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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Less Kickback

- I saw a couple of races from Woodbine tonight, and it was readily apparent that there was much less kickback on the new Polytrack surface then there was at Turfway, where it seemed to become more and more of a concern as the meet went on. At least one horseman there agrees: "It doesn't seem to have anywhere near the kickback that they had at Turfway," said trainer Ian Howard. [Daily Racing Form]

The results seemed fairly typical. Though there was only one winning favorite on the seven race card, four of the other races had winners of 9-2 or less. Two races were won by longshots, and the last race produced a triple of double digit runners that returned over $4,000.

Steve Crist in the Form suggests, as many have done before, that the industry is jumping into the changeover too soon and based on too little evidence. With Keeneland introducing Polytrack this fall, important races including the Blue Grass, a key Kentucky Derby prep, will be run on the synthetic surface next year; Crist wonders what will happen when California is due to host the Breeders Cup. Is the sport ready to have most of its championships decided by a day of synthetic-track racing?

Polytrack is included in at least one of the bids for the New York racing franchise.

One tantalizing tidbit to emerge from the Jockey Club Round Table was the announcement that the New York Racing Association's bid for a renewal of its franchise will include a plan to convert two of its surfaces to synthetic footing. Officials say they are prevented from disclosing bid details, but the two surfaces widely believed to be candidates for such change are not the racing surfaces at Belmont or Saratoga but the training track at Belmont and either the main or inner track at Aqueduct.

This seems like a sensible way to proceed. Trainers at Belmont could use either the main dirt track or synthetic training track as they please while learning more about it. Winter racing at Aqueduct might become a lot more interesting - one-turn miles in February! - if a winterproof synthetic main track offered a wider variety of race configurations. Conversely, replacing the existing inner track with a synthetic one would be a modest and controlled experiment. [Daily Racing Form, sub. and print edition only]
- I was at the harness track last night and saw a horse in the past performances named Lovely Artist K, who recently went off in a race at odds of 522-1, the biggest win price I've ever seen. Based on the usual total win pool of $2500 - $3000 (no, I didn't leave out any zeros), I'd say that she must have had $5 total wagered on her in the win pool. I wonder what she had in the place and show pool? She didn't even run bad that day, finishing 4th by 5 lengths. Her next race? She won at mere odds of 52-1. Last night she was 12-1, and ran last, so you can expect her to be a good 250-1 or so the next time out.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Final Week

- Hey, how's it going, eh? It's my last few days in Saratoga, and I'm only a little sick of it. Travers weekend was a lot of fun, with friends and family in town, and a gourmet BBQ feast courtesy of the Head Chef, but little time for blogging. I've been busy this week writing the handicapping columns for the Saratoga Special for Wednesday and Thursday. It's funny that that's what I ended up doing for them, as I hardly consider myself an expert handicapper. However, picking a winner one or two days in advance is far different that wagering decisions made in the heat of battle, and it's the latter at which I'm particularly poor. I just try to make it interesting and informative, and hope to get lucky and pick a few winners.

I actually have a chance to come out ahead in betting here if I can nail something nice this week, though this is only due to bets on out of town tracks. So I don't know if that counts. If not, than I have to say that I've done horribly. I've cashed more tickets on a couple of my one weeks visits than I have the entire time here this year. Hard to believe that I could be so engrossed in the races each day, following the trainers, watching replays, and do so poorly.

One of the many stories that I've seen since I last posted was the reaction of the horsemen at Woodbine to the Polytrack which will debut there on Wednesday night. The praise for the surface seemed enthusiastic and universal, though note that the stories carried by the industry trades were actually the Woodbine press release. Nonetheless, to hear horsemen be so effusive as to how much the horses themselves seemed to appreciate the surface is encouraging.

With the recent rash of breakdowns at tracks like Arlington and Del Mar, especially coming after Barbaro's injury, the switch to synthetic surfaces has become a foregone conclusion. They're on the way in California, and the bidders for the NY franchise are all expected to include Polytrack at Aqueduct in their proposals. A lot of people will be watching the upcoming Woodbine meeting to see if it duplicates the success of Turfway. We could be on the cusp of a new era in the game in which horses are able to stay sounder and race more often and longer. And perhaps that would even lessen the incentive to cheat with drugs.

I hope you all got to see Discreet Cat's race on Friday. As exciting as Bernardini and Henny Hughes were, it was Discreet Cat that really dazzled with the sheer effortlessnes with which he ran seven furlongs in 1:21.53. Loyal reader Jim was in town, and took some photos for posterity.

Man, they gotta be kidding about the freaking Cigar Mile, don't they? Walter wrote somewhere on one of these blogs that it would be madness for them to not run in the Breeders Cup if he wins in spectacular fashion in the Jerome - how often do these opportunities come around, and what guarantee is there that he'll be sound next year? The summer racing season is coming to an end, but it would seem there are some intriguing possibilities for the fall.

Monday, August 28, 2006

One Week To Go

- OK, so I'll be at Racing Saratoga for another week, and then back here full-time. Really full-time if I don't come up with some employment! Thanks for checking in. Will also be back with some posts here a bit later or tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Run the Power Sweep!

- In a story that is filled with tremendous promise, but with some question marks as well, the Thoroughbred Times is reporting that ESPN will broadcast live the 2007 Meadowlands Breeders Cup Stakes (G2) on espn2 during halftime of its ESPN Monday Night Football game. The telecast would be promoted on the network during the preceding week and during the game.

That would be an amazing opportunity for the sport, but only if the NTRA does what it's supposed to be doing. People aren't just going to automatically switch over to ESPN2 to watch some relatively meaningless horse race just because Kenny Mayne is telling them to (in fact, his increasingly smug manner could actually dissuade them). The NTRA should be working on developing a promotion that will make people not want to miss it. Forget the mystery vouchers for people who are already fans, they should send word of a contest to all of those on their 'potential fans likely to be watching the NFL' marketing list - they certainly have one of those, don't they? (and if they don't, they should be asking ESPN for theirs) - offering attractive prizes to those who, for example, log on to and pick the first three horses in order. That will get people not only watching, but get them rooting. And for some of them, screaming and yelling and jumping up and down.

And that could make them fans far more effectively than the celebrities on their lame Who Do You Like Today ads.

However, some of this would require some tinkering, and indeed, the article said that the Meadowlands had no comment. For one thing, the Meadowlands doesn't race on Monday nights. By moving the race to that night, they would be taking the marquee race for their thoroughbred meet and putting it on a night on which nobody will be there. The attendance for their thoroughbred meet is depressing to start with, and the atmosphere for their big race on a Monday night would be downright funereal. (One would hope that this wasn't scheduled for the night of a Giants road game!)

The plan would also require some flexibility on the part of the racetrack. Halftimes can come anywhere from around an hour and fifteen minutes, to almost two hours after kickoff time, depending on the nature of the game. So the Meadowlands would have to be prepared to hold up post time for a half hour or more.

