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Monday, January 31, 2005

Fun with Studs and Dams


- Two of the leading first crop sires of 2004, More Than Ready and Dixie Union, who ranked 6th and 7th on the list (by earnings) respectively, checked in with stakes winners over the weekend. More Than Ready (Southern Halo) was very precocious at 2, winning 4 stakes races. He recovered from a Derby campaign (he finished 4th) to win the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at 7 furlongs with a breathtaking stretch run, watch it here (Quicktime, via Stallion Register Online). He’s off to a quick start in 2005 with two stakes winners and another placed, and four winners overall for a first-crop total of 21. For his daughter More Moonlight, her 6f win in Saturday’s Dixie Belle Stakes at Oaklawn was the 3 yo filly’s second stakes win of the year, having also won one on New Year’s Day. More Moonlight is out of Miss Moonlight, an unraced Broad Brush mare; you have to go back to the fourth dam, Graffiti, to find a stakes winner. Graffiti (Graustark) had 12 wins and 9 seconds in 30 starts, and ran second in eight stakes races, including the Kentucky Oaks (to Silent Beauty) and the CCA Oaks (to Our Cheri Amour). She did win four stakes, including the Grade 1 Ladies Handicap.

- For Dixie Union (Dixieland Band), it was his first stakes winner of the year, for a total of 3, with two others placed; he has two winners this year and 14 overall. Dixie Union won 5 stakes at 2 and 3, including the Haskell (defeating More Than Ready). For his son Straw Hat, the Black Gold Handicap at Fair Grounds Saturday was his second win of the year, both on the turf, this one at 7 1/2 furlongs. He is out of Grass Skirt, a Mr. Prospector mare, and he is seriously inbred, 2x4 to Mr. Prospector and 3x4 to Northern Dancer. While Dixie Union may trail More Than Ready in wins and earnings, it’s in the sales ring that Dixie Union has established a clear superiority to him and to most of their classmates. In 2004, 48 of his yearlings sold for an average of $107,058; 15 weanlings for $104,733; and 16 2 year olds for $206,875; all well in excess of his $30,000 stud fee.

- Dixie Union also won the Grade 1 7 furlong Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita, and on Sunday the 2005 renewal was taken by Salt Champ (Salt Lake), a 5 year old graded stakes winner in Argentina making his first start here for Richard Mandella, with no U.S. running lines in the Form and don’t you just hate when that happens?

- Big Top Cat (Storm Cat), who broke his maiden in his third try at Santa Anita Saturday, is out of Golden Attraction (Mr. Prospector), who was the champion 2 year old filly of 1995. She won 8 out of 11 starts, and three Grade 1s: the Spinaway, Matron, and Frizette. She ran third in the BC Juvenile Filly to My Flag (Easy Goer-Personal Ensign). Golden Attraction is a half-sister to Cape Town (Seeking the Gold) and his 3/4 brother Cape Canaveral (Mr. Prospector). The latter, who managed only four starts at 2, 3, and 4, is ranked 5th on the first-crop sire list, just ahead of the two that opened this post.

2,984 - oh my!!

- We had family over for dinner last night, and my girlfriend, claiming that I was bugging her during the preparations, forced me to go out to Aqueduct yesterday. Walked in on a decent winter’s day to what seemed to be the usual weekend day crowd. The standards of what constitutes “usual” has of course diminished over the years, and what would in the past seem like a small collection of cars in the lot is just normal now.

But what is normal? I generally don’t look at the attendance figures anymore because they’re too depressing, but I did happen to catch the figure for yesterday, and was stunned to see that it was 2,984. On a Sunday with the weather about as good as it gets in mid-winter here. No football. In New York City. And I doubt that any horseplayers were home watching coverage of the Iraqi elections.

Several years ago, NYRA attempted to stop even announcing attendance figures, but quickly relented. I suppose on-track attendance is pretty irrelevant these days. Yesterday’s on-track handle of just under $800,000 was dwarfed by the total all-sources handle of over $8 million (not including, of course, the rebate shops cut off by NYRA). Perhaps new fans can and are being created by the likes of TVG. But to the veteran track-going horseplayer, desolate racetracks are disheartening and depressing.

