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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moving On

Rap Tale came out of the Affectionately better than she did after the Ladies Handicap; that according to trainer Bruce Brown (four for his last 12 at the Big A, with two of those coming off claims). What's next is unclear. Part of the problem is that she won out of her first two allowance conditions at Philly Park in relatively slow races and against moderate competition. As Bob asked me yesterday, do you think she'd really have a better chance in a NW3x allowance here than she did in these two stakes? I mean, Yet Again hadn't been running any faster than Rap Tale of late. And this race fell apart badly. The winner only had to come home in 25.64 and 6.94 in the last three sixteenths to draw away by three! Who's to say that Rap Tale couldn't have not only gotten third, but won the whole thing had it unfolded differently?

A starters allowance or handicap might be a good spot as a reader suggested, but she's not eligible for the starters allowances we've been seeing, which generally exclude winners of a race other than maiden or claimer. And the starter handicaps have been for horses who have started for 16k or less, which she's also not eligible for. Another option is an optional claiming race with the lower allowance conditions which she's already surpassed; but we don't want to risk her for a tag at this point in time. Bruce Brown has done a good job scoping out those races at Philly, and I imagine she may ship out of town again. Further down the road, we'd like to give her another shot on the grass, and Virginia-bred stakes at Colonial are a possibility for later in the year.

Wherever she runs, it's a fair bet she'll have a different rider. Mike Luzzi told Bob after the race that Rap Tale was feeling so good that he decided to let her run, contrary to instructions. I don't make a habit of criticizing these guys - we all know the dangers they face each time they hop aboard, and they are regularly faced with split second decisions involving strategy and safety that are easy to second guess. So I generally don't, and I think that the record (in the form of this blog's archives) would back that up, other than some incidents of excessive or reckless whipping. But this was really, really disappointing. And it's been pointed out to me that Luzzi had ridden Spritely in her last four races, and was bumped for Dominguez by Pletcher here....and I'll just leave that at that. The Toddster's filly slowed to such a dead walk at the end that Rap Tale actually came within a length of catching her, and she then took a scary bad step after the wire.

- Jerry Bossert reported in the Daily News this past weekend that Underground Hero, who broke down in the second race on Friday, was the third fatality of 2009 at the Big A. This was a cheap maiden claiming race, so I didn't notice any of those schmaltzy oh my god isn't it terrible columns or blog posts like we saw for Wanderin Boy or Indyanne.

The thing is that, while only fanatical loonies would accuse the connections and/or riders of top stakes horse of cruelty, as we saw with Eight Belles, the case of Underground Hero is the kind about which far more reasonable (as in, sane) people could certainly be asking questions. The $160,000 son of Mineshaft debuted for a 75K tag in November, and passed tired horses for 5th. Here, in his second start, he was in for 16K, and was sent off at 8-5, yuck. While I have every confidence that Nick Zito would not have started the horse if he felt he was in danger, the appearance is bad, and would probably draw an investigation and statement by the stewards as a matter of routine in some racing jurisdictions overseas.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if the $160,000 sale was "arms length" or some buy back meant to artificially enhance the value of a sire's progeny? If it was a real price, you'd think the horse's confirmation, (bad confirmation and awkward strides do contribute to break downs) would be just fine. Whatever the case, to drop from 75k to 16k without an explanation to the stews and handicappers seems inappropriate. This is a prime example showing the "silly" business of horse claiming must be reconsidered.

Anonymous said...

Under my proposed rules (the anon LATG rules!) this horse would have been required to have a full set of x-rays on file in a repository as is required in most auctions of two year olds and an independent veterinary report including a full health history.

If an owner wishes to drop the horse more than two claim levels, the cost of x-rays and an in depth independent veterinary exam would be borne by the owner.

In many cases, owners of large stables wish to compete at the upper echelons and are more than willing to cull those that are never going to achieve those levels. With no true horses of racing age sale the only way to do so is by dropping them into a claimer. This is perfectly acceptable, but they should need to provide the same data that would be required in an auction.

Not implying anything was wrong in this case, it is very possible the horse just took a bad step.

My rules are meant both as a deterrent toward cruely and as a consumer confidence builder for punters.

I am sure the track vet does a fine job, but many punters remain skeptical due to perceived lack of independence.

This is simple to fix, but then again it might effect field size so it will never happen unless ALL tracks adopt the rule, pointing out once again the need for a true commissioner of racing.

El Angelo said...

I'm probably in the minority here, but I have no problem with dropping a horse that far in the claiming ranks and not requiring that the owner do anything to explain why. I think it's a fair assumption that any horse with that kind of a class plunge is an owner trying to unload a unsound horse.

Anonymous said...

don't you have anything more entertaining than to talk about Rap Tale geeeee give it break.You and your running 4th crap over and over. Oh yea she might of won the race if Luzzi followed orders or she could have ran 3rd , was a lengh behind Pletchers horse.

oh pleaseeeeeeeeeeeee

Anonymous said...

It's a fair assumption that a precipitous class drop means connections are trying to get rid of an unsound horse, but that raises the question of whether the move is ethical. If you know you have a horse that's unsound or sore, is it right to drop it to the bottom in hopes somebody will take it off your hands? Almost always, doing so isn't fatal to the horse, but then, a breakdown like Underground Hero or Cadillac Cruiser a couple years ago happens and it seems reasonable to wonder if there shouldn't be more protections for horses that pop up in these circumstances ... the breakdowns that happen to horses drastically dropping are the ones that most trouble me, suggesting as they do a cold willingness to send out an iffy horse in a situation where risk of racing injury or death is elevated, just to get it out of the barn and off the feed bill. Questions should be asked in these situations.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 10:09 -

When you get a chance please post an address or P.O. box number - I have some free grammar software I can send you (speaking of spare time). Meanwhile:

1.) We use capital letters at the beginning of every sentence.