But to me, these are things that the NTRA should be working on with the racetrack to make it so. You're talking about an opportunity to not only market the game to millions of non-fans, many of whom are wagering on the football game and are therefore potential customers, but to get them directly involved, if even for one race! How many other sports are able to do that?

So, Go Baby Go, NTRA. Pick up the ball on this one and run the power sweep.

News and Notes - Aug 23

- No news is good news, and nowhere is that more true than in our game. We don't click onto Bloodhorse and read something like Smarty Jones Has A Great Day - Services Three Hot Mares! Unless, of course, it involves Barbaro, and was borne of misfortune in the first place. I've also read recently Lost in the Fog had a good day, but that story is just too sad to even comtemplate, and will soon end in his passing.

Now comes word of the death of last year's Horse of the Year Saint Liam. We know that injury and even death can come any time a horse steps on a racetrack, but Saint Liam was merely being led to the paddock.

"Apparently he was just goofing off, and he fell," [Dr. Larry] Bramlage said. "Horses' legs are made to go front-to-back very efficiently, but they don't go side-to-side very well. Somehow he got his leg underneath him and just so happened to land on top of the leg." [Daily Racing Form]

So the champion's legacy will have to be carried on by the 115 mares that are in foal to him from his first and only season standing stud at Lane's End for $50,000. And soon his page in the Stallion Register will just disappear, as if he never existed at all. Saint Liam's reputation is perhaps sullied a bit by the suspension of his trainer for a drug positive during his championship year; but it wasn't the horse's fault, and he clinched the honors with class and style in the Classic. Racing has lost one of its champions before his time, and that always makes us a little poorer. Rest in peace, champ.

- Andy Beyer has been out at Del Mar, and he didn't like what he saw there. The emphasis on speed, both in the morning and afternoon, takes a toll, and Beyer reports that: In a three-week period I have never bet on so many horses who broke down or finished a race in distress.
Florida-based clocker Toby Callet spent the summer at Del Mar, and in the morning workout hours he observed, "I have never in my life seen so many horses that appear to be sore."
Beyer also observed that trainers are as big of a factor, if not more so, than the horses themselves.
Over the past five years, according to statistics from the Daily Racing Form's Formulator software, Ted West has won with an amazing 35 percent of the horses he claimed in his last start. During the same period, Art Sherman won with 34 percent, Jeff Mullins with 33 percent and Mike Mitchell and Bill Spawr with 27 percent. When horses leave these trainers' care, their form often declines immediately. Horses claimed from Mullins win only 13 percent of the time in their first start for a new trainer.
Any player in California would feel like an idiot if he missed a pick six by omitting a horse recently claimed by Mullins, West, Sherman or any of the other magicians. Horseplayers can readily adapt to the California version of the game, but it is a version that spoils much of the subtlety, the challenge and the exhilaration of handicapping. Here, the focus of the sport is the trainer, not the horse.
Sounds like Beyer is implying the obvious without mentioning it here - though he hasn't really been shy to do so in the past.

- OK, well, here is some good news for a change. Lawyer Ron is back from his injury, and will run in the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park on Saturday. If his figures weren't so damn slow, I would have been all hepped up on him around Derby time. He was a nice story, and showed some real versatility when he changed tactics and closed from off the pace, five wide on the turn, to win the Rebel. And he displayed some spunk and character when he dragged John McKee to the lead in the Arkansas Derby.

He hasn't scared people off though, and he faces 11 others, including the Peter Pan runner-up Lewis Michael, returning to the dirt.

And I guess it's also good news that Declan's Moon was diagnosed with a lung infection, which excuses his poor performance on Sunday with a benign explanation. Remember Afleet Alex's similar performace and post-race diagnosis in the Rebel last year; it didn't take long for him to recover from that.

Monday, August 21, 2006

News and Notes - Aug 21

- Leandro Mora, Doug O'Neill's assistant trainer, spoke to the Form about Lava Man's preparation for the Pacific Classic, which included just two published works a half-mile in 47.80 and three-quarters in 1:14.00.

"Yes, but you know that three-quarters?" Mora said. "On my watch he galloped out seven-eighths in 1:26 around the turn, and he probably got the mile in 1:39. Then there is his gallops, all of them very strong. Because of that, we don't have to pressure horses, work their asses off, so they can run this kind of race." [DRF]
With his ass still intact, Lava Man showed it to the rest of the field. With the win, Lava Man takes over the lead in the Older Horse division of the TBA standings listed in the right sidebar. He's supposed to have one prep before the Classic, and it could be on the grass.

Murray Johnson apologized for those remarks he made about Lava Man's "bicarb level."
"I said some stuff after the race that I didn't mean," Johnson, his voice quivering, said Monday. "The guy got to me at the wrong time. I wanted to blame something for my horse not running. I should have just shut up." [DRF]
It was not a very good weekend for Johnson, whose father suffered a near fatal heart attack at Del Mar on Friday; he had to be revived with emergency medical equipment.

Walter had an interesting point about Siren Lure perhaps running in the BC Mile. He has run very well on the grass, though not nearly at the Grade 1 level he has won at on the main. His trainer Art Sherman noted that the horse has been dropping further back than usual of late, and that he therefore may be better off in the Mile.

- Brother Derek is coming back, probably in the one mile El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar on Sept 2. Del Mar clockers caught Brother Derek going the first quarter-mile in :26 2/5, a half-mile in :50 3/5, five furlongs in 1:02 2/5, and six furlongs in 1:14 4/5. He was caught galloping out a mile in 1:39 3/5. [Bloodhorse]

Lava Man Is The Man!

- Lava Man made what seemed on paper to be a nice Grade 1 field seem ordinary. Corey Nakatani said that he "chirped" to him before he quickly drew away to leave the Pacific Classic field in the dust. "That horse said, 'Goodbye, it was nice knowing you,'" said Bob Baffert, the trainer of Preachinatthebar, who had the poor judgment to knock heads with the favorite on the lead early on. Later on, he was gone. And though the time and the final quarter may not have been quick (2:01.62, and 26.12 respectively), the message is clear that there's nobody on that coast that's gonna beat this guy. The win completed an unprecedented sweep of the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pac Classic.

I'm reading more and more of Perfect Drift's trainer Murray Johnson's bitching about the track condition. As we were discussing in the comments section, Johnson saw the track being graded, or scraped, the night before, which he feels favored the front-running Lava Man to the detriment of his own. Sounds like the usual sour grapes, but I'm pretty shocked at the personal nature of some of his remarks.