To me, the really ironic thing about this is that back in the days where you could likely find 2,984 fans in the third floor clubhouse alone, the track was often not a very pleasant place to be. To play the horses one often had to spend a good deal of the day standing on lines amidst choking cigarette and cigar smoke – separate lines for each kind of bet! If you wanted to bet a horse to win and back it up with exotics bets (on the few races of the day that actually offered exotic wagering), you had to stand in the $2 win ticket line (or $5/$10/$20 for bigger “punchers”), and then brave the exacta or triple (9th race only) line, where you were likely to get stuck behind someone betting every possible combination. As a win-only bettor in those days, I was horrified when the windows switched to “all bets,” which meant that I was now subject to getting stuck behind one of those guys. If you were lucky to have a winner, you’d first have to go to the cashing windows on the other side of the mutual bays, and expect a long wait if the winner was a popular one….unless you waited too long, in which case you’d have to go to a special window for past races. Whatsmore, if you were there on a day with a parade of short fields or heavy favorites, sitting out the race meant…..sitting. Or standing, with no alternatives to wager on via simulcasting.

Today, the track couldn’t possibly be a more pleasant place to spend your wagering day, even at Aqueduct, where many areas haven’t been renovated in probably 20 years. (‘The Port Authority with horses,’ a recent description I’ve read). Smoke-free, action from all the major tracks around the country (well, not quite in New York, a subject for another post, but Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, and Santa Anita serve quite well thank you); for a couple extra bucks, your own little space with your own TV/betting machine; and “I got shut out” is no longer a valid excuse…..not even at Saratoga, where even on the most crowded days, anyone can find an empty betting machine and/or window with just a little effort and ingenuity. All the people who used to grumble, often with good reason, “the lines are too long,” or “there’s too much time between races” would have a ball now. Where are they? Probably no longer amongst us!

- RELATED – next time you visit Railbird, which you should regularly, check out, in "The Gallery," "When the crowds were big: Photos of Suffolk Downs from the 1930s-70s." Crowds of 30,000 for opening day, wow!

- GARY BOULANGER is in critical condition and underwent brain surgery after a spill at Gulfstream yesterday. [Sun-Sentinal] Florida does not have workers compensation insurance for jockeys. Meanwhile, the Guild continues to ignore requests for an accounting of monies paid to them by the tracks. [Courier-Journal, Louisville]

- AND…

Bob Baffert's Roman Ruler was the hype horse until losing the Del Mar Futurity by a neck to Declan's Moon after a stretch duel. He finished fifth in the BC Juvenile as the favorite but afterward had surgery to remove an undescended testicle. Baffert has that testicle in a jar on his desk. "If he wins the Derby, I'm going to put it on eBay," he said
[also from the Courier-Journal]

I know a lot of people have always thought that Baffert has a lot of balls, but this is ridiculous!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sunshine Millions Notes

Had to chuckle during the opening of NBC’s Sunshine Millions telecast. They were trying to convey the idea was that the Breeders Cup Classic closes the racing year, the Millions open the year, and in the middle we have......the Preakness? No disrespect meant, but it struck me as an odd choice until I recalled that Magna owns Pimlico. The Belmont is actually the major stakes race closest to the actual mid-point of the year, so NBC, pissed at losing the race to ABC, could have made that call instead.

It was a snappy telecast with little time for analysis, but enough for an infomercial about Gulfstream and Frank Stronach’s vision for the industry to collaborate and work together. I shuddered when they promoted a piece about Santa Anita, but that turned out to be replays of the greatest races there, including Alysheba’s dramatic 1987 Big Cap win over Ferdinand, and Seabiscuit’s Big Cap win as well. After the latter, Tom Hammond and Charlsie Cantey did a good job discussing the controversy over stablemate Kayak’s seeming lack of effort (which seems apparent watching the race). The NBC crew was sharp, with Battaglia picking Distaff winner Sweet Lips ($27.60); and Neumeier tabbing Sprint victor Alix M ($11.40) as well as longshot near-miss Marwood in the Filly and Mare Turf. Donna Barton Brothers, before that race, vehemently disputed Neumeier’s suggestion that eventual winner Valentine Dancer may not be fit for the race as suggested by her overlaid odds, and after initially expressing doubt about Lost in the Fog’s readiness after his mercurial Turf Paradise race and cross country trip, she changed her mind once she saw him on the track. I’d felt bad for Gulfstream track announcer Vic Stauffer having to step aside for Tom Durkin, but once they were off I rememberd why NBC bothered to fly him in, though he was sometimes drowned out by crowd noise.

