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Friday, September 28, 2012

Bizarre Week for NYRA (About to get Worse?)

This has been a bizarre week in NYRAville, even for them.  (And, if this morning's story in the NY Times proves to be an accurate portrayal of the task force report on the Big A breakdowns, it's about to end even worse.)  Following the events earlier in the week (and detailed in the prior post), NYRA, during yesterday's card, quite suddenly announced the cancellation of Friday's. 

  Due to anticipated heavy rain, Friday’s live racing card at Belmont Park has been cancelled to ensure the track surfaces are in optimal condition for Saturday’s card, which features six graded stakes, all part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series. The winners of those races qualify for an automatic starting position in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup Championship race with pre-entry and entry fees paid.
  Well, initially I though this was quite unusual until the Form's David Grening pointed out via Twitter that "wet weather prompted Belmont to cancel day before Jockey Club Gold Cup card in 2008 and 2010."  So, there you go. This one still seems surprising though given that the chance of it even raining was only listed at 70%.  (It rained heavily here in Queens overnight, but the forecast calls only for intermittent rain the rest of the day.)  I'm not an expert on track maintenance by any, you tell me....I'm assuming that, by keeping the track sealed all day, they have a better chance to dry it out?

It's a big handle day, if not a big attendance day, with a $500K guaranteed pick four, so of course they want to keep as many horses on the track as possible; and they figure to lose some of the grass horses if the course becomes a quagmire.

I can't imagine that would give two hoots about the Breeders' Cup Challenge given the way the Breeders' Cup has shunned NYRA.  It's a big day there for TVG, the sponsor of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (though you'd have to consider Paul LoDuca and Christina, who will be on hand, more of a B or B+ team with the big guys no doubt getting prepared for Keeneland) (Simon Bray and Schrupp will be there too).  Maybe, with the long-awaited event on horse safety scheduled for Friday, they are overly sensitive about track safety and conditions with a larger audience than usual tuned in.  Or perhaps, in addition to a more pessimistic forecast from their crack meteorological team, Serling advised them that a Pick Six carryover would be likely.  Quite convenient it turned out that way.  (Would have been quite a prediction considering that the announcement was made between the 6th and 7th races with a 2-1 second choice and a 7-10 favorite having won the first two legs.)

Shortly after that news, I saw this article by James Odato in the Times Union
  Two years ago, the New York Racing Association's leaders commissioned a $250,000 mural that would immortalize them on the wall of the state's biggest thoroughbred track.  It's ready to be unveiled — even though it includes the image of a top NYRA official fired for alleged mismanagement of the racing franchise.
  Oh boy.  Well, it's true that here, Odato is doing what Odato does - trying to make NYRA look as bad as possible in the story lede.   Makes a painting that includes Charlie Hayward sound like the moral equivalent of the Joe Paterno statue.   When you read further though, we learn that, in fact, the mural includes 100 various racing figures including Hayward and Steven Duncker, who were included at the artist's behest.

Still, can't think of much to say in defense.  As I've mentioned before, and if you're new to the site, I don't profess to be completely objective about NYRA, nor do I feel obligated to do so.  I'm not a reporter, just a guy who has spent over 30 mostly happy years (no need to be more specific than that) going to their tracks on a regular basis.   But man, you really gotta wonder what they were thinking here.  I understand the context - if you've been to Belmont, you've probably seen the giant 100 foot mural representing the past century of New York thoroughbred racing.  This was to be a companion piece, representing the first ten years of the century (which really should have made it 10 feet, not 30).  Hayward and Duncker probably figured that NYRA was close to being awash in slot cash, so maybe nobody would notice and why not invest in an asset which figures to appreciate and therefore add to the value of the property.

However, under the intense scrutiny that NYRA has been under, cranked up to 11 since the current governor took office, you just gotta use your head and think things out!   How would this appear if - as in, when - it becomes public?  The commissioning of this mural was in direct violation to the Left at the Gate prime directive - Never do anything with the potential to end up being portrayed in a negative light by James Odato.  And besides, that's a material amount of money that maybe could have made Aqueduct just a bit more bearable this past winter.

 - In the 9th on Thursday, Shootdeworx ($14.20) got up in a four-horse blanket finish for trainer Ian Wilkes; his second winner in a row, and 4th from 9 starters for the meet.  This is the second of those winners to have last raced at Ellis Park (one on dirt, this one on grass); and the third winner from that track that I recall, out of not that many at all I'd imagine.  Gonna keep an eye out for that.  Wilkes next starter here is scheduled to be Fort Larned, the 7-2 second morning line choice in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday.  If Ron the Greek, who he beat by a length and a quarter in the Whitney, is ultimately favored, as indicated by his 5-2 morning line, because of the extra furlong, I think that would be a mistake. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another Fine Idea

Spent the last couple of days trying to sort out the latest developments and reports regarding the future of NYRA so that I could organize my thoughts and write a coherent and well-thought out  post...

Well, actually, I've been out at rock shows the last two nights.  I'm tired and so I'm just gonna go with some random ranting and raving, if you don't mind; it'll be fun.  It all started on Monday when the Post's Frederic U. Dicker reported - and I think we can now say, inaccurately - that Governor Cuomo - "in a startling move....plans to seek public bids for a new operator to replace NYRA.....from for-profit companies with deep experience in the racing and/or entertainment industries."

This immediately sent NY racing politics wonks like myself scurrying to once again read the vague language in the Franchise Agreement that would allow the Racing and Wagering Board to revoke NYRA's franchise.   Until I quickly learned that that is not exactly what the governor intends to do.  Howard Glaser, Cuomo's director of state operations, acknowledged and explained:

“The legal franchise is with the New York Racing Association — that doesn’t change,” Glaser said. But, he added without elaboration, “that’s a different question than who the operator ultimately is.” [Saratogian
Glaser said the possibility of hiring out management services is one of several options under discussion as public control of NYRA nears. "That NYRA is not functioning to expectations, that is not controversial or debatable."[Albany Times Union]
Actually, that's a debate I'd be happy to have with Mr. Glaser, another know-nothing political suit espousing the party line that the state has seduced the press and, in turn, most of the public into believing.