2.) Question marks are used at the end of a question. The question mark key is found to the right and on the bottom of your keyboard.

3.) Commas are used to indicate pauses. The key for commas is also on the bottom, next to the letter 'M' on your keyboard.

4.) We say, "might have" and not "might of".

5.) The word 'length' has an 'h' as the last letter.

6.) We use an apostrophe to indicate possession, as in 'Pletcher's horse'. The apostrophe key is found to the far right, second row.

7.) "Could have run" is the proper tense construction, not "could have ran".

I hope these are helpful to you!

Anonymous said...

Alan, do you a career? what kind of work do you do for a living? your new fans would like to know. thanks Julie

Erin said...

With all the scrutiny faced by both dirt and all weather tracks, you'd think they'd want to be proactive about preventing trainers/owners from dropping unsound horses down like this. It may be the easiest way for the owner to unload the horse, either at the box or otherwise, but clearly it's risky-than-average racing for all those in the field when unsound horses are involved, and that brings unwanted attention to the track. Once again, racing "protecting" its own (as in the owner/trainer) makes racing its own worst enemy.

Anonymous said...

Would like to see a study of class/prior race class of breakdowns now that some are actually gathering data.

It is certainly as relevant as whethar a horse was wearing stickers or on certain medications.

I just feel the claiming game's time has past, if it were up to me it would be eliminated entirely and replaced by a handicap system as is done in some overseas jurisdictions.

There are any number of ways to do this, I have suggested the vet repository for entrants dropping more than one claiming level as a solution that does not change the entire structure of the game.

An alternate solution would be to revert to the good old days, when claimers weren't claimed but rather auctioned off AFTER the race, with the claiming price the reserve.

Anonymous said...

anon 11:20am

oh gee thanx for the grammer education. Now if u send me ur address I'll send you a trophy.

ur sooooooooooooooo smart

Alan Mann said...

Julie - Yes, I'm happy and fortunate these days to be gainfully employed as a financial consultant. I have new fans?

Anonymous said...

New fans. Seemingly so.

steve in nc said...

Alan, so you scored on your Kennedy prediction (did you play it in Vegas?) and you have new fans (when are you going to tell Julie about the Head Chef?). Oh, and that inauguration. Not a bad week so far. Maybe you should look into that P6 carryover.

At the risk of driving that anonymous dude off the deep end...

As for Rap Tale, the NW3x level is where so many horses get stuck. It is a good angle to play longshots dropping out of that level into moderate claiming company. If I happen to get Sheets next time she runs, I'll give you some unsolicited, no-charge (and worth every penny) advice.

Anonymous said...

financial consultant

LOL you gotta be kidding. Can you consult me on HUNCH bet tomorrow in Gulfstream.

what a loser you are

steve in nc said...

Alan doesn't sneak his hunch bet posts on us, he labels them "hunch bets." I think they're a waste, so I skip them. But I find other things he writes of value. If you don't, could you kindly get lost?

Or, could you at least take a name other than "anonymous" so people like me could identify your posts and skip them along with the hunch bets?

If you can't think of a pen name, I'm sure many of us would have some friendly suggestions for you.

Erin said...

I wrote to the NYRA about Underground Hero. Here's the exchange, if anyone is interested.

My email:

I'm writing because I was pretty disturbed by the good points Alan Mann makes in his Left at the Gate blog today regarding the breakdown of Underground Hero last Friday at Aqueduct:
(portion of Alan's blog related to Underground Hero here)
I would urge NYRA or Aqueduct's stewards to investigate this matter. As I commented on the blog post, "with all the scrutiny faced by both dirt and all weather tracks, you'd think [the NYRA would] want to be proactive about preventing trainers/owners from dropping unsound horses down like this. It may be the easiest way for the owner to unload the horse, either at the box or otherwise, but clearly it's riskier-than-average racing for all those in the field when unsound horses are involved, and that brings unwanted attention to the track. Once again, racing "protecting" its own (as in the owner/trainer) makes racing its own worst enemy."

I hope the NYRA would agree that being proactive in investigating a matter such as this sends an important message to fans and detractors of racing alike.

Erin Thompson

The response:

I appreciate your concern about Underground Hero and I respect your opinion. Just to give you a little background every horse that runs at NYRA goes thru a vet examination in the morning of race day. They are examined from head to toe in a matter of speaking. Like you said Mr. Nick Zito a hall of fame trainer is not going to send out a horse that is unsound and would get horse. It is in all of our interests to protect the horse and integrity of the sport. Just over the weekend Michael Matz had a horse break down at the wire in a maiden claimer 20-16 at Gulfstream. It was a well bred horse owned by the Firestones. Again I appreciate your concerns.

PJ Campo

Vice President Director of Racing

This response leaves me more frustrated than ever, and to be honest I don't know why he even bothered responding, as he clearly didn't bother to read my email carefully enough to know that I wasn't the one who wrote the blog entry/said anything about Zito. Not only that but he neglects to address the conspicuous drop in class that UH took in just two starts before his demise.

Truly, compared to the replies I have gotten from Hoosier Park re: an on-track fatality, I am shocked that this meager offering is the reply Campo would come up with. It's defensive and does no favors for racing's image problems.

As a racing fan, I am truly disappointed.

Alan Mann said...

Hey Erin - Great job, and thanks for sharing. Tied up at work today, but I'll elevate this to the main page when I have a chance.