Happy Independence Day to all! A quick Tour note and a pick 4 at Belmont.
My favorite sporting event of the year,the Tour de'France, begins today with a time trial. I posted a lot about the race last year but don't intend to do quite as much this year. After all this space is supposed to be about horses. But I will say I expect Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour winner, to reaffirm himself as the tour champion. He was unable to race last year because his team, Astana, was suspended from competing in the Tour because team members had been caught (and banished)for doping the previous season. It was an unfortunate circumstance for Contador as he was not part of the team the year in question. But cycling has taken a hard stance against doping and, in my opinion, it's working. Horseracing can certainly learn a lot from cycling on the issue of how to handle drug violations. However, to prove his mettle Contador did win the other two grand tours of cycling last year; The Giro (Tour of Italy) and the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain). The only questions in my mind are about the team. Bruyneel (former director of team Discovery during the Armstrong years) has assembled a sort of all-star squad both in GC contenders with Contador, Armstrong, and Leipheimer as well as with his domestiques Popovych, Horner, Kloden and Rubiera. Sometimes those type of teams just don't work. Who will be the leader? - Armstrong says they'll work it out on the road. And he has been very supportive of the cast while riding in his prep races. But to win the Tour a team needs to be on the same page and supporting the same rider...so we shall see. Contador is just a superior climber and the mountains is where the Tour is really won. I expect Lance to ride well but in the end realize that Alberto is the man to support. Of course he's proven many wrong before: seven times! And as with every grand tour a rider needs a little luck in avoiding injury during almost 2,200 miles of racing!
Another highlight this year should be watching Team Columbia's, Mark Cavendish compete for the green jersey (sprinter) this year. He has established himself as the most exciting and swiftest sprinter in the world.
The Pick four at Belmont.
The Dwyer (G2)
I like Kensei to win in this spot. To me he is the classiest horse in the race. I think the race will be very quick early, he rates well and Prado is patient. He has given a good measure of himself in every race and seems to still be improving. He should also improve with the added distance. His workout on 6/22 is about as fast as a Asmussen horse will go first work after a race so you know he's happy and healthy. A freshener on 6/29 has him ready.
I'm lukewarm on the ML favorite Warrior's Reward. Obviously he is maturing well and has run his two best races since coming off the layoff. He received a 113 Beyer for his NW1x Churchill score on 5/1 but I'm always a skeptic when it comes to those numbers on Oaks or Derby day. As a matter of fact I'm not a real big speed figure handicapper though obviously I consider them. I really don't think they were very tough spots either. Maybe he will emerge here as the real deal but I have too many questions to bet him at 9-5.
For some value I'm adding Convocation. He had an excuse in each of his first three races and still ran respectably in 3 of them. He finally put it all together last race on the under card on Belmont S. day. He also earned a career high 96 Beyer on a big day but he had earned a similar number before so it doesn't seem to be an anomaly. His pedigree is impeccable, Alan Garcia has the mount and the remainder of the field all have a lot of holes in the resume.
The Prioress (G1)
This is going to be a great race! A case can be made for every fillie. I'm going with Gabby's Golden Girl. She can obviously run a hole in the wind going a mile. I don't usually like a horse coming off several route's to a sprint but this case is a little different. she has carved out fast early fractions in each contest. The last was a one mile sprint for her after fractions that would win any true sprint. Baffert has had her east on dirt tracks for several months already and at Belmont since at least the end of may. She keeps shooting bullets in the morning and doesn't seem to have missed a beat so she must be very sound. I think today can be a career best for her. If she stays around the 7-2 ML she's a bargain.
For the purposes of a P4 ticket I'll add, On the Menu and Heart Ashley. Perhaps On the Menu has the better situation as he breaks from the outside.
Suburban H. (G2)
I like Asiatic Boy to win. He's obviously a very classy horse. I can forgive his runner-up finish (as if a G1 placing needs to be excused) in the S. Foster because it was his first race in the U.S. and he had a little trip trouble. He's back at Belmont where he's at home, he will have pace to close into and is not running into the most difficult of fields. I'm tempted to single him here for the P4 but will also add Rising Moon to my ticket.