It took the New York Times to ultimately put the pieces together for me.  Essentially and summing up, what the governor was really saying is that the new NYRA board will be charged, as per the legislation to take it over that he must sign by Oct 1, with the task of determining the best course for the NYRA tracks once the state cedes control in three years.  While he would be amenable to the idea of a private operator taking over, that would only occur if the new board basically votes itself out of existence.  According to the Times (in the section of the article that was not turned over to Joe Drape for his canned spiel about the Aqueduct breakdowns, thereby apparently qualifying it for inclusion in its Breakdowns - Death and Disarray series), the governor in fact was not necessarily pushing for the racetracks to be put in private hands.  And in what was by far the most accurate thing he's ever uttered about the industry, Cuomo said:
  “I’m not really a horse racing expert.....I don’t know this industry especially well. The point of the exercise of appointing the board is to do the study and the research to answer that question.”

So, that's a lot different from what Dicker initially reported.  If his authorized biography of the governor is as accurate as some of his reporting, it might end up being adapted for the screenplay of a new original series on SyFy.

Now, it has also been reported that potential new operators of the NYRA tracks could include companies such as The Stronach Group or Churchill Downs; in fact, I saw a couple of stories that reported that those companies had no comment when asked about their interest.  That made me laugh. I don't think I'm going out on too long of a limb when I say this: Neither Frank Stronach nor Churchill Downs will ever operate the NYRA tracks.  Unless Cuomo and the legislative leaders load the board with either raving lunatics, extended Stronach family members, or former contestants in the Frank's Energy Drink Model Contest, nobody in his right mind is going to conclude that "the best way to get value for the taxpayers" is to hand the tracks over to Frank Stronach.

The case against Churchill is a more subtle one, as I wouldn't put that company in the inept buffoon category.  Part of it relies on my own naive belief and faith that, in the end and when push comes to shove, good ol' common sense generally wins the day.  (As we can only hope continues in this case.) Considering that Andrew Cuomo threw such a hissy fit when NYRA had the unmitigated gall to contract out call center jobs to a Churchill Downs-owned hub in Oregon, do you really think that he would ultimately permit the entirety of New York racing operations to be sold to that company with its corporate headquarters in Kentucky?  Seriously?  What do you think that Churchill Downs Incorporated would say if Cuomo tried to tell them how and where to operate their business more efficiently?  One doesn't have to look very hard to see how this bottom-line oriented public company approaches their acquisitions - just look at the Brisnet website.  CDI bought that company in 2007 to acquire its lucrative ADW platform, and to use its data as a lure for bettors to add to its profits.  But the website itself, still a wealth of useful information - much of it free - has languished in technological obscurity here well into the digital age.  Not a single pixel of that site has been updated since then (and nor for that matter for as long as I can recall, going back literally to the last century). Its past performance product, at its core a perfectly acceptable alternative to the Form, hasn't progressed past the PDF stage!  I'd guess that the Belmont grandstand would meet a similar regimen of neglect.

Somebody has got to get the governor's ear on this stuff.  What exactly does Ben Liebman do anyway?  We lost his indispensable racing news link site on the Albany Law School site when he took a position as Cuomo's Deputy Secretary for Racing and Gaming, and we never hear from the guy. As I recall, Ben has mixed feelings towards NYRA.  But certainly he's one guy who could surely advise the governor, who seems to genuinely take great pride in the state's accomplishments and resources, that New York racing is a precious resource too, with a storied history and - still, despite his best efforts - looked up to as a leader (and revenue generator) by the rest of the horse racing nation.  I mean, this governor is just downright disrespectful - seriously, he wants to take charge of racing and he can't show up for the Travers or the Belmont?   The other day, he referred to the sport as "quote-unquote horse racing."  What the quote-unquote fuck does that even mean?   Someone has to be able to impress upon this man - isn't that what advisors are for when it comes to topics that the governor himself admits he lacks knowledge? - that, whatever his opinion of NYRA is, the idea of the New York tracks becoming just another item in Churchill Down's portfolio of racing and gambling properties - including Calder, where they resort to near-naked women on the video monitors to try and generate handle - would be an insult to his state and an affront to anyone - person or horse - who has ever stepped foot on a racetrack here.

Also keep in mind the possibility that Cuomo has - or so we're told by the press - presidential ambitions for 2016.  The end of the three years of state control will roll around just when the primary races are starting to heat up.  So the governor will have to be careful about anything that gives even the appearance of shipping jobs out of his state.  "Governor, you sold out the storied Saratoga racetrack to a company in Kentucky; what's to say you won't ship jobs overseas?" I can just picture candidate Andrew Weiner asking him at a debate.

Whatsmore, (and I think finally), the recently prevailing winds coming out of this administration have borne the stench of the reduction, if not elimination, of revenue from slots.  Glaser even mentioned "significant subsidies from the state" during his press appearance on Monday.  But there isn't a company in the world that is going to be interested in operating the tracks if - as we've heard suggested by other Cuomo tools in the administration - slots subsidies are cut or eliminated.   And that's not even considering the possible damaging effects of full-blown casino gaming.  So this new idea of privatization actually flies squarely counter to the party line that the Cuomo administration has been sounding up until now.

So, I guess I just could have said in place of all of that: I don't see this happening.  The NYRA Board will do their research and conclude that things are not nearly broke enough to fix.  And just as Governor Spitzer reluctantly accepted the New York Racing Association, so will Governor Cuomo.  And as much as he really cares about all of this, he'll get over it in a few hours.

And one more thing.

Dicker again refers to the "massive 'takeout scandal' that cost bettors nearly $8.5 million over a 15-month period ending late last year."  And yeah, I know I've gone off on this before.  But, to me, the biggest scandal about the takeout error, as I'll refer to it, is the way it's been grossly blown out of proportion as a means to get us to this uncertain point where we are now. 