Though Florida “won” the competition based on some points system and Florida-breds won five out of the 8 races, the results won’t do much for Florida stallion owners, as none of the winners had sires that currently stand there. Stormy Atlantic (sire of Oaks winner Hot Storm) and Cozzene (Turf winner Star Over the Bay in possibly the most exciting race of the day) stand in Kentucky, as does Lost Soldier (Lost in the Fog), who moved there from Florida for the 2005 season. Benchmark (Sprint longshot Red Warrior) is a son of Alydar who stands in California; Red Warrior is at least his 8th stakes winner. In Excess (Valentine Dancer) also stands in California, as does Musique d’Enfer, sire of the 70-1 Classic winner Musique Toujours. Musique d’Enfer is a son of Stop of Music who stands privately and about whom there’s little information, and according to this chart from Bloodhorse, only had four runners in 2004. End Sweep (Alix M) and Kris S. (Sweet Lips) are deceased.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


A couple of takes on NY Govenor Pataki's proposal to require a $250 million up-front franchise fee for the NY racing franchise:

Make no mistake. The odds of NYRA, as it is presently organized, retaining the franchise in 2008 are very poor. However, it is far too soon to conclude that what the governor proposed last week is the final word. [Nick Kling, Troy Record]

NYRA needs to clean up its act, but this proposal by Pataki smells like a stall full of manure. It's not unreasonable for the state to extract some revenue from its racetracks. A $250 million franchise fee, however, has all the finesse of a mob shakedown. [Editorial, Community News, Albany, NY]

Friday, January 28, 2005

Trust the Frankel Touch?

Sometimes you’ll see a race in which a horse is ceded the pre-race role of favorite, based on class, his trainer, or perhaps because he’s won before on that track or in a prior edition of the same stakes, even though there are compelling reasons to doubt that he can win; and people will spend the run-up to the race insisting that the horse will be bet too much to be worth a wager and vowing to seek more value elsewhere. This seems to be the case with Midas Eyes (Touch Gold) in tomorrow’s million-dollar jewel of the Sunshine Millions program, the OBS Classic at 1 1/8 miles. Despite being the clear morning line favorite, only 1 of the handicappers in the Form’s selection box picks him on top, and with reservations, whilst the other three don’t even have him in the money; and Dave Liftin and Mike Watchmaker weigh in against him as well [links subscription only], citing, among other things, the fact that he'll be overbet.

In fact, it feels as if it’s almost a contrarian view to make a case for him here. Yes, he’s won and placed in Grade 1’s, but he’s only been around two turns once, a very wide-on-both-turns closing 4th in last year’s Strub for 3 yo’s at the same Classic distance at Santa Anita. It was a game effort to be sure. But 9 furlongs from an outside post at Gulfstream has never been a picnic, and the new configuration there puts the starting gate closer to the first turn than Condoleezza Rice is to the President, and from the 11 post, he figures to have an even rougher time than Condi did during her confirmation process. However, it could be that Midas Eyes will present more than enough value for those who believe his class can overcome; I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he’s not even the post time favorite.

If anyone figures to be overbet, it may be Second of June (Louis Quatorze). Yes, his high-Beyer efforts here as a 3 yo last winter were superb, but it remains to be seen if his roughly run 2nd against a quartet of allowance horses at Calder after ten months off recovering from a condylar fracture of the cannon bone is enough preparation for this, and trainer William Cesare is 0-7 in the 2nd-off-180 days off category. Two fine workouts since are a plus for this June foal 4 yo who sold for only $7500 at two, but I think he may not present sufficient value here.

Lava Man and Cozy Guy, though they sound like they could be a new pair of superheroes on Spongebob Squarepants, are instead two 4 year olds who both improved drastically from the claiming ranks to run 1-2 respectively in a rich Cal-bred stakes at this distance at Santa Anita last fall, and both have remained sharp since then. In fact, Lava Man (Slew City Slew) ran a close second to Rock Hard Ten in the Grade 1 7-furlong Malibu in his last. He stretches back out for red-hot trainer Doug O’Neill, who claimed him for 50K last summer, while Cozy Guy (Alphabet Soup) comes off a close third in a one mile turf stakes to repeat stakes winner Whilly, and should benefit from the rail.

