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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bring Him Back

- Curlin is back in the barn, and since Asmussen said that he hasn't been told "a single word" about what to do with him, perhaps he should get him ready for the Stephen Foster! Marty McGee reported that they'll be a meeting within a week amongst the owners to decide what to do. I imagine that the two incarcerated attorneys, William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., need the cash to pay their legal bills. So if Jess Jackson and the two other owners who own a combined 80% decide to race Curlin next year, maybe they'll buy the jailbirds out.

Jackson was quoted in Joe Drape's article in the NY Times on Tuesday - the usual talk about the big dilemma about money versus the sporting aspect of racing him next year, at significant risk and relatively little potential reward.

“There’s an inner quarrel with me,” Jackson said. “Inside cerebrally, I’m saying, here is a horse that can help change the direction of breeding in America, maybe the world. [NY Times]
C'mon man, give us a break with that crap. Do what you will, we know and understand about the money, but please spare us the changing the world stuff. Besides, that can wait another year.

Street Sense is of course off to stud, and how much more than $75,000 do you think they'd be getting if he won the Classic? He was on what I believe was the best part of the racetrack. But by the time Trevor Denman offered that "Street Sense is threatening to run a big one," Curlin was already leaving him in the dust mud. Perhaps the Derby champ didn't like the going, but it's hard now to argue with those who point to declining figs and his less than visually-dazzling wins at Saratoga as evidence that he peaked many months ago.

There's a lot of speculation now about Any Given Saturday coming back at four, since there was no announcement about a stud fee. I know they're blaming his performance on the slop like everyone else who didn't run well; but I'll still take his weak 6th place finish as vindication of my jumping off his bandwagon. He's a big, beautiful horse who was really babied through the summer/fall seasons. Seven weeks between the Haskell and Brooklyn; another five before the Classic. I see him as a poster child for this more time between races thing gone too far.

According to Haskin, Curlin came home each of his final two quarters in the Classic in :24 1/5. Not only did he handle the turns, but he propelled nimbly off the final one, right to the lead.

We can only hope that these guys do good for the sport, and let us enjoy Curlin in 2008. They all have plenty of money. And besides, look how much fun owner George Bolton is having!!

You'll never see this, or any guy, exultant like that, going: "YEAH, WOO! WE CHANGED THE DIRECTION OF BREEDING!" C'mon guys, give us all a thrill. Bring him back.

- On further examination, Trevor Denman's call of the Classic certainly was not his best of the day. Besides the instance cited above, the finish really showed where the Breeders' Cup misses Durkin. He has an extra reserve for climactic moments like that, while Denman, with his more limited vocal range, could only manage his "in an absolutely sty-lish performance!" We hear that from him on a routine basis in California. Stylish it was, but I think it warranted something far more emphatic and indicative of his domination of the race.

It wasn't ESPN's best moment either. They stuck to a close-up of the leaders as Denman was describing the unfolding drama of Curlin and Street Sense commencing their moves from the back.

- Turf winner English Channel will stand for $25,000; I swear, I was going to guess that exact figure. Like Curlin, English Channel is a son of Smart Strike, and, interestingly, like Curlin he's a complete outcross through his first five generations.

I think to get an idea of just how soft the course was, just listen to the race on the ESPN feed at You can really hear them clomping along and sense the heaviness of the going, yuck. I'm sure that a fair amount of Pick-Whatevers went out the window with Dylan Thomas. Not to speak for other bettors, but I'd surmise that some who singled him did so with a wing and a prayer, aware of the conditions, but desperate for a single somewhere in the sequence. John Murtagh said: "It was horrible ground and he's a real grass horse. He was losing his footing all the time and could never get competitive." [Press Association]


- In New York, while I was gone, NYRA filed its reorganization plan in bankruptcy court. The plan basically mirrors the MOU between NYRA and Governor Spitzer, including the surrender of the land claim, and the bailout by the state. But, with the Gov and the Senate still miles apart from agreeing on a franchise plan, it's certainly worth noting that the plan will likely be pulled from bankruptcy court if an approved franchise agreement differs in any respect from the details of the plan. [DRF] That would send NYRA's lawyers back to the drawing board, thus racking up more bills that the state will probably end up paying.

The part of the reorganization plan that really disappoints me is NYRA's agreement to drop its lawsuit against the Pataki Administration for stonewalling its Aqueduct racino plan. I would have loved to hear the ex-Gov try to explain his way out of what seemed on its face to be blatant and vindictive stalling. And besides, I kinda miss Ol' George. What the hell happened to his presidential run? That disappeared as quickly as the Colorado Rockies!

Also, now everyone - and I mean everyone - is pissed at Spitzer over his agreement with the Bush Administration over his driver's license plan. The Republicans are still opposed to documenting illegals at all, and many Democrats are furious, feeling that he sold the immigrants out by agreeing to a lower class of license and, worse yet, agreed to Bush's Real ID plan that raises questions of privacy. Hard to believe that the atmosphere for a franchise agreement could be poisoned more than it was, but that seems to be the case.

In Saratoga on Thursday evening, they'll be a panel discussion including horsemen such as Nick Zito and James Bond regarding the uncertainty over racing's near-term future beyond Dec 31.

And NYRA, seeking to act like the franchise incumbent it believes it will be, will host a meeting of the minds of racetrack execs from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to discuss simulcast scheduling, stakes schedules, racing dates, and other topics impacting Thoroughbred racing in general and the region’s racetracks in particular.

“Although there are areas of healthy competition among the region’s racetracks, we all face many of the same challenges and concerns,” Hayward said in a statement. “We know these challenges can be met more effectively with better communication and cooperation among the neighboring racetrack operators. [Bloodhorse]
Now there's some constructive, forward thinking for you, the kind that was missing from NYRA's, and, for the most part, all of the franchise bids.

BC Notes

- Kip Deville is one Breeders' Cup winner who will not be retired, though he apparently will not go the Hong Kong, where he'd be eligible for a (mere) $1 million bonus in the Cathay Pacific Mile.

Though Garrett Gomez was a deserving winner of the Shoemaker award for the top jockey of the day, remember that Cornelio Velasquez won two races too, and his ride on Kip Deville was a masterpiece. He maneuvered to the inside by the first turn from his eight post, and saved ground from there until coming out midstretch for his winning drive. In the meantime, Excellent Art was hung wide turning for home from the 13 post, and appeared to bear in a bit in the stretch before launching his late bid for second. I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who thought he was the best horse in the race.

Nobiz Like Shobiz was the surprising second betting choice, and a strong one at that, at 7-2. He made a big five wide move around the turn....or at least he did according to Trevor Denman if you were watching on ESPN. You heard Denman's description of the move, as well as the fact his jockey was wearing a white cap. But you didn't see the horse until they turned for home, and he was already flattening out. Some readers here have commented in the past how TV producers, and not only on ESPN, tend to cut to the close-up shot as the field is rounding that final turn, thus missing some of the key action of the race.

And what the hell happened to that "rail view" camera???

F&M Turf winner Lahudood will be retired; her breeding plans have not yet been announced. But assuming that she'll be mated with a Sheikh stallion, how about Bernardini?
Just throwing a name out, and I've really no idea of their physical compatibility; but that mating would give the foal some nice balanced inbreeding to Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, and linebreeding to important influences such as Somethingroyal and Herbager.

Alan Garcia won his first BC race on this filly, and he's been getting some well-deserved attention of late. So I'm not intending in any way to denigrate his ride to say that he may have caught a big time break when Simply Perfect bore out on the second of three turns, and took Arravale and Precious Kitten with her. Lahudood was in what looked like a tight spot early, buried inside with a lot of equine flesh in front and outside of her; Trevor Denman even took note of her plight early on. But when those three horses checked out, Garcia suddenly found himself in perfect position, with only Argentina in front of him.

I'd say that of every horse on the program, I found the betting on Argentina to be the most surprising. I had her as a 'first glance throwout;' a horse who simply and plainly on paper appeared to not be suited for the mile and three-eighths distance. I even considered her 12-1 morning line to be a little light, and I was rather shocked to see her go off as the 7-1 4th choice. I dunno, maybe there was a large contingent of Argentinians there, or at a track/betting parlor somewhere. But Lahudood make quick work of her on her way to victory. Honey Ryder, just 3/4's back of the winner, was widest of all turning for home, and perhaps was best in what was also her final career race, too bad.

Passage of Time, third as the 5-2 favorite, and trainer Henry Cecil was unhappy with the turf. "To me the ground was unsatisfactory and she has never raced on ground like that....She wants it soft but couldn't quicken on it - it was just false ground." [Sporting Life] Nashoba's Key was 4th after being trapped on the rail for most of the race. "It was probably six inches deep on that rail," said Joe Talamo. Didn't seem to bother Kip Deville though, and the F&M Turf was run before the Mile.

By the way, for the absolute best internet replays of the race, I direct you once again to the Breeders' Cup site. You can see all the races (use the dropdown menu to select) as seen on ESPN, on a very big screen as far as these things go, a crystal clear picture, and, of course, Trevor Denman's calls. Having listened to them several times now, I don't really have a single criticism of Denman's work on Saturday. I was concerned after he had a pretty shaky start on Friday, but I think he pulled himself together and "ran a big one," as he's apt to say.

