s Hero (Fusaichi Pegasus) in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay.

Sis City to Stonerside

- Stonerside Stable has purchased the 3 yo filly Sis City (Slew City Slew), the impressive runaway winner of the G2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream earlier this month, running the 1 1/8 miles nearly a second faster than Derby prospect Bandini did on the same card. You may recall that Stonerside last week purchased the 3 yo colt Sort It Out (Out of Place) and sent him to Baffert. Sis City will remain with her trainer Richard Dutrow. Besides picking up a prospect for the Kentucky Oaks, Stonerside’s racing manager John Adger is psyched about her prospects as a broodmare.

“It's not what you'd call a fashionable pedigree, but it's free of any Northern Dancer or Mr. Prospector blood, and she should fit into the Stonerside broodmare band very nicely. We have two seasons to Storm Cat, and we may breed her to him.'' [Daily Racing Form]
Indeed, a peek at Sis City’s pedigree shows an unusual pattern nowadays in that both her sire and dam are by Bold Ruler line sires…in fact, they both go back to his son Boldenesian to whom she’s inbred 4x4, and there’s a third cross of Bold Ruler as well, making her 5x5x5 to him. A mating to Storm Cat, while an outcross through the first five generations, would actually introduce even more Bold Ruler blood through his broodmare sire Secretariat.

Notes: Feb 24

- HERE's something you don’t hear everyday. Santa Anita trainer Adam Kitchingman is the 4th conditioner there to have his horses quarantined due to a positive test result for milkshakes, and, unlike others, who have blamed overzealous testing methods, he says that he did it!

"The racing officials were very kind to me," Kitchingman said Wednesday. "I got caught playing with fire, and I'll have to reconsider what I was doing. I'm not going to deny it like everybody else who got caught. It's not going to happen again. Unfortunately, because this is a competitive business, you do stuff you've got to do to try to win races." [Daily Racing Form]
Well, that’s a change…and also implies that he was just trying to stay competitive with others doing the same.

- DEFENDING Horse of the Year Ghostzapper working out in Florida; the Oaklawn Handicap on April 9 is a possibility, and would be an appropriate reward for the fans attending races in big numbers there.
"He worked really great," said Brian Lynch, assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel. "It was his first work back at three-quarters and we were very happy with it." [Thoroughbred Times]
Oaklawn announced a purse increase based on the success of its Instant Racing slots game. And here’s an update on the Hot Springs Derby contingent, link via Albany Law School.
Servis said he will probably work Rockport Harbor seven eighths of a mile Friday morning with jockey Willie Martinez aboard.

Rockport Harbor could work the same day as Afleet Alex, also scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel.

Trainer Tim Ritchey said he will work Afleet Alex, his Grade I winner, today, Friday or Saturday.

" It depends on what the track’s like and what the weather’s like, "Ritchey said.

Ritchey said if the track is in good shape, Afleet Alex will breeze five-eighths of a mile, possibly 6 furlongs. If the track isn’t good, the colt will work no farther than five-eighths of a mile. []
Servis says of Rockport Harbor's miraculous recovery from a foot bruise that he hasn't been this happy since last Derby Day. In California, with the weather finally drying out, TDN reports that Declan’s Moon will breeze on Saturday, preparing for the following weekend’s Santa Catalina.

- OBVIOUSLY, everyone isn’t happy about the possibility of slots in Maryland, as spelled out in this editorial in the Baltimore Sun. For one thing, the paper says:
This is a vote on Maryland's future. Pennsylvania last year approved slots: Even before the machines arrive there, licenses are being flipped for vast sums, every week brings new signs of shady dealings, and there is growing skepticism that slots will bring promised tax relief. By contrast, Virginia last year opted for a bipartisan tax hike, one that will finance an ambitious roads plan for its high-tech Washington suburbs. Maryland's own high-tech leader, Montgomery County, is right to see no role for slots in its economy, and Maryland's future ought to look a lot more like Montgomery's than Pennsylvania's.

- AND FINALLY, back to Maine, a spirited defense by the head of Casinos No! of the proposed law to require that ATMs not be placed in the propsed Bangor Raceway racino, again via Albany Law School:
A 1999 report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission - still the most comprehensive analysis of legalized gambling in America - recommended that states ban ATMs from casino floor.

Their reason was simple: An ATM in the presence of slot machines is like a bottle of whisky at an AA meeting.[Portland Press Herald]

Late Night Post

- Rockport Harbor and his blacksmith; High Fly and Roman Ruler possible for the Gotham at Aqueduct; Frankel laying in wait with scary High Limit, will look for a graded stakes spot with an eye on earnings to qualify for the Derby; Privman on Derby doings. [Daily Racing Form]

- Magna reports its earnings, and it’s not good; red ink and debt. The delayed Laurel opening and a dismal year at Santa Anita were cited as big factors.

McAlpine said that Magna will concentrate on cutting costs in 2005, a contention that was criticized by several analysts on the conference call who complained that Magna officials have made similar promises in the past only to see results at the company worsen.
Magna officials conceded that the company is in a tight position, considering the negative cash flow and the inability of the company to take on more debt.