For one thing, if you're going to slander someone by misrepresenting facts, you might as well do so accurately. According to the outgoing communications director Dan Silver - who has never told me anything inaccurate and surely has no reason to do so now - the correct figure is actually $7.3 million, with $1.1 million bet through NYRA.  Dan informs me that someone, at some point, double counted the $1.1 million, adding it back and rounding it up to $8.5 million, and it just stuck.   Nitpicking?  Maybe, but let's get the number right.  Of that $1.1 NYRA piece, $438,000 was returned via NYRA Rewards, and $157,000 million via tax forms.  So the "massive" scandal resulted in a gross gain to NYRA of $505,000, over 18 months; and that's before it paid all of the fees and taxes to the state.  That's right....while the payment to Vito Lopez's victims, approved by consistent NYRA-critic Tom DiNapoli, and kinda defended by the governor himself before he kinda undefended it, was taxpayer money, it seems to me that the taxpayers actually benefited from this one, with no material harm whatsoever done to any of the "victims," most of whom don't even know that they're missing a couple of bucks.  So, since I don't see where Shelly Silver has lost his job, maybe instead of getting fired, Charlie Hayward should have gotten that Deputy Secretary for Racing and Gaming gig.  Jeez, I am so sick of this crap.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Odds and Ends

Three winners for David Jacobson at Belmont since we mentioned him last week, each interesting enough to mention here.  On Thursday, Big Business ($35) shipped in from Del Mar, where he last ran second for 16k on the Polytrack, was entered here for 35k on turf, stayed in when the race was moved to the dirt, took advantage of a hot pace to rally from way back and earn a 92 Beyer much the best for his career.  On Friday, Ea ($6.50) got in off the main track only list to win his third in a row; the last being a marathon at the Spa.....the ol' two mile to mile and a sixteenth cutback maneuver. Quite a successful claim, but not quite as successful as Saginaw ($6.70), who won a state-bred stakes on Sunday.  Jacobson took that one for 30K from Dutrow, and has now earned well over ten times that amount, having now won four state-bred stakes amongst his seven wins in eight starts since the claim.

Another interesting entry for the barn on Wednesday; Gee Linz makes his first start since Jacobson claimed him from Schettino for a cool 50K in his debut.  Won in the mud by three with Ramon, and he hangs around to ride for the new connections.  He's by Frost Giant out of a Distinctive Pro half-sister to the speedy NY-bred Galloping Grocer.

Alpha was just awful as the 7-10 favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby, getting to the lead in a dawdling 1:14 flat for the 3/4s (a mile and 70 yd allowance race went in 1:11 3/5 a few races earlier) and having nothing to offer in the stretch as he faded to 6th.  What does one even have to say for himself when his horse runs so poorly, especially after a high profile win as the one he shared with Golden Ticket in the Travers?   Well, you can blame the track.

 "I'm glad we don't run very often at Parx," [McLaughlin] said. "I thought the racetrack was very deep, dry all day.  [Times Union]

Or, you can blame the jockey.
 McPeek, carrying Golden Ticket's saddle cloth, said he was disgusted with the effort of [David] Cohen.  "We talked about how there might not be a pace....I think he tried to guess the pace of the race, and you can't guess the pace of the race."
At least Golden Ticket picked up the third place purse money of $112,300.McLaughlin was perhaps consoled by sweeping the early double at Belmont the next day with a couple of young horses with much potential.  Sayaad ($4) took the opener, outdueling Never the End despite getting called upon about a stride later than that foe was (here, our favorite chart caller gets a little carried away with the details).   Sayaad is a 2 yo son of Street Sense who's a half-brother to a turf sprint stakes winner in Banga Ridge; he's out of a Time for a Change mare who's a half to all those [fill in the letter]Z Warrior horses.  And Dance Card ($3.90) won her 3rd in a row as she continues to climb up the class ladder, earning a Beyer of 95.  She's by Tapit out of a stakes-placed Editor's Note mare.

Two winners also for trainer Timothy Hills, including Cosmic Energy ($14.60), who was the second horse of the weekend I noticed to return an overlaid win price with Ramon Dominguez having come off after a winning effort.  (Master Achievement returned $11.20 on Saturday).  Ramon is the best, as most will agree.  But you have to give the horses some credit at least.  (And no, not redboarding.....was kicking myself after each of these as well.)   That's three wins in a row for this 3yo daughter of Unbridled Energy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Getting Out While the Genting Getting is Good

NYRA's director of communications Dan Silver is leaving on Oct 1 to become the director of racing operations at Penn National.

Silver’s new role will have him managing the racing and pari-mutuel operations at Penn National Race Course, including its four off-track wagering facilities and eBetUSA/Telebet account wagering operation. [Saratogian]
As I've written many times before, Dan did a great job, helping to transform the communications department almost literally from Day One into a more forthcoming, aggressive, creative department that utilized new social media outlets with aplomb.  I imagine he won't be the last able body to depart NYRA, under one circumstance or another.  While this would have been an attractive opportunity under any circumstance, one couldn't blame him for taking a look around given the uncertainty around Governor Cuomo's scheduled takeover..

..Which we still don't know when will take place.  The governor was asked about it during a Q and A with the press following a media event regarding plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge (with an interesting selection to the team which will review the design).  He responded: "We are working on that very diligently and will have something for you soon" and turned away for the next question.  It was a rather curt response....not one that made me think that something is coming soon, and something he clearly didn't want to talk about on a day in which he was otherwise engaging and willing to spar with the press.  (For one thing, the legislation authorizing the "temporary" change in the NYRA board has not yet been presented to him for signature.)   Odato reported on Monday that the long-awaited task force report on the Big A breakdowns, said to be currently sitting on the governor's desk, would be unveiled this week at an event organized by the Cuomo administration, according to industry officials.  Some have speculated that that event would be a comprehensive one, including selections to the NYRA board; if that's the case, we may be waiting a bit longer for that report on the breakdowns.

 - The Times reported on Wednesday on the flood of gambling money "streaming" into Albany with respect to the coming legislation and referendum on the question of casinos.  The story is based on a study by Common Cause which concluded that gambling interests have spent nearly $50 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the state since 2005.  Not that any of this should come as a surprise.  The article also quotes a gambling opponent who frets that as the amendment process continued, opponents of expanded gambling...would be unable to compete financially with the industry.
  “Those guys will outspend any efforts, if there is even any organized or disorganized effort on the other side, by large margins to influence opinion." [NYT] 
  The thing is though that it's likely that some of 'those guys' are likely to be throwing their financial weight squarely against the amendment.  I'm thinking specifically of the existing racinos.  They've spent the most money since 2005 according to the report and, given the governor's assessment of the current racino arrangement as a "scandal," have to be considered the longest of long shots for expanded gaming.  Assuming the locations are determined before the matter goes to a vote, you can expect them to direct their ample resources to persuade voters to just say no.