- Selected posts from this blog will now be featured on Horserace They're making me submit a photo too. Man, I ignored the Breeders' Cup's request for one when I saw that no one else had their mug up there, but these guys are insisting, damn...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Alternative Take on BC Bias

- Of course, you recall all the talk about the inside bias last year at Churchill. This year, the consensus seems to be that the track played fair; that after all the talk about how it had been favoring speed in the summer. I thought that was the case on Friday for sure. But as for Saturday, after reviewing the races, I'm thinking that speed horses maybe did have the advantage after all, and that the inside wasn't a bad place to be either. I'm not the type to go searching for biases, but check it out.

In the first, 10-1 Actin Good went wire-to-wire, fighting back on the inside to edge Trombetta's previously undefeated Now A Victor. The second went to Coco Belle at 5-1; she stalked closely before taking over after a half, went to the rail and held off 16-1 Intentional Fever, never worse than third. Cobalt Blue came from last to take the Select Stakes. I'll come back to that.

Then you had the two juvenile winners, Indian Blessing and War Pass, the latter of whom scored a 113 Beyer! They both went from gate to wire with inside posts. We'll argue until next winter/spring about how good each of these really are; but I'm thinking that their inside posts and speed played a big part, and you know how I feel about horses that go fast early, slow late. War Pass' fractions were 22.76, 22.80, 24.09, 25.99, and a final sixteenth in 7.12. As impressive as those first two quarters may be, I can't get excited about that. (I can get really excited about the race that Court Vision ran in the Iroqouis; closing from dead last into a final three-eighths of 36 flat over the Churchill track. By Gulch, who we know can sire a Derby winner, out of a half-sister to AP Indy, from WinStar and Mott, are you kidding me? WOO-HOO, COULD THIS BE MY DERBY HORSE?)

Oh, sorry. Ginger Punch got the inside trip in the Distaff, and had the lead by the 3/8ths pole. She was inside of Hystericalady through their stretch duel, and Octave launched her rally up the rail too, flattening out a bit once she moved outside.

The fact that Midnight Lute and Curlin, quite arguably the two best horses jn the country that are technically still in training, both rallied to win certainly doesn't dispel the theory of a speed bias. Great horses can overcome any bias, or track condition. Midnight Lute ran down Idiot Proof, who opened up after closely stalking the speed; Curlin outfinished Hard Spun, the inside speed who was still in charge at the quarter pole despite having run the first half in 45 4/5. That was just slightly slower than the speed I surmised in my BC top ten would have gotten him immediately retired at that point. That didn't happen, and I'm sure his second place finish figured into his $50,000 fee.

As for Cobalt Blue, he was ridden by Garrett Gomez, who successfully executed the same move with Midnight Lute and, just a bit less successfully, Octave. So maybe he just had the right idea as far as what was needed to overcome what I propose was the prevailing trend on Saturday. That was the only maneuver that produced any success other than being on or very near the lead. In any event, I can test out my theory at the mutuel windows over the next few months. I'll let you know how it goes.

Interesting too that Curlin and Midnight Lute were the two horses whose sheer size made some think they wouldn't handle the track. Man, I bought into that hook, line, and sinker. In fact, maybe there was something about the muck that actually gave them an edge. Or, maybe they're just a couple of freaks. If Curlin remains in training, maybe the two of them will meet in the Classic next year.

And if I had a cowboy hat, I'd tip it to Larry Jones. I was on his case a lot this year about the way Hard Spun was campaigned. But in fact, he did an unbelievable job. Not only was this horse kept fit over a very long campaign, but he actually may have saved his best for his last three career starts. The decision to run him in the Classic, which many, including myself, questioned, was the right one even if he could have beaten Corinthian. Not to take anything away from that one, but the Dirt Mile (And Seventy Yards) was just not worthy of a horse as tough and talented as Hard Spun in the final race of his career. He really won me over, and I'm sorry to see him go.

Proud Spell is also trained by Jones, and she ran great to be second in the Juvie Fillies, this in her first race around two turns. It was her just her first loss in four starts. She won two stakes easily, and is a daughter of Proud Citizen, a first-year sire I've been excited about, and WOO-HOO, COULD THIS BE MY OAKS HORSE?

Maryland Session Special to Horsemen

- I'll get back to the Breeders' Cup results a bit later tonight; but it's certainly newsworthy that the Maryland legislature convenes a special session today, at which slots will be one of the issues to be dealt with. As always, Alan H. and Baloo over at The Bug Boys have more about the latest on the proposal; and they also report that they'll be no racing or training on Friday so that horsemen can rally at the State House. This is serious business to be sure. And though the always contentious issues of taxes - income, property, and sales - are on the agenda, the Washington Post calls Governor O'Malley's slots proposal to put the question to the electorate in the form of a November, 2008 referendum his toughest sell.

..Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) again expressed opposition to a referendum yesterday, saying O'Malley is well short of securing the necessary votes in the Senate.

"I counseled him not to call a special session until he has the votes, but he's determined to go forward anyway," Miller, a leading slots proponent, told reporters.

Putting slots on the ballot -- most likely in November 2008 -- would give opponents a year to mobilize, Miller said. And gambling interests in West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, where slots are already legal, would likely be among those pouring money into efforts to oppose slots in Maryland, he said.

O'Malley "threw his plan under the bus by agreeing to a referendum before we even started," Miller said. [Wash Post]
According to another article in the paper, the prospective slots parlor at Laurel would be constructed in the present grandstand, and a new one would be built on the other side of the track!
Relocating the grandstand would involve moving about 1,000 stalls, [Lou] Raffetto said, costing about $12,000 a stall. The entire demolition and construction project, which could be completed in 18 months, is estimated to cost more than $200 million, he said. [Wash Post]
By the way, as you may know, Magna purchased the remaining shares of the Maryland Jockey Club from the DeFrancis family in November. However, the DeFrancises still have a huge stake in the outcome, as they formed a management company called Maryland Ventures which, as part of the deal with Magna, would get 65 percent of the profits during the first five years, 50 percent the next five years and 40 percent in the following 10 years. Nice.

One more point - it really pisses me off to read about how the gambling interests in surrounding states will pour in money to defeat any referendum that might make it to the ballot. And of course they will, and I don't see how they could frame it in anyway to make it appear to be anything but what it would be - pure greed. If they really cared about racing, as the companies that are or will be operating racinos always claim to be, they'd know and care that a healthy industry in Maryland is a good thing for the sport, and not only because it's the home of the Preakness. Instead, they'll try to effectively kill Maryland racing off by working to deny the industry what it needs to survive; and all for the sake of their own bottom line.

Decide For Yourself

- Posted finally on You Tube is this complete video of Kieren Fallon's ride on Ballinger Ridge.

This race is the one that the Crown is focusing on in its race fixing trial; on Monday, it brought in its expert witness, Sydney, Australia chief steward Ray Murrihy, to testify. I suppose that they brought this gentleman in from Down Under to convey a sense of impartiality.

Mr Murrihy said: "I am in no doubt he should have won. It was a quite extraordinary ride..."

"I do not think I have seen in my experience a horse ease down in that part of the race and it undoubtedly cost him the win." [Racing and Sports (Australia)]
Murrihy also said that he would have conducted inquiries into 13 of the 27 races in question.

But this is the race that has gotten the most attention, probably because it's the least subtle in its alleged chicanery. Now we can watch it and decide for ourselves. And indeed, you'll see Fallon easing up on Ballinger Ridge, thinking he had the race won (that being the non-suspicious view). When Fallon peeks back, he sees Rye coming, and starts to ride again, but it's too late. Still, he just barely missed getting the win. However, I also see that Fallon did shake up the reins immediately after turning for home, before gearing down. Why would he have done that if he wanted to lose?

Now, I must admit that, having spoken at Monmouth to Chris McGrath, the UK reporter whose work I admire very much and who told me that the case is basically rubbish, I've taken a more skeptical view of the charges. But still, after watching this tape, if this is the best the Crown has, it doesn't seem like much. Sure, Fallon should have won the race, but it's certainly not the first time I've seen a jockey think he had a race won, and started riding again after taking a look behind him. While not at all comparable to this race, one could make a similar case against Calvin Borel for his ride in the Preakness if he really, really wanted to.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Midnight Lute To Return

- Midnight Lute (Real Quiet) will return to race in 2008, at the age of five; and Baffert said that should he run again this year, "the only realistic spot would be the Cigar Mile." [Daily Racing Form] He's only raced ten times, having missed a year between two and three with the throat problem for which he had surgery. His 2007 campaign has been an interesting one; he had excuses in each of his losing efforts in the Strub series, and again when turned back to seven furlongs in the Commonwealth. Baffert once had Derby aspirations with him, and spoke of pointing to the Classic next year.

I think that the fact that Trevor Denman noted only that he'd "started to make his run" on the turn is due more to how far back he was and the unlikeliness of Midnight Lute's winning move than the announcer missing him. As soon as he started to accelerate in the stretch, Denman perked up and used his "he looks like he just jumped in at the quarter pole" line. In truth, it looked more like the eighth pole.