Rising Moon is an ouchy horse, but by all signs he remains healthy and on schedule for a big performance. I like the 4f bullet on 7/1, just three days ago. He's flying a little under the radar for a Dutrow horse and he has shown he likes the track. Like Asiatic Boy he will track the pace and try to pick up the pieces in the lane. I think he may give the winner a run for his money here.
While I think It's a Bird will hit the board I just don't like him in this spot. I think he is a little over rated, has ran some very big races this year and likes to be a little too close to what I believe will be a fast early pace.
This is a very good spot for Finallymadeit but I just don't think he quite has the class of Asiatic Boy. Though he can control the race from his post he has a bad habit of folding late when seriously pressed going shorter so at 1-1/4 I don't see him hitting the board.
11th MSW $44K
It's nice to have a handful of horses for the final leg of a pick 4 but I don't think it's necessary here. The Clement entry looks extremely tough, perhaps worthy of a single but I'll pad the ticket with a value saver, Harlan's Band. He's got a race into him now and he didn't embarrass himself in that spot. McLaughlin is terrific with turf horses. In my estimation with the exceptions of the first time starter, Flight Song and Tawaared he has the most possible upside as far possible improvement. I'm throwing Flight Song out as I think it's just too tough of a field for a firster and it seems that Tawaared may have hit a plateau for the moment so The Clement entry and Harlan's Band are the picks in the final.
The Pick 4 Ticket $36
R11-1 entry, 3
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Happy Independence Day to all! A quick Tour note and a pick 4 at Belmont.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Today in the TDN Arthur Hancock wrote an op-ed piece in which he states an opinion that is contrary to many of those in Kentucky, and the industry in general, while taking a stand against slots. On this issue I am am full agreement with him.
In my opinion the introduction of slots is the beginning of the end for racing. I understand that the initial boost of money received by racing in those jurisdictions where slots are introduced is welcome and seems an end to the penurious existence in which they exist. However, the mere fact that they are receiving an allowance from another industry should make it obvious that they are becoming expendable.
Racing requires hundreds of acres of land - often urban - and,for all intents and purposes, removes that land from the tax grid. Racino's/casino's, whatever you choose to call them, have the benefits of needing much less real estate to be productive, have a guaranteed return on ratio of money wagered and require much less in outlays for insurance, maintenance and salaries, to name just some of the monetary benefits. The lure of tax dollars for states and municipalities (and greedy politicians) is great. When presented with these scenario's what do you think will happen?
Many will scoff at these suppositions and liken me to Chicken Little proclaiming that the sky is falling. Well, in racing it is. And if the fans of racing don't organize we may be attending the funeral before our own time's are up. I can go on an name the tracks we have already lost over the years but instead I will just remind you that in the last year we have lost Bay Meadows, we are watching Hollywood Park only because of the real estate bubble burst and that all of Magna's properties are in jeopardy. Just in case yo don't know which tracks they are let me name a few of the most prominent: Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Laurel and Pimlico (both already reeling), Lone Star.
Here's a quote from today's Saratogian:
For the past several years, the city had derived as much as $3.8 million in state aid from the facility as compensation for hosting video lottery terminals at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway.This year, the city was expecting to receive about half that amount, but the state decided to change the formula entirely, redistributing the money away from Saratoga Springs, while every other host community continues to receive the aid."The new formula discriminates against one community alone," Ivins said. He pointed out that the city had previously lobbied for the money, and that state representatives had voted against the budget, but it had passed anyway.
In NY,as everyone knows by now, NYRA has received a new 25 year lease to manage racing at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. In return NYRA agreed to cede undisputed ownership of the land on which those tracks are built, to the state. At that moment, again in my opinion, we should have heard the bell toll. It is my feeling that neither NYRA nor the State had claim to those properties. I believe the families of the Vanderbilt's and Belmont's own them, but that is beside the point. Why was that an issue to the state? Perhaps politicians can see into the future better than we are able. Perhaps they see a future without racing. A future with Casino's, simulcast outlets, housing developments and malls on all those acres?... all very taxable, all very profitable. And, of course, for those holding positions at NYRA it is another guaranteed 25 years of employment/benefits/retirement in exchange for something they have absolutely no personal stake in protecting. Do you think even one NYRA exec or employee was concerned for racing? It's not being paranoid if they're really after you!