 - Another winner for trainer Bruce Brown at Belmont on Wednesday, now tied for the early lead with five winners (from 14 starters) (with Rudy Rodriguez).   He's So Chic ($9.30) won the third race, first time off the claim.  Pletcher had taken this eight year-old son of Jump Start for 50K two races back for owner Mike Repole and then promptly dropped him in for 20K in Saratoga.  Brown claimed him out of that effort, a disappointing third as the favorite, and moved him up to 35K.  Javier Castellano stuck around despite that loss to guide him to the win here.

In the 4th, Rice to Riches ($3.50) debuted for a tag off a string of steady works (and a bullet in her last) for Pletcher and Zayat Stables.  Some might have been wary, but obviously not the bettors nor David Jacobson, who claimed her for 35k.  (Busy day at the claim box for that barn; he also claimed Great Gracie Dane for 50k from R. Dutrow in the 1st.)  This is a two-year old daughter of rookie sire J Be K (Silver Deputy), who won the Bay Shore and Woody Stephens seemingly yesterday, and now stands in Arkansas for $2000.  He's off to a good start at stud with five winners from seven starters, with only 32 foals in the crop.  Rice to Riches is out of an unraced Tiznow mare, and this is the female family of Street Sense (they have the same third dam).

Dominick Schettino also off to a good start at the meet; he scored in the 6th with first-timer Meeker Avenue ($19.80), giving him three winners from nine starters thus far.  (And he also had a debut winner on closing day at Saratoga with Always in a Tiz).  Meeker Avenue is a 2yo colt by Read the Footnotes out of a Silver Deputy mare, and he's a half-brother to stakes winning Age of Humor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hunch Bets for Tuesday, Sept 18

Caught On Camera 7th at Finger Lakes
Self Destruct 7th at Parx
We Been Spotted 1st at Fort Erie
Im Back 8th at Hoosier Park
Inscrutable 1st at Parx
Crooked As Can Be 5th at Hoosier Park
Better With Butter 4th at Finger Lakes
Take Aim 6th at Mountaineer

Monday, September 17, 2012

Belmont Notes

 - Two winners for David Jacobson on Sunday.  Been a really good year for this barn, hitting at 23%.  Not even Saratoga put much of a dent into the operation.  Back on Aug 1, I wrote here of his prospects for the then-young meet, saying that I thought he'd do a bit better.....than his 8% Spa win rate over the last five years.  He ended up with 8 winners from 46 starters (17%); and now, back downstate, he has three winners and a narrow loss from eight starters.

In the 3rd, Jacobson brought back Minescape ($12.80) on three days rest, showing that Dutrow is not the only guy around here that can do that successfully.  He dropped him in for 30k after he ran up the track in his first effort after being claimed from Zito for 35k two races back.  The barn hits at 24% in the 1-7 days off category.  Minescape is a 3yo son of Mineshaft out of a Cormorant mare who's a half to the really nice NY-bred graded stakes sprinter Lottsa Talc, winner of 21 races from 65 starts, and the dam of the fine sprinter Fort Loudon, last seen running second to Willy Beamin in the G1 King's Bishop (speaking of horses winning on short rest).  She's also the dam of the dam of Jackson Bend.  So, plenty of speed in this family.

In the 9th, Jacobson won off the claim with Boots Ahead ($9.10), who he took from George Weaver for 35k last time out.  This gelded six-year old son of Storm Boot had toiled faithfully for that barn since his debut in March, 2009, winning seven times in 24 starts, and earning enough minor shares in stakes to accumulate some $330,000 in purse earnings.  When he was entered in a beaten claiming race at Saratoga on Aug 15 (a race from which the first three finishers have now come back to win), it was the first time he'd been exposed for a tag; and Jacobson was waiting (wouldn't be surprised if he had to win a shake).  Entered here for a 50k optional tag, he edged out the sharp Strong Impact (for the Bruce Brown stable that, as I mentioned yesterday, is on a roll), and earned a 94 Beyer that is his best mark in over a year.  So, it will be interesting to see what the trainer does next with this one.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Morning Notes

At Belmont on Saturday, this year's Irish 1000 Guineas winner Samitar ($3.70) won the G1 Garden City for trainer Chad Brown and the irrepressible Ramon Dominguez, atoning for her narrow loss in her US debut up at Saratoga. If you look at the chart and the running lines, you'd think that she held off a furious rally by runnerup Somali Lemonade. And she did I suppose. But I had a cold exacta with the latter on top; and once Ramon put the stick away inside the sixteenth pole, it was clear there was no catching the winner. Somali Lemonade was not gaining any ground at the end, and probably wouldn't have passed the winner in the proverbial going around the track again. Next up for Samitar, who earned a Beyer of 90, is the G1 Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland.

While that was the first winner of the meet for Saratoga runner-up Chad Brown, Bruce Brown (no relation) has been on a roll. Hope Still Springs ($8.60) was his 4th winner from ten starters on the meet. This gelded three-year old NY-bred son of Corinthian graduated in his 8th start, and his third since coming back from the least in the NY Times database, which presumably lumped him into the same category as the deceased when he was vanned off after pulling up on the 4th of July. This is a half-brother to Sabellina, a nice NY-bred filly from a few years ago who won a graded stakes in open company at Churchill (speaking of the dead, that link from the Thoroughbred Times).

Perhaps the most impressive winner of the day was another NY-bred, Saratoga Snacks ($10.60), who dominated the one mile 7th race allowance in his debut against open company and first try beyond 6 1/2 furlongs. This ridgling three-year old son of Tale of the Cat has been an interesting story from the start. I remember his career debut last summer, when he was something like 10-1 or maybe 15-1 morning line or whatever one would expect from a Gary Sciacca first-time starter at Saratoga (still wish we'd see the morning line and 3 MTP odds in the running lines as during Sports Eye's brief foray into thoroughbred pp's before the Form paid them to stop). Opened as the favorite before drifting up to 5-2; ran second that day, but came back to win his next start on closing weekend there at even money. Didn't see him again until May; but now he's undefeated in three starts this year. Easily disposed of fellow NY-bred B Shanny on the lead, and then drew away from the field, getting the final quarter in an eye-catching 23.92. Could be interesting to follow the progress of this horse if Sciacca can keep him on the track.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Belmont Saturday

In the 1st, Yannick (12-1) is a first-time starter for Barclay Tagg, who also trained his sire, Standing Up.  As you may recall, that one emerged from the shadow of Barbaro (both owned by Gretchen and Roy Jackson) to become quite the star performer on the turf.  He won three graded turf stakes (two Grade 1s) at three after the Derby,  including the Secretariat at Arlington.