Idiot Proof was hard ridden all the way outside of Talent Search, and held on well for second. Other than that, there's not really much to say. Benny the Bull closed OK for 4th. Commentator, who never got to the top and faded to 7th, has fallen a long ways since those heady days of consecutive 120+ Beyers in the summer of '05. Neither Greg's Gold nor Smokey Stover did much running in the muck, and Kelly's Landing did not finish last, as Tom Amoss predicted on The Works.

Slop Yields Stingy Payouts

- I mentioned that I was sitting in the APB next to Matt Gardner, who won Horseplayer Magazine's blogging contest last year, thus earning a trip from his hometown of Seattle to New Jersey. You can check out his blog here.

Matt was nice enough to send me a spreadsheet of past BC day payouts, and, despite all of the (my) complaining about the slop, this was one of the more formful days in the event's history. The average win price (Sat only) of $11.55 is well below the all-time average of $21.62, and the 4th lowest ever. The average exacta payout of $91.50 is the stingiest ever, well below the previous low of $103.83, and the all-time average of $221.19. I could throw a lot more stats at you, but they're Matt's numbers and I don't want to step on his toes. Not too much, anyway.

However, that doesn't mean that the track condition didn't have a profound effect on many of the entrants. Steve Crist, having a ball with his Google Spreadsheets these days, compared each entrant's Beyer with their previous number. It shows only 20 of 77 comparable horses matching or exceeding their most recent effort. Though we don't have anything to compare that to, that comes out to what seems like a lowly 26%, and doesn't even include horses like Smokey Stover and Teammate, who were eased. And Crist, celebrating his birthday today by betting horses at Great Lakes Downs, correctly points out that the huge gaps from front to back present further evidence of the problem the footing presented.

Paul Moran, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the event (and who gave out the Pick Six if you had $6,720 to spend), points out the dominance of horses who prepped in New York. Indeed, seven of the eight winners (again, Saturday only), had their last races in NY; the first three and five finishers respectively in the Juvie Fillies and Juvenile prepped at Belmont Park.

So, since Kip Deville, the only exception, prepped for the Turf Mile on the grass at Woodbine, no horse that ran last on a synthetic surface won a BC race. However, due to the track condition, I don't think you can really draw any conclusions about how top horses transfer their form from the fake stuff to the real. And some of those runners ran very well, especially Hystericalady and Idiot Proof, who both ran second (but who had both run at Monmouth over the summer). Hard Spun, who I ended up betting in the Classic, also ran extremely well; he prepped on the Poly at Turfway.

Back to the juvenile day at Churchill, I mentioned that Mott had two winners - he also ran second with a 10-1 shot. So he obviously warrants continued watching in Kentucky. Despite having been at the track for four full days, floating around as I was, I feel like I haven't really played the horses in ages, and I'm anxious to get back to hot trainers, class jumps and drops, pedigrees, and noteworthy action on the tote board (though that was quite an impressive punch on Indian Blessing, dropping her from 5-2 to 8-5 with two minutes left). I will of course get to more discussion of the BC races at some point...

Dead closers won the two stakes at CD (both Grade 3's run at a one turn mile, and both ridden by Leparoux, who will need to find new friends with Biancone out of action), so bettors must have felt like they were still at Keeneland. Court Vision won the Iroquois for Mott; he graduated in his prior start. He's a son of Gulch, out of Weekend Storm, an unraced daughter of Weekend Surprise by Storm Bird, and thus a half-sister to AP Indy.

In the Pocahontas, Pure Clan, trained by Bob Holthus, was dead last in the field of 14 after having trouble at the start, circled the field (ten wide according to the race chart!) and got up with a late surge to win by 1 1/4 lengths. This daughter of Pure Prize is now undefeated, and ran her first two career races on the grass. She's a half to the trainer's Greater Good; her second dam is the champion sprinter What A Summer. Not that I'm bitter or anything (nah), but let's see how War Pass and Indian Blessing will fare at a route next year against closers of this sort!

Turn Away

- Sunday was opening day at Churchill, and it was their all-two year old program kicking off the fall meeting. Two winners for Mott, who continues to roll along; he took the Keeneland training title with nine winners from 39 starters.

Bobby Frankel pulled one over in the 5th race; his first time starter Turn Away, 7-2 second choice in the morning line, was slammed to 6-5, and drew off to win by nine after sitting the perfect trip sitting behind the leaders. Here's another winning daughter of Empire Maker, his 5th of the year, from 18 starters. He's currently ranked at #11 on the first-year sire list. Turn Away is a Juddmonte homebred out of a Known Fact half-sister to the multiple Grade 1 winner (on turf and dirt) Defensive Play (he won the Man O'War for Juddmonte in 1990).

Frankel of course declined to run Country Star, also a daughter of Empire Maker, in the Juvenile Fillies. Who knows how she would have done; but she did win the Alcibiades with a late closing kick from far back; the kind of move that Garrett Gomez, at least, had figured out could be successful on the sloppy track at Monmouth on Saturday. Indian Blessing was the clear winner and, thus, a deserving two-year old filly champ. But looking at the fractions of that race, I remain as skeptical about her as I did about her coming in. After her six furlongs in 1:10.3, it took her 27.11 seconds to get the next quarter, and another 7.01 for the final sixteenth. Yet no filly behind her could make much progress at all. Whether due to a mediocre field behind her, the track conditions, or both, I'll probably be taking a close look at her opponents when she tries a route of ground for the first time next year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Long on Eggs, Short on Press Conference

- Thanks to everyone for the compliments about the Breeders' Cup coverage. It was a pisser, that's for sure. I didn't lose that much money because I just didn't bet that much, especially considering I was there for four days. Between the sloppy track, working on a BC post, Friday's lack of simulcasting, doing the live blogging thing, night time activities, and just generally being in a daze, I found myself unable to focus much on betting.

We went to the Press Breakfast this morning. It said in the Media Information: Winning Owners, Trainers, and Jockeys...will be present for a press conference/breakfast in the Breeders' Cup Paddock Tent at Monmouth Park. That wasn't quite the case. All of the riders and trainers had already left for their home bases. So a press conference it was not. But there was certainly breakfast. The Breeders' Cup certainly knows how to treat and, in particular, feed, its guests, and the working media as well. There was a buffet breakfast that included scrambled eggs, French toast, hash browns, and berries with whip cream that the Head Chef thought was superb. She thought the eggs were too sweet (?), but was fascinated by the silverware. It looked to the eye be the real deal, but it was really plastic with a silvery sheen. She swiped some extras to bring home.

After a while, Dave Johnson stepped to the podium, and spoke of how it was like there was a glow evident in the tent after the great day of racing we experienced. It was clear that there was to be no talk of George Washington here, even as mention of the tragedy was prominent in the newspaper headlines around the country. The spin was strictly upbeat. Greg Avioli spoke of the record handle of $147 million, and acknowledged that the figure could have been significantly higher had the weather been as it was today (a brilliantly sunny, but cool and windy day. One gust blew over some tables in the Lady's Secret Cafe as we were walking by.

Dennis Dowd, from the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority, spoke with a smile about the rain, doing an excellent job of hiding the frustration he must have felt. He said that he received only two customer complaints, one about the mutuel lines, and immediately corrected the situation. I see that Christina had some complaints in the comments section - and I did get stuck in a bottleneck inside that seemed like poor planning. But, other than that, I didn't see any unhappy people myself, and Denman's calls were booming throughout the grandstand seats. The mutuel bays on the first floor grandstand as you walked in from the paddock barely had lines at all.

All of the speakers raved about the "great races." Anytime you have races of this caliber, with so many top horses, you can call the races "great." The day definitely had its share of scintillating moments - in particular, Midnight Lute's stunning rally to take the Sprint. But in all honestly, many of the horses did not run well in the slop, and I don't know that you can call the races "great" in the sense of their competitiveness. Only in the Distaff was the winner of the race in any question inside the sixteenth pole. When you see horses as honest as Smokey Stover, Greg's Gold, and Any Given Saturday hardly lifting a hoof, you know the track is having a profound effect.

We wondered before the event how the horses which have been racing on synthetics will fare on the dirt. Yet it seems to me that there's a much bigger discrepancy between fast dirt/sloppy dirt form than there is between synthetics/fast dirt. I've always thought that the elimination of tracks such as the one we saw on Saturday is second only to safety as the best reason to hope that synthetics succeed. Next year around this time, when, if I'm lucky, I'll have a chance to do this again, we won't be worrying about handicapping for a sloppy track. (Though I think we'd take that over raging wildfires anyday.)

So the rest of the breakfast was basically just watching replays of the races. "We have to watch all the races?" the Head Chef asked. The only trainer, jockey, or owner that appeared was English Channel's owner James Scatuorchio. Dave Johnson, in a bit of desperation, tried in vain to summon War Pass' exercise rider, but even he was absent.