It's a wonder that NYRA was allowed to "sell" off all that property around Aqueduct recently if they didn't own it, isn't it? If Aqueduct exists ten years from now I will be the most surprised person in NY.
Saratoga Springs has recently been informed that video table games will be up and running in the racino within a year. Can anyone read the writing on the wall?
I may not have the same perspective as Arthur Hancock as to how, or why, slots are bad for racing, but I know that in the long run, they are. If there is a future for racing it has to be racing. It is a great sport / business and can exist and be profitable on it's own... given the chance. Those vampires that are living off of it are selling it down the road because they see even more dollar signs with easier pickings elsewhere. I see CDI in this group. Remember that the takeout was created many, many years before there were ADW's and interstate simulcast sharing of that revenue. Originally the tracks/ horsemen divided the entire takeout. As the system is now set up horsemen/tracks receive just a fraction of the takeout from their "own" track. And they are told that what they receive is enough.
Racing is in real danger, both from the remora and the "apparent" solution of racino's. I wish I had a solution to offer but I don't. The best I can offer is to suggest that the majority of the takeout be legislated by law to be returned to racing to fund what it was originally intended: the sport. Make the distribution of takeouts uniform throughout the country so every locality has the same ability to profit or fail from the product they produce. In 1978 Congress created the Interstate Horseracing Act to protect horsemen and racetracks from being ripped off. That legislation needs to be revisited before it is too late for the sport.
Fri. Addendum: I apologize for an incomplete piece last evening. In the NY metro area we were having severe T-storms (again) and the power had already gone out twice so I just posted what I had lest I lose something in transmission. In any case what I really wanted to say after the quote from the Saratogian is that I am not a proponent of government being the care-taker and decision-maker for and about racing, for exactly the reason illustrated. Government is as greedy as any other player. And once they have what they want (more money) and no longer need to deal with you they can change the rules. And they do, as Saratoga Springs is now realizing. I am certain that the $3.8 million SS had received is a pittance compared to the money the race fans bring to the town and entire area in just six weeks; not to mention the vibrancy that makes the town a destination as well. When SS becomes just a day trip to the casino what will all the secondary and tertiary business' do to survive? The scope of racing's good far exceeds just the racetracks.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I have read several opinions on Rachel Alexandra running at Belmont in next Saturday's Mother Goose S.(GI). The majority of them are decidedly against the idea. The last two blog mentions I read were were over at Equispace, and his link over to John at Not to the Swift, two blogs I enjoy (both 6/18 entries). However, on this issue I have to disagree with them.
I think it's a great spot for her to run. First I don't think any Grade I is a gimme. Although I, along with every race fan, would be absolutely shocked if she lost, anything can happen in racing. I don't think it is beneath any horse to win Grade I's. If she does lose and then runs the board the remainder of the year, or even wins most of them if they are very tough spots, the loss will be considered an anomaly and disregarded.
As for HOY I think June is just too early to think about handing that award to a horse. And too early to be sitting on one's accomplishments. There's a half a year (okay 5 months) of racing left and that accolade needs to be earned. To my thinking one race does not earn that award. Unfortunately, the BC events often have the effect of crowning a champion because of one race result; perhaps the worst aspect of the BC. To be HOY a horse has to dance the dances and that means running. Also as far as HOY discussions go lets not forget a mare named Zenyatta or perhaps one of the two other triple crown winners will go on to become dominant. I have high hopes for Summer Bird.
To become legendary a horse has to run and has to win the big races - most of the time. They have to prove they are a legendary type of horse on the track by giving legendary performances. It's not her fault if her competition is not able to challenge her. But she still has to go out and prove that is the case. Secretariat lost five times and his mythical status was not marred. As race fans we wait and wait for great horses to come along and the best thing for racing is to be able to let the fans see them run. I think the most likely outcome is that she wins easily and adds to her heir of superiority, especially over the three-year-old crop.
