Breeders' Cup and "Filling the Tank"

As we all know, two of the most interesting and bettable days in all of horse racing are happening tomorrow and Saturday - The Breeders Cup. I have gone through the PP's and a little bit of jcapper and I think the two days are as good as any I have bet and watched over the last 30 years (well, maybe I should not have said that because I was under 18 for some of those and the RCMP knows where I live).

For most people the Breeders Cup can be overwhelming. There are deep fields with runners coming from everywhere. There are horses cutting back or stretching out, there are myriad types of bets to play. It's not your average 6 horse field race card at Beulah.

Fortunately, there are places that offer some help.

Alan over at LATG handicaps some of Friday through the lens of TimeformUS. Their stuff is good so if you are looking for some insight, give them a glance (he is offering a deal). They have a package for sale, and it might be worth a few marbles if you plan to play.

Brisnet also has some cool stuff that may help, especially harness players looking for an edge. I have to mention them too, because the Marketing dude at Brisnet is Ed DeRosa, and despite me yelling at him on twitter, or likewise him yelling at me, I think he's a pretty good guy. He puts together some really good stuff over at Bris for punters.

Lastly, if you have not downloaded the Free Horseplayer Monthly, just do it! There's insight from people you don't hear too often from for free. Like John Doyle, who is one of the sharpest guys around. Our blog friends Jessica Chapel and @keenegal, along with Mike Dorr, Lenny Moon and others share some thoughts. There are also bias stats and trainer stats from the last three Cups.

I am close to putting together some tickets, which may or may not change based on track bias or how a trainers horses are firing. Two horses I think I will be taking a stand on are Caracortado in the Turf Sprint (I was turned on to looking at him much more closely due to Doyle and Chapel's thoughts) and Bobby's Kitten in the Juvy turf.

The former has downhill experience, will likely have pace to chase, has a decent post, and is a stalker - those horses are 7 for 29 this meet at 6.5f. His price will be right.

As for Bobby's Kitten, I know what you are saying: "PTP, thoroughbred racing needs more horses named Kitten", but this horse looks like he may be special. That maiden win showed some major-league professionalism for a turf horse, and he just looks so seasoned. He's fast too. This race, the way I look at it, in the horizontals everyone will be using all the Euro's based on their history in the event. I am taking a stand and spreading in the other races because I think Bobby is the real deal.

American horse racing takes its lumps and sometimes it's warranted. But, like we read with this overseas scribe's take on the BC, sometimes it's ridonkulous (h/t to Seth at Equidaily for the link):
  •  It’s a huge ask for our horses to compete with the ‘septic tanks’ in their own back yard and I’m convinced the only rule in US racing is there are no rules.
That's nonsense of course, because the Breeders Cup, as told in this PR piece, makes sure the "tanks are not filled".

If you are worried about raceday shocking or milkshaking, that's covered through 72 hour surveillance. If there's "filling of the tank" it must be right up there with a Tom Cruisian Mission Impossible coup.

If the Euro's lose this year they will lose because they weren't good enough. If you want to paint an event as one "without rules" some people need to do their homework.

It's nice to end a post with a little rant. It does the body good.

Have a great day everyone, and enjoy your handicapping. Days like this only come a few times a year.

Studs

There were announcements on the horse retirement side today. Over with the runners, Verrazano and Paynter are calling it quits. On the harness side, Pet Rock, A Rock n Roll Dance and Panther Hanover are all hanging it up. We'll focus on the harness side, because it's pretty interesting, in my opinion.

Each year there is a three year old who seems to be better than the age restricted horses he races. In some years the competition is good, in some years it's bad, and in some years - like last year - it's mind-boggling. Generally what you get for your stud has more to do with who he raced against, rather than due to his ability.

In 2005, Rock n Roll Hanover was going to command a huge fee. He was an all-world colt and he had rich bloodlines. Not far behind him in ability, though, was American Ideal. American Ideal beat Rock n Roll in the Holmes and later on set a World record. I remember the week before he went the big speed. He signalled his fitness with a wide move to the eighth pole and a tightener where he came his last three quarters in 121.1.

American Ideal raced a couple of times at 4, then retired to a low stud fee. He was born in the wrong year, because if he raced in 2002 or 2006, for example, he would've probably been the big ticket, with an $8000 to $12,000 fee. He had to prove himself in the shed, which he has, and now commands a higher fee. The original syndication partners made out like bandits.

