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Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Want Some Juice!

I Want Revenge has to be the most unappealing Derby favorite in quite some time. Here's your Kentucky Derby favorite, off of two races at Aqueduct, one on the inner track, and against highly questionable competition. My God, are we so enslaved to Beyer figures that we can't come up with anything else? Or is this field just otherwise too filled with questions and uncertainties over track surfaces, layoffs and inexperience? I was at the Wood, and that was an impressive move indeed. But it certainly didn't cause my jaw to drop, like with Bellamy Road. Now that was a favorite with buzz and appeal; as were Big Brown, Street Sense, Barbaro (not the actual post-time favorite by virtue of the late punch on Sweetnorthernsaint, but considered the pre-race favorite if I recall correctly), Smarty Jones, Empire Maker, Point Given, and Fusaichi Pegasus (the only one since 2000 which I left out was Harlan's Holiday in 2002). Maybe I'm missing something? But it seems to me that there's no juice on this horse at all.

I mean that in two ways, both in favor of and against him. After all, he doesn't have the most lovable connections. But even that hasn't seemed to stir up the kind of visceral hatred we saw from some quarters regarding Big Brown, with his notorious trainer and investment banker (or so we were told) owner, both with past records of misdoings.

And worse than being unappealing, I think these connections are just plain dull. Dutrow is at least quotable, affable, and honest (in some ways) to a fault. One could make the 'lovable scamp' case for him. But Mullins is just a slug. He's surly and defensive and is on record calling horseplayers idiots. And last year, I thought Iavarone's story and his plans for IEAH were interesting if nothing else; and I thought he deserved full credit for picking Big Brown out of a maiden grass race. But I find that the IEAH thing has gotten very old very quickly. In this Derby, the culmination of Iavarone's desperate attempt to buy a very expensive bunch of roses just seems so contrived. I begrudged him nothing last year, but I find myself actively rooting against the sight of the IEAH entourage celebrating in the winner's circle as if they actually did anything to deserve it.

- Papa Clem had that little blowout today.

Two Derby horses blew out for the race, including Papa Clem (three furlongs in 34.47 seconds), who needed to do something serious and impressive following his very disappointing seven-furlong work here last week. And sure enough, that's exactly what he accomplished. With jockey Rafael Bejarano aboard, Papa Clem left the quarter pole in full stride and flew down the stretch, getting to the wire in 22.65 while reaching out nicely under some encouragement before finishing up at the seven-furlong pole and galloping out a half in 47.86. Only three furlongs but a definite improvement over his previous work. [Daily Racing Form]


Anonymous said...

Any thoughts about this?

The Blood Horse
NY Official: Racetracks Hurt Racinos' Profit
by Tom Precious
Date Posted: 4/29/2009 5:48:29 PM
Last Updated: 4/30/2009 3:09:11 PM

New York’s lottery director caused a bit of a stir this week when he suggested to state lawmakers that racetracks are a drag on the profitability of their racino operations – leading to less money going to the state’s education budget.

In an appearance before a Senate racing committee, Gordon Medenica told lawmakers there is little crossover gambling activity from the casino to the racing side of the operations and that any real money that is to be made from any gambling is from the racinos and not the tracks, according to lawmakers at the session.

“I reminded the (director) that the racinos would never exist if it wasn’t for the horse racing industry,” said Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a Republican whose upstate district includes Finger Lakes racetrack.

The state lottery agency runs New York’s racino program at eight tracks. It recently reported racino net-wins (total bets less prizes) were up 10.3% in 2008, but profits were off 9%. The drop in profit was due mostly to legislative changes that gave more of the revenue sharing from the racinos to the racetracks.

In an interview, Medenica said that out of the net-win for the program – which totaled $965 million last year – about $100 million went to the tracks, all but one of which are harness facilities. Finger Lakes is the only Thoroughbred track with a casino; Aqueduct is in line for one, but efforts to develop such a facility have been stalled for eight years.

“My perspective is very focused on our mission of aid to education,” Medenica said of the revenues that flow from the racinos to the lottery agency and then on to the state’s education budget. “And on that, I pointed out that of the net-win, about $100 million went into a subsidy to the horse racing industry.

“My point was policymakers make those decisions, but they should be aware of the order of the magnitude of what the money is that goes to support issues other than the one we are there to support, which is education,” he added.

When the racinos were approved in 2001, legislators then talked of a connection that would draw bettors back and forth from the casino facilities to the connected racetracks. That has not happened, track operators say.

“The casino business is completely independent of the horse racing,” the lottery chief said. He added, “We all know the history of the legislation and why casinos are located there, but there is no synergy.”