Don't Blink During Millions Telecast

- Saturday’s Sunshine Million races has understandably attracted mostly overflow fields of Florida and California breds, considering the astounding $3.6 million worth of purses for the 8 race program from two tracks. NBC will televise the Stronach Spectacular from 4-6 PM, and go deep into their talent pool to field full crews at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita Park. However, there won’t be much airtime for the 4 reporters from each track, since the network plans to cram 8 races (1 on tape) into a 2 hour show. In fact, according to the published post times, there will be 7 live races between 4:15 and 5:45 PM (the latter no doubt so that there’s time for the Magna Chief and his favorite sponsors to have face time on camera with the winning connections of the featured million dollar OBS Classic) so you’re advised to do your handicapping in advance.

While the Classic has the biggest purse, much attention will also be directed towards the provocatively named Ocala Stud Dash, 6 furlongs for 3 yo’s, as Lost in the Fog, who broke the timer in a minor stakes at Turf Paradise in a stunning 15 length win and ridiculous 109 speed figure, makes his 3 yo debut. This six furlong race won’t answer any of the questions eveyone wants answered, but another show of freaky speed will send him to the forefront of Derby speculation. There are some other sharp speed horses in the field, but consider that the son of Lost Soldier battled for the lead for the first half mile in 43.3! (If you’re one of my family members who knows nothing about all this, that’s really fast.) One interesting opponent is Bushwacker (Outflanker) who, like LITF, is a grandson of Danzig. Off a debut win on the turf, he added blinkers and ran second by 2 to Declan’s Moon in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue with a 94 Beyer. He was eased in the Gr 1 Hollywood Futurity when his saddle slipped, and scratched from the San Miguel. so he really hasn’t run for 2 months, and his trainer William Currin is 0-15 in that category; but the cut back to 6f from 7 should help, his workouts have been nothing short of spectacular, and besides, I like his name.

- “He’s the one.” So said Wayne Lukas as reported in Thoroughbred Daily News of his 3 yo Consolidator (Storm Cat) after he continued a string of sharp, long works with a 6 furlong move in 1:11 3/5, preparing for a mid-Feb return. The $1.25 million Keeneland yearling purchase won 2 of 7 as a 2 yo, and did especially well in races in which he didn’t face Afleet Alex, for whom he was no match in three attempts

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


- I ran across these quotes, like probably almost everything else you’ll see here, on the unbelievable Racing and Gaming Today page at the Albany Law School site. If someone is just thinking of writing an article that has anything at all to do with racing or gambling, this guy will have a link to it. Anyway, I hadn’t seen this before, this regarding Ken Ramsey being fined for trying to bribe a trainer to scratch her horse so that his could get in:

Forgiveness wasn't long in coming from the industry – if you consider Frank Stronach, whose Magna Entertainment Corp. owns Santa Anita and 14 other tracks, an industry spokesman.

Receiving the Eclipse as top breeder for his Adena Springs Farm, Stronach weighed in for Ramsey. "The public was not damaged (by Ramsey's action)," Stronach said. "An injustice was done, and I feel very sorry for you, Ken."

In a news conference after the program, Stronach reiterated the thought that "there was nothing wrong" with Ramsey making the offer "when the program wasn't even printed," and "the public was not disadvantaged."

Bobby Frankel, who trained Horse of the Year Ghostzapper for Stronach, seconded the no-harm, no-foul theory.

link from

Well, yeah, I think you could consider Stronach an industry spokesman; besides the 15 tracks he owns, he breeds and races a thousand horses, won the Eclipse as top breeder, is a good Friend of New York, and bred and owns the reigning Horse of the Year. And no, the public was probably not disadvantaged in this particular case, a cheap maiden claimer, but does that mean that since the program for next year’s Breeders Cup Classic is not yet printed, that he could try to persuade owners of potential competitors not to run, perhaps by offering them some prime Gulfstream tent space? And since the program for the NY racing sweepstakes is not yet printed, can he entice his other Friends to get outta town? Even if you accept his reasoning, shouldn’t such a prominent industry figure be congratulating the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority for taking swift action in the face of any unsavory sounding activity in this sensitive time for the sport?