Only raced once after three though, and stands in Ontario for $5000 (Can).   I guess that's not really the best place to ply his trade these days with slots revenues slated to be cut off next year.  Just five of his 52 foals have made it to the races, with one winner; but Showing Up himself never raced at two.   Yannick is out of a dam by Nureyev, and he's a half to a multiple turf stakes winner in Martita Sangrita.  So, worth a mention here, if not an official "pick" (unless he wins).

In the 2nd, Big City Boy (4-1) goes third time of the form cycle for trainer Jason Servis, who continues to be live with almost every horse he sends out here even if the visits to the winners circle have come less frequent of late.  Switched to this barn, 3yo son of Read the Footnotes added blinkers and romped off the layoff against weak maiden claimers; he then acquitted himself well first try against winners.  Found himself wide chasing a hot pace on the turn outside of the formidable B Shanny, and still showed interest at the end just missing for third and earning a nice figure.  N.F.'s Destiny (3-1) comes off a layoff following a win in his debut for Linda Rice....and wouldn't you know, I mentioned her here on Friday morning and she won two races, in the second case edging out her Karakorum Legend, my pick from yesterday, with her uncoupled Awakino Cat ($14.80).  N.F.'s Destiny beat what has turned out to be an OK field, could take some catching, but I'd be wary at that price off the layoff first time vs winners.  Greeley's Law came from the clouds to upset at 54-1 in a performance fast enough to beat these should the pace fall his way.

In the 5th, just a mention for first-time starter Mudflats (12-1); you may recall his trainer Eddie Kenneally popping Fly Again, a 25-1 debut runner, last Sunday.  Mudflats is a 2yo colt by Tapit out of a Tale of the Cat mare who's a half to stakes winner (on grass) Langston.  He has inbreeding to Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and the influential mare Narrate.

In the 8th, the wide open G2 Nobel Damsel, Christophe Clement (5-1-2-1 thus far after a strong Saratoga meet) has a pair, including Federation (5-1).  Four-year old filly has been a handful early in her recent races, getting an 'under a snug hold' comment on a regular basis.  Think you can upgrade her last couple of efforts - two back, she was severely impeded throughout most of the stretch run before bursting through late to miss by a half.   Her last was an easy allowance win in which you can surely say she didn't beat much, and maybe didn't run so fast; but she was eased up in the late stages and won with plenty in reserve for her return to stakes company "only" 19 days later; should serve as a nice tune-up.  La Cloche (10-1) ran some big numbers two and three back here at Belmont and could surely bounce back from a disappointing effort behind a couple of these at Saratoga in which she had no other apparent excuse.  Silver Screamer (5-1) has good early speed which should serve her well here and goes well fresh for Rudy Rodriguez.  I could go on....tough little heat.   Best of luck and have a great day!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Belmont Notes

In the 2nd at Belmont on Thursday, Cheechako ($13) shipped here from Ellis Park and won for trainer Ian Wilkes, who had a rough Saratoga meeting at 1 for 22. According to our worldly and wordy local chartcaller, Cheechako (and try saying that ten times) was given a couple of shots [..with the whip, not the hypodermic] from the right side spinning into the lane along the outer edge of the three path...[somewhere I suppose near that nefarious void on the journey towards the four path]...and kicked into full gear, overhauled the pair of Darleys [never before seen a chartcaller refer to a horse by its nationality] with a nice display of speed to be the leader by the eighth pole.."

This is a three-year old daughter of the 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor; and that one has sure been quiet as a sophomore stallion. Nary a stakes winner to be found amongst his progeny thus far. Cheechako is out of a Boston Harbor mare; her third dam is Dear Birdie, the dam of Birdstone and Bird Town. And So Long Birdie. And Mountain Bird, and Honey Bird and Bird Charm and Bird Legacy and Bird Cage (the dam of Caged Glory) and Birdshot and Love Dove and Tweeter. And boy, that last one has a different connotation now than it did back just in 2006, which is like yesterday in the scheme of things.

The aforementioned Darleys were favored; it was an entry including first-time starter Well Received. This homebred is by Any Given Saturday out of a Quiet American mare who is a full sister to Cara Rafaela, a multiple graded-stakes winner in her own right, and the dam of Horse of the Year champion 3yo Bernardini. And now that we've mentioned Bernardini and Invasor, how about we watch the 2006 Breeders Cup Classic between the two. (Sorry about that Fox-like opening music.]

  - It was kind of a slow Saratoga meet for trainer Linda Rice considering her success there in the past; eight winners from 65 starters over all. However, three of those winners came on the last weekend of the meet; and she's been live thus far at Belmont with a couple of seconds and a third from six starters. In today's 8th, Karakorum Legend (3-1) returns off a layoff, which has often been the case for this infrequently raced six year old son of Mutakddim, and he generally handles it well. Drops in class, comes off a solid series of works culminating in a solid five furlong move on Labor Day, and has the best figures sprinting on the turf in the race (at least according to the numbers I'm looking at). Will need to utilize his tactical speed to stay close to Marquet Cat (9-5). That one set some blazing fractions in his last and just failed to hold on against Strong Impact, who would likely be favored here; was claimed by Jacobson and gets Ramon, all of which makes him the logical one to catch here. Best of luck and have a great day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Morning Notes

Following up on the last post: Liz O'Connell left a link in the comments section for a piece she did for the Huffington Post (also on her Thoroughbred Confidential blog) regarding the Racehorse Health and Safety task force, and the delay in the issuance of its conclusions. 

  The most likely scenario is that the task force's recommendations are at odds with the New York Racing Association or its state government overseers. Or, perhaps the release of the report will be used as a publicity springboard for announcing the re-organization of NYRA and the new board and executives -- thereby reducing the safety of our racehorses to a political ploy. Of course, this will be denied by all parties. In the meantime, whatever the cause for the delay, whatever the excuse, there are horses dying while racing and training on New York's Thoroughbred tracks. 
  It's a thorough and relentless work of reporting; exasperated with the non-response to her repeated inquiries, she filed her own Freedom of Information request to the Racing and Wagering Board.  Well worth reading; you may be surprised at the hourly rates requested by the task force members.  Or....maybe not.

