Monday, March 11, 2013

Culture Change at the M, Derby Math & Derby Horses

This weekend I did some handicapping at the Meadowlands and it felt like old times. In two races the "Meadowlands shuffle" was alive and well. Several of the races were barnburners, with horses coming from everywhere.

For a harness racing fan, it was second to none.

About one year ago Jeff Gural, the Meadowlands owner, heard loud and clear from bettors and fans that the new Meadowlands wasn't like the old Meadowlands. There were too many holes, too many races which looked like pre-determined, buddy-buddy affairs. Instead of sitting on his hands, he asked the drivers and trainers to race, not just show up. The judges were watching the racing for holes given, and the inevitable "pull and wait for cover" that accompanied it. The result has been apparent.

Racing is very cultural. Whipping rules can't change because 'that's the way we drive'. Change can't happen because of tradition. Takeout can't be lowered because 'we've always had high takeout'. Some might think the way drivers drove at the Meadowlands the last five years or so could not be changed either. But it was, and racing is better for it.

Speaking of the Meadowlands, Saturday, Bob DiNozzi, a part time trainer who never wins a race, won a race driving his own horse. And paid $103.  There is a constant debate on chat boards or twitter about who means more, a driver or a jockey. My answer is always jockey, simply because a dude like Bob DiNozzi can win races without too much problem, while I can't see Doug O'Neill hopping aboard one and doing the same. :)

Staying on the rider angle, a riderless Fort Larned absolutely smoked the field at Gulfstream on the weekend (don't worry, he's okay). We've seen riderless horses time and time again win a race, but it is usually by a small margin. Fort Larned literally was up by 150 yards. I know the poor fella might've been spooked and was running on fear, but that was absolutely amazing. Interestingly, if he is a short price next time, I might play against him off the bounce angle.  I mean that was some crazy-ass speed.

Warrawee Needy lost on Saturday, but it was not by lack of trying. He was a fade for me, as I thought Mark Mac should not have had to go to the whip last week off those splits, knowing how great he is fresh. But that was (even though he lost) a wrong play. The horse was really good, and if he can settle he should be more than fine for next week, in my opinion.

What happened to commenting on Standardbred Canada? I expected plenty of concerned comments after the Premier spoke on Friday, but crickets. 

The Racing Beard is back. Decent site for harness fans.

I guess I should mention Varazzano. I really don't know what to say because commenting how much I liked the move Eskendreya made in the Wood, or how great Uncle Mo looked two years ago, or how I was stoked to see Quality Road's year after his spring 120 Beyer, never gets me anywhere. For a lot of horses I am going to wait until Derby Day to make a judgement.

As for the race in California this weekend, I did not see it. It's weird but since the rake hike I have not paid the slightest attention to the racing out there. It's become a habit to not look at a PP, or watch a race, so I did not even know when the race was happening (I thought it was on Sunday for some reason). It's not me being cheeky either, it's because there are lots of other tracks to play, and I just don't have time to watch races at a track I am not betting. Regardless, I got my news on the affair via the video report by Mark Doche here; and it was a nice report. Worth a watch. 

If you are annoyed with your Derby horse draft, maybe you should change it up next year and take a prep pool where you get the horse who wins the prep, places in the prep or shows in the prep. Maybe the Florida Derby would go first overall, but you might grab the Sunland Derby winner in the fourth round and get lucky. 

I think Churchill is making an error not allowing Betfair to have a Derby market. Betfair has 3 million customers, and some of them will only watch the Derby to trade it, or play it in running. It harkens me back to the poker story, where shutting down online poker was supposed to help poker. Instead, online poker players just found something else to do.

I still remember watching my favorite in-running Derby. Street Sense was 10-1 because he looked like he would get blocked on the inside move. Bettors were saying that Calvin was going to be a goat, but instead he was Superman.

Derek Simon, one of the smarter bettors out there, looked at the effectiveness of Derby trainers via an expectation formula. Some of the results (the Toddster) might not surprise you, but some (Zito, Mott) might.

Greg Blanchard - truly one of the very good guys in this sport - was featured in a London newspaper.

Driver loyalty was featured in last month's Trot. You can read it here.

To make money at racing long-term, you have to land on horse's that other people aren't landing on. That's why visually impressive wins, or trouble trips for beaten chalk are the worst bets in modern horse racing.  A guy who lands on horse's with some bad lines is Inside the Pylons on twitter. I notice we rarely like the same horse but yesterday we both landed on a horse at Tampa in the last and tweeted it. Maybe, just maybe we're sitting on a nice winner to make a score? Not likely. The horse was eased. As the kids say, I LOL'd.
Who needs her. Talking phones are a fad anyway. 

Have a great Monday everyone.

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