“There are a lot of people who manipulate things in this game. It's like the drugs and what they treat the horses with. They all think they've got an edge. We know how (Lava Man) does back East when he travels. (Lava Man hasn't won outside California.) I'd love to know his bicarb (bicarbonate) level, too. I'll guarantee it's in the 30s. Which means he's . . . it's not a legitimate thing. I'm not bitching because I lost. I'm just telling you what I saw.” [SignOnSanDiego]
Seemed like a not-veiled-at-all barb towards the winner's trainer, who recently had a positive for milkshakes that caused his entries to be quarantined.

I was a bit surprised (and disappointed) that Giacomo didn't attract more mutuel support - he was 9-2 third choice. But then again, it was right there in black and white if you looked at the Beyers, and at the fractions of his mile and a quarter races. Shug McGaughey has been percolating at Saratoga, and the second by Good Reward contines that trend.

I had the Pick Three, and didn't use Declan's Moon anywhere on the tickets. Easy to say now of course, but as much as I admired his comeback race, I thought he was an awful favorite in this spot. Again, his Beyers were nowhere near these, and the improvement he would have needed to compete with what was a very tough bunch was just too much to ask in my opinion. I would have loved Pure As Gold to hang on at 8-1, but once Siren Lure got going, the race was over. This is one nice five-year old gelding, and it was his third consecutive graded stakes win. Whatsmore, he can run on the grass too.

Nonetheless, it's disappointing to see Declan's Moon run so poorly, and Victor Espinoza eased him up in the lane. “He didn't want to run today....On the turn, I just stopped trying with him. Today was not his day.” Ron Ellis said that "He ran like a horse who might have bled,” and I hope the explanation is as simple as that.

In the middle leg, I left out a 9-5 Frankel favorite, and had Sartorial, making his first start on the grass at 5-1. So I must say that while I'm of course not complaining, I was a bit disappointed with the $128 Pick Three payoff. I know it's hard to create value when there's a big favorite involved, but I did beat two favorites, and Lava Man wasn't that big of a favorite. He was in the Pick Three pool though. Sometimes you can get a surprise, especially with a first-time turf winner who gets bet on the nose, but this wasn't one of them.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pacific Classic

- I wrote a horse-by-horse analysis for the Saratoga Special on the Pacific Classic. Unfortunately, they don't have a link up to the piece on their website, so you'd have to go to this page and download the pdf of today's issue. They were nice enough to remind everyone that I picked the exacta in the Arlington Million, thereby racheting up the pressure. Also contained therein is my handicapping for Monday's card, which I'll be doing for the remaining Mondays of the meet.

Pete Fornatale, the Special's regular handicapper, is most happy to give up that assignment. Since the Special doesn't publish on Mondays, the picks for that day go in the Sunday paper, the deadline for which is 8PM the night before. And since the PP's for Monday don't come out until around 3 PM on Saturday, it doesn't give one much time. Especially if one is in Saratoga to attend the races. So I had to leave after the 8th and watch the Alabama at home (on slightly delayed tape). And even then, to thoroughly handicap the entire card and write about it in 2 1/2 hours was a challenge. Nonetheless, I'm more or less satisfied with my picks, at least from the perspective of Saturday evening at 8 PM, though not if the track comes up sloppy and off the turf. What I'm going to do about Travers day, I don't really know.

So I'll reprint the Pacific Classic thing below. I picked Lava Man, and watching the replay of that Gold Cup, what a race. Two concerns I do have though is 1) He was reported to be extremely tired after that race, and didn't have a recorded workout until a month afterwards. O'Neill says that he's "fresher"this year than last. I recall that after he was vanned off following last year's Pac Classic, he failed to return to form in the Jockey Club Gold Cup nor the Japan Cup. Of course, he wasn't vanned off this time, but he was pooped, and didn't eat up, so you might wonder about his ability to bounce back after a tough race.

And 2) the general regression in his speed figures this year. But maybe that 120 last year didn't do him any good in the long run.

I fooled around a little and picked Perfect Drift to be second, though Magnum seems the more obvious choice to do so. Perfect Drift has run two of the races of his life in defeat in this stakes the last two years, the only races he's run at Del Mar, which is obviously loves. He jumped up and ran a big fig here last year, so why can't he do it again? And after cashing on The Tin Man last week, I'm not going to hold his age against him. So if the price is right, I'm going to use him on top as well when it comes down to the real betting.

TOP THIS AND THAT ran a bang-up second at 18-1 in the Grade 2 Strub in February, holding off Giacomo for the place spot. But he's yet to reproduce that form. His last two were OK against allowance foes, but he'd have to top this and that and a lot of other things in order to compete against these Grade 1 foes.

LAVA MAN: I've watched his win in the Grade 1, mile and a quarter Hollywood Gold Cup over and over again, yet still get a thrill each time. Lava Man truly showed the qualities of a champion in winning that day. Already reportedly out of sorts after having spent 24 hours in a detention barn, he showed his agility in overcoming a frightening stumble that had him chasing instead of dictating the pace. He flashed a quick burst of speed to engage Magnum through a swiftly-run final turn, and then displayed his ample courage in surviving a grueling stretch duel while conceding 8 to 10 pounds to the second and third place finishers. The five-year old son of Slew City Slew gets his favorite distance again today, this time at equal weights, and an inside post from which he could control the pace with a clean start. Doug O'Neill's best claim ever takes another step on the road to the Classic.

PREACHINATTHEBAR - In a change of tactics from his usual stalking style, this Bob Baffert-trained son of Silver Charm found himself on the lead in the San Diego Handicap. Despite being pressed to quick fractions, he shook off a host of challengers turning for home and appeared to be home free before being caught late by Giacomo. The stretchout to a mile and a quarter certainly doesn't appear to help – the five-year old has yet to run beyond nine furlongs - and neither will having to deal with Lava Man rather than Rathor.

GIACOMO – Installed as the 3-1 second choice, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner should attract generous mutuel attention after rallying to win the mile and a sixteenth San Diego in his first start off a layoff. He seems a natural stretching out to the distance at which he achieved immortality, especially after showing some uncharacteristic zip in his morning works for a confident John Shirreffs. However, the more cynical amongst us might suggest that the plodding final quarter of the Derby actually indicated that the mile and a quarter is not his preference. In fact, his closing fractions that day – 48.4 / 25.4 - were not much different than those – 48.2 / 26 - from his distant fifth place finish to Lava Man and Magnum in the Santa Anita Handicap in March in what was only other try at ten furlongs. Stand against to create some value in the exotics.

MAGNUM – Just as Lava Man didn't want to be chasing him in the Gold Cup, Magnum would have preferred not to be on the lead. He ended up there due to Lava Man's early misfortune, and got away with a slow half before being pressed hard by the eventual winner and stubbornly fading to 4th. Here, Darrell Vienna's five-year old should be more comfortable rating with Alex Solis replacing the ailing Patrick Valenzuela. He can sit behind Lava Man and Preachinatthebar, and may be able to grind it out in the stretch as he did when running a close second to the favorite in the Big Cap.