Johnson praised Trevor Denman for his calls, and I have to say after hearing them at the breakfast, portions for the first time, that I think he pretty much nailed them. The Distaff was vintage Denman, as he picked up the move from Octave early on, identified his jockey silks to the crowd, and followed her progress while never losing sight of the battle up front between Hystericalady and Ginger Punch (two of the fillies who I specifically did not like in the race). In the Turf, he did a great job of keeping appraised of the progress, or lack thereof, of Dylan Thomas. I'll likely have more comments on his calls as I really get to sit and review the races.

One difference between he and Durkin is that the latter has an extra reserve of elevated drama in his vocal chords that he can tap for the truly special moments. Denman's voice doesn't have that kind of range. His calls for these races don't differ much in dynamics from those of a 'regular' stakes at Del Mar or Santa Anita; at least for me. But having said that, I think Denman is great, and I'm glad, and quite relieved for his sake, that he had a good day.

Once they finished showing the races, that was it. Scheduled to run until 11, it was not long after ten. Having eaten well though, nobody seemed disappointed at all.

And one the way out, we noticed that the Merchandise Tent was open, and hopping. Everything was being sold for half price. I knew that if we stopped by later (the track was open for simulcasting), we could get stuff for five bucks, but picked up a couple of t-shirts anyway.

- Garrett Gomez got some award for being the best jockey on the day; he rode Indian Blessing and Midnight Lute. He also won two of the races that preceded the BC races, and I don't know if that counted towards giving him the nod over Corny V, who also won twice, including with a perfect ride on Kip Deville. Gomez went from first to last on Cobalt Blue in the Select, in addition to doing so on Midnight Lute. He tried to do the same with Octave, but fell a bit short. It looked she was going to do it, but fell short as she so often has, even with a final eighth of almost 14 seconds.

Sunday Notes

- It seems to me as if our friends overseas are more philosophical and even accepting of tragedy that occurs on the racetrack. I noticed that a couple of years ago after a particular incident - and the name of the horse is escaping me right now - in which another of Aidan O'Brien's horses was euthanized after a race. Before the race, there seemed to be some question about his condition, as the rider seemed concerned, and O'Brien was seen coming over to take a look shortly before post time. I thought the incident would create a huge controversy there, as it certainly would have here; but the whole matter seemed to die down quickly and without much fuss.

So I wasn't too surprised to read the following in the UK's Sporting Life about the death of George Washington in yesterday's Classic:

There should be no inquest into why he died.

A simple, if cold, truth is these things happen.

Of course he should have been there racing on the dirt - even in the bog-like conditions. He was a racehorse and an incredibly gifted one at that, and he deserved the chance to show what he could do on one of the greatest stages.

No-one could have anticipated he would break both sesamoid bones that would lead to him being humanely destroyed. It could have happened in a workout on the Curragh, or on good ground in a race at Newmarket.

Yet it happened at the Breeders' Cup, and unfortunately - at least in Europe - this year's championships will be remembered as much for tragedy as it will be for excellence. [Sporting Life]
More on the tragedy, and the miserable day in general for O'Brien and Coolmore here.

The Head Chef and I are headed to the press conference, and then to do a little Jersey Shore sightseeing on what is, of course, a beautiful day. Would have been a great day for the races to be sure.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday Night Notes

- We're back at our hotel room, and staying the night. Getting ready for dinner in Red Bank, a very hip town, or so we're told. Tomorrow morning, we're planning to go to the Post Breeders Cup Press Breakfast, which is at the track. So if you have anything you'd like answered, let me know! And then, tomorrow on what is supposed to be a gorgeous day, we're going to go and check out the shore. All the times I've been at Monmouth, I've never been to the beach there. It's just a few miles away; almost like where the surf meet the turf. Before the last race, the paddock area was packed, the sky was clear blue, and the sun was shining off the back of Monmouth Park. I looked up, and saw people peering out of the windows of the sun drenched building, and it actually reminded me of Del Mar. I'd post a picture of it if I could find the damn camera cable, but it really did.

That was a great moment, the minutes leading up to a showdown of major proportions, the likes of which we rarely see anymore. The place was packed and buzzing with anticipation. It was really something else.

Like most of the other races conducted on the sloppy track throughout the day, many of the contenders didn't run well, and there was a lot of spacing at the finish. That's too bad, but what can you do? Well, you could postpone the races until Sunday if the weather is supposed to clear, right? I know it's logistically impossible. But, I guess you could if you really wanted to, right? A couple of people had mentioned it half-kidding towards the beginning of the week, but later I heard it suggested seriously.

Now, like everything, it's come to an end. But wow, what a day. Between the death of George Washington, and the mere fact that it's all over after all the buildup and excitement, I feel a bit letdown. I've been on cloud nine over the last few days, and the feeling built as the days wore on towards the climax. Walking around with my media pass, sitting in the pressbox with all the people who's stuff I always read, the seats on the finish line, the free food (and chocolate chip brownies)

Thanks to everyone who have made this a record week in my traffic here, and for helping out at the Breeders' Cup blog too.

Breeders' Cup Live Blog

- Doing my thing over there. Check back here for items too profane, irreverent, or critical for me to at that site.

- Obviously off to a miserable start with Indian Blessing having won, but a 27 second quarter to the mile mark and nobody was gaining. Are you kidding me?

- Hanging out with Davidowitz again; he had the first two winners. Well, anyone could have had those two, right? The Head Chef seems very happy sitting in the media section. The security here is very lax as far as access like that. In fact, if you really tried, you could have walked right into this track through the credentials gap without a ticket or credentials at all. Seriously. Though those guys with machine guns are a little intimidating.

Thanks for the comments, keep em coming. We're looking for the mud caulks listing; the guy giving out the media advisories was clueless. I'll let you know if I find it.

- Hey everyone. I suck, don't I? I'm also sitting with Jeremy Plonk, of, and Matt Gardner, who won that Horseplayer Magazine blog contest, and is doing his thang here, much like myself. Hope you're all doing better than me!! OK, back to the BC blog, thanks for dropping by as always.

Actin Good So Far (with updates)

- The infield tote board went out a little after the first race, raising an audible groan from the crowd, but now it's back.

Actin Good won the first, and I can already hear the people going "speed bias." He led all the way, and managed to hold off Now A Victor, who looked set to go by midstretch. Actin Good was 10-1, but he won his first two turn start, at Suffolk, and was lone speed, so I wouldn't go jumping to any conclusions as of yet. His fractions were 24.2, 49.2, 1:14, 1:38.4, and 1:51.2.

The Brits are up here and seem to be having a fine time. It's Chris McGrath's birthday, and he was serenaded by Happy Birthday (with the accents of course).

- F&M Sprint winner Maryfield will be sold at the Mixed Sale at Keeneland on Nov 4. Certainly didn't do anything to hurt her value by becoming a BC winner!

- I had a nice conversation with Chris McGrath. He was telling about the Fallon trial, which he's been covering, and he feels that the case against the jockey is a farce; that outside authorities, when they get involved with racing, just don't understand. I told him about the Weight-gate case here, and he was pretty amazed.

He also said that Dylan Thomas does not like this kind of footing. Said that he spoke to Fallon recently, and he said that the horse doesn't like it when his feet sink down into the bog, and that he has trouble extracting them. Feels that he would "lap them" on a firmer course. Time for the second race....and I'll be switching over mainly to the BC blog soon.

- Wow, fractions of 20.4 and 43.1 in the second, the Miss Woodford. Marina Ballerina set that pace, and was joined by Coco Belle around the turn. After that crazy half mile fraction, Coco Belle came home in almost 26 second for a final time of 1:09. Yet nobody gained any appreciable ground at all. But again, before we jump to conclusions, this was a 12 horse field which contained mostly fillies of the same running style - speed and pressing. So it's entirely possible that the rest of them simply were bottomed out. Stay tuned...... [It was also pointed out that there's a stiff wind blowing behind the horses as they go down the backstretch, which could account for those quick early fractions.]

- Started my "live blog" entry at the BC blog. I'll post the link here when it's up. Will probably just do one giant entry, updated throughout the day. The Head Chef is also on the way, and I have to sneak her into the press seating section, and keep her happy with free food and beer. So I don't know how often I'll be able to post here. Have a feeling this day is just going to fly by.....

Saturday (with updates)

- It's still raining, but today, it's hot. Around 70 degrees, but with the humidity, and compared to yesterday, I'm sweating here in the APB. A t-shirt and shorts would have been more appropriate.

The parking lot was pretty empty when I came in (except for the Media Lot), but the fans will be streaming in as the day goes on for sure. Again, tons of seats being sold outside, and you know which ones are under cover because they're being loudly advertised as so. The smart people who arrived early without having purchased tickets have grabbed seats indoors on the third floor, nice job.

A couple of scratches - Slew's Tiznow is out of the Juvenile, and Wait A While, who detests soft turf, is out of the F&M Turf. Too bad from a wagering perspective on the latter. After Market has not yet been scratched from the Mile, but I expect he likely will be (and certainly should be based on what Sherriffs has said).

The track is, obviously, labeled 'sloppy,' and it's very wet, with water standing on top. The turf is designated as 'soft.' But we're on the turf!!