And as far as Frankel goes, it’s certainly no surprise to hear him support Ramsey considering the conversation between them prior to the Classic which was reported by the Bloodhorse’s Steve Haskin, in which Frankel supposedly told Ramsey: "If we lay first and second and the jockeys keep them slow and don't kill each other trying for the lead, they'll finish one-two. You know what I'm saying? If they're not stupid and they stay cool, we'll (Ghostzapper and Roses In May) be one-two." This article by Nick Kling has some interesting opinions about that exchange, just scroll down a bit.

- If you logged on to the Meadowlands home page on Wednesday, you would have read this summary of the previous night’s feature trotting race:
The four-legged Rumsfeld had the strategy and the firepower to win the $71,035 Super Bowl Final on Tuesday night at the Meadowlands.
I wonder if the writer intended the bitter irony that this conveys to me, especially considering that when the race was run, it was already Wednesday in Iraq, and would turn out to be the deadliest day yet in terms of American casualties. The toll is now over 1400, certainly due at least in part because they were not provided the necessary strategy nor firepower by the non-equine Rumsfeld.

- And finally, sticking with harness racing, if you followed the sport way back when, you may be surprised to hear that it was 25 years ago yesterday that the young emerging star driver Peter Haughton was killed in a car accident near the Meadowlands. The son of Hall of Fame driver Billy Haughton broke on the scene as a teenager and to this day, according to this piece at the U.S. Trotting Association, the only one to win a $100,000 race as a driver. He had won the Roosevelt International (oh man, those were the days..) the prior two years before he was killed at the age of 25. In one of those things that could surely only happen in horse racing or in movies about horse racing, the elder Haughton guided Burgomeister, whom Peter would have driven, to victory in the 1980 Hambletonian, the last one at Du Quoin before its ill-fated move the New Jersey, where it has devolved from a multi-heat epic to just another big race on a 16-race card at the steamy Meadowlands in August.
One final note of irony concerning this young man, taken far too early: The accident was in 1980, and in 1981 the top 2-year-old trot at the Meadowlands was born -- and named for Peter Haughton, and in the ensuing 23 years the winner of the Peter Haughton memorial has never come back at age three and won the Hambletonian.
[again, from the U.S. Trotting Association]

What bad publicity?

Gambling, shmambling; I only buy lottery tickets every blue moon and play the odds by betting I won't get shot on my murder-prone block. Then the Post spat an 80-point headline: "Dope Fix is in at Track."

"Seventeen people were busted yesterday on charges of operating a mob-connected ring that doped horses at Aqueduct and Belmont," a January 14 article read.

Intrigue! Drugs! The mob! Now this was reason to gamble.
[New York Press]

Thus the author of this piece in the New York Press, a NYC alternative weekly, takes off to Aqueduct on the A train (which will be making less frequent stops at the Big A in the next several months), where he bets $2 on a race, wins (of course), drinks a $5 Bud and hangs with the regulars in the Paddock Bar. Thus, the milkshake scandal has now officially generated an additional $2 in betting handle, as well as various other economic benefits (I'm assuming he gave the bartender a tip.) And I doubt, really, that a single dollar of handle has been lost since the story broke.

I used to work in the music industry, and when stung by a bad review of one of our releases, I would sometimes be consoled by being told that "no publicity is bad publicity." This has not always been the case in the world of horse racing. The superfecta scandal that rocked the NY harness industry in the 70s was the first blow in the sport's eventual demise here. But this is 2005. We anxiously await the next season of the lovable Sopranos and follow the thrilling saga of any Gottis not currently behind bars. Contestants scheme to betray one another on any number of reality shows. Poker mania is sweeping the nation, and what is poker if not a game of deceipt perpetrated by shady characters that may not make it past the velvet ropes at Scores?

Well, unfortunately, the industry is attempting to crack down on milkshakes now, but I'm sure someone will come up with something else. A reality show following two trainers befriending mobsters and competing to come up with a new surefire way to dope horses and fix races would be a huge hit, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Out of the Money

No Oscar nominations for Racing Stripes.

Experimental Free Handicap

A different take than the Eclipse voters, as Declan's Moon and Wilko get the 126 pound top weight in this annual hypothetical ranking of the newly turned 3 yo crop, based on their juvenile performances.