Also her campaign has to be taken into consideration. Should she just run against the boys because she's already proven she can beat them? I don't think so. Perhaps they do have the Travers in mind. With Jess Jackson I'd say it's a foregone conclusion. But, they still have to get her ready for that day. Sure, Steve Asmussen is capable of training her up to a big spot but does that mean she should run the Haskel and the Travers? Again, I don't think so. I believe a horse has only so many top performances in them each year. The Mother Goose is a race she should win without giving her "A+" effort. But racing fitness is better than training. Running gets another race into her, likely gets her more black type and, most importantly, gives the fans a chance to see her. In a sport where the fans don't get to see the stars often enough this is a treat. Regardless of the outcome of the race I think this is a win-win situation for Rachel Alexandra and racing.
I feel certain that Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen will put her in the big races but you can't win every big race. You have to pick your spots and prepare for them. I fully expect to see her in the Travers. I don't think this is a case of connections ducking a big race but rather preparing for a bigger one. Let's remember it wasn't Jess Jackson and Curlin that didn't show up for last years Woodward S. Regardless if you're a fan or dislike Jess Jackson he does what's best for racing and his horses by running them and caring for them.
I for one am going to be thrilled to get to see her run again. If she wins by 32 lengths I suppose I will be even more thrilled!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I'm back from a several weeks across the pond. It is always difficult to get caught up with the industry results and news after a trip. So even though I was hoping to put up handicapping post for Saturday I won't as I'm just not yet up to speed.
It never fails that I feel woefully distraught over the state of racing in the U.S. upon my return. Returning from this trip I feel this emotion perhaps more poignantly than ever. The reasons are manifold and each deserves to be considered on it's own and I hope to address each in this space in the future. However, the main intention of this post is to let those few that read my blog know that I am back.
I had decided not to post a notice that I would be away because I was considering ending the blog and wanted the three weeks to mull over that decision. When I started this blog it was a way of keeping in contact with a sport/business that I am passionate about. Having gone from a very late blooming fan to working in several aspects of the industry (breeding/breaking-training center/track) and now out of the industry again I felt I could offer a unique perspective. I thought, perhaps, my words/opinions when added to others that also care deeply for the sport would have some power to move the industry in a better direction. But as time goes by the awareness that this was a flawed hope became more and more evident. This realization left me with a sense of ennui and sapped my appetite to continue. It seems even in the blogosphere fans are more self-interested than bent on effecting positive change. My conclusion is that I had started this blog just for the satisfaction of expressing my ideas with the hopes I already expressed. And that has to be enough to continue and it is. I am also grateful for the contacts and friendships that have resulted from interaction with fellow bloggers and I find them payment enough.
In the last 8-9 months I had cut back to basically just handicapping posts and usually only once a week. That has been a result of an increased workload, the blogging ennui I mentioned and that I had agreed to do the weekly handicapping piece for Thorofan. While I was away there has been a huge shakeup at TF and I am no longer associated with them. I will be posting more about this as soon as I learn more and sort out the facts. Lamentable but not unexpected occurrences. More so because they did not put up my final post in which I picked Summer Bird in the Belmont. In any event I think I will continue to do some handicapping posts as I have grown to enjoy them. But that aspect was not the genesis of my blog. In fact I don't think I did a handicapping post until I agreed to do so for TF.I am hoping to recoup some of fire in the belly that I had started with. This trip was good fodder for that hope. Nothing makes vision clearer than comparison.
Before ending I'd like to say what a wonderful job the BBC does with racing telecasts! We in the U.S. can learn a lot from watching. Sure the entire telecast wasn't "all" about the racing but it doesn't have to be. In their Royal Ascot coverage thay had a lot of fashion spots. That's not my cup of tea but I'm sure it kept it interesting enough for some that weren't just race fans to continue watching, my wife for one. She enjoys the races and will often watch them with me but it made the overall experience more fun for her. And it is another aspect that belongs to racing. Unfortunately with the easing of dress codes at the big meets like Saratoga, it is another custom/aspect of racing that is being lost. Nonetheless, their plethora of interviews with jocks, owners, trainers etc. was both interesting, informative and fun. The commentary was also usually informative and insightful. Their entire handicapping system doesn't make a whole lot of sense to a "Yank" but it's fun trying to figure the whole thing out. The entire event is treated as an event that belongs to everyone and should be seen and digestible for everyone; not just 'hard-core' race fans.