- One of the giant screens in the infield is malfunctioning, and there's a big box of white and black stripes just around where the odds for the '2' horse is supposed to be.

Corinthian got a preliminary 119 for his Dirt Mile and Seventy Yards; second highest of the year behind Midnight Lute. 101 for Maryfield, and an 85 for Nownownow. All that plus picks over at Cristblog.

They have Bwana Bull at 8-5 for the first race. This is the Pegasus, usually run at the Big M. Helsinki is second choice, and I hate him here, there, and everywhere. Now A Victor looks interesting stretching out for Trombetta; currently at 7-2.

Saturday Morning After and Before

- Woke up and looked outside and gee, guess what? It's cloudy and wet. In the three days I've been at the track thus far, there hasn't been a single ray of sunshine. Should the sun peek through by Classic time as is considered a possibility, it will be a triumph (and maybe we'll actually be able to see them turning for home). But looking at the weather map, even that seems a distant possibility. They're still calling for a possible inch of rain, and the line of green on the doppler radar stretches all the way down to Atlanta.

Despite the foul conditions, a crowd of 27,803 was on hand. A statement released in the name of Dennis Dowd of the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority said:

"Friday's card more than exceeded our expectations. Despite the weather we had a tremendous crowd come out and support the Breeders' Cup card and, save the weather, we couldn't be happier with the way things turned out."

The entire Monmouth Park team has been on overdrive for the past few months and from the feedback I've received, the fans have not only recognized this, they've truly appreciated it."
On one hand, it sounds like the latest statement from the White House assuring us that steady progress is being made in Iraq. But indeed it was a great crowd I thought, and I myself didn't see too many unhappy faces (other than those waiting on the betting lines on the 4th floor grandstand...Case noted that many of the self-service machines seemed to be not working. I'd recommend the first floor clubhouse, where I was told things were much better, but I don't know what the deal is with getting in there if you bought the $50 general admission.) So I agree that kudos are in order for the folks at Monmouth that have worked so hard to stage this event.

I listened to the calls, and it's true that Denman missed Maryfield until they passed the sixteenth pole. I could see how you might have thought that was Miraculous Miss. Great job by Lenny hitting that triple, and I know that Patrick also had Miraculous Miss on top, and would have had the late Pick three, eek. You can give Trevor a pass based on the poor visibility and idiotic saddle cloths, but the call was gloomily reminiscent of Street Sense last year. And, as a couple of readers noted, he called Cannonade instead of Cannonball late in the Juvie Turf, and called Achill Island, Achill Hill early on. He did get Nownownow though, and I liked his "looked like he just jumped in at the quarter pole" line.

By the way, I saw a statement by Jim Gluckson of NTRA saying that the saddle cloth situation will be reviewed, but for now they've opted for the "branding" that they feel the purple cloths provide. That's what the man said.

I was looking at the first three races on the card today; thought maybe I'd hook something up singling Izarra in the Juvie Fillies. But these races, especially the second and third, look even harder than the BC races!! Man, these are impossible, especially the third, the Select Stakes for three-year olds. (Buffalo Man makes his first start since being briefly fancied as a Derby horse after winning at Ocala.) But that was looking at them late last night after a very long day, so maybe they'll make more sense today. Nice races though if you're up early today (11 AM post time).

As for me, I'm planning on heading over at around 9:30 or so. The Head Chef wants to come later, and given the rain, who can blame her. So she'll take a taxi over later in the day. As I've said, I'm supposed to live blog for the BC site. Don't know how that's going to work out, but I'll be hanging out here too, so, if for some strange reason you're looking at blogs during this day of days, please check it out.

Patrick Biancone was apparently kicked off the grounds yesterday, even though his agreement with the KHRA specifically allowed him to be least if Monmouth was in Kentucky I guess. He was on the backstretch in the morning, but was asked to leave the premises.
"Patrick Biancone had previously submitted a trainer-transfer agreement to the New Jersey Racing Commission indicating Francois Parisel was now training the horses....I spoke to him by telephone and reminded him of the trainer-transfer agreement. I asked him to leave the barn area, and he complied." [NY Post]
I guess that's it for now. I'll of course discuss the results of yesterday's races, as well as today's in more detail once the dust mud settles over the next few days.

But quickly, as for Discreet Cat, the Godolphin team was bewildered, a familiar pose for them with this horse these days. “Maybe it was the ground, or maybe it was his throat." Sounded like they're not giving up quite yet. As far as the race goes, didn't mean to disparage the excellent performance by Corinthian, but I still think that the dirt Mile needs to be a one-turn Mile in order to really make it a unique event worthy of a "championship" race designation, if, that is, it's going to be billed that way.

Speak to you from the track.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dregs Mile

- The Dirt Mile lived down to its reputation as a consolation race for second stringers, when Corinthian romped in a race that fell apart. Discreet Cat never threatened once again, in another rather disinterested performance. I wonder if he'll ever race again.

More on all this later, or at some point. Gotta go and pick up the Head Chef. The seats I scored for tomorrow are on the apron, so I'm gonna try and sneak her into Section 8 up here for the press. It was pretty empty today. Again, I'll be live blogging on the BC site tomorrow. Don't know how many people will be reading blogs tomorrow, and again, if it were up to me....

The Head Chef awaits, so I'm outta here. Speak to you later.


- I wonder if Biancone will be in the interview tent? Wow, a wild finish, and this horse came from absolutely nowhere at 12-1, edging out Achill Island. Prussian, who went off the favorite for Mott, set the pace and was challenged by The Leopard. But the speed was engulfed by the closers. Prussian faded to third to last. The final time of 1:40.1 was a full second slower than the 2 yo filly stakes run earlier. Don't know if that's because the course is getting softer, or that the colts just weren't much. I remember picking this colt in his first race at Keeneland for the Special and he ran second.

Discreet Cat opened at 6-5; second longest shot is 5-1 at this time...

- We can't really hear Denman's calls here. How's he doing?


- Dream Rush out sprinted La Traviata through insane fractions of 21.1 and 44, setting up a wild finish. This track is as fair as can possibly be as far as speed/closers. When there's been a contested pace, closers have won; and the dominant front-runners have gone on to win. Maryfield took the race at 8-1 for Doug O'Neill, his third BC win (Thor's Echo, Stevie Wonderboy) and she outlasted 43-1 Miraculous Miss in a driving finish. It is electric here, despite the gloomy weather. With 5-1 Miss Macy Sue third, and 18-1 Baroness Thacher 4th, people are muttering that the super came back very light at $6,000 for a buck; and the triple only $878. Someone speculated that someone may have just loaded up on the closers, figuring on a destructive speed duel. I had that part of the race right, but the wrong closer, though Miss Macy Sue ran well. Maryfield is by Elusive Quality.

On to the Juvie Turf, and I have to be honest and tell you that I've barely even looked at this race. This is little different from the Pilgrim Stakes, except for a couple of foreigners thrown in...

- Nine minutes to post. The bettors are going for the Euro horses, Achill Island at 3-1 and Strike the Deal at 5-1. Prussian second choice at 9-2.

The good news is that the betting machines in the APB are now hooked up.

Jessica Chapel is here for the Form, but has been relegated to the lowly main pressbox.

Track Seems Fair (w/updates)

- A blistering pace in the 7th, a six furlong stakes; a first quarter of 21.3. Margo's Gift came out of nowhere up the rail at 26-1. She was ignored shipping in fro Emerald Downs (take note Smarty Deb fans). The final time was 1:10. The track certainly seems to be playing more or less evenly. We've had closers win two distance races, and this one now at a sprint. Tessa Blue and Throbbin Heart, who wired their fields, certainly had license to do so.

F&M Sprint coming up in 20 minutes. They've switched many of the TV's to the interview tent, and I guess a lot of the reporters will be going down there.

I'm looking for a similar pace scenario to the last race in the F&M Sprint, with Shaggy Mane, La Traviata, and Dream Rush. I like Miss Macy Sue a lot, and she's 5-1. I'm looking at that daily double bet with tomorrow's Sprint; play her with Smokey Stover, Greg's Gold, and maybe Idiot Proof, I can't decide about him.

- There are long, long betting lines up here, and the two pressbox machines aren't yet hooked up. Imagine how long they'll be tomorrow. Another thing I didn't take care of before I left was filling up my NYRA One account.... Time to go find a place to bet.

Quack Quack

- Another temporary glitch, as my computer got hot and shut down, man....

- You may not want to read this unless you're a duck. Track super Bob Giordano said that we're expecting some heavy rain between 4 and 5 today. Then, heavy rain is expected after 7, maybe an inch of rain! It's supposed to taper off between 1 and 1:50. And maybe, if we're lucky, the sun could poke through for the Classic. But he said there's no way he could see that the track will be fast for the Classic. Muddy-good the best possible scenario, and he doesn't see it being harrowed at any time.

He also said that the inner portion of the turf course has not been used since Haskell day on Aug 5. Until that is, the just completed 6th race, the Epitome stakes. Frankie Dettori took the lead on Joffe's Run, but it was ultimately the Toddster with Sea Changer at 8-1; third winner of the day for Johnny V. The fraction were a quick 23.3, then slowed to 49.1, and 1:14; so the splits were certainly not overly slow.