"We felt that the Juvenile was the strongest race, so Wilko had to be ranked at the top," [NYRA racing secretary Mike]Lakow said. "As for Declan's Moon, he was unbeaten and defeated Wilko (who was third) in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). So, he had to be co-high-weighted." [Bloodhorse]
Sweet Catomine takes the top slot for the fillies, at 125 pounds, 1 more than the standard 124 generally awarded to fillies. A complete list can be found at the bottom of the Bloodhorse piece. One thing to keep in mind:
The last colt or gelding topweighted in the Experimental to win the Kentucky Derby was Spectacular Bid, who was a 2-year-old in 1978. He was also the last topweighted male in the Experimental to be voted champion at 3. The last filly topweight to win a championship at 3 was Surfside, who was a co-topweight among fillies in the 1999 Experimental.

[CORRECTION: Sweet Catomine was weighted at 124.]

Eclipse Winners

here. [Bloodhorse] No surprises, and I don't really have anything to add. The closest vote was Ken Ramsey's win over Michael Gill in the owner's category, and Ramsey issued a contrite statement regarding his recent fine for trying to intice another owner to scratch her entry. Speightstown's win over Pico Central for top sprinter was the closest of the equine votes. And two sourpusses voted for Birdstone over Smarty Jones for top 3 yo male.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Eclipse Awards

Will TIVO invent a digital recorder that can record the programs BEFORE they're on the air? TVG's coverage of the spruced up awards show doesn't even start until 10:30 here in NY and drags on until 1 AM! What the hell are they gonna do all that time? Are Todd Schrump and Matt Carothers going to do a song and dance number? Are all the winners, including the equine ones, scheduled to make acceptance speeches? If the "red carpet" special on now is any indication, it's going to be a long night.....and I'll be sure to read all about it in the morning.

Beginning of an Empire?

Juddmonte Farms announced the birth of the first foal by Empire Maker (Unbridled); it's a girl, out of Dokki (Northern Dancer – Alluvial, by Buckpasser) and she's a half sister to Grade 1 winner Aptitude. (And Dokki is a half-sister to Coastal and Slew O'Gold. [Thoroughbred Times]

Empire Maker won four times in only eight starts. "We weren't within 10 lengths of seeing this horse's best race," bragged Bobby Frankel. We'll not know if that was the case. He stands for $100,000, and if he serviced, say, 100 mares....

This page from Juddmonte Farms lists some of the other Grade 1 winners that have been sent to Empire Maker for his special brand of love. If you have the right player and browser, you can watch stretch runs of his wins in the Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes on this site. As Empire Maker prepares for his second go-round in the breeding shed, Funny Cide, whose Triple Crown bid was ruined in the Belmont, prepares for his 5 year old season in Florida. "The tentative plan is to have Funny Cide make his first start on March 5 in the Grade II, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Run for 3-year-olds and up, the distance is a mile and three-sixteenths." [Saratogian]

The Book on the Scandal

Jessica, at her excellent Railbird blog, has the latest developments on the milkshake/tax evasion/etc., etc. scandal, with ominous rumblings of more to come at NYRA. And a cool book recommendation too.

Chilly in the Northeast, Sunday Stakes Elsewhere

- Todd Pletcher sent out Chilean Grade 1 winner Isola Piu Bella for her U.S. debut in the non-graded Banshee Breeze Stakes at Gulfstream yesterday, and she was sent off as the even-money favorite by the bettors, including only 5,571 cramped into the temporary on-track facilities on a clear and sunny Sunday, without Blondie or Three Dog Night performing in the now non-existent concert facility. [DRF] Pampered Princess (Indian Charlie) held off uncoupled stablemate Adobe Gold for the win; both are trained by Marty Wolfson.

Pampered Princess was one of two non-graded stakes winners for Indian Charlie yesterday, the other being Lead for Speed, who took a 3 yo stakes at Turf Paradise.

Speaking of Chile, the country is often cited by supporters of President Bush's proposed Social Security privatization, as it switched to private accounts in 1981. The inflation-adjusted returns since then are reported to be a bit over 10%, which would be impressive, except for reasons cited in this column by San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus.

Peter Diamond, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies overseas pension plans, said many of the original goals set for Chile's system have been accomplished.

For example, privatized accounts have helped the country's financial markets develop and have fostered a new regulatory framework.

But Diamond said such changes are not required in the United States. Moreover, he observed that Chile was able to fund its costly transition to private accounts with government surpluses, whereas the Bush administration would be forced to borrow up to $2 trillion.