"There's minimal debt capacity right now," said Blake Tohana, the chief financial officer of the company.[Racing Form]
But spirits were high in at least one Magna stock chat room, as slots legislation has finally made it through a Maryland House panel and moves on to the finish line in the full House, and approval in Florida seems imminent. However, the legislation passed by the Maryland panel differs from what passed the Senate in that the latter approved slots at four racetrack locations, while the House panel approved slots only for Laurel, though racetracks would still get a piece of the action.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Big Wheel

- This photo of the great pacer Albatross winning the Messenger Stakes at Roosevelt Raceway in 1970 is one of many amazing photographs on an awesome website I ran across at Roosevelt, sometimes referred to as the Big Wheel, was where I started my inglorious handicapping career oh so many years ago. It didn’t matter that the betting age in NY at the time was 21, and I was 15 or 16, looked like I was around 9; I was never questioned by a teller once (I hope Eliot Spitzer isn't reading this). For any of you who may have grown up on Long Island in the 60s or 70s, perhaps you recall the crowds that jammed the track in Westbury, Long Island. Crowds of 40,000 or more would turn out for big races such as the one pictured above, sometimes over 50,000 for the Roosevelt International Trot, which would attract top trotters from all over the world; routine weeknight crowds would be around 15,000 when I went, not much less than an entire week of Aqueduct now. If you were there you may recall the admission tokens, the Cloud Casino....well, I could go on for quite some time.

I’m in this picture here for sure somewhere, I remember the race; the French trotter Ideal du Gazeau, winning the International in 1982. Even though it’s still a big crowd, the decline in attendance was already well under way; OTB, the Meadowlands, and a scandal involving superfecta bets were all damaging blows. The track closed its doors for good in 1988.

Anyway, those of you who were at Roosevelt are probably already off at that site, and the rest of you should check it out, if for no other reason than just to see all the people that were there, that came out to see live horse racing, braving halting traffic jams and waiting race after race on interminably long betting lines clouded in cigarette and cigar smoke, and then long cashing lines if you were lucky enough to win. And this wasn’t really that long ago in the scheme of things! I mean, people just don’t really change all that much! How many thousands of years has the human race existed and what about people has changed? Certainly not the way we treat each other, we still lie, cheat, rob, fight and kill each other in the most barbaric ways imaginable over money and God, so I don’t think that in 20 or 30 years, people have changed so much that they can no longer be enticed to go out and bet on horses running or trotting around a racetrack. They do it in Hot Springs and in Saratoga now. I know it’s never going to be like Roosevelt was since you don’t have to leave your house anymore, but there’s got to be a way to do better, especially since racetracks are so much more pleasant to attend when they were when people actually attended. What that way is, I don’t know, and the answer will have to wait until at least after the last two at Delta Downs.

Thanks to Mike at Roosevelt Raceway Videos for letting me use the photos; he has all kinds of DVDs with old RR races for sale, check it out.

-Another site devoted to Roosevelt, if you’re so inclined, check out the emails, a lot of interesting and enjoyable reminiscing:

South of No North

Great piece on the late Hunter S. Thompson on Railbird, including an excerpt from his 1970 article from the Kentucky Derby that is credited with being his breakthrough into gonzo journalism. …Thompson's Derby piece, " The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved ," was savage, acerbic, and "a breakthrough in journalism," capturing the chaos and craziness of American racing's most debauched day..[Railbird]

I don’t know if the late Charles Bukowski officially falls under the “gonzo” category as primarily a fiction writer, but there’s no doubt he belonged to the same fraternity of alcohol-addled scribes with a twisted (some may say, realist) view of the world. Bukowski, who authored numerous books, wrote poetry, and penned the screenplay for the film Barfly, was a racing fan and player, and sometimes incorporated the sport into his stories. In this hilarious brief excerpt from his collection of short stories South of No North, reprinted here without permission from this website based in Russia that I found (good day Googling), he wrote in the first-person of a newbie he took to Santa Anita who won 8 out of 9 races on his first day (don’t you HATE when that happens?).

That night he knocked on my door and he had a fifth of Grandad and the Racing Form. I helped him with the bottle while he read the Form and told me all nine winners the next day, and why. We had ourselves a real expert here. I know how it can go to a man's head. I had 17 straight winners once and I was going to buy homes along the coast and start a white slavery business to protect my winnings from the income tax man. That's how crazy you can get.

I could hardly wait to take Joe to the track the next day. I wanted to see his face when all his predictions ran out. Horses were only animals made out of flesh. They were fallible. It was like the old horse players said, "There are a dozen ways you can lose a race and only one way to win one."

All right, it didn't happen that way. Joe had 7 for 9—favorites, longshots, medium prices. And he bitched all the way in about his two losers. He couldn't understand it. I didn't talk to him. The son of a bitch could do no wrong. But the percentages would get him. He started telling me how I was betting wrong, and the proper way to bet. Two days at the track and he was an expert. I'd been playing them 20 years and he was telling me I didn't know my ass.

We went all week and Joe kept winning. He got so unbearable I couldn't stand him anymore. He bought a new suit and hat, new shirt and shoes, and started smoking 50 cent cigars. He told the relief people that he was self-employed and didn't need their money anymore. Joe had gone mad. He grew a mustache and purchased a wrist watch and an expensive ring. The next Tuesday I saw him drive to the track in his own car, a '69 black Caddy. He waved to me from his car and flicked out his cigar ash. I didn't talk to him at the track that day. He was in the clubhouse. When he knocked on my door that night he had the usual fifth of Grandad and a tall blonde. A young blonde, well dressed, well-groomed, she had a shape and a face. They walked in together.

"Who's this old bum?" she asked Joe.

"That's my old buddy. Hank," he told her, "I used to know him when I was poor. He took me to the racetrack one day."
You can read the whole story here. Enjoy.

What Planet is Hot Springs, Arkansas On?

33,310 in attendance on President’s Day. Live and simulcast handle up 10%. Where is this, the Bizarro universe? The Star Trek episode when Kirk, Bones and the crew found themselves in a parallel universe where everything was opposite?