 -  First weekday of the fall meeting at Belmont drew 2,819 and produced a couple of incongruous winners that led to a Pick Six carryover; in fact, nobody even picked five.  At Saratoga, when I looked back at a long-priced horse, I could usually find something in its past performances to explain why it won, as deep as those races were.  But no real accounting for Smiling Bob ($41.60), or James Jingle ($29.60); and the latter, who staggered home in harness horse time of 27.08 seconds for trainer Pat Kelly, led a superfecta that paid $20,402 with 1-2 Sandy'z Slew checking in dead last.

Two winners for trainer Michael Mareina; here's a little article on about this guy, the original trainer of Game on Dude, from July, in which he explained that he planned to spend most of the Saratoga meet getting ready for Belmont in the fall. 
  “We’re concentrating now on quality instead of quantity....I selected horses that I thought would do nicely at Belmont Park, such as Divine Music. You have to have luck, of course, and you have to have horses that like the track. I’m super pleased with how well my horses have adapted and I’m looking forward to the fall.” 
Distorted Dream ($5.60) is by Distorted Humor out of the G1 winner Wonder Lady Anne L.   Onthekisser ($17) came from dead last in a field of 12 to win the 4th.  Both had sat out the Saratoga meet.   So yeah, I guess he's ready for the fall, a perfect two-for-two thus far, and surely a guy to keep an eye on - 13 winners from 34 starters on the year. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Still Waiting....

  Gov. Cuomo will put the New York Racing Association out of its scandal-scarred misery “promptly” after the historic Saratoga Race Track meet that begins this Friday, The Post has learned.
 So wrote the governor's biographer, one Frederik U. Dicker, in the Paper of Wreckage on July 16  “As soon as the season ends, the shift will be promptly made," said the "source with direct knowledge of the planned action" which I guess he/she was wrong about. 
  Current NYRA President/CEO Ellen McClain will be fired as part of the transformation as soon as the meet ends on Sept. 3, the source said.
  Of course, now that I've written this, it will probably happen before the ink is to speak, y'know.  But still, even so, the meet ended on Sept 3, now we're into Wednesday of the following week and haven't heard even a rumbling.  In fact, Rep. Gary Pretlow, the chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, told bizjournals. com: Oct. 1 is the date everybody’s been talking about with me.”   This is surely not the scenario that Dicker's source was attempting to convey.  Perhaps the governor has gotten board bored with the whole idea. 

Come to think of it, nor have we seen the task force report on the Big A winter breakdowns which was supposed to be released prior to the Travers.  Nor, for that matter, the result of the investigation into the takeout mess, the Final Straw that precipitated this entire turn of events.  Hmm.  Could it be that the task force found nothing insidious about the spate of fatalities?  Or that investigators found that Charlie Hayward made an error in judgment but surely had no intent to illegally deprive horseplayers of a few extra bucks that most of them would have thrown back into the pools anyway? 

The governor meanwhile has been busy defending the Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's handling of a secret....or, make that "confidential," at least according to Cuomo....payment to make sexual harassment charges against a powerful legislator go away.
  "Sheldon Silver signs secret deal," Cuomo said in a mocking voice. "Beautiful, poetic, except it wasn't true and it wasn't accurate and it wasn't right. It wasn't a secret deal."
         "The public didn't know about it," Dicker interjected.

"Well, it had a confidentiality [component]," Cuomo said. "It wasn't a secret deal done by the speaker. It wasn't. You put that in your column three times, again. Except that it wasn't."

"What was it?" Dicker asked.  [Capitol New York]

And that's when it got really good.  (Audio of the show is here, with this exchange about 3/4s of the way through.)  The governor proceeded to throw two members of his administration under the bus. 
  "It wasn't a secret deal done by Sheldon Silver, where people would just think it was Sheldon Silver [who] signed a secret deal. It was a secret deal reviewed by the attorney general's office and implemented by the comptroller's office."
Cuomo added that those gentlemen's acquiescence in the matter made it "even worse."   That is particularly funny, because they both have gone out of the way to minimize their own personal involvement.  Now they are additional targets of the new state ethics panel.

The governor has never been a member of the AG Eric Schneiderman's fan club.  But the role of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a leading voice in this administration's chorus of bluster against NYRA, is of particular interest.   DiNapoli owes his current office entirely to the Speaker himself, who went to the mat for him against another (at that particular point in time) powerful governor.  I wonder if he would have been as aloof as he claims he was in this matter if NYRA had processed a payment to settle a sexual harassment charges against one of its employees.  Can you just imagine if a similar incident had occurred there?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Descent to Belmont

I know I said that I didn't want to hear the usual postings about how empty Belmont seemed this past weekend.

But man, it was empty. And not just because it seemed empty. It was empty. No doubt the severe weather that struck the area around the time when people might be heading out there had an effect. Those of us who were following on the weather radar - instead of cowering in the basement as advised us to do - knew that the rain would only skirt the racetrack. Nonetheless, only 4598 were on hand to take advantage of free grandstand admission. (And actually only 4596 because I went out to my car twice.) As you know if you've been there, Belmont is vast enough that twice that many people would barely supply a buzz. And the contrast from the last six weeks spent at Saratoga or Del Mar was striking to be sure.

Passing by a TV monitor at one point, I noticed an ad playing, with a caption that read, 'Employs 35,000 New Yorkers.' At first I thought of the NYGA ad from the last post. But, then I saw a horse. And we know how much NYGA cares about the horses, so it couldn't have been them.

 Indeed, it was an ad from NYRA, and I know I'm late to the game on this.

Dan Silver of NYRA was nice enough to supply the link, and explained that it was shown throughout the summer on NBCSN's telecasts from Saratoga. Have to admit I didn't see any of those this year, though all for good reasons. "The result is the best racing in America." Yeah. It's a message that NYRA, as well as the horsemen and breeders, needs to target towards a local audience as well....especially, in fact. If the matter of the tracks' share of VLT revenues can successfully be turned into a jobs issue, then the industry may have a fighting chance should the governor move to cut it off.

- Air Support ($4.90) won the G2 Bowling Green in an oddly run turf race; it went really slow early, then pretty fast over the 'good' going in the middle, leaving them all exhausted in the final quarter. That was the slowest split of the race, which is more typical for a dirt race than one on grass. Didn't look like the winner was going to catch front-running Bombaguia; but he ate up the deficit more readily after the 1/8th pole, and wore down what proved to be a very stubborn opponent in the last few strides to prove best, with Johnny V aboard for the first time. (And can I nominate this guy for an Eclipse Award for great achievements in chart calling?)