Asked if the casinos should be located possibly beyond racetrack operations, Medenica said that is a decision for policymakers. He noted that Maryland’s recent backing of casinos does not link them to racetracks.

“I think the casinos are doing well,” he said of the New York facilities. “I think they’re doing a good job independent of whatever the economics of horseracing is.”

But he said New York is facing increasing competition from other states for gambling dollars. “New York needs to stay competitive,” he said.

The lottery agency recently reported net-wins rose at all the New York casinos except Monticello Casino and Raceway, which the lottery director said is facing competition from nearby Pennsylvania. Empire City at Yonkers harness track saw the largest net-win total at $499 million.

Nozzolio said the lottery director is focused on how to raise revenues for the state’s education budget. “His preference would be to have casinos at every corner,” the lawmaker said.

But, he said, the racino program was created, in part, to be of assistance to the horse industry. “It is an industry and it is a good one in this state,” Nozzolio said.

Alan Mann said...

Anon - Thanks for posting that. I'll have to comment on this on the front page when this Derby stuff is over and I have some time. Not to toot my own horn but, tooting my own horn, I wrote years ago that the day would come when racino owners would stand up and say 'why do we have to be burdened with these racetracks that are a drag on our bottom line?' Never imagined though it would be a state lottery director.

Anonymous said...

i agree with a lot of what you say but i am getting so tired of the horse players that complain about the story line every year, stop trying to make a soap opera out of horse racing!

QQ said...

Sounds like racing is having a different effect in PA:

“With three years worth of data, some trends are starting to emerge including the fact that the horse and harness racing facilities are enjoying an increase in gaming revenue on days when live horse racing is conducted" according to Director of Racetrack Gaming for the Gaming Control Board Melinda Tucker.

The report is online at PA Gaming Control webpage.

Of course, I haven't yet read the report. I'm busy trying to figure out why it seems like nobody plays the Oaks-Woodford-Derby Pick-3.

Anonymous said...

I agree. IWR is most unappealing. My super is Regal Ransom, Dunkirk, Chocolate Candy, Desrt Party. I will throw in Musket Man for the Super High Five.
Good luck to all tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he is concerned with the money flow to education, yeah right. Not the thousands of patronage jobs created by the lottery.

The problem lies with the NY Horsmen groups, that let these ridiculous attacks go unchallenged. Sure they are paying a PR person, but whomever that is remains invisible. Someone needs to point out all the benefits of supporting racing, and needs to hit the the public and politicians over the head with it day after day until is sinks in.

Racing provides many, many, jobs, most in declining upstate rural areas. Without racing, much of the beutifual farmland upstate would sit fallow, or worse be developed at least in a decent economy.

While many complain about all of the NY Bred races, without them NY racing would be a parade of six horse races. The decline in handle would be precipitous, handle would decline, with the States decreased tax take more than offsetting any increase in "education" funds reaped by the lottery.

These comments are simply one short sighted politician protecting his turf while trying to increase his importance.

El Angelo said...

I think there are two different arguments here. If you're saying that IWR is an unappealing favorite from the human interest/soft focus/story/connections angle, no argument here. Our best hope for that evaporated when Quality Road was declared.

In terms of IWR being an unappealing favorite on his merits though, I respectfully disagree. This guy's really talented.

Anonymous said...

That unappealing horse is going to be a super star by 630pm Saturday.

How do any of you calculate that the fields he beat in the Wood/Gotham are any weaker than what Dunkirk have faced? OR now blog horse Papa Clem? OR Friean Fire?

Vanguised West Side Bernie and Mr. Fantasy are at least Graded SW's.

He is undefeated on true dirt. He has the best Fig on dirt in a traditional Derby prep, has raced competiviely on synth vs. the top 3you division, has the right running style, has overcome trouble, has plenty of seasoning, was Grade 1 placed at two, is a Dual Qualifier, has a distance pedigree, had NEVER run worse than third, and has the proper four weeks off before the big race.

How is this "unappealing"?

You are letting your dislike for his connections impede your logic. If not for IEAH buying in, this would be a great story.

A home bred with a modest pedigree by a mostly regular guy (although an evil mortgage broker in this enviroment) and ridder by an up and coming popular young rider.

From purely a wagering standpoint, can not argue with finding an alternative to 3-1 in a 20 horse field, but to call him unappealing is over the top.

Alan Mann said...

>>How is this "unappealing"?

Because he's never beaten anyone worthwhile in my view. He beat two 'Graded SW's?' Doesn't mean nearly as much these days as it did ten years ago. West Side Bernie won his at Turfway at age two, and Mr. Fantasy won his around one turn. The only reason he's the favorite is because the other contenders are even less appealing than he in a crappy Derby year. In my opinion.