No, it’s Oaklawn Park, and just reading about the excitement that racing generates there gets me all hepped up.

In addition, the track reported that the handle on their Instant Racing machines topped $1 million for the first time on Monday. Instant Racing is a slots-type machine, but the payoffs are based on actual old races. If it were up to me, we’d see much more of these machines, or some variant on them, in racinos throughout the country. At least then there would be a chance that players might gain some interest in the sport itself; with the usual mindless slots, there’s little or no chance of that at all from what I’ve seen. With the coming saturation of legalized gambling, racing needs to look to derive other dividends from racinos when the money starts to get diverted elsewhere.

Next Round of Derby Preps

- Here it is, thanks to Lauren Stitch of the Daily Racing Form, all you need to know about the next batch of major Derby preps a week from Saturday, March 5.

- The Santa Catalina at Santa Anita - 1 1/16 mile:

The Santa Catalina should set up nicely for Declan's Moon, with several speed horses in the race: Going Wild, winner of the Sham Stakes; Fusaichi Rock Star, winner of the San Vicente Stakes; and Spanish Chestnut, winner of the San Rafael Stakes. [DRF]

- The Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream - 1 1/8 mile:
Two interesting colts expected for the Fountain of Youth are Bandini and Defer. Bandini has reeled off back-to-back impressive victories, and the son of Fusaichi Pegasus appears to have the most upside of anyone in this year's field....His second dam, Hail Atlantis, won the Santa Anita Oaks, and his fourth dam is Moccasin, undefeated champion 2-year-old filly of 1965, who was also co-Horse of the Year along with Roman Brother.

...Defer, an impeccably bred son of Danzig, should appreciate stretching out in distance. He is out of a full sister to stakes winners Educated Risk and Diamond, and a half-sister to champion Inside Information.[DRF]
Also pointing to the FOY are Galloping Grocer, High Fly, and Closing Argument. Whoever runs had better pray for a good post position.

- The Swale at Gulfstream - 7f: Lost in the Fog, Sun King, and the possible debut of High Limit, an undefeated colt waiting in the wings for none other than Bobby Frankel, who takes over from Anthony Dutrow, who trained High Limit to two wins at Delaware, including one at a mile, by a total of 18 1/2 lengths and Beyers of 98 and 100.

Plus, an expected allowance race on the Gulfstream undercard that could include some promising prospects.

- We haven’t heard much from the Jockey Guild lately; but I don’t imagine they’re busy formulating a response to requests for an explanation of exactly what they’ve been doing with the $2.2 million paid to them annually by the tracks. Now the Guild is pushing their agenda on raising the minimum weight to 116 pounds, which is a compromise from their original proposal of 118.

- I did a double take when I first saw that jockey Jose Amy had resumed riding at Aqueduct. Amy lost his license in 1980 after admitting to holding back horses in the mid-70s. He claimed that he was threatened with “Mafia retribution” by former jockey Con Errico. After 25 years, Amy, who was reinstated last year, finally got back into the winner’s circle on Monday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Notes: Feb 22

- NOTES Rockport Harbor has shown dramatic improvement and is already back jogging. [Bloodhorse] The Rebel on March 19 remains his goal.

- Graded stakes winner Forest Heiress (Forest Wildcat) is the first mare to be checked in foal to 2004 champion and dual classic winner Smarty Jones. [Bloodhorse] An interesting read is this page from Smarty’s home farm Three Chimney’s website; it’s the mating recommendations for Mr. Jones by noted pedigree expert Anne Peters, co-author with Alan Porter of the landmark Patterns of Greatness II: The Americans. As Forest Wildcat is from the Northern Dancer line via Storm Cat, check out the first paragraph with respect to this mating.

- Andrew Caulfield’s Pedigree Insights column today in the subscription only and blog-proof (pdf-only) Thoroughbred Daily News is an interesting look at the impact of Fusaichi Pegasus on the Australian breeding industry. Caulfield explains that Danzig’s influence in Australia is pervasive, mostly through his son Danehill, who has been the leading sire down under for 8 out of the last ten years, including last; and the Danzig line also accounts for another six out of the top 12 stallions for last season. The arrival there of the shuttling Fusaichi Pegasus, whose broodmare sire is Danzig, creates a situation in which any Danehill mares sent to him will produce foals inbred 3x3 to him. While Danzig’s foals have fortunately been sounder than the sire himself was, breeders there are a bit nervous about the combo, which has not yet been seen all that frequently, according to Caulfield. It’s potentially not an isolated situation, as Fusaichi Pegasus has covered no less than 363 mares in his first three seasons there. That, in addition to his North American duty, makes him a bigger stud than phony White House “reporter” Jeff Gannon, James Guckert, or whatever his name his. More information on the excellent TDN at, and much more on Gannon at AMERICAblog.

Slots and Poker

As reported by the Providence Journal: "If Massachusetts puts video slot machines in its racetracks near the Rhode Island border, Lincoln Park and Newport Grand would stand to lose about $100 million a year, which in turn would cost the state over $60 million. [Casino City Times]
Well, gee, what a surprise. Fact is, with more slots as well as casinos coming to New York, VLTs progressing, though uncertainly, through the legislature in Maryland, and slots already approved for Pennsylvania (and with non-racetrack VLT parlors a part of the plan for all three states), the entire Northeast corridor is heading towards being one big casino, and one has to wonder about the supposed windfall for racing that slots is supposed to be for these jurisdictions in the not too distant future. They may have missed the riverboat.