Upon my return we have the NYRA / Nassau County OTB fiasco. I'm quickly reminded that I can't watch racing on network TV let alone get to to see many of the races I would like watch on my cable system. I remember way back to the beginning of my blog I wrote a post entitled "Greed." And that is still what this all come down to: Greed, on all sides. While that post was more specifically about ADW's it needn't have been.
In any case it's nice to be back. Now that I have a little less on my plate I hope to be able to up my contribution when compared to the past several months and hope you will come back and visit.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Gamely S. (G1)
1-1/8 - Fillies &Mares Three-Year-Olds and Upward - $250,000
For a turf race at 1-1/8th the Gamely promises to have a good pace led by the filly Tuscan Evening. She will break from the inside post and attempt to go gate to wire. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee went 1-1/16th in 1:40 2/5 on May 2. It was her first attempt at over a mile. Since then she shows a nice 4f maintenance work in 48 3/5 on 5/21. Her pedigree suggests the added distance should not be a problem. She is fit, improving and likely to be the pace setter on a turf course where speed can hold. She will finish in the money.
Magical Fantasy from the barn of Paddy Gallagher is already a Grade I winner and has recently returned to excellent form. She has the ability to track a good pace and finish well. She exits a nice victory in the Santa Barbara H. (G2) 42 days ago so she is well rested. I expect a big effort from this filly. She will be tracking the pace by several lengths and finish well for second.
I like Modification to win. I am a bit concerned that she may have some distance limitations but I feel she can get the 1-1/8th on the turf even though she has come up a bit short on synthetics at that distance. She is coming off of a 7f win in the GI Humana Distaff at Churchill in 1:23 3/5. So I don’t think she was completely extended. As far as turf form she shows only one race but it was a good effort coming off the bench. With her pedigree she can probably run on anything. I also think her last race, 28 days ago, sets her up perfectly for this spot. I think this is how Allen Jerkens would get a horse ready for a spot like this, albeit the 7f may have been a work and not a race. Nonetheless, I see her putting in a career best performance in the Gamely. Cory Nakatani has the mount and is a perfect fit for this filly that will finish with a flourish to win the B.C. Gamely (G1).
Place: Magical Fantasy
Show: Tuscan Evening
Friday, May 22, 2009
MILADY H. (G2)
1-1/16 Fillies & Mares Three and Up $150,000
When the connections of those running in the Milady H. circled the race on the calendar they didn’t expect to be running against Zenyatta but that is exactly what will happen. The 2009 edition of the Grade 2, mile and a sixteenth event will mark the first start of the year for last year’s champion older female. She had been scheduled to begin her five year old season on May 1, in the Louisville H. (G2) at Churchill but when the track came up muddy John Shirreffs called an audible and scratched her. Zenyatta is a perfect 9for 9 in her career and a perfect 4 for 4 at Hollywood Park. She will be the prohibitive favorite and I don’t believe she can be beaten. If she does lose it would be as much an upset as Mine That Bird’s victory in The Kentucky Derby. There is something very special about a horse that is unbeaten, even more so when they run at the highest levels of racing. She is one of those rare athletes that we hope to be able to see in our lifetimes. Her presence saps value from the race but the pleasure of watching this truly wonderful mare run is reward enough.
On paper Zenyatta’s most likely competition is stable mate Life is Sweet. Garrett Gomez retains the mount and together they will try to extend their streak of three consecutive graded stakes wins. She will probably enter the gate as the second betting choice but I don’t think she will be second to Zenyatta at race’s end. I will take a shot at beating her for second with Champagne Eyes. On paper Life is Sweet has an obvious class advantage. However, like most of the field she likes to come from off the pace. That means running Zenyatta’s race. So, when they turn for home and Zenyatta starts passing them as they start their move I can imagine most of this field becoming discouraged. I do think Life is Sweet has enough class to run on but not with the same confidence. I’ll place her third.
Win:--- Zenyatta------A truly great one!
Place:-Champagne Eyes--The O’Neill barn will enjoy some bubbly after this performance.
Show:--Life is Sweet--Just the wrong circumstances for her.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Preakness S. (G1)
1-3/16 Three-Year-Olds $1,100,000
Win:---Musket Man--Bags his first Grade I.
Place:-Terrain---------Patience pays off for the connections.
Show:-Big Drama-----If he hadn’t gotten hurt he may have been top of the crop.