Back to Giordano, he also said that the new cushion of the main track makes it slower to dry out.

Kiss of Death

- So these guys in suits came up here and they all posed for a couple of group pictures. Then, one of the guys turns and asks no one is particular how the internet connection is working. "Compared to other places, is it fast or slow?" I swear, the second the words came out of his mouth, several people in the area totally lost connectivity. Including me, of course.

Sharon of the BC staff is extremely helpful so I just wanted to give her a shout out. She helped me when I couldn't get online on Wednesday, and took care of getting the electrical problem fixed to. I'm back at my real spot now where Davidowitz is. Still no more chocolate cake. Maybe I'll actually try to bet this next race. I wanted to watch the video from Keeneland and bet with my NYRA account, but I can no longer open Windows Media. Jeez..

- The turf has been downgraded to yielding, and the sixth race, the Epitome BC Stakes, is on the grass.

Updates.... (with updates)

- The official turf condition is, I'm told, 'good.' I heard Gluckson talk about what I mentioned the other day, that the grass was so totally rock hard that it can handle a lot of rain. Which is exactly what's expected later today and tonight.

My picks for tomorrow are up on the BC site now, if you care..

- Hunting came off the pace to win the 4th at 6-5, or something like that. I'm having trouble paying attention to anything, no less actually handicap and bet. I'm really going to need to plan out and make all of my wagers in advance for tomorrow. And I'm still pissed about the simulcasting. It's like the Breeders' Cup is the NCAA, and just takes over its venues and declares blanket exclusivity. I know in the past, there couldn't be advertising at an arena where there was a basketball tourney game. Don't know if that's still the case, because they'd have to board up half the arena!!

- I know it's a serious day in here because the chocolate cake disappeared in about fifteen minutes!

- I thought Hunting was a bet-against, being that his one race around two turns was a dismal one. He seems to like the slop. Shug trains the winner, and he doesn't have a Breeders' Cup runner this year, does he?

- They just played the national anthem, and most everyone in the auxiliary press box (heretofore known as the APB) stood and was silent. A couple of guys remained seated however. Must be some of those...........French people or something!


- Wouldn't you know it; just when I get set up with my own spot, with my own "Breeders" (no apostrophe) sticker and Davidowitz sitting right across the way, the power goes out in my section of the room. Getting a new computer battery is one of the things I didn't get around to before leaving....

They're working on the problem, but I've now moved; thanks to Greg Hall and Jeannie Rees of the Courier-Journal for allowing me to occupy a spot.

There's no simulcasting here today, which really blows. Why, I'd like to know, were they selling the simulcast edition in addition to the regular one if there's no simulcasting?? I should go and demand my $1.50 back.

No Brad Thomas here today, due to TVG's hijacking of the in-house telecast. That's all of our loss....

The track is muddy; speed held well the first two, and I think Hawkinsville might have come off the pace, but I was dealing with moving and kinda missed the race. Be back....

- Gluckson just came by to tell Jeannie Rees that the track super will appear here in the auxiliary pressbox to talk about the track conditions. So I'll of course let you know what he says.

- I was driving home from the Grey Goose party, and I could only pick up the Rangers-Devils game on the Devils station. Sherry Ross, who covered racing for the NY Daily News in addition to her Devils' beat, is now the teams color commentator. I don't know if she's still with the paper at all. But she's certainly not here. I wonder if she was happy being at the Rangers 2-0 win instead. (The Rangers have given up a total of one goal during actual play time of the last three games [including one overtime], but only gained three of the six points for the game.)

- I overheard a couple of people ask Gluckson if the turf races would ever be taken off the grass, and he said that, if there was ever a situation in which it truly became dangerous, they probably just wouldn't run the event. Someone posted half-kidding about moving the entire event for Sunday, when the weather is supposed to be gorgeous. What a shame for the people who have planned the event, but the show will go on and I'm sure it's going to still be a great day. As long as I have power.

Breeders' Cup Day (1)

- Today is an official Breeders' Cup day, no doubt about it. Cops with machine guns are always a good tipoff. There looks like a big crowd, and there's a buzz going on. The in-house telecast is decked in purple, and has been taken over by TVG.

There are people with fistfuls of tickets for sale outside, so if you're thinking about whether to come without them, I'd say to give it a shot.

The track is very wet. It's labeled muddy, but looks more like slop. It didn't rain overnight, and there were actually some winds that felt of the clearing variety. But that's not expected to come for sure until, of course, Saturday night. And the track has a lot of moisture; this well before the rains that are predicted to envelope the area as the day/night/overnight goes on. The track is apparently going to be quite sloppy.

The Grey Goose party last night was awesome. These guys know how to throw a party, I'll tell you that. They had two huge adjoining ballrooms, one with Southside Johnny, one without. They had tons and tons of food, of which I partook very generously. But I didn't get to see Southside Johnny. By 9PM, they still had not started, and I had had enough.

OK, time for the second race....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Night

- As I was leaving, I was officially informed that I would have a spot to sit tomorrow. It's over in the far corner, not a prime location, but it's closer to the betting machines. There are no functioning machines in the pressbox now; two were brought in today but weren't hooked up. I have to say that even though the people running the room sometimes feel distant, they actually have been very attentive to every individual's problem, both with the seating and the internet problem on Wednesday.

Gonna do my picks for the races on Saturday for the BC blog tonight (after checking out the Gray Goose party). The worst I could be is wrong, so I'll have some fun and try to beat most of the favorites. I gotta tell you that the weather forecast blows. What a freaking pity; I almost feel embarrassed someone who lives in the region. I'm just gonna stick to the basics for the picks and hope for the best. On a day like today, I just lose interest when the track is sloppy Obviously that won't be the case the next two days, but I'm surely going to be more conservative with my betting.

Whaddya Know? (with updates)

- Frank the Barber was a dead closer winning the 8th. I think that's the first time I've seen a horse that seemed out of it turning for home actually come on and win. The rain has mostly stopped, and the track could be tiring for the last two today. Or maybe not, because this horse certainly seems to love the slop.

I pissed away a few bucks on the 6th Keeneland, but it was nice to see some dry ground anyway.

Here's a quote from the media notes about Miss Macy Sue, who I fancy in the F&M Sprint tomorrow. Regarding what now seems like a likely wet track, trainer Kelly Von Hemel said: "She doesn't mind anything....She has won at Hawthorne, which is knee-deep sand; at Hot Springs, which is deeper sand, and won at Prairie Meadows, which is rock solid. We have yet to find a surface she doesn't like and I hope it is not here."

I think you have to stick to basics when handicapping Saturday's races, and not get too psyched out by the track condition. These are good horses that, in at least some cases, are more likely to adapt to adverse conditions I think.

- According to some Media Notes: Europeans have taken 31 of 169 (18 percent) Breeders' Cup races to date which lines up exactly with their participation percentage....The Score now stands France 14, England 12, and Ireland 5. 26 of those victories have been accomplished on the turf course, five on the main track.

- The guy from Dubai called the 9th; and the UK's Mark Johnson will call the finale. The prior race seemed typical of the sprints. A stalker took the lead from the front-runner turning for home; then a closer was presented, had absolute dead aim, but just could not pass the front-runner. Of course, we'll be dealing with a different caliber of horse on Saturday.

Tomorrow's card is excellent, excellent, excellent!! Not a claiming tag to be found and, of course, the three new Breeders' Cup races.

- I bet against Shug's favored Parading at Keeneland with poor results. He's been beaten favorite three times in his career, but not today. Got sucked into Warn, bet on the nose after a poor effort at Saratoga.

There's the big Gray Goose party tonight, with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. To be honest, I was never a fan of the band. In fact, I was never even a fan of Bruce, I must admit. In around 1973-4 or so, I was at Union College in Schenectady, and Springsteen was touring in support of Born to Run. He was still on the downlow tip, but the word was that he was fantastic in concert. He played at the little chapel on campus, and I didn't go. Perhaps it would have changed my life if I had. I've never seen him live to this day. Word is that there's a special guest playing tonight, but Bruce is in California I'm told. Rumor has it that it's Frankie Valli.

Ninth coming up at Keeneland, as we're all done with the live races. Frankel has a three-year old filly first-timer named Soothing Touch, who opened as the 2-1 favorite (5-1 morning line). This is a $550,000 yearling, so it's been a long time coming for her debut. She's by Touch Gold, out of an AP Indy half-sister to the dam of the Arc winner Bago; and the second dam is a half to the Group 1 winner Exit to Nowhere, and a full to the successful sire and French champion Machiavellian.

- I ran all over the track - literally - to try and get a bet down on the Keeneland race, but all the tellers were gone, and I couldn't find any machine that would take cash. I was happy when my selection lost, but then annoyed because it was my man Graham Motion who had the winner, Euro import Siamese Cat.

I'm outta here now...been a long day...