- Meanwhile, as states move to greatly expand legal gambling, in some states you can’t legally play poker, even if you’re not playing for money, as reported by The New York Times in a front page story today (free registration req’d).
In Illinois, the liquor commission has issued $500 citations to at least four bars, two of which advertised tournaments but never held them. In California, the Department of Justice has declared that even tournaments in which no money is bet require a gaming license - and there is a moratorium on new licenses.

In Texas, a lawyer for the state prosecutors' association contends that playing for any prize - even points to be redeemed later for T-shirts or trips - is illegal, and the attorney general is expected to issue an opinion on the matter in May.
"You want to play a game for fun? Perfectly legal," said Cliff Herberg, chief of white-collar crime at the Bexar County district attorney's office in San Antonio. "You want to start buying chips for $50 and you're playing for a trip to Las Vegas? That's gambling, and it's illegal. People say, 'Well, we're doing it for charity.' Doesn't matter. You can't be a charitable drug dealer, and you can't be a charitable gambler."
Texas, I’m not surprised; but even in blue California and Illinois?

Got Milk? Flunixin?

- Jockey Dean Butler, who was one of the jockeys forcibly ejected from Churchill last fall during the insurance protest there, was hurt at Turfway Friday night, and stands to possibly be the first beneficiary of the recent increase in insurance coverage at Kentucky tracks. He suffered multiple fractures in his left leg and underwent surgery to implant rods and screws.

Butler...said yesterday he believes the jockeys' actions at Churchill and subsequently at Hoosier Park moved the industry to do more than just talk about the problem.

"If we don't do what we did, nothing gets done," he said. "I'm a firm believer in that. It absolutely would have been business as normal."
Butler said he was told by his doctor that he could be walking with a cane in two weeks and could start physical therapy in 10-12 weeks. He would not predict how soon after that he might be riding but said, "You never know. When I was a kid and to this day I drink a lot of milk."[Courier-Journal, Lexington]

- Trainer Michael Dickinson reacts to his 7 day NYRA suspension for a drug positive:
"We were very surprised that Lofty Call tested positive for Flunixin," Dickinson said in a statement. "It may have been a mistake on our behalf. We obviously would not use such a well-known and easily detectable anti-inflammatory on purpose."

Dickinson said he requested a split sample of blood to be sent for independent testing, but that the New York State Racing and Wagering Board informed him it "had lost the blood."

Noting that the stewards were "fair and understanding" in connection with his case, Dickinson said, "We accept their ruling because even unintentional and mistaken use should be held accountable."[Bloodhorse]

- Rockport Harbor showing improvement from his bruised foot and is apparently still on track for the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 19.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Notes: President's Day Evening

- Steve Haskin’s latest Derby roundup.Wilko joins the two-prep club as his trainer Wally Dollase says that his colt will return in the March 19 San Felipe, go three weeks later in the Santa Anita Derby, then on to Kentucky. Sort It Out will make his Baffert debut in the Louisiana Derby on March 12, and High Fly his Zito debut in the Fountain of Youth March 5. So Long Birdie, a half brother to Birdstone who was claimed for $40,000, and ran second by a nose to subsequent Sham Stakes winner Going Wild in the San Miguel and is now pointing to Kentucky, is owned by a group called Alaska Great Eagle, which is named after and includes Sen. Ted Stevens, the senior GOP senator from Alaska.

- Closing Argument and Bandini also possible for the Fountain of Youth, and they both worked out at Gulfstream. It would be Bandini's stakes debut.

- Saint Liam will not go to the $6 million Dubai World Cup and will head for the G1 Santa Anita Handicap, for a paltry $1 million. Dutrow also noted the prestige and purse of the Santa Anita Handicap. "We’ll be very happy if he wins that race," Dutrow said. [Thoroughbred Times]

- Awesome race at Laurel today, the Grade 2 General George, 7 furlongs at Laurel; Don Six (Wild Escapade), Scott Lake’s latest sprinting reclamation project, went as far as he could go and dug in gamely to try and get the extra furlong in a thrilling finish, but just failed to hold off Saratoga County (Valid Expectations) in the shadow of the wire. The winner has improved suddenly and explosively for trainer George Weaver, taking his third straight, with the prior being a Grade 3, the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream, earning Beyers of 107 and 108, and winning in a quick 1:23.2 today.

After winning the Gotham last March, Saratoga County lost eight consecutive races, though several of his performances were respectable. Things began to turn last fall when trainer George Weaver decided to change his colt's training methods. Instead of working him in company where he would lay on horses and get lazy in the stretch, Weaver put blinkers on Saratoga County in his works and had the rider get after him. Five of his last six workouts have been bullets.[Daily Racing Form]
Weaver also notes that extra time between races seems to have helped too. Whatever it is, he seems certain to figure in the sprint division in the near future. The two best races of the weekend were at Laurel, this and Coast Line’s narrow win over Offlee Wild on Saturday in the John Cambell.

Out of Place

- When Royal Place splashed under the wire at Santa Anita yesterday in the off-the-turf Daytona Handicap, it capped a huge week for his sire Out of Place (Cox’s Ridge). If it were up to me, these grass stakes that can’t be run on the turf due to weather shouldn’t even be run no less count as stakes wins, but a win’s a win, and it’s the second stakes winner in 8 days for the 18 year old stallion who stands in Kentucky for $7500. Sort it Out took the Whirlaway last Saturday at Aqueduct, and then made more headlines when he was sold and transferred to Bob Baffert’s barn. In between, Out of Place picked up two more first time winners, as well as three more repeat winners to boot; seven times his genes have been first across the wire in a bit more than a week, not bad. He has 22 lifetime stakes winners, listed here, via the Claiborne Farm website. As a racehorse, he won 8 of 25 and over $700K at 3, 4, and 5; his only graded win was the G3 Clark at Churchill, but as a 5 yo in 1992, he missed winning the G1 Whitney at Saratoga by a nose to Sultry Song.