"The new system has accomplished a lot of things in Chile compared to what's going on in countries comparable to Chile," Diamond said. "Essentially, all of that is irrelevant to the United States." He also pointed out that the relatively high rate of return for Chile's private funds is not a reflection of the merits of the new pension system. Rather, it reflects only that Chile's economy has been unusually robust for the past 20 years.

"It doesn't mean we would have similar returns in this country," Diamond said.

- At Santa Anita, 8-5 favorite McCann's Mojave (Memo[Chile]) finished last as Saint Fleet (Northern Afleet) took the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap. [Bloodhorse] Northern Afleet is also the sire of Kentucky Derby hopeful Afleet Alex.

- As reported in the Thoroughbred Daily News, Todd Pletcher is aiming Cigar Mile winner Lion Tamer for a start in mid to late March; Ashado for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn on April 9, and Illinois Derby winner Pollard's Vision is a possibility for the Donn at Gulfstream on Feb 5.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tice is Nice / Madcap on Track

- Tice is the first foal from the champion filly Silverbulletday, and the 3 yo son of A.P. Indy makes his debut in the 6th at Santa Anita today for Bob Baffert and owner Mike Pegram, the same connections as his dam. Silverbulletday (Silver Deputy) won the Eclipse as top filly at 2 and 3, won 15 out of 23 starts and a bit over $3 million. Her Grade 1 stakes triumphs included the Breeders Cup Juvenile, the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks, the Alabama, and the Gazelle; check out her P.Ps, via Baffert's website. Tice originally had the hideous name of Duckornodinner, which sounds like something Donald Rumsfeld might tell soldiers complaining about the dinner menu. The name change actually just took place a few days ago, just in time for his debut.

Silverbulletday has a 2 year-old by Storm Cat, and is booked back to him this year.

- Madcap Escapade (Hennessy) is training in earnest at Gulfstream (scroll down for story) for her first start since she suffered her first defeat in the Kentucky Oaks last April 30; she worked 5f in 59.80 on Friday for trainer Frank Brothers. The Shirley Jones Handicap on Feb 19 is a possibility. [DRF]

[UPDATE: Tice was dead on the board at 11-1, and ran 10th. The winner, El Roblar is at least the 14th winner from the first crop of War Chant, who also had his third stakes winner last weekend. HIs yearlings sold for an average of $225,000 last year, well in excess of his 2005 fee of $60,000. The son of Danzig won the 2000 Breeders Cup Mile, and is out of champion filly Hollywood Wildcat.]

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Dr. Doofrankel

Brazilian import License To Run ran 5th for trainer Bobby Frankel as the 9-10 choice in the Grade 2 San Marcos on the turf at Santa Anita Saturday. [Bloodhorse]

"I thought with the post position we had today he would go ahead and be there for me and he just wasn't there," [jockey Garrett] Gomez said. "I'm going to let Bobby talk to him, and see if Bobby can convince him to be a race horse."

Frankel later commented that as it turned out, License To Run does not understand English, but that Ghostzapper is loudly telling anyone who’ll listen that he’s a cinch for Horse of the Year on Monday.

The San Marcos was taken by Whilly, the third stakes win in his last four starts and the first graded win. Making his first start at 4, he led throughout for leading trainer Doug O'Neill, hitting at over 25% this meet, and looking at the pp’s in hindsight he figured to do so. His sire is Sri Pekan, a son of Red Ransom who was the champion sire in Italy in 2003, and who now stands in Turkey.

Snow Day

It's days like today that make me regret (somewhat) dumping Time Warner Cable in a fit of rage last year. NYRA has preemptively cancelled the weekend's racing in anticipation of the expected major snow. This allows the NYC OTB channel to televise out of town races from a multitude of tracks (though many are cancelled today), including those from Gulfstream and Santa Anita. However, Direct TV doesn’t get such local stations, and since TVG doesn’t carry the Magna tracks, the abovementioned tracks, the two most desirable ones, are not available to me. With Magna’s HRTV not carried on Direct TV, I’m outof luck. And since Dish Network now carries both TVG AND HRTV, it seems that I did a typically poor job of handicapping when it came to choosing a satellite provider.

But hell, it’s sunny and fast at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn, so what’s so bad?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Under Construction

Be back soon.