This year we see several potential American Ideal's. If a Rock n Roll Dance was born in a handful of other years, he certainly commands more than he will because he likely would've crushed on the racetrack (unbelievably he had only four wins last year with 147 speed). Panther Hanover and Pet Rock are not much different. Panther was a 147 and change three year old, and so was Pet Rock. Pet Rock almost made $1 million while racing against monsters. This year he is one fifth of a second from holding all three world records on three sized racetracks (he is standing for a meagre $6,000).

This year we've reverted back more to other years, where we see one big colt who will get most of the stud action, unless he flops at four. It's unlikely any of his competition would be massively wanted in the stud room. There just seems to be not much talent in the crop. I guess an easy way to look at it is like this. If Captaintreacherous gets injured in March, you are left with the two best colts being Vegas Vacation and Sunshine Beach. Vegas is a gelding, so Sunshine (a son of SBSW with a probable 1.5 million on his card) becomes the big ticket syndication horse.

Sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time - to cash a ticket, win a race, or build a bankroll. It's not much different in the stud game in harness racing.


Jim Carr is a Good Sod

There is a story up on SC about owner Jim Carr regarding his good deed to injured horse photographer Sylvain Gagnon. Jim is one good egg. I wrote about Mr. Carr not long ago, so I share it here.



Jim Carr, who most know as the owner of the very talented (now at stud) pacer Big Jim, is not your ordinary, average, every day horse owner. The Hamilton businessman does things in a way that is not like many others. His decisions, his loyalty, his ‘being Big Jim’ is something refreshing and completely different.

Back when Big Jim was being Big Jim – winning races and becoming a really nice horse – the whispers about the choice of driver were everywhere. No matter if you were on social media, at pre-Breeders Crown parties, in the grandstand, or on shedrows, you’d hear “why is this guy using Phil Hudon with so many top drivers available?” 

It’s crazy right? Sure if you look at statistics the top drivers are not separated by much, but they are held to a high bar in racing, where everyone who has a good horse wants to take every edge possible, whether it is real or perceived. It’s just the way things are done.  Using Phil when John or Brian or Yannick are nearby? That’s horse racing sacrilege; or so we’re told. 

Not for Jim Carr. One simple moment trumped that in a hurry. As told to Keith McCalmont in a Trot magazine article, that one act that carried so much weight with Carr was driver Phil Hudon shaking his hand for the chance to drive his two year old, who had not even made a start. 

  •  “I’m almost in tears talking about this because I like him [Phil] so much,” says Carr. “It meant a lot to me because that’s unheard of in this industry. I don’t think any other driver would do that and maybe even he doesn’t do that with every horse but he saw me around the paddock because I’m around there all the time. He came up and shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you.’ He hadn’t even driven him yet. He was just thankful for the opportunity.”

As time went on, Big Jim (and the human Big Jim and Phil) won races, culminating in the Breeders Crown.  Even then there were whispers. 

“I had an owner at the Breeders Crown party ask me, ‘Why Phil Hudon when you could have anybody else to drive this horse?’ and I said to him, ‘What’s he done wrong?’” recalls Carr. “He’s had one second, one third and only one bad race. He’s won nearly everything with the horse, how much better can you get?”

As Big Jim’s three year old season moved on, and the horse suffered a couple of losses (probably due to physical issues) the pressure mounted to make a switch. But that switch never happened. Big Jim danced with the one who brung him.  Phil drove him in every start.

This loyalty and love of the sport does not end there. Most may remember the story at the Meadowlands where a young family of fans got a nice surprise. 

“It’s like kismet,” Tim Nagle said. “We bet on Big Jim and Big Jim won and all of a sudden Mr. Carr came out and swept us into the winner’s circle. It was really wonderful. We didn’t know him from Adam when he invited us to go in the winner’s circle. It was like, ‘Wow.’ No one does stuff like that. It’s fantastic.”

A week or so later, Jim was back. Before the races, he visited with the family at their home, brought hats for the kids and enjoyed lunch at a local eatery.

This is not something you see every day. But it seems to be just the way it is; as the kids might say, “this is how he rolls”.

I was perusing the harness racing trade websites this week and I saw a Trot Insider piece on last year’s speedball and Oliver Wendall Holmes winner, Panther Hanover.  Big Jim Carr updated everyone on his (lack of) a season so far. 