- Under tack show yesterday for the Fasig-Tipton select 2 year old sale at Calder coming up on March 1, and three fillies by Tale of the Cat, Cat Thief, and Grand Slam took the fastest times. The Fasig-Tipton website has all the times from yesterday's breezes and the sale catalog.

- More controversy for Penn National Gaming in addition to its troubles in Maine about which I posted the other day. The company’s lucrative sale of the Pocono Downs harness track is coming under scrutiny for reason that they profited too much on the sale by way of the state’s approval of VLT’s.

Penn National Gaming Inc. pocketed a 500% return on a decade-old investment when it unloaded Pocono Downs to the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.
But questions have arisen about the nine-digit sale price, particularly because a provision in the law was designed to avoid gold rush profiteering off the sale of racetracks, which were practically guaranteed a slots license by the law.

At issue is the law's Section 1330, which directs the gambling commission to reject the sale of a license-eligible facility if the price is more than what an independent appraiser would have considered to be its fair-market value a month before the law was adopted over the July 4th weekend. [Bloodhorse]

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Pippin

- It’s the Pippin Stakes at Oaklawn, 50K at a mile and a 1/16 and Island Sand (Tabasco Cat) is 3-5; she’s been out since November and last May, she won the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont, defeating Society Selection; her form had tailed off a bit since that win. In an interview right before the race, Cindy Jones, who is somehow related to trainer Larry Jones, says she’s never trained better and that she loves Oaklawn. But the TVG guys are skeptical, as am I. Todd Schrup likes La Reason, Carrothers likes Catboat, and Lyons picked the favorite despite his misgivings. I agreed with Schrupp, but it was Casual Attitude (Formal Gold), a late betdown to 5-2, who was a pretty easy winner over the favorite. It’s the 8th stakes winner for Formal Gold (Black Tie Affair), who in 1997 defeated defending Horse of the Year Skip Away in the Woodward, Donn, and Iselin. Casual Attitude is a 5yo mare who now has 9 wins in 19 starts.

Cape Hope

- Well, here it is, HRTV, and right off the bat I’m kinda surprised that they’re based today at Bay Meadows, and that I’m watching a $4000 claiming event from there when there’s three minutes until the Gaily Gaily,a 60K stakes for 3 yo fillies at Gulfstream, a pretty good betting race on the grass. The announcers like the favorite 2 horse, Paddy’s Daisy, and neither mentioned the winner Cape Hope (Cape Town), an easy winner for Bailey at 3-1. This 3 yo filly is now 3-3 on the grass and has won each by daylight for trainer Dallas Stewart, showing a powerful closing kick despite having faced some unfavorable pace scenarios. She’s out of a mare by 1991 Travers winner Corporate Report (Private Account), and she’s inbred 4x4 to Key to the Mint, and 4x5 to Raise a Native and, again, Buckpasser.

Another Bruised Foot

- First it was Pico Central and Galloping Grocer, now Rockport Harbor has suffered a foot bruise and could now miss what was to be his seasonal debut in the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 19.

"We are treating the bruise with Epsom salts and hot water, and a black tar-like salve called icthamol," Servis said. "It's too early to tell how much time Rocky will miss, but obviously time isn't on our side. We wanted Rocky at 110% for the Rebel. The best scenario is that he gets back to the racetrack by the end of the week."[Thoroughbred Times]
Since the Arkansas Derby, which was to be the second of Rockport Harbor’s two Derby preps, is not until April 16, three weeks before the Derby, Servis could look for some kind of allowance spot later in March (and I'm sure that Oaklawn management will accommodate him in that respect if necessaey) if the colt can’t make the Rebel. The strategy of only two preps being followed by the handlers of some of the top prospects does not leave much room for any significant setback.

Serious About Drugs?

- Trainer Michael Dickinson, whose eclectic ways drew national attention during his Triple Crown campaign for Tapit last year, has been suspended by NYRA for 7 days for the detection of an anti-inflammotory agent in a horse he ran at Belmont last July. But the action isn’t expected to have much of an effect on his operations.

The enigmatic trainer uses the privately owned Tapeta Farm, where the contents of the racing surfaces have long been a closely guarded secret, as his base of operations.

Dickinson has been denied privileges to the grounds of all NYRA tracks, but that ban will not carry over to Tapeta. He runs the bulk of his horses in Maryland and can send an assistant along during the ban.[Bloodhorse]
This seems like a slap on the wrist of the kind given to Tom DeLay last year, and indeed, Bill Finley writes on this weekend to question whether the industry is really serious about stopping drug use.
The most useful tactic tracks have is surveillance. If someone is watching a suspected cheat and his or her horses 24-7, they can't get away with any nonsense. But racing seems afraid to use this weapon, either because it is too cheap to pay the costs involved or it doesn't have the backbone to take on trainers, especially the more prominent ones.

It can't be that hard. Harness racing, which has taken the drug menace far more seriously than thoroughbred racing has, has made very effective use of detention barns. Horses are required to go to a special barn either 24 or 48 hours before they race and they are watched every minute. Detention barns are used for roughly 90 percent of all stakes races in harness racing. Some harness tracks also use detention barns on a random basis, choosing two or three races a night after the entries are drawn.