$#@&! (with updates)

- I went down to get a simulcast edition of the Form, and the guy in front of me bought the last one in the house. This caused me to utter my first profanity of the trip. Perhaps, it saved me from spouting others throughout the day....but it was rather frustrating. The regular edition only has Keeneland in addition to the sloppy Mth and Aqu.....not even Santa Anita? I didn't buy it just out of spite....and because I'm cheap.

Update: Formulator doesn't seem to be working; can't download anything. Jess??

- Through a fortuitous series of events, I've scored free seats for myself AND the Head Chef for Saturday. Well? I deserve it, doncha think? I also found out that I'm going to be live blogging for the BC site that day. I have kinda mixed feelings about that - I told that Sports Conference Call last night that my goal was to NOT have to work on Saturday. But I guess it will be fun. Moran has to do the news angle; I just have to talk about betting and the odds, so it will be like thinking out loud.

The Fire Inspector is here, and they're talking to Jim Gluckson of NTRA. They are apparently NOT happy about the setup here. There are desks that are blocking two of the main doors, and it may violate the rules. Gluckson doesn't look particularly happy; this is the section where all of the copious Media Notes are being compiled (check them out at the BC site). There's not much room to rearrange. I already don't have a real seat, so if they want me to do my thing on Saturday, they better find one for me!

OK, I'm back to Monmouth. Mott has a colt named Bearish here who's raced twice on the grass, and he's the 2-1 favorite. Seems worth looking into. Author TD Thornton will be on the mike for race six.

The fire inspector is saying things like "full access." That can't be good.

- Dixie Chatter is out of the Juvenile.

- Bearish won at 7-5; good thing I didn't pull the trigger. As I said, I have no feel for sloppy tracks. She was absolutely dead last on the backstretch, but was in front by the time they turned for home....even the horses that do close are generally right there by that time. Of course, we're hoping against hope that the track will be least harrowed on Saturday and that today's trends will mean nothing.

The 7th was originally a nice little turf stakes, with Mauralakana, trained by Francois Parisel, Naissance Royale, and Roshani. They've all scratched, what a drag.

- Major rearrangements in the wake of the Fire Inspector's visit. Definitely even less room than before. I don't really know where they're going to find a spot for me on Saturday if they really want me to live blog.

Elegant Not!

- A new post up at the Breeders' Cup blog now.

- The Toddster took the second with Sunday Elegance, and I wouldn't necessarily attribute his dominant front-running win to a speed bias. Johnny V. did his thing nursing him on the lead, and he just poured it on to win by daylight. He was just cruising, as much the best. She's a daughter of Sunday Silence out of an Unbridled's Song mare making her first start two-turns dirt. Dan Loiselle from Woodbine was at the mike.

- The rain has picked up, and the track is sloppy, damn. That's a blow to my betting plans today. Since I finished my Breeders' Cup post for the day this morning, I have some time for action today. But once the track turns sealed, I tend to check out. I just don't like playing when the track is sloppy, though I'll have to do the best I can should that be the case on Saturday.

The weather outlook is not good. It's supposed to clear out seriously Saturday night into Sunday, so we just gotta hope that it does so earlier than they expect.

Aqueduct is sloppy too, so I think I'll go buy a Form and check out Keeneland.

Improvising Still

- So I'm set up in the auxiliary press box today. No, there's still no official spot for me, and he guy said something like "Yeah, I gotta talk to them, there's a few of you who don't have spots" There's actually a guy sitting at The Trentonian spot. So I have an improvised spot. It's the table where they have all the ethernet routers for the unfortunate amongst us who still can't get on wirelessly. I feel like I'm kinda in the way, but too bad.

I spent the morning at the hotel writing my BC post, so I feel free to have a little fun. The track is muddy, but harrowed. It continues to drizzle, slightly but incessantly. I know at least one of the grass races is off the turf.

Updates - The wireless problem is fixed! I must say they were very nice and helpful in attending to the issue. But I'm still sitting at the table with all the routers and cables.

Cool - it's announcer's day!! The incomparable Larry Levinson Lederman (you'd think I'd get his name right if I'm complementing him like that!) is calling the first; he presently plies his trade at the Freehold harness track, which I drove right by yesterday. Man, that place brings back memories, but for a later time. A couple of Brits made fun of Larry Collmus for saying "the one and only Larry Levinson Lederman." Little do they know.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Thursday Morning

- Continuing to have some connectivity problems; couldn't get online with my laptop at my friend's where I was staying. So I'll post some photos now. I'm at the Breeders' Cup Media Center in the Sheraton Hotel Eatontown. I suppose I could be on the backstetch but it's cool and rainy and besides, they hand out detailed notes with quotes from all the trainers throughout the day in the press box. So why not let others do all the work for me?

So I'm in the "work room." There's another reporter here - or I guess I should say - there's a reporter here, a real one, who was just on the phone with Richard Schosberg. Atilla's Storm is out of the Sprint. So there's just a little less speed in that race.

Yesterday just flew by at the track, but what else is new? Monmouth has always had too little time between races for my taste. Just about 20 minutes I'd say, and the races really fly by. Between that and my internet problems, I didn't bet any races yesterday....until on the way out, when I saw that Keeneland's 9th was coming up. Cody Autrey had the favorite; I'd remembered this horse, Engineered, from when I was at Del Mar. Autrey was out there was some stock he had claimed in Kentucky, and not doing very well, and I recall betting against him. He ran second; that was for 50K, and now he was in for $7500! Talk about your suspicious favorite!! So he was 3-2 here, but horses like this just have to be totally opposed. Indeed, he finished 5th, and though I didn't catch the winner, I had the right idea. A lot of good that does me.

Yup, that's the auxiliary pressbox, in there (not the Rest Room). Doesn't seem as if it was a nice bar either.

There's Curlin, schooling in the paddock before Wednesday's 5th race, with assistant Scott Blasi on the left. Even with my lousy photography, you can tell he's an absolute monster!

Tiago, also schooling in the paddock before the 5th race. He ain't no Curlin, but still, not bad.

Randy Moss and Joe Tessitore out for some schooling too.

Don't plan on hanging out on the apron if you don't have seats.

Speak to you later.

Rail Looks Live

- Tiger D.R. held on along the rail after a long duel in the 7th; as did Mrs. Anna B in the 6th. The inside certainly seems live.

Forget about the photos for now....left my camera cable in the car....

Cry and Catch Me is scratched from the Juvie Fillies with a fever. She looked to be the main speed threat to her stablemate Indian Blessing.


- Things have not been going smoothly thus far. After straightening out the credentials, I got to the auxiliary press box, a converted eatery so it seems. There's no spot for me, but I'm not being picked on. There's actually no spots for anyone from So I was sitting at the Trentonian's spot, and actually it's pretty empty here today.

But I've been unable to get online. It says I have a connection, but I can't get through. Turns out there's some kind of incompatibility issue between Dell and HP computers, and the wireless network here (Jessica beware!!). I found two extremely nice women who are trying to help, and they hooked me up with an ethernet wire for now. So I'm sitting at a table by myself, but at least I got online.

The track was originally labeled muddy, now good, but it's been harrowed all day. And yes, the speed horses are doing well, except in the route race, in which Judith's Symphony crept up the rail on the turn from far back and emerged between horses in the stretch. Closers rally in the stretch and get close, but they hang and can't seem to get by. I guess this is all familiar to those who are familiar with the track.

Be back shortly with a couple of pictures of Curlin schooling in the paddock.


- When I pack up my car for a track trip, it's usually for Saratoga. So I was thinking scenic drive and Friehoefer's this morning. The line of traffic waiting to get on the BQE jolted me back to reality. The roads leading to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge seem to exist solely for the purpose of doing construction on them, and the trip was s-l-o-w.

I haven't driven to Monmouth in two years; three years since it wasn't raining on the way. That streak remains intact. It's gray, drizzly, getting cooler, and the forecast for Saturday isn't great (though good news that the winds seem to be dying down out in California).

My biggest fear was that I would get to the BC Media Center at the Sheraton and there'd be no credentials for me. Guess what?? It took a phone call to NTRA's Jim Gluckson to straighten it out. Makes me feel like I'm not really welcome! But now I have my pass; it's number 2633. I don't know what this means for my chances of having a spot in the auxiliary press box to sit and write/blog/handicap from. So if I don't get a post up on the BC blog today, you'll know why.

But now I'm fully equipped, and you should see the package of goodies I got, oh man. Besides detailed biographical and statistical information on all the runners and winners past that I could blog off for the rest of the year, I got a nice size cooler, which I won't be permitted to bring into the track. There's a big Breeders' Cup beach towel (also probably too dangerous to bring in; I could smother somebody with it), a TVG woolly cap, a small pair of binoculars, and something from Gray Goose that appears to be some kind of martini related glass/shaker? I wouldn't know about martinis. And I thought they're made with gin anyway? Sue?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Odds and Ends

- Unbridled Belle is another horse I like who fared poorly in the draw with number 11. I think she may be taken out of her game with so much speed, both front-running and tactical, inside of her. From that post, I think Dominguez will have to lay back further than in the past, or risk getting hung wide into the turn. But I also think she still may be good enough now to win, though her 9-2 morning line seems like borderline value at best.