PERFECT DRIFT – If this all seems familiar to this veteran making his field high 40th start, it's because his 2006 campaign is a mirror image to that of last year. Two turf preps, the Stephen Foster, and the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington, and on to the Pacific Classic, where last year he defeated Lava Man when runner-up to Borrego in his peak effort of 2005. In his only other surf and turf appearance, he ran a close second to Pleasantly Perfect in the 2004 edition of this race, so he certainly seems to love this racetrack. He'll need some pace up front as usual, and there's concern that he's slowed down at age seven. But it takes trainer Murray Johnston a few races to get him going, and he could be sitting on a huge effort.

SUPER FROLIC – Vladimir Cerin has the six-year old son of Pine Bluff sharp after a disastrous trip to Dubai, which is quite an accomplishment in itself. He followed up a second in the Californian with his third place finish, beaten less than a length by Lava Man, in the Gold Cup. But things won't get any easier for him in this race. He sat several lengths behind the action up front that day, saved all the ground on the turn, and hung in the stretch before closing the gap late. Money prospects to be sure, but will likely fall short of the top prize again with no weight concession this time from the top pick.

GOOD REWARD – A curious choice of spots for Shug McGaughey, as this five-year old campaigner has done his best running on the turf, on which he's won two Grade 1's at today's distance. On the dirt he's managed just a maiden win in six otherwise out-of-the-money tries. He hasn't been so hot on the grass of late either, and his last effort, a no-chance 4th on the main track at Prairie Meadows in the Cornhusker, doesn't inspire confidence. Still, Garrett Gomez makes the cross-country trek to ride.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Profit on Pletcher

- Steven Crist in the Form picks up on the theme that we've been mentioning over at Racing Saratoga on Todd Pletcher - that he not only wins with his two-year olds at an absurd rate, but that you can actually make some money on them too.

Over the 365 days of racing through this past Wednesday, Pletcher-trained 2-year-olds won an astounding 78 races from 268 starts, a 29 percent strike rate. More astoundingly, even though 25 of the 78 winners paid even-money or less and only four paid 10-1 or more, a $2 win bet on all 278 would have gotten you back a little over $600 for your $556, an 8 percent profit on your investment. Billion-dollar hedge funds have been funded on less reliable returns.
The editor-in-chief of the racing Bible goes on to inform us that Pletcher has won nearly 40% of the juvenile races he's been involved in nationally this year, as well as nine stakes with seven different horses. And then there are some of those prices.
Horseplayers tear their hair out when Pletcher wins 2-year-old stakes like the Schuylerville with Cotton Blossom at $17.40 and the Adirondack with Octave at $21.60 because while the trainer angle is so strong, the individual horses may not look all that good on paper. Both of those fillies came into their Saratoga stakes starts with only moderate speed figures earned in their winning debuts. What it pays to keep in mind is that he has his choice of so many juveniles for these spots that their mere presence in graded stakes races suggests they are thriving and may be capable of even better than they have already shown.
- Lava Man heads the field in Sunday's Grade 1 Pacific Classic, where he'll face the rejuvenated Giacomo. I'll be handicapping this one in detail for Sunday's Saratoga Special.

Should Lava Man win, it will be another step towards Horse of the Year honors. Kevin Modesti, in the LA Daily News, points out that should he take the Eclipse, it would be the second year in a row that the HOY is trained by a trainer implicated in illegal medication. Last year, it was Richard Dutrow and Saint Liam. In 2006, Lava Man's trainer Doug O'Neill had his horses subject to the 24 hour pre-race detention barn for 30 days due to a "milkshake" positive on one of his horses in May. In fact, Lava Man himself did the detention barn gig prior to his hard-fought win in the Hollywood Gold Cup, and O'Neill mentioned that as one of the reasons for the close finish in the race. (The 24-hour detention barn is now a standard procedure for harness stakes at the Meadowlands.)

Now, O'Neill denies the charges, claiming that the positive was the result of a "testing error," and to be fair, it should be pointed out that the affected horse finished last. But Modesti is right on when he points out:
It would, as O'Neill said, be awful if the awesome performances of the Saint Liams and Lava Mans were tarnished by the sanctions meted out to their trainers.

Worse, though, would be if the racing world grew so jaded that such trends, or coincidences - or potential coincidences - passed without comment. [LA Daily News]
And isn't giving Eclipse awards to horses trained by those implicated in illegal medication doing just that?

- Lost in the Fog will have surgery today to determine the extent of his cancer. If the cancer hasn't spread beyond his spleen, where he has a tumor the size of a cantaloupe, he will have the organ removed. Greg Gilchrist said: "In 30 years of training horses, I've never seen anything like this....He's probably had this for months. That shows what a courageous horse he is; he's been running with this." [Star-Telegram]

Lost in the Fog's sluggish Breeders Cup performance and his subpar races this year were one of the disappointments of the racing season thus far. And this might seem twisted to say given the fact that the horse's life is in most definitely in danger, but I actually find some solace in learning that there was a legitiamte explanation for the dropoff in his form. Nonetheless, it's the latest cruel twist of fate for the sport which is already reeling from the Barbaro injury. Let's all hope and pray that Lost in the Fog proves to be as courageous and resilient as the Derby winner.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Secret Out on Principle Secret

- Walter discussed Principle Secret, the Christopher Paasch-trained winner of the Best Pal stakes at Del Mar on Sunday in the comments section here. Just watched the replay on the Cal Racing site, and it was a very nice performance indeed. He was three wide on the turn and swung even wider than that turning for home, and glided home easily getting home in 30.87 for the last 2 1/2 furlongs...and that was with all that ground lost.

Reader Stalusk commented on the horse's breeding, and the sire who indeed hasn't set the world on fire is the Storm Cat stallion Sea of Secrets. He currently stands in California for $3500, having been exiled there from Walmac in Kentucky. Sea of Secrets caused a bit of a stir in 2003 when a son of his to be named Diamond Fury sold for $2.7 million as a two-year old. At the time it was considered a huge pinhooking homerun for Becky Thomas, who had bought the colt for $30,000. After The Green Monkey, it seems more like a foul popup.

Principle Secret is out of [a mare by] the dead Slewpy sire Gray Slewpy, who was a minor stakes winner and a sire who accomplished little before passing of colic in 2001.

Diamond Fury has won three races and over $100,000, which in many cases would be a wild success. But he's considered a bust at this point, and so, thus far, is his sire. Sea of Secrets started with high hopes, but has just six winners with his 4th crop two-year olds this year.

- Laffit Pincay, Jr. (what does that make his son Laffit on HRTV?) and Larry Saumell, representing the Jockeys Guild, were denied entrance to the jockeys' room at Philadelphia Park on Sunday. The riders there have formed their own local group, and the Guild is trying to bring them into the national fold. Philly Park CEO Hal Handel told the Inquirer: "The riders tell us they're representing themselves, that the [national] guild doesn't represent them.....If riders here want the guild to represent them, that's their prerogative. If it doesn't represent them, then the guild has no standing here." Pincay and Saumell had to wait until after the races to enter the room.