Sean Avery ($5.40) returned from a long layoff.....again.....and won off of it....again. He's three-for-three off layoffs of more than a year. Last time we saw him, he rode a speed bias to a G1 win at Saratoga last year. This time, he came off the pace, and he's surely versatile if nothing else. Not a fast race - he got a 92 Beyer - and the final furlong split was painfully slow at 13.59 seconds. But let's see if trainer Allan Iwinski can keep him sound for a stretch of a few races as he did last year.

In the 2nd on Sunday, Dreaming of Julia ($2.60) breezed again for Pletcher in her second career start; this time by 16 lengths instead of 10, and in 2yo "stakes" company; really one maiden, two maiden graduates, and one who's sucked up for minor shares in a couple of graded stakes. She earned a Beyer of 90, and is headed to the Frizette to prep for the BC Juvie Fillies. That means she would go into the latter without having been around two turns, and we can bet against her as the favorite. Daughter of AP Indy is out of Dream Rush, who was strictly a sprinter. And there ain't much else on the catalog page...though if you go out to her 4th dam and beyond, plenty of distance influence there.

Bake Shop ($4.60) won the 4th for trainer Tom Bush, his 4th winner from his last seven starters.

In the 7th, Fly Again ($53.50) was ignored at the tote but won first time out for Eddie Kenneally with a rousing rally from far back in the pack. Two-year old daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, out of a Storm Cat mare, has the Juvie Fillies winner Cash Run as her second dam, and Shared Interest, the dam of Forestry, as her third.

 - Well, turned out that the best free outdoor rock show of the summer came after the summer. Not technically of course, but after the summer season in any event. Bob Mould played at the Williamsburg Park on Friday night before a pretty small - not nearly worthy of his status as guitar god - but enthralled and enthusiastic crowd. Mould and his band roared through Copper Blue, the classic Sugar LP now 20 (!!) years old; and touched on their fine new Silver Age LP before turning to some Husker Du classics, such as Something I Learned Today (with a guest spot by Craig Finn on vocals) and I Apologize. Here he performs The Descent, an instant classic from the new LP, on the Letterman show.

Friday, September 07, 2012

NYGA Tiptoes Back In

The New York Gaming Association (NYGA) of New York's racinos has been rather quiet since Governor Cuomo referred to them as a "scandal," adding that he "100% opposes" the notion of its members getting exclusive rights to casinos....should they, of course, be approved by voters in a referendum that will presumably take place next November.

Now they are back, but in a much-subdued way.  In a new "multi-million" TV ad campaign, it seems NYGA are simply trying to rehabilitate their image at this point in time.  Gone are the push-poll results, any talk of "responsible gaming," fear mongering over the notion of full-fledged gambling unleashed anywhere in the state, and any hint of a suggestion that the tracks therefore should have exclusive rights to casinos.  In fact, expanded gaming is not even mentioned at all.  Just some facts and figures about the contribution that the facilities have made to education, to which it is portrayed as a "reliable partner," on track to contribute $1 billion for schools - "Equaling the salaries of 13,000 teachers."  (That's $76,923.08 per teacher.  Seems like a good deal.  For the state, not the teachers.  They should be making ten times that much.)  Here's the ad.

Notice they got in a little dig against the governor by noting that they pay "one of the highest tax rates in the country."  And you call us a scandal, governor?   He's not listening, he's been in Charlotte.  Not that anyone really noticed.

 - Belmont opens on Saturday, and yeah, it's gonna be empty OK?, we don't need the obligatory pieces about how deserted it seems.  They'll be less people than at Saratoga, and the place is too damn big.  Doesn't make for a very compelling atmosphere.  On many days, "sleepy" is the word that often comes to mind.   And that's not good for a racetrack.

So when I read of talk of alternate development for the vast, mostly unused, parking lots and other areas, it is surely not surprising, and not necessarily alarming.  Though I suppose we could do without a power plant there. [Newsd....]

In the 5th, A Prettydixie (8-1) stretches out a bit after showing good early foot while chasing a very fast pace - and a hot number in first-time starter Heading to Toga - in her debut upstate, on the grass.  Trainer Pat Kelly has really been struggling to get in the winner's circle, just one winner from his last 49 starters; but it's a capable barn.  So we'll say that he's due.  This filly figures to improve with distance, being a daughter of Dixie Union, out of an AP Indy mare who's a half-sister to Riskaverse, the fine turf filly - two time 1 1/4 mile G1 Flower Bowl winner - who raced for Kelly and owner Fox Ridge Farms, who also owns this filly.  This is also the distaff family of the champion filly Havre de Grace (whose 3rd dam is the 2nd dam of A Prettydixie).  In fact, I'd really like to see her around two turns, but willing to try her at this 7 furlong distance at or around her morning line.  Rosalie's Pleasure (3-1) passed the top pick in the stretch after sitting back mid-pack, and can surely do so again with a similar pace scenario with the added distance.

In the 9th, All Zipped Up (6-1) cuts back to seven furlongs for trainer Andrew Lakeman.  This gelded son of City Zip has been on the improve this year, and finally graduated in his 32nd try when adding Rosie and trying today's distance for the first time.  Surely fair to scoff at a horse like that; but it was a legitimate effort, earning a competitive figure as he came home under a hand ride an a lively 12 1/5 after a four wide sweep on the turn.  He validated that effort with a good first try against winners, hanging in for 4th at a mile and a sixteenth, beaten less than two lengths after being wide on both turns.  Second and third place finishers Ambit (who I still can't believe didn't win that race) and Chilton came back to run quite well again.  Renzo Bertoni (5-1) drops in class for Allen Jerkens, seems fast enough for these, and has a great name.  Kathy's Kitten (5-2) cuts back in distance and will obviously be tough if he gets the lead to himself.  (These picks, obviously, for turf only with a chance of storms in the forecast.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Now That Summer is Gone...

We were awoken by the radio alarm clock on Tuesday morning from a brief snooze after the redeye home from San Diego with a news report on WCBS-AM regarding the uptick in business at Saratoga.  "They had over 20,000 on closing day yesterday," one of the anchors said after reporting the percentage increases.

No, I wasn't dreaming.  Even the Head Chef, with her limited knowledge of the subject, realized that it was highly unusual to hear anything about racing on a mainstream news station; particularly something positive about NYRA!  It wasn't even the sports report.  One might wonder if NYRA or the horsemen had provided a push to the news, as a followup to the reaction by horsemen last month to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's contention that increased purses from slots had not helped business at the tracks. 