Excellent Art drew the 13 in the Mile and was tabbed at the 3-1 favorite. That post just about ensures that he's going to have to close from 14th place. Remarkable News drew the 14, but I could see him clearing the field by the turn. The presence of Kip Deville and Cosmonaut should however ensure a fair pace. I like the six post draw by Trippi's Storm, and think I'd be all over him at 8-1. After Market and Jeremy also drew well and have strong closing kicks. Nobiz Like Shobiz is an intriguing prospect, but I'm not sure that the turnback to a mile suits him.

I think that Shore Do (five post) is the biggest morning line overlay of the day at 30-1 in the Juvenile.

The F&M Turf starts right before the grandstand turn, so that can't be good for the horses drawn outside. The good news, at least from a sporting aspect, is that the four top contenders all drew inside, promising what should be a fair and spirited contest. 3-1 seems like a fair price to me for Nashoba's Key.

I think that out of every horse in the Classic, the only one that I would be shocked, or shocked, as Mad Dog would say, if he wins is Diamond Stripes. Not that there's anything wrong with a four-year old son of Notebook who's never been out of the money in eight starts. But he seemed as if he's just a cut below Grade 1 when he ran third in three of them over the summer. I didn't think his Meadowlands Cup was a step forward, and wonder if the distance will be to his liking. Awesome Gem was made 30-1, which seems high for a horse who finished a bare nose behind Tiago....

....who I think you gotta consider at his 12-1 morning line. It's a long run to the first turn, so I don't think that the nine post will be too bad. I'm a little surprised that Brad Thomas made Lawyer Ron the morning line favorite. My opinion is that it will be Curlin.

Juvenile Favorites Draw Well

- I'm going to be on The Sports Conference Call tomorrow night. Walter put me up to it. It should be fun, except that it originates from Las Vegas, so it's from 11 - 1 AM New Jersey time, so I only committed for the first hour. We'll have to see after that. Anyway, you can listen live if you sign up and call in, but you may prefer, if you're interested of course, listening to the MP3 playback the next day.

I leave for Monmouth tomorrow morning as early as I can get up and go. The re-opening of the track for workouts at 8:30 seems doubtful at best....but the media luncheon at noon is a lock.

Some of the horses I liked the most have taken hits in the last 36 hours or so, especially in the Juvenile. Tale of Ekati had his too fast half mile workout (which I discussed at the BC site), and didn't draw great with the ten post. Salute the Sarge drew the 12, yuck. Wicked Style has the 13, but I guess he's used to that. In the Juvie Fillies, A to the Croft got the 14, oh man.

Worse yet, the speedy favorites in each of the two-year old races, who I want to oppose, drew excellent inside posts. War Pass (5-2) has the two hole; Indian Blessing (3-1), the four. The latter got rave reviews for her five furlong workout the other day, (but hell, what Baffert horse doesn't work lights out in the morning?). And admittedly, there are no other obvious speedballs in either race - even Wicked Style is really a stalker at heart, I think. Nonetheless, I'm going to stick to principles here. For one thing, you never know who's going to go flash high speed in rich races like this, especially with young horses stretching out. More importantly, with these two likely favorites trying two turns for the first time in large, talented fields like this, they're automatic bet-againsts in my opinion; and I'm not going to lose any sleep nor confidence if they win (though it may cost me a little money).

Late Post Time

- Sorry to be late with my Breeders' Cup post today, but it's up now. I was stuck at work and the internet went down while I was in the process of posting it during my lunch break. Needless to say, I was just a little itsy bitsy bit FRUSTRATED!!

Anyway, please check it out, and I'll be back here a bit later tonight with some comments on the post position draw.

I Guess He Likes the Track

- Check out the fractions of Street Sense's five furlong workout in 1:01 1/5 this morning:

Clockers caught Jim Tafel’s son of Street Cry in :26, :38, :50 2/5 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:12 2/5. [Bloodhorse]
That means he got the fifth furlong in :10 4/5!

Notes - Oct 23

- We've been concerned about the weather forecast for Monmouth this weekend; and while that outlook has brightened just a bit, any concern for track conditions of course pale in comparison to what's going on in Southern California. We'd gladly turn the approaching rainy weather system around and send it back west to replace the hot, dry winds that are fanning the flames. Del Mar racetrack is being used as an evacuation area, even as surrounding communities, including Solana Beach, where the Head Chef and I stayed this past summer, are being evacuated. A reader from the area wrote me last night that the fires are around ten miles from that coastal area. We of course hope that the firefighters gain control of the situation, and that the loss of property everywhere is stemmed.

Horse owners from around the area have been flocking to the track, and the 2400 stalls are now filled. As many as 300,000 horses live in the county, and when people flee from the fires, so do the horses. [SignOnSanDiego]

- Aqueduct opens on Wednesday, and I almost fell off my chair when I read about 400,000 square feet of freshly painted halls, a completely made-over box-seat area, and a new simulcast room. [DRF] Wow. Renovations at the Big A. A new era must indeed be on the way. Sounds like they've been working on the track as well.

"The track this summer and fall has been terrific," [Richard Violette] said. "It's been very consistent; it's had a lot of life to it. Most mornings you can't hear them gallop over it."

Monday, October 22, 2007


- New post up at

Reality has set in for your industrious but weary blogger. I've been able to keep up pretty well here while posting twice a week over at the BC site thus far. But now, I'm on a one-a-day schedule there, plus I'm heading to Monmouth Wednesday morning after having to work full days at my real jobs today and Tuesday. So rather than put undue pressure on myself (and to have at least some time to handicap the other races so I can do some serious betting myself and build up my bankroll for Saturday, hee hee), the Head Chef has advised me to let you know that posting here will be subject to my ability to find the time to do so from here on in through the weekend. So please check in at the BC site (or via the list of those posts I update on the side). Over here, I plan to post photos, tidbits from the scene, and, if I possibly can, some live blogging during the races. Plus anything else I can squeeze in.

I'm figuring that the franchise issue will wait and not be resolved in the meantime....and I'm betting that the Big A will still be around when I return. Thanks as always for stopping by, and I'll see you over at for the rest of the week (though please do check out LATG as well, where I'll do the best I can).

- Probably won't get through my preliminary looks at all of the races, but I did want to get to the Distaff, perhaps my favorite betting race. This is the race that I find that I have probably my strongest opinions so far. I'll start by telling you who I don't like.

I don't like Balance. She hasn't won since March when the competition was softer, and her effort here at Belmont was mediocre even with a compromised start. I'm not crazy about Ginger Punch, despite the fact that she's been supplemented to the race. She disappointed in the Beldame around the one turn that I believe she prefers. Her only two turn race was the Go For Wand, which she won by six; but that was in a field I consider to be a weak one, including Teammate, who I really don't think too highly of at all. (Always a bit risky saying that about a Jerkens horse.)

Hystericalady had no excuse in the world when she was beaten by Tough Tiz's Sis, another filly I don't care for that much, in the Lady's Secret at Oak Tree. The 96 that the latter earned that day is her career high. If I can't use the Beyers to distinguish slower runners from faster ones in a race like this, what could are they? Hystericalady has that win over the Monmouth track, but she set a slow pace against a weak field on a track that may have been more speed-favoring than it will on Saturday. So I don't like either of those fillies in the Distaff.

I don't like Lear's Princess, though perhaps I'll like her in the F&M Turf next year. I love her grass races, but I think she hangs on the dirt, despite her win over the injured Rags to Riches in the Gazelle. Bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, who bought her on behalf of West Point, told Bloodhorse this morning: "She’s more comfortable on the turf but she runs on the dirt."

So you may realize that we're starting to get down to the Toddster's entries. Indian Vale (AP Indy) is a tough one to figure in my view. Earlier in her career, it looked like she was a two-turn specialist; now it's harder to say. She was game as can be in the one-turn Beldame at Belmont, but disappointed around two in her prior two efforts. Those were at a mile and a quarter though, and it's certainly worth keeping in mind that she's six-for-six around two turns at nine furlongs.

Unbridled Belle (Broken Vow) looks like a filly who has really come around here late in her four-year old season. She showed tremendous late acceleration and an unwavering will to win when she overcame traffic to get up late in the Beldame. Whereas I originally attributed her two good races at Delaware to open her year the result of her liking the track (she won twice there last year), now she just looks like a filly who's improved and who loves the game. Both Jay Privman in the Form ("looked particularly sharp going five furlongs in 1:01.28, followed by a strong gallop out"), and Karen M. Johnson in Bloodhorse ("looked powerful"), gave her Sunday work rave reviews.

I also like Octave (Unbridled's Song) at could be a double digit price. She has won twice this year, so I wouldn't necessarily call her a cheater despite all the times she's finished second. With her tactical speed, consistency (only once worse than second in 12 starts, all but two Grade 1's or 2's), she could be amongst the best value of the day.

Also have to mention Lady Joanne (Orientate), another fantastically consistent three-year old - she's never been out of the money in ten starts, and has only her narrow losses to Panty Raid and Octave in her last seven races. I'm thinking exotics for her, but may have to use her on top in the Pick 3's as well.