Yet, the thoroughbred game has made almost no effort to put a detention barn system in place. At the very least, they should be required for all graded stakes races.

- Distinctive Trick (Distinctive Pro), took the Fred Cappy Capossela at the Big A yesterday. In past years at the track, they would run replays of old NY races throughout the day with the race calls by the man the feature race was named after, but no more. Just another feature race on a grim winter Saturday with only 4,129 in attendance, and I’m not at all adjusting to nor accepting of these miniscule weekend crowds in New York, it’s depressing and shocking still. Not far away, the Meadowlands had more than twice that for their Saturday night harness crowd (though honestly I’m not sure how they count their crowds with the track being open all day for simulcasts). Distinctive Trick has a half brother named Cargo Ship (A.P Jet), a NY-bred winner of over $100,000, and check out the pedigree on this one, via the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database ( He’s inbred 2x2 to full sister and brother Taminette and Known Fact, who are both by In Reality out of Tamarette, who is also the dam of stakes winner Secrettame, the dam of Gone West.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

More Saturday Stakes

- So much for the tough post and pace scenario for Madcap Escapade (Hennessy), who swerved in at the start but sprinted to the lead and went on to win the 7f G2 Shirley Jones at Gulfstream. She zipped a half in :44.86 despite the poor start and completed the 7f in 1:22.06. Trainer Frank Brothers said of her eventful start: "At the break, I wanted to throw up..”[Bloodhorse]

At Fair Grounds, Shadow Cast (Smart Strike) took the Bayou Breeders Cup. His jockey Robbie Alvarado said that she had the killer instinct:

"Today she wanted to destroy the field," said Albarado, who captured his 12th stakes win of the meet, one off his record season a year ago. "She wanted to win big. [Bloodhorse]
The 4 year old, who is inbred 2x4 to Mr. Prospector, has now won three stakes races in a row.

Coast Line

- Impressive win at Laurel today for Coast Line (Boston Harbor), yet another lightly raced 4 year old to make an impression early in 2005. The Todd Pletcher-trained gelding grabbed the lead as usual and, stepping up in class from Aqueduct inner track allowances, turned back Offlee Wild (Wild Again), making a spirited return off an 8 month layoff, in a stirring stretch duel in the John Campbell BC Handicap. Coast Line returned from a 14 month layoff in a maiden claimer at Belmont last October, his second lifetime start; when I see that Md 45000 in first couple of lines in the pp’s, it just seems like a taint on the horse; why would someone enter a young horse for a tag if there wasn’t something wrong with him? I definitely would have bet against him at 2-1 at Belmont that day, and would have lost as he romped off by 10 1/2 lengths and he has now reeled off 5 in a row. He’s inbred to Northern Dancer 4x4, and is out of Mission Pass (Mr. Prospector). His 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th dams were stakes winners. Boston Harbor is a son of Capote (Seattle Slew), and stands in Japan.

- Greater Good (Intidab) was also impressive in recovering from a troubled start and running down Munificence despite the short stretch in the Southwest; he should move up in people’s Derby rankings for sure. Nice race for the place horse too. Almost 22,000 at Oaklawn, cool! Befitting crowd to the fact that Oaklawn is virtually the center of the Derby world these days with several key contenders stabled there. Seeing horses that I saw out East training and running out in Oaklawn makes it feel kinda feel like when your college basketball team is sent to the west regional in Provo, UT.

- Here’s an account of Afleet Alex’s first 2005 workout earlier week, as related by Arkansas News Bureau:

He was on the track Wednesday morning and after he finished with flair, Alex was the talk of the racing office.

With regular rider Jeremy Rose only a passenger, Afleet Alex spotted Dancetilludrop a two-length lead and caught him in only three-eighths of a mile. His half-mile time was 47 seconds, including a second quarter-mile in a very fast :22 2-5. He coasted another eighth and his time of :59 3-5 was faster than 34 others who worked five furlongs.

The workout was replayed on Wednesday afternoon and was part of the simulcast signal that Oaklawn sent to other tracks.

Proudly, track announcer-media relations man Terry Wallace donned an Afleet Alex cap, black with a green emblem, and wore it all morning.
Nice to read how there are places where people get so excited about this stuff. I've never been to Oaklawn and definitely have to check it out some day.


- The guy from Dish Network is here and with the addition of HRTV and the apparent impending return of the NHL, I won’t be needing to leave the house much in the near future. However, Dish Network is a different technology than Direct TV, and instead of the simple dish swap I had anticipated, there’s a major ordeal going on here with extensive drilling and cabling on two floors - I can’t believe what’s going on here!. And there’s only one guy here, no wonder they’re cheaper! This could also cost me a trip to the Big A, as the Head Chef is cooking up a storm for a client and given permission to flee. As of right now, I’m stuck here waiting for this installation, which is taking forever, and everything is disconnected so I neither TVG NOR HRTV! This better be good.

- A poster on Derby List makes an excellent point about the Sam Houston superfecta payoff:

Instead of creating a false impression about the size of the payouts by making the bet size $2....why wouldn't the track ballyhoo the fact that someone won $9 grand on a 10-cent bet; and, that superfecta handle was up 50 percent as compared to the previous Thursday night, February 10? Those seem to me to be huge facts; the kind of results that would have most racetrack managers drooling--great results from both a customer and a management perspective. Instead, they taint it with an exaggerated claim and make no mention of the bet's inagural success.