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Saratoga purses totaled $37,812,860, up considerably from the $26,855,100 distributed in 2011 [there were 20 more races this year.] []
Ah yes.  Summer is over, crashing down for us with the 45 minute taxi line wait at 5:15 in the morning at JFK.  If it was up to me, we'd have stayed out there for closing day at Del Mar on Wednesday, especially after rallying on Monday from what was, to that point, a winless long weekend [not counting the double I had at Arlington to start the day] to hit the 7th winner, 8th exacta, and double into the 9th [though I had to leave before that race and will have to cash that one next year].  Man, I was just getting warmed up!  Whatsmore, Dinosaur Jr is playing at Belly Up on Thursday.  Doh!  And that would have given us three more glorious days at the beach of course.  But no.  Indeed, my 'between jobs' period is officially over, so back to work I go.

And, with the change of season, the much-anticipated changes at NYRA will soon unfold and the debate over slots and casinos and revenues will resume.  Not everyone heeded my advice in July to forget about what we can't control and just enjoy the racingPaul Moran, Andy Beyer, and blogger Tom Noonan (fairly new on the blog scene with some knowing and articulate observations on this and other subjects), are amongst those who just couldn't help but wringing their hands with worry about the future of slots revenue for NYRA.  Now it's September, nothing has changed; still, nobody knows for sure what's going to happen.  But again, it's important to keep in mind that NYRA's share of racino revenue cannot simply be overturned by decree, not even by this governor.  As Noonan pointed out in his last post on the subjectBy law, NYRA is entitled to the VLT revenues with no strings attached.  However, I disagree with him when he wrote (well prior to the Saratoga figures):
  We even have leading New York horsemen now arguing that attendance and handle are up, instead of making the case that NYRA has a legal right to this money by statute.
The law is the law.  That argument does not need to be made in my view.  But I think the industry surely does need to fight back against the misleading rhetoric and highlight the positive when it can.  If the governor is really intent on cutting racino revenue to the tracks, he may have made a mistake in his takeover of the NYRA board.  It won't change the law, and, in making NYRA his own and removing the "corrupt" whipping boy long used as a convenient foil by politicians and editorial boards to stigmatize the whole industry, it gives horsemen a better chance to humanize the issue and make it about jobs.  As I've written before, there will be a lot of different dynamics involved and constituents to consider if it comes down to a vote by lawmakers, and the more the debate is about jobs rather than faulty takeout rates, the better.  If the Republicans retain control of the state Senate, we'll likely see them continue the oppositional pose to Cuomo they started at the end of the last session - after he signed off on their perverse redistricting maps - with the marijuana reform and minimum wage bills.   I don't think anyone can say how it will go.  So we should save our angst for the right time and work to see that it doesn't come to that.

 - People like to compare Saratoga and Del Mar, argue about which one is "better."  But they are really quite different, difficult to compare.  I go up to Saratoga Springs to go to the track, and the other various activities and natural attractions in the area that we love serve as support to the main event.  We go to Southern California to relax and marvel at the weather and the beaches and the cliffs and ocean that frame them.  And Del Mar is a beautiful track and a great place to spend a late afternoon.  But I'd still travel there without the races.  And that's not at all a commentary on the relative merits of the racing at these two amazing tracks.  Sure, I'm partial to New York as you know.  But the racing at Del Mar this past weekend was pretty fantastic itself - consistently full, competitive fields, maybe even a little deeper on balance than what I saw at the Spa when I was there earlier in the meet.  However, the sheer natural beauty of the area speaks for itself and stands on its own.  Won't bother trying to articulate that any further.  Even the photos don't do it true justice.  [All photos courtesy of the Head Chef...and please check out her blog Grapes and Greens.]

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sunday Morning Notes

We were at Swami's Beach in Encinitas, just a few miles north of Del Mar, on Saturday morning.  Barely a cloud in the sky with the familiar morning fog, known as the marine layer, nowhere in sight these days.  It's a special little slice of the planet, as spiritual as the name may suggest.

The racetrack too was resplendent in the uninterrupted sunshine.  That hasn't helped me - in fact perhaps it's proven a distraction, as I've yet to cash a ticket through two days.  It also just could be because I suck.  At least I was getting closer on Saturday.  Still, thinking I may need a swami to get me back in the game.

A couple of horses - both two-year old fillies - well worth mentioning from the day.  In the 5th, Pure Indy ($8.40) was bet down from 8-1 morning line in her first career start; perhaps because a bunch of her West Point owners were in town.  But maybe instead it was a reflection of whatever it was about her sales work that prompted the owners to pay $195,000 for a daughter of the $7,500 sire Pure Prize at the Barretts two-year old in training sale earlier this year.  Looked like the former when the filly trailed in dead last down the backstretch.  But not when Victor Espinoza tipped her five wide turning for home and just blew by them all, despite lugging in a bit early in the stretch run to win going away under a long hold late.  Even Trevor Denman, best in the business at picking up such late moves, didn't do so this time until the sixteenth pole.  Unfortunately for me, 20-1 Controlled Chaos split me in the exacta.  But it was the kind of performance from a debuting two-year old that can make one fall in love and mark down for possible future glory.  Pure Indy is out of a winless AP Indy mare who's a half-sister to the graded stakes winner Greater Good, who ran with a similar closing style, the G1 winner Pure Clan; and this is also the distaff family of the Belmont winner Danzig Connection.  So I'd say that her distance prospects are quite good.

In the G1 Del Mar Debutante, 4-5 favorite Executiveprivilege seemed beaten at the sixteenth pole, but staged a desperate last surge, even while drifting out a path, to just barely collar the loose-on-the-lead Beholder on the wire to remain undefeated, for Baffert, in four tries.  It was her third stakes win.  The finish reminded me of -- and don't go nuts on me here, not at all comparing the horses, just the visual -- Forego nailing Honest Pleasure in the 1976 Marlboro Cup.  It was a gutsy effort indeed.  Executiveprevilege is by First Samurai, his only graded stakes winner thus far (her second such win); out of an Unaccounted For mare.   Her third dam is the great Calumet champion Davona Dale (not so hot in the breeding shed).  The Juvie Fillies is no doubt on the calendar for this filly.