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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Tottie Tote-y

What a betting coup in the Suwannee at Gulfstream on Saturday. Tottie, 8-1 in the morning line, starting from the 11 post off a single entry-level allowance win in the US, and a 2 for 11 career record spanning two continents, was 2-1 on the tote from the beginning. I kept assuming that she was going to drift up; not only did that not happen, but, to my utter amazement, she took a late hit and went off as the 9-5 favorite. As I mentioned in my (losing) analysis on Saturday, it was a highly flawed field. But still, most of the fillies and mares had far more to offer on their resumes.

Whatsmore, while that allowance win was achieved with a late rally from dead last in a ten horse field, here she loped along a half length behind 45-1 In My Glory as that one was permitted to absolutely walk to the half in nearly 51 seconds on a course which produced far faster splits throughout the day (30 claimers went 46 flat in the second). She took over in the stretch and held off the helpless closers as she zipped home in 11 2/5 seconds. It was the kind of race which would have prompted fires in the garbage cans at Roosevelt back in the day. “The plan was to come from behind, but when she broke, she broke right on top and I didn’t want to take her back,” said jockey John Lezcano. Yeah, sure, the conspiracist railbirds must be muttering.

Of course, no hanky-panky here. There wasn't much speed on paper, and it's certainly not the first time we've seen Euros with moderate (at best) form dominate over here. Still, the strange wagering on the race was the big story as far as I'm concerned. So it always surprises me when there's no mention of it in the press accounts; which is the case in the stories I've read about the race thus far. And to me, that's one of the many things that's wrong with the way the industry tries to portray and market its sport. Yes, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta is a sports story which transcends pari-mutual pools, but it's an extremely rare one which, given the economics of the sport, we may not see again for a decade or more. Horse racing is a gambling endeavor. It's an action game for bettors both respectable and degenerate. I think the industry needs to fully embrace and extol that fact if it has any hope of survival.

Tottie is a daughter of the turf champion Fantastic Light, standing for Darley in Japan, out of a mare by Komaite (Nureyev). Excellent efforts by runner-up Cable and 4th place finisher Sweet and Flawless closing against the grain.

Was that really Quality Road standing calmly in the gate before the Donn, not turning a hair as he waited for the rest of the field to assemble for the start? I noticed that they put him in first, which I guess was the strategy. The four-year old son of Elusive Quality earned a Beyer of 121 in crushing eight inferior rivals in track record time, and will now take some time off. His next race is scheduled to be the Met Mile, assuming Belmont is still operating by then. Do you think he'll get his own NYRA website like Rachel?


Sunny Jim said...

Hi Alan - Speaking of the industry and its hanky-panky, there have been some remarkable things happening these past couple of weeks, right in the dead of winter. In fact, for those that follow racing, and blogging, and politics, a couple of things took place that I have never seen before in 30 years as a racing fan.
It all started when I was at the Meadowlands on Saturday, Jan. 23 and noticed that the Penn National signal was delayed for a long time after their fifth race. Turned out that a second Michael Gill horse had just dropped on the track in the last 48 hours, and that all 24 jockeys in attendance shut down the rest of the card unless his other horses were scratched from the later races. Whoa!
Since when do jockeys take such a drastic and unified stand (ask Shane Sellers)? Our man Ray Paulick picked up the story, and in the days that followed did some terrific investigative journalism and legwork on his blog. And quicker than a toteboard flash, Gill is gone.
Paulick was nothing short of heroic. He even gave an open forum to Gill, who managed only to display himself as the clueless and narcissistic asshat he is. Gill, playing the victim card to the max, has no clue how much of a pox and a cancer he is to the sport.
Next, Paulick gave a warning - if you do something libelous I will delete the post - but otherwise invited all interested parties into his comment section in the days to follow. And over a hundred a day chimed in for several days: backstretch workers at Penn, connections from other trainers and owners, van drivers, a couple of vets, even the wife of Gill's trainer. Was some of it gossipy or stretching the truth? Probably, but as an unfiltered and spontaneous glimpse into the inner workings and seedier side of the sport, it was as remarkable as any racing fan will ever see. Go baby go!
Finally, Paulick did a final piece in which he ran down the biographies and public records of the major players connected with the latest Michael Gill stable. Jesus and Mary, John Gotti's crew didn't have rap sheets as long as these guys.
Here are some remaining questions:
WHERE WAS THE SUPPORT FROM OTHER JOCKEYS, PARTICULARLY THOSE AT PHILADELPHIA PARK? WHERE WERE THE OTHER LONG-TIME RACING WRITERS ON THIS STORY WHILE PAULICK WAS DOING THIS BY HIMSELF? As long as track officials coast to coast keep their heads in sand - as Penn National's did in this case - and give us happy-faced spin and fluff every time they open their pie holes, the problems caused by the Michael Gills of racing will never go away.

steve in nc said...

Sunny Jim is right on. At least from this distance, it looks like Paulick really did a bang up job. His exhaustive rundown of Gill's operation really gives insight into how things work, why things don't look bad to an outsider, and how nasty the game can be.

Len Friedman of The Sheets, who also owns horses, recently posted there in favor of changing trainer responsibility to owner responsibility, with all horses of owners who test positive getting banned for certain periods. Others suggest vet responsibility. Either way, Gill can't leave the sport fast enough. Please stay away.

Alan, I don't think that the wagering was strange on that last race Saturday at GP. To me, steady betting is more a sign of crowd agreement than inside information. Big odds fluctuations show large wagers which could be stable money.

It was a weak field, and she had showed in a listed race in Europe, ran in a G1 and then looked great in the one race here. It was just a bad morning line.

Was Saturday a weird day at AQ or what? Even without 85ina50 breaking his rein and running off, it seemed like horses got left at the gate or had to pull up almost every race. Was it the wind? Was something strange going on with the starter crew on Saturday? Coincidence?

Steve Munday said...

I thought the 8-1 ML was a mistake I was hoping to jump on. A lot of horses at lower ML odds were suspect and coming off longer layoffs, plus there were several scratches. Lady Shakespeare and Lemonette were bound to take some money if they started. Not to mention the turf track was listed as good and Tottie's last win was over a good track at GP. Plus, as you said, horses that raced in europe w/ mediocre records do pretty well in the states. I thought Tottie was the logical choice to win, despite the unattractive odds.

Anonymous said...

I thought the 9-5 was surprising as well. Though the line was made without consideration to the turf, which I was told had some give and thus favored the Euro. Tottie had very bad Euroform and popped in her one start here in the US. Also when several horses scratched, including Lady Shakespeare, who I fancied at 8-1 ML, it lowered her odds.

How about the 8th race when some whale pounds the 1 horse down to even money just before post time. I thought this horse was a total bet against. Definitely leaves one feeling as if it's an insiders game and tough for the recreational player to beat...JP