Bruised Feet and Background Checks

- Derby prospect Galloping Grocer and crack sprinter Pico Central each bruised his right foot while training for their upcoming starts. For Galloping Grocer, it may mean a lost chance to escape to sunny Florida for the Fountain of Youth and perhaps check out South Beach and some jai-alai after having spent the entire winter in New York.

Schettino said he believes Galloping Grocer may have "stepped on something" during training Thursday morning. He was noticeably lame walking off the track, and exercise rider Gary Richards jumped off the horse and walked him back to the barn. Schettino said the bruise is on the inside quarter of the foot. X-rays were negative.

"He was sound this morning," Schettino said. "We'll give him a couple of extra days off as a precaution and then start back with him." [Daily Racing Form]

As for Pico Central
"We are going to try to go straight to Dubai," [trainer Paulo Lobo said. "He is not going to run in the [G2] San Carlos. It's better to pass."[DRF]

- Magna will be running background checks on 11 simulcast shops, which are being conducted to make sure there are no links to organized crime or money laundering and to "ensure the integrity of the [betting] pools," said Drew Couto, president of the TOC. [Racing Form]
Racetracks will not be provided with customer names, which will remain in possession of Giuliani Partners, the security consulting firm founded by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. According to Couto, Giuliani Partners will only notify the tracks if the services have customers who are "high-risk players."
And I’m sure Rudy will use his usual sense of discretion.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap

- The G3 Bayou Breeders Cup Handicap goes at 9 furlongs on the turf at the Fair Grounds and it looks like a good wagering affair. Ide Be a Lady (Ida) tries stakes company for the first time after a win against 40K NW2 optional claimers. She was able to loaf to an easy lead in :49.3, and may not have to go all that much faster to lead stakes horses here, there are some real plodders among these. It’s a big class rise and the turf doesn’t seem to have been kind to speed the last few days, but maybe for exotics at a price. Bijou (Cozzene) closed into really fast closing fractions after they went 51.3 to the half to edge 80K opt claimers. But she did get the inside trip on the turn, and another turf race at FG that day was run in a similar pace pattern. My Misty Princess, by Acceptable, a son of Capote, loves Lone Star, and won two stakes there in October; but she has just a third in three starts at FG and disappointed behind Bijou in his last. Shadow Cast (Smart Strike) beat a couple of these in a stakes here in December. His last was a 97 Beyer win in a dirt stakes and she may actually prefer that surface, but she’s in sharp form now. Sister Swank (Skip Away) switched to the turf last spring and scored 2 wins including a Grade 3, 2 thirds, and a Grade 2 4th in which she missed the win by only a half length. She has been off two months and I see with Formulator that trainer Steve Asmussen’s record for the last six months around 60 days off is not great, do you think I’m getting carried away with this stuff??!!? May Gator, by Green Alligator, a son of Gate Dancer! - is a 6 year old mare with 27 starts on the turf. She only has 5 wins with 10 seconds; but three of those wins came since June of last year, plus she missed by only a neck in a Grade 3, edging the tough Angela’s Love. So perhaps she’s learned what it takes to win. She’s been out since an off the turfer 12/23 and her and her trainer’s records off similar layoffs are a little spotty, but she’s worked steadily capped by a bullet 6f work for this, and I think she’s gonna run big.

Saturday Stakes

- Four graded stakes coming up on Saturday, highlighted by the return of Madcap Escapade.

- Santa Anita - San Luis Obispo – Grade 2 – 1/1/2 miles – License To Run (Exile King) went nowhere at 4-5 in the G2 San Marcos, but returns to 12 furlongs, the distance at which he missed by only a neck in finishing third in the Hollywood Turf Cup in December, and won a Brazilian Grade 1; and he switches to Patrick Valenzuela. Nine year old Continental Red (Flying Continental) is a graded winner with a solid record at this distance who usually makes a go of it. While these two should be the top betting choices, T.H. Approval (With Approval) is a 4 year old who has improved markedly over the last few months; he won at this distance in a NW1, and ran a good third, ahead of License to Run, in the San Marcos.

- Laurel – Barbara Fritchie Handicap – G2 – 7 furlongs – Bear Fan (Pine Bluff) tries to make amends for his defeat at 2-5 on Sunshine Millions day.

- Gulfstream – Shirley Jones Handicap – G2 – 7 furlongs – The long awaited return of Madcap Escapade (Hennessey), the fleet filly who defeated eventual 3 yo filly champ Ashado in the G1 Ashland, before running third to her when injuring herself in the Kentucky Oaks. Not a simple spot for her return – she’ll have to get going from the rail at 7 furlongs, and doesn’t figure to get much of a breather with D’Wildcat Speed (Forest Wildcat) and Sunshine Millions Sprint winner Alix M (End Sweep) expected to press or stalk her. The latter has never finished out of the money in ten starts. Society Selection (Coronado’s Quest) would be the one who would figure to pick up the pieces if the leaders falter; she won two Grade 1s at Saratoga last summer, both in the mud, and she hasn’t won since finishing up the track in the BC Distaff; she's worked well, but so has Madcap Escapade. I guess I'm trying to say I'm not crazy about her here.

- Fair Grounds – The Bayou Breeders’ Cup Handicap – G3 – 1 1/8 miles turf This looks like it could be a pretty good betting race, the best of the four. I think I'll come back to this one later.

Not at Gulfstream

- This is kind of a sad day for me – in past years I would right now be at Gulfstream Park for the first day of a 4 day weekend at a pretty track with plenty of seating, windows, amenities, and top class racing. Right about now I’d probably be up at the outdoor bar/restaurant on the second floor on the clubhouse turn drinking a glass of wine with nothing but this and the next three full days and early evenings of racing action ahead of me. Does it get any better than that? But if I was transported to that very spot right now, I’d plunge into a construction pit a long ways from the area at the top of the stretch where the crowds, if you want to call them that, are confined to.