“Friday [trainer James 'Friday' Dean] had been in 1:57 with him this winter in Florida and he was ready to qualify, but shortly after we sent him to New Jersey to trainer Bruce Saunders he started to go off a little bit,” said Carr. “We had an MRI done on his leg and found out what the problem was and shut him down and let it cure. I just didn’t want to inject him, so I said to shut him down and let’s try to get it fixed right.”

Hmmm. “Let’s get it fixed right”. In a day and age of slot purses, vet work, supplements, using anything legal to get an edge, and trying to get the most out of a horse now, we’re talking about ‘fixing things right’.  How many owners of a great horse do you know with the patience to do that?

Maybe thinking long-term is just in his nature.  

I remember when the Racing Development and Sustainability Plan (RDSP) was being talked about in Ontario several years ago. The Plan, which would take 5% of slot money from purses to be used for customer development, marketing, fairs, signal distribution, digital media and more, was being heavily debated. Most horsemen groups were balking and some racetracks were too. Jim Carr, a businessman who believes you spend money to make money, was all for it and told anyone who wanted to listen he was. 

 About half way through the debate, he said in his usual matter of fact fashion that he’d get the ball rolling by pledging 5% of his horse’s earnings right now. Forget about tomorrow, the infighting, the debate, and all the rest. Let’s get it done.

Harness racing, and horse racing in general, has always wanted to attract good owners: Owners who care about the sport, care about their stock, care about the people in the sport and the future of it. Harness racing has that in Big Jim Carr. And in my opinion, it could use a great many more.


Ted


Over the past three years, many of you - both here and on twitter - got to know my handicapping partner, Ted the dog. It is with a heavy heart that after a tough month or so, I let you know that Ted is no longer with us.

I contemplated writing anything about this, but decided I should; maybe because I think it will make me feel better, but I think it’s more than that. So many of you have helped me over the last year by offering advice on things like care and meds, and we shared a general good cheer about our pets – whether it was a horse or a dog or a cat. I should let you know because you have all been so nice to me. 

Back in the summer of 2010, we began helping out a local dog rescue by fostering. After seeing a nice dog get placed with a new family that we helped, it was rewarding. In late August I noticed a beagle mix with a sweet face on an animal shelter website. I called the shelter to see if anyone inquired about him and they said he had gotten few visits, but he was older, banged up, and needed special care, so she doubted he would get adopted very fast.  That was true, because five weeks later I flew into Halifax (where I split time), and away we went to meet him. 

He was old and he was banged up. He had, we found out later, a broken pelvis – probably from getting hit by a car – that was never treated. That long-ago break caused a chain reaction. Through overcompensation from the pelvic pain, he walked differently and that caused a ligament in his knee to blow. That ligament then caused him to overcompensate on his shoulder, which had arthritis. To make things worse he had a terrible kennel cough that was exacerbated by the fact he was just neutered.

Sounds horrible eh? I guess it was, but the first time he entered the adoption room, you’d never have known it. He was as happy as a dog can be. Curious, friendly, like he had the world by the tail. We immediately liked him. And we took him home. 

Slowly but surely he got better mentally as well as physically. I remember watching the Breeders Cup in 2010 which occurred four weeks after we got him. When Zenyatta rolled down the stretch I let out a “c’mon big girl” yell. He immediately cowered into the corner. By the following summer he had no such qualms when someone let out a yell. The couch, which early on to him was the height of ten Empire State Buildings, was now something (with some help) he could conquer. His coat got healthy and shiny, his fears were dissipating. He really came along. 

Lately of course, he slowed, like we knew he would. He just can’t have that many issues without them coming back to bite him. His shoulder gave him more trouble, his back end was really starting to hurt. We tried almost everything we could, and last week he had a tremendously good week, but there were more bad days than good. 

On October 2nd 2010 we drove up to our little place on the north shore of Nova Scotia with a dog we named Teddy. Three years and 23 days later we felt that it was best if he died here as well. Our small town vet came out to the shore, and on his blanket at 4:05 Friday afternoon he left us. 

I’d like to look back and say we have tremendous memories, or he is better off now, or that we did all we could to give him a better life. I will do that sometime I’m sure, but right now all I am is sad. This old dog who came into my life, who I spent virtually every minute with, who never asked for anything from anyone, who had a kind heart and good soul, who did not deserve to leave us so quickly, is gone. 