Philly Park is one of the tracks that has not increased their insurance coverage for on-track accidents; it's still stuck at $100,000. That figure is slated to increase to $250,000 once the casino gets going. In negotiations with the jockeys, the track is insisting that the riders pick up part of the tab to increase the level to the $1 million that many other tracks have adopted. Handel delivered the standard racetrack defense. "Remember that they're not our employees. We have no employment relationship with them at all....These are the employees of the trainers and the horsemen."

Handel said that $1 million in coverage next year could cost as much as $600,000, but acknowledged that many tracks, such as Penn National near Harrisburg, had such coverage.

"If somebody jumps off the roof of a building, that doesn't mean we're going to do it," Handel said. "Penn National had issues for both West Virginia" - where it owns Charles Town Race Track and Casino - "and Pennsylvania. They were under attack by a West Virginia congressman, and they chose to do this." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
You wonder why anyone is riding there, or at other tracks with minimal coverage. But some riders I suppose have no choice but to ply their trade where they can get mounts. And in Pennsylvania, there's the allure of the increased purse money that will enrich jockeys who choose to stick out both the wait for slots, and that for adequate insurance. Here's hoping that all of them will make it through to see both.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mo Pletcher

- Nice weekend for Jose Santos, who has been struggling to even get mounts at Saratoga. It's a tough jockey colony there to be sure. But he rode War Front to victory in the G2 Alfred Vanderbilt at Saratoga on Saturday. On Sunday, he traveled to Monmouth to win the Monmouth BC Oaks with the badly named Mo Cuishle (muh kwish-la according to Bloodhorse, but mo kush-la according to Monmouth announcer Larry Collmus). I have to say that I wasn't familiar with this filly, and when I looked her up in the Form, big surprise to see that it's Pletcher, again. Santos has to be thrilled to be riding for him, and I'm sure he would have gone to Beirut to ride her if he had to.

But I think Jose is most certainly getting a bit ahead of himself when he talked about her championship aspirations. Not to say that she can't go on, but so far, she's won two races at Delaware, and beat a not-that-great field in this stakes.

Pletcher was back at Saratoga on Sunday, but he was very much hands-on in this race. "Todd called me at 8:30 this morning and said to be aware the track is very deep on the inside," Santos said. [Asbury Park Press]

Mo Cuishle is by the dead stallion Saint Ballado, out of a Deputy Minister mare, and her second dam is the graded stakes winner Tricky Squaw

- Eibar Coa spoke with the Saratoga Special about getting rides for the Pletcher machine after guiding the barn's Go Deputy to win the Sword Dancer.

“Unfortunately, it’s hard to get in Pletcher’s barn and it takes days like this when rides open up....I don’t ride for him too often, sometimes in the winter when Johnny isn’t around. You’ve got to stick around, they go by first, down. If the first four or five guys are out of town, they keep going down and if I maintain my position in the standings, they land on me. Hopefully, hopefully I can stay on this one, to stay on a horse like this, that’s all you need.”

Here's Stevie

- Stevie Wonderboy had an untimed timed workout at Santa Anita, in an unofficial :24 1/5, galloping out three-eighths in :36 3/5. "It was easy, he was just galloping," O'Neil said. "But he's doing excellent." [Bloodhorse] But he's being pointed to the Strub series, which starts on December 26, so the colt is basically out for the year. I remember when he first got hurt, Merv said that he'd be back in training in 90 days. "They'll put in a screw, they'll take it out, and he'll be back." And leave it to Merv to get me going, but that sounds like what we were told would happen in Iraq. "They have WMD's, we'll take them out, and we'll be back."

Shortly thereafter, Doug O'Neill was saying that “I don't think he will run again until October or November." Now his three-year old season is effectively over. If there are any further delays or complications, would anyone be surprised if he passes go and proceeds directly to the breeding shed? I imagine he could command at least $20,000 a pop. He's a an Eclipse Award winner from a fashionable sire line (Stephen Got Even, by AP Indy) and had a bit of an aura about him. I don't think they'll race him again if they feel there's a chance to ruin that.

Nailing the Million

- I had a major thrill on Saturday when, in my professional public handicapping debut, I nailed the Arlington Million, picking The Tin Man and Cacique one-two on the nose. (And I actually bet it myself too.) Along with my picks for the Beverly D (in which I didn't do quite as well picking 4th place finisher Honey Ryder...but still had Gorella second, and the longshot Love Live third....that may qualify as hitting the triple in tout-sheet land), I had a full page in the print edition of the Saratoga Special. So I was rooting for more than just some money during the was like my virtually non-existent reputation was on the line.

So I was greeted with congratulations at the backstretch Sunday morning, with the promise of more assignments to come. We'll see. The thing is, it will be hard to top a $70 cold exacta in my debut, and I'll be feeling much pressure next time.

As far as the race goes, not only did I pick the winner, but I pretty much laid out exactly the race was going to go. I think it was pretty flawless if I say so myself! You can check it out here.

If racing was a major sport, this could be a major story. The Tin Man seemed to be on the decline in 2004, racing just three times with just an allowance third place finish to show. He then missed 15 months with a bum ankle. Now, at the age of 8, Richard Mandella has this horse as sharp as nails, man; he's just a second place finish to David Junior at Dubai away from undefeated in five races since his return.

Victor Espinoza was allowed to set a slow pace, to put it mildly, though I (obviously) didn't think that should have been a huge surprise given his inside post, and the outside posts for Cacique and English Channel. Mandella said: "I couldn't believe they let him do that (a half in :50 1/5). I had it in my mind that someone will press him a little bit." After six furlongs in 1:15.18, he sprinted home – and I mean sprinted – in 23.46 and then, unless my eyes are deceiving me, 22.71 for the final quarter – are you kidding me? Is this horse smokin' or what? The rest of the field had no shot....Espinoza said "This was the second easiest win I've ever had – the first was the (2002) Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on War Emblem." [Bloodhorse]

(Just to contrast, the half in the Beverly D went in 46.82, and pacesetter Live Life, also with Espinoza aboard, managed to hold on for third.)

The British press had their own take on the proceedings; check out this article from the Independent Online:

The Tin Man was foaled some time around Prohibition, but he was granted such an easy lead that his rivals seemed stricken by a misplaced respect for the elderly. The fractions might sooner have been measured with a sundial than a stopwatch. By the time the other jockeys woke up to what was happening, Victor Espinoza and an eight-year-old gelding had stolen a million dollars in broad daylight. Chicago has seen nothing like it since the days of Al Capone.
Mandella told the BBC that he'll point The Tin Man to the BC Turf, where you can be sure he won't be walking unattended on the lead. Where's Shake the Bank when you need him?

- Showing Up remained undefeated on the turf with his win in the Secretariat. He didn't need to set a crawling pace, getting his half in 47.83 and six furlongs in 1.11.19, and was under just mild pressure from midstretch to hold off Ivan Denisovich. The final time of 2:00.09 (final quarter in 24.30) was a full 1.35 seconds faster than the Grade 1 older animals in the Million. ''I cannot believe how well he ran,'' trainer Barclay Tagg said. ''He ran much better than even I expected, and I expected him to run very well.'' [Chicago Sun-Times]

And the most impressive visual move of the day was that of Gorella in the Beverly D. Julien Leparoux "produced" her (seems to be a new favorite track announcer expression) wide from second to last at the top of the stretch, and she mowed the field down effortlessly. Biancone said: "She's a machine, and my jockey is the coolest guy, waiting for the last quarter-mile for her to explode." He also spoke about her getting the longer distance, though it was just a sixteenth longer than the mile and an eighth that she's won at before. I would think she's a more likely candidate for the BC Mile than the Turf if they're inclined to run her against the boys again....but wouldn't it be cool to see all three winners – Showing Up, The Tin Man, and Gorella – face each other on Breeders Cup day?

- The connections of David Junior took note of The Tin Man's win.
"It's always nice when the form works out, so we are obviously very happy with the Arlington result," said Eamonn Connolly, racing manager to David Junior's owners Roldvale Ltd.

David Junior is reported to be on top of his game and is likely to take in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York or the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown before a possible crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic. [The Herald (UK)]
- AP Warrior won the G3 LaJolla Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday in a thrilling stretch duel, outlasting the 6-5 favorite Porto Santo. He was pretty dead on the board at 5.50 to 1 (3-1 morning line). But a look at his pedigree could have been a tipoff. By AP Indy, he's out of Warrior Queen (Quiet American), a stakes winner on the grass in Ireland. If you go back to his third dam, you'll find a host of Euro stakes winners, including Grade 1 winners Green Tune and Pas De Response. John Shirreffs has some options with this colt now, and it will be interesting to see which way he goes.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Arlington Picks

- I have an analysis of the Arlington Million and the Beverly D. up at the Saratoga Special, along with Pete Fornatale's picks for the Sword Dancer.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bit of Celebrity in Saratoga

- Just a reminder for those of you who may have just tuned in that I'm hanging out mostly over at Racing Saratoga these days. Please check it out; it looks really nice, if nothing else.

I made it into the Saratoga Special yesterday, though not as a writer. Still working on that, and trying to come up with some new ideas that will suit their style. But yesterday, I appeared in a piece in which respondents were asked to select their "ride of the meet" here at the Spa thus far. And amongst trainers Allen Jerkins, Jimmy Toner and Eoin Harty; jockeys Richard Migliore and Edgar Prado; owner Jack Knowlton, and a couple of others.....was me, Alan Mann, "writer of 'Left at the Gate' blog!"

And that was pretty cool. It was like 'oh yeah, Left at the Gate, everyone knows that.' Gives it a little credibility, at least amongst all the industry people here that read this thing, especially with the hordes in town for sales week. And I was glad that they, for some reason, plugged Left at the Gate rather than the Saratoga blog. So now, if I can only get them to print an article or two.. (And I selected the two rousing rides by Kent Desormeaux on longshots of 30-1 and 40-1 here last week.)

- Bill Finley, at, writes of how the efforts to fight illegal medication in harness racing is further along than in the throroughbreds. At the Meadowlands, horses competing in stakes races such as last weekend's Hambletonian, and even certain non-stakes contests, must report to a detention barn a full 24 hours in advance of the race. And that's not all:

Anyone tending to a horse (grooms, etc.,) has to vacate the premises by 11 p.m. the night before the race and is not allowed back in until the following morning. Anyone entering the barn has their bags searched. Security is everywhere. Private vets are allowed in only in the cases of emergencies or to administer Lasix shots. While there, they are under supervision of Meadowlands security.
I've heard on more than a couple of occasions here at Saratoga, trainers still bitching about the six hour detention barns here. I guess they're in the right sport.

While the Meadowlands' security isn't perfect, as evidenced by the Ledford scandal earlier this year, at least they're making an effort. NYRA is the only thoroughbred jurisdiction to have detention barns at all. And that includes the flat races at the Meadowlands. And why is that? Finley explains:
Because, unlike the harness meet, the thoroughbred meet is small-time and the purses are modest. If forced to run out of detention barns at the Meadowlands, thoroughbred trainers would simply race elsewhere.
- Slots opponents in Florida - and no, they never give up, anywhere - are heartened by a court ruling that, amazingly, puts the machines in jeopardy even as construction is already underway on facilities to house them - the Hollywood dog track has spent $20 million, and Pompano Park harness $60 million, according to the Miami Herald! A state appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a lower court can scrap the constitutional amendment that authorized slots in Broward County if it can be proven that there were fraudulant signatures on the petitions to get the referendum on the ballot.

The court ruling was based on accusations that some of the signatures presented on the petitions were from people who were non-existent or deceased. The lower court had ruled that the vote that approved the referendum had 'cured' any problems with the signatures, but this court disareed, saying "It is clear that a favorable vote cannot cure deception." [Sun-Sentinal]

As you would expect, slots opponents were ecstatic:
''Today's ruling gives us hope that the concerns about fraudulent signature gathering -- including dead people signing petitions -- during the petitioning process for the slots measure will be examined by the courts,'' Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. [Miami Herald]
And that poses this question: How the fuck does this concern the Humane Society of the United States? Are they concerned that gamblers that lose at slots will come home and kick their puppy across the room?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Notes - Aug 7

- Would you believe that I haven't bet a single race from Del Mar? I'm usually busy writing and, besides, after a full day at Saratoga, only an addict would be betting Del Mar afterwards (before heading to the harness track for the late Pick 3.)

I started to write that post with around 25 minutes until the sixth at Del Mar, when I was kicked off the laptop by the Head Chef. To be fair, she doesn't get much time on this computer, so who was I to begrudge her?

So instead of writing, I hit the triple in that 6th, surviving an agonizing stretch run. I needed that, as the luck has not yet gone my way at Saratoga. And speaking of the saddlecloths, for some reason I had no clue who it was closing like a rocket at McNasty. First things first; I needed that race to end. And it did, just barely in time. I've lost some close races at Saratoga, including the first race today. So it was nice to hang on this time for a payoff of $131.

- As Bank Check noted, The Green Monkey is hurt; he strained a glutteral muscle. But from the sound of this, it's no big deal, and he'll be back in training in two or three weeks. He's certainly the only unraced horse in the world that we would even be reading about a minor (for now) setback like this.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


- Pletcher couldn't win any stakes in New York, so he went to New Jersey and won two. Some guy at the track was watching the race, and thought it was the 8. He was pretty excited, thinking he had the winner at 27-1, oh man! There doesn't seem to be any good reason why they eschew the saddle cloth colors in stakes race in New Jersey like that.