Superfecta said...

While I still dislike the Mullins and IEAH sideshow, I have a lot more respect for I Want Revenge compared to Big Brown for a few reasons: since his switch to dirt, he's been nothing short of ultra-professional; I like his pedigree; he's not chronically injured. I'm also glad he's got Joe Talamo aboard - the kid's probably done more for the sport in the past few weeks than anyone, just by being out there and being pleasant.

onecalicocat said...

Anyone have an opinion on Hold Me Back
Isn't he a strong closer?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Juice - IWR was on it for the Gotham. It got him through the Wood. But he will have to be squeaky clean for the Derby and that is his biggest problem. So you can toss IWR in my opinion. I could care less about the personal connections, I see no way that this horse hits the board. In terms of Hold Me Back - go have a look at the stretch run of the Derby on you tube. Being a closer is not a positive handicapping angle in this race. He will have a wall to get through on what is likely to be a sloppy track. If it does come up sloppy they will have to catch Regal Ransom who will LOVE the sloppy going.

El Angelo said...

Alan: who in the field has beaten anyone worthwhile? Yeah, Quality Road beat Dunkirk, but besides that, POTN beat a bunch of horses on a different surface, and Friesan Fire beat a bunch of horses on slop.....the argument doesn't seem to hold because all the major contenders haven't been running against each other on fast tracks. I mean, are we supposed to love Musket Man because he beat 4 other Derby starters?

Alan Mann said...

>>Alan: who in the field has beaten anyone worthwhile?

Nobody. That's one of the reasons why I can't really come up with any opinion in this race, other than I think that Papa Clem would be tremendous value at his morning line, which I still maintain he won't be even close to. IWR is the favorite because he's won on dirt, because he ran a huge Beyer, and because he overcame trouble in the Wood. However, I'm wary of just how much the Beyers mean in this case considering the way that horse himself jumped up after moving to dirt, and because others are eligible for similar improvement given their own surface switches and the general potential for lightly raced three-year olds to do so in the spring. (In other words, I suspect that Beyers are becoming obsolete in terms of handicapping the Kentucky Derby.) And I don't know that his trip in the Wood was quite as disastrous as it may have seemed given for one thing all the ground he ended up saving....especially compared to the trouble he (and everyone else) are eligible to face in a 20 horse field which includes, I dunno, maybe half of them that shouldn't even be in the race and will end up being nothing more than roadblocks to the more worthy entrants.

Steve D said...

"In other words, I suspect that Beyers are becoming obsolete in terms of handicapping the Kentucky Derby."

Alan, if you were talking about Timeform or Ragozins or some other subjective ratings system, then you'd at least have a valid point.

But Beyers are simply a measure of the final time of the race, influenced by pace, trip, etc, but not (usually) adjusted for such considerations.

Nobody "assigned" I Want Revenge his high Beyer figure. He earned it by running fast.

Additionally, why in the world would you assume that because I Want Revenge liked dirt and ran fast on it, that others would, too.

Stop the looney talk and take your 18-1 on Papa Clem. How is he any different than Gayego last year, who went off at a pretty nice price, too? (with a lousy result)

Alan Mann said...

>>Additionally, why in the world would you assume that because I Want Revenge liked dirt and ran fast on it, that others would, too.

I'm not. The people who would bet Pioneerof the Nile at 4-1 are...I'm throwing him out. But my point is that they COULD....which is one of the reasons why I think that the race is basically unbettable.

Anonymous said...


I wonder if the DelNorth agreement with the State that almost came to fruition for the racino at Aqueduct will be looked at on account of Patricia Lynch's involvement?

Alan Mann said...

Anon - Wow, thanks for posting that story about Ms. Lynch. When this dreary Derby is over, we can get back to some more interesting topics like that!

One more comment on Steve D's comment: I don't agree that Beyers are always objective. In the case of IWR, I do recall Crist's usual explanation of how it was straightforward. But how about races like the Florida Derby?

Besides, even if the Beyers are indeed an exact measure of how a horse ran, my argument is that, in this era of synthetics, long layoffs, and inexperienced runners, their predictive power when it comes to the Derby is shrinking and in danger of becoming obsolete.

Anonymous said...

Per Crist's blog, early odds as of 445pm;

FF 4-1,
Dun 7-1
CCandy 9-1
GenlQ, Hold, 10-1
Clem 15-1
Desert P 22-1.

Still early, but been my experience they dont move that much, especially after about 2pm Saturday.