 I loved him and I will miss him. He was my best friend.

(comments off)

Like a Stick to the Face

Long ago now, my father played hockey. He was a pretty good hockey player as a kid, and was drafted in the first OHL draft into the Boston Bruins organization. Back then all the junior teams were "owned" by the big six NHL squads and that was the way it worked.

He played junior for a couple of years, and was not quite good enough for the Bruins at 20, so he was going to continue his career in the AHL.

He didn't end up doing that. He came home. When I asked why he didn't to try and realize a dream that only 120 kids had (six teams with 20 on a roster back then) he told me a story.

One day his team was playing the Galt Black Hawks, which were Chicago's junior team. There was a brawl on the ice and one of his teammates was really getting into it with a Galt defenseman. My dad's line was on the bench and he watched his teammate get free from the bigger player, grab his stick and swing it like a baseball bat, right across the Galt players forehead. The defenseman fell unconscious, while my father's teammate began laughing and taunting.

My dad was a tough guy, who didn't shy away from a fight in hockey with scars to prove it, and came from a tough-as-nails hard rock miner, but that was too much for him. He said he felt sick about the incident and realized that hockey was not really for him. There were other reasons too, but he always used to say, "I'm not crazy enough for it".

He ventured home and worked underground in a gold mine, just as his father did. He played hockey at night in a semi-pro league to make a few extra dollars for a young family and later on coached. Fortunately, he wanted to do better for his family so he took courses at night and later on moved to the surface in the accounting department. That move probably helped send three kids to university, in a family that never had done that before, so I selfishly think it was the right move. (I was one of them).

During the past month or so in horse racing I have spoken to a dozens or more insiders about many things. We spoke about rules and commissions, signal fees, the situation in Ontario and much more. I've generally heard the same thing.  "We can't do anything, it's the horsemen and they have too much power" or "the state is messing us up" or "people are in charge who know nothing about betting" or "as long as they have slots not much will change."

I've had people say about Pennsylvania or Illinois or New York regarding the fight over internet betting "they know handle will fall and they will have fewer customers, they just want more money."

I've had harness heavy hitters tell me without fail "of course kicking looks bad and alters the race finishes and is against the rules, but there are too many people in racing that think kicking is okay and they don't want to upset their driver friends". I've had them say "not much you can do. There are 20 commissions and getting them on board is impossible."

I had a call last night with an insider that would make any rational person's head spin on most of the above. 

I've worked quite a bit for horse racing, for free over the last decade or so. I attended conferences, wrote papers, and offer to help out virtually anyone in the sport when they ask for it. I ain't looking for a pat on the back, but it has not been a small amount of time or effort.

But that has to change. Sometimes you get that moment - the stick in the face - where you wonder why you even bother. The last month or so has been exactly that.

I think I've finally realized, that like my father long ago, I'm just not crazy enough for it.


Benny Beam Talks Some Harness Racing

If you are a regular customer on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit over the last many years, or alternatively, if you hang around the backstretch, you surely know Benny Beam (a moniker, it's what he posts as on chat boards, his real name is Scott).

Scott has been around the block, oh ten or two hundred dozen times and usually has something interesting to say - although the way he says it would have him fired from any paid industry position in about ten seconds; let's just say he does not mince words.

But he is worth listening to, as he is sharper than almost anyone I know in this business. He knows his way around a past performance program, the industry itself, insider stuff regarding the horses and their handling that you won't read in the industry press, or what new pre-race is being used on the backside. He's a jack of all trades one might say.

He attended the Breeders Crown this past week and posted some thoughts on a chat board (you need to be a member to read it, so I will summarize it here.)

On Pocono Downs, which is a speed-laden track, where virtually no one can come off the pace:
  • The 1-2-3 should be starting behind the finish/start line .........the 4-5-6 shoule be starting exactly on the finish/start line ...........and the 7-8-9 should be starting ahead of the finsh/start line ..............and they need to increase the bank on the turns ................and dig up--ever so slightly--the inside path of the racetrack
On "picking posts":
  • They better get rid of them
On the lack of trying in some races and the harness racing problem of having all the horses in one or two control barns, with the same drivers:
  •  limit the number of drives to 5 per card....having 5 guys drive power horses for 3 power outfits is killing the game..............also, the splits should be 65/25/10 with the remaining 10 points shared amongst the rest of the field 
On the excitement of the racing:
  • the only races that have