As far as Deputy Glitters, have you ever seen a horse so obviously dead on the board as this one? A familiar name from the Derby trail, 4-1 in the morning line from a high-profile trainer; and he goes off the 9.80 to 1 4th choice, and finishes an extremely distant 8th. Even as I was picking him, I noted his sparse workout schedule, and Bank Check chimed in that he smelled BOUNCE!

For Bluegrass Cat, it's his first graded stakes win as a three-year old, and wouldn't it be nice to see a showdown with Bernardini in the Travers. It's less than three weeks hence, and Pletcher has expressed a preference for longer rest than that. However Pletcher told that he "could next run" in the Travers. "It was a real breakthrough performance for him....We're delighted with his effort. He's as good a 3-year-old as we've ever had."

It's the first Grade 1 winner of the year for sire Storm Cat.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chance to Glitter in Haskell

- I like Deputy Glitters (Deputy Commander) in Sunday’s Haskell. His trainer Tom Albertrani is still making excuses for the colt’s awful effort in the Belmont. But why? The mile and a half distance is excuse enough. Even I knew that, and yes, before the race, when I wrote here: He’ll be close to the pace if he’s running his race, but, being out of a daughter of sprint runner/sire Glitterman, he seems a bit light on pedigree for the Test of Champions and I doubt he’ll stick around for the finish.

If you throw out his one turn races, races on a sloppy track, ones in which he was 11 wide or ran far beyond his capabilities, his form is nearly flawless; that is, on fast tracks around two-turns less than ten furlongs. He moved forward to a lifetime best Beyer in taking the Ohio Derby in a stiff duel with Pletcher’s improved High Cotton, coming off two straight wins.

One thing that’s a bit odd is the way that Albertrani hasn’t done much with him at all since the Ohio Derby; he shows just one slow six furlong breeze since then. He showed far more speed working out for his prior race. Hopefully, the horse just didn't need the work. In any event, I think he presents good value here as the third betting choice.

Strong Contender (Maria's Mon) has been heavily hyped by John Ward, and he came through after two disappointing stakes tries with a smashing win in the Dwyer. But that was a one turn race. Plus, he had a kind trip and didn’t really beat all that much (the same reasoning I used to bet against Invasor today).

It’s time for this colt to put up or shut up on Sunday. He’s going two turns in a Grade 1 against a couple of horses that have proven to be pretty good; but not good enough so that he shouldn’t be able to handle them if he’s really the goods that Ward says he is. This trainer is one who is not backing down from Bernardini. Referring to the “Graveyard of Favorites” reputation that the track has, Ward told the Newark Star-Ledger:

"The track didn't get the reputation because of some spin doctor," the Kentucky-born horseman said. "It came by that reputation for a reason. I don't know why, but it is hard for horses to come up with a repeat performance at Saratoga.

"Bernardini is an extremely nice horse and he was on top of his game for the Jim Dandy. We'll watch and see if he can stay at the top of his game for the Travers."
Tough talk, but he'll have to get past this test first.

Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat) delivered two solid efforts in the Derby and Belmont, and was possibly the best horse in the latter. But Todd Pletcher’s utopia has been jolted at Saratoga the last couple of days; he’s sent out four losing favorites in stakes races in the last two days. Not only have they lost, they’ve all done so miserably. Ready to Please was just an incongruous favorite in the Test, and she ran dead last out of 13. And Flower Alley was pretty ordinary at 3-2, costing me the last Pick Three.

So perhaps Pletcher is finally entering the dark side. Or even just a mini-slump! I mean, a guy just can't dominate this game the way he does! If Bluegrass Cat is the favorite here, as I think he may be with Johnny V flying down the shore, I think the trend could very well continue here. The nine post doesn’t help, and his figs put him in merely the middle of the pack here.

Praying for Cash (Songandaprayer) and Awfully Smart (Anees) are two colts on the improve. They come off graded stakes wins for high percentage outfits, and either or both could find their way into the money.

Flashy Bull (Holy Bull) finished less than two behind my top choice in Ohio, and draws well again. So I guess you gotta consider him, but I think only for the exotics.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

News and Notes - Aug 2

- Lawyer Ron is scheduled to return to the races later this month, in an appearance in the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park on Aug 26. If all goes well, that will be followed by the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. Lawyer Ron worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Tuesday, his third timed work since getting back to training. "He worked very good," [trainer Bob] Holthus said Tuesday. "We were pleased. He galloped out [six furlongs] in 1:13 and change. Everything looks good." [Daily Racing Form]

- Strong Contender turned in his final prep for Sunday’s Haskell, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.45 at Belmont. Trainer John Ward said that the colt has the right mental attitude.

"He is in a very good frame of mind and doing everything the right way. Three-year-old colts can get a little irritable this time of year because maybe we've asked too much of them, but Strong Contender just keeps getting better and better." [Asbury Park Press]
Deputy Glitters also worked, going six furlongs in 1:18.05; but the Asbury Park Press piece reports that the West Virginia Derby is still a possibility for him.

- And Jazil’s little trip to the farm to recover from a bone bruise sounds as if it’s turning into a longer stay. So long, in fact, that now even the Breeders Cup Classic is questionable. Kiaran McLaughlin said:
"There is definitely a hope of making it, but the problem is that 30 days on the farm sometimes turns into 45 days or 60 days, and it can get a little bit away from you time wise. He's very easy to train up to a race. He doesn't require a lot of fast works - he's a light-framed horse - so we could still make the Breeders' Cup. I wouldn't be afraid to train him straight into the Breeders' Cup.

"I would say at this time that it would be doubtful.” [Thoroughbred Times]
- In Ohio, Learn and Earn has submitted nearly twice as many signatures as required in order to get their referendum for slots on the November ballot. However, the state attorney general has informed the group that they could be liable to criminal charges if accusations that their signature-gatherers were not completely forthcoming with potential signees prove to be true.
The message from [AG] Jim Petro to David Hopcraft, of Learn and Earn, came a day after two religious groups claimed that petition workers were coached to say the proposal would help education but not disclose that it would legalize gambling.

"We advise you to make certain your petition circulators follow the applicable law," Petro wrote, telling Hopcraft it is a fifth-degree felony to misrepresent a petition. [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]
One resident told the Toledo Blade of his experience:
"The pitch was, 'Would you sign a petition to support getting children additional money for college?'" he said. "My question was where the cash was coming from. They said, 'No new taxes.' I pushed forward, 'So where is the money coming from?' The answer was 'Raceway Park.'"

The only thing preventing the parents of five from signing was the fact that the circulator had run out of Wood County petitions. Later they learned that legalization of slot machines was involved.