One of the things I really loved about the Gulfstream I knew and loved for a long time (I saw Prince Thou Art win the Florida Derby there, you can look up the year) was that, with the exception of course of the people watching the concerts on the weekends, people were there for the purpose of betting and watching horse racing. At Belmont and Saratoga, you can find many people in the backyard area not even paying attention to the races; they’re back there to enjoy the setting and be with friends and family. And that’s fine. But at Gulfstream, the backyard area would pretty much empty out during the races because almost everyone was either in the grandstand or on the apron watching, or clustered around the TVs inside; either way, they were all into the race being run there at the track. When I read about the plans for the “new” Gulfstream, with its shopping and entertainment and condominiums, as well as the probable slots parlors, I get the feeling that the racing will just be a sideshow. I hope I’m totally wrong, and that this time next year I’m writing about how great it is.

- Record Superfecta Payout Tonight at Sam Houston Race Park, reads last night’s headline on Sam Houston’s website.

In tonight's ninth race, a record superfecta payout of $186,686 resulted when longshot Senor Guapo ($99), a 3-year-old Texas-bred trained by John Locke , won the six-furlong maiden event.
Wow! But that’s not all. There was a dead heat for 4th resulting in another “payout” of $93,334.40! The guys on TVG almost fell out of their chairs. We can’t wait to go there, they said, there must have been some $300,000 in the superfecta pool!

Well, no. It was the first night that Houston was accepting dime wagers on superfectas, and in fact, there was a grand total of ten cents bet on one of the winning combos, and twenty cents on the other, resulting in actual payoffs of $9,334 and $4,667 from a pool of around $24,000. The announced prices are what they would have been for two-dollar bets. So while it was a record in terms of odds to the dollar, some 93,343 to 1, the statement that there was a “payout of $186,686” was false.

Now, Sam Houston is to be commended for instituting this bet; it’s an innovative way to allow small bettors to get into the superfecta game, where astronomical odds are always possible. And their announcement, while deceptive, is marketing and PR, something the game certainly needs, and perhaps no worse than most of the questionable claims you hear or read in ads or from your government every day. It certainly attracts attention, and that is good. But what if a fan tells a friend, hey, check out Sam Houston, you can make these bets for ten cents, and you get a first-timer there who bets the last four digits of his/her social security number, gets lucky, and when the $100,000 payoff is posted on the board, faints, recovers, proposes marriage to the mutual clerk, buys a Porsche, calls the boss and tells him to go screw, and then when he/she goes to collect, is told, not understanding at all, that the actual payoff for the ten cent bet is just $5,000? I wouldn’t want to be the track official who is trying to make that explanation.

Baffert Sorts Out Derby Picture

- Bob Baffert, whose main Derby hopeful Roman Ruler is troubled with physical problems, has once again been handed a potential plum in Whirlaway winner Sort It Out (Out of Place). Baffert won the 2002 Derby with War Emblem, who had been purchased by the late prince Ahmed Salman and handed over to Baffert after winning the Illinois Derby. That was just three weeks before the Derby. This time, Stonerside Stable is the purchaser. Baffert:

"The Whirlaway was a tough, tough race. He made a big three-eighths of a mile move, and then Naughty New Yorker, another horse I really like, came to him and looked like he was going to blow by him. But he wouldn't let him go by him. I really liked that about this horse.

"Distance is not going to be a problem. His breeding is good, and he's been running some decent numbers and is improving at the right time, and that's what you're looking for. [Bloodhorse]

- A light weekend for Derby preps, with the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn the only action of significance. Greater Good (Intidab) will be the favorite in his 3 yo debut. As a two time graded stakes winner, he far outclasses a field of six. His Beyers have improved with each start and peaked at 91 when he won the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill last November, his last start, defeating Rush Bay, who disappointed in the Risen Star. Trainer Bob Holthus on Greater Good:
"I'd say the mile is not his cup of tea, but hopefully he'll be able to overcome it,.....We've got to start somewhere." [Daily Racing Form]
Sounds like a guy looking down the road, as he should be. His colt lags far behind and there won't be much of a stretch at Oaklawn; the finish line is at the sixteenth pole for mile races there. It wouldn’t make sense for jockey John McKee to abuse the colt to get him under the wire first. Having said that, I think he is so far the class that I doubt I’d bet against him. But if I change my mind, Holthus also has COPY MY NOTES (Souvenir Copy) making his first start at 3; he improved with the addition of blinkers in his last, winning a NW1 allowance with an impressive 88 Beyer. MUNIFICENCE (Allen’s Prospect) has two dominating wins in his last two at Delta Downs, both two-turn sprint distances on the small Delta track; can lead or stalk, and had a quick 5f work for this.

- Lauren Stitch of the Daily Racing Form says that Greater Good’s closing style and Derby aspirations are not supported by his pedigree.
Greater Good is running in the opposite manner of what his speed-oriented pedigree suggests. He is by Intidab (a son of Phone Trick out of a Mr. Prospector mare), and his dam, Gather Clan, is by General Assembly out of champion sprinter What a Summer (What Luck). Greater Good has already won twice at 1 1/16 miles, rallying from far off the pace in both the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. While General Assembly adds a much-needed boost of stamina, it would be shocking if a son of Intidab would be at his best at 1 1/4 miles. [Daily Racing Form]