"I am not opposed to gambling," Mr. Liebenthal said. "I'm not opposed to slot machines. I am opposed to being deceived. Put forth a correct petition, and let me make an intelligent decision."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trying to be Special

- Please check out the latest at Racing Saratoga, including the Head Chef's first entry in the Eating Saratoga category. Also, don't miss the Quinella Queen's latest book review.

- Still trying to crack into the Saratoga Special lineup, and I sent off another maiden race preview this morning. Sean Clancy is a helluva nice guy and a talented writer. But he's way too busy here, and hasn't had the time to devote much time to nurturing me. In fact, he'd admitted that he himself never really got the chance to read my last piece that was posted on their website. He said he would but apparently never got to it.

So I decided to do another one, on Wednesday's second race; and to send it to him to do what they'd like with it, figuring that I could always just put it on one blog or another. I spoke to Kiaran McLaughlin about his horse, and his response was pretty humorous. I also wanted to speak to Scott Blasi. The only problem was that I not only didn't know where his barn is; I didn't even know what he looks like! Sean gave me the general directions, and I headed over to the Oklahoma area. Some trainers hang a sign on their barn; perhaps it's because Asmussen is suspended, but there was no designation to be found. Being a guy, I don't like to ask directions, y'know.

But then I saw Shaun Bridgmohan pull up in front of a barn with his kid in a golf cart, a popular form of transportation around here. Knowing that he rides for the stable, I asked him if this was the barn, and he said yes and pointed out Blasi to me. Around 20 minutes of lurking later, I moved in and asked what is a most stupid question to address to someone who is training God-knows how many horses throughout the country - "Hey, are you busy?" "I'm always busy." Nonetheless, he was nice enough to even tell a cellphone caller that he'd call him back in order to give me a minute of his time.

So, here's the piece below. I'll give my LATG readers a preview before it either goes up on the Special site, or on Racing Saratoga.

- Wednesday’s opener is a maiden special race going five furlongs, and only one of the nine colts entered has run.

Wollaston Bay showed good speed before fading to third in his debut at Belmont for Gary Sciacca, and gets a rider change to Kent Desormeaux. Kent’s brilliant rides on longshot winners Just In Fun (32-1) and Baxter (43-1) on Monday no doubt caused many chalk bettors to rip up their tickets in disgust. In fact, Kent may be personally responsible for Wednesday's Pick Six carryover. Wollaston Bay will receive more pari-mutuel consideration here, though. He earned a strong figure in his debut and was bested by a couple of well- regarded first-timers from Todd Pletcher and Darley.

De Lucia, the 3-1 morning line favorite, starts for the Scott Blasi barn. This son of Songandaprayer sold for $375,000 at the April Ocala two-year old in training sale after blazing a furlong in 10 1/5. Blasi said that horses will react to sales works in varying ways. “It depends on the individual. Some horses who come out of those sales are jammed up, and some you can just go on with. Depends on who they are.” De Lucia was back on the track just a month after the sale, and his morning workout times have progressed nicely. “He’s doing fabulous. But it’s a tough race. There are a lot of nice colts in there, so he’s going to have to run to win.”

Todd Pletcher, who swept the two-year old turf races on Sunday and Monday with debut runners, sends Reaffirm, a son of the 18% first-time sire Yes It’s True. Pletcher has won with an amazing 27% of the first-time juveniles he’s started on the NYRA circuit in the last year. Reaffirm, the 7-2 morning line second choice, is out of a mare by Unaccounted For, who won the Whitney and the Jim Dandy here (he was sold and shipped to Turkey in 2002 after standing for six years at Lane’s End). So maybe Reaffirm will have a genetic predisposition to the Spa Soil

Patrick Biancone is off to a slow start here at 1 for 14, with five of those runners going off at odds of 7-2 or lower. That includes What A Tale, loser by an agonizing nose to the aforementioned bombshell Baxter at 7-5 on Monday. Biancone starts Quasicobra in this dash. He’s a son of Wild Rush, 7% with debut two-year olds according to the Form, out of the cleverly named stakes winner Mutton Maniac (Wolf Power – Trace Fork).

Mike Hushion doesn’t race many two-year olds. He’s debuted just 13 over the last two years (three of those winners). But here, he unveils a pair for Barry K. Schwartz. Sixthirteen is by Dixie Union out of a Sky Classic half-sister to the Grade 1 winner and million dollar earner Mandy’s Gold. Sammarco is a son of the first-year sire Johannesburg, who has 12 winners, including the Sanford winner Scat Daddy, in his first crop.

Elusive Value debuts for Kiaran McLaughlin, not a big two-year old debut guy statistically; hitting at just 7% over the last five years. However, this colt sports the most interesting pedigree in the lot. He’s by Elusive Quality, hitting at 21% with debut juveniles, out of Silver Tornado, a stakes winning Maria’s Mon mare. Silver Tornado is a half-sister to El Corredor, currently third on the second-year sire list; and to the Haskell winner Roman Ruler, twice a Grade 2 winner at two and currently standing for a
$30,000 fee at Hill’n’Dale in Lexington.

So it would seem that Elusive Value is certainly eligible to be precocious. When asked about him, McLaughlin smiled and said, “Oh, I can’t tell you about him. We wanna bet him. What are you going to write?”

Oh, er....nothing. Just that he’s “doing well and training well.” That’s all.

News and Notes - Aug 1

- Deputy Glitters has emerged as one of the top contenders for Sunday’s Haskell at Monmouth, the second half of the Hambletonian-Haskell double, on New Jersey’s biggest racing weekend. Tom Albertrani said:

"He ran a big race in the Ohio Derby and he came out of that race great. He's been training well since. All along with him it just seems to be the track that makes all the difference. He seems to prefer a firmer track with some traction to it." [Bloodhorse]
Regarding the colt’s dismal effort in the Belmont, he added, "He had a bit of skin disease just prior to the race, so he might not have been himself.” I'd call it it the can’t-get-mile-and-a-half rash.

- Uh oh, Jeff Mullins is under suspicion again, and this one could be bad. One of his horses has tested positive for an excess amount of mepivacaine, the same drug that led to Steve Asmussen’s six month suspension. Mullins’ attorney told the LA Times: "He has been accused, but there's a long way to go."

- Arlington Park will have yet a third consultant inspect its main track; 18 horses have been euthanized thus far this meeting. The track had hired Florida consultant Greg Coon, but it’s now reported that Coon met with track management before filing his report. Track president Roy Arnold insists that he was only asking Coon if he had everything he needed.
"Nobody at the board told me not to talk to him. It was a regrettable misunderstanding but I understand the IRB's regulatory role and Arlington Park fully supports bringing in a third consultant, whom I'm confident will find the same thing the first two consultants found." [Thoroughbred Times]
You'd think that Arnold would instead be saying something like - "we hope that a fresh pair of eyes can find the reason for these tragic breakdowns" instead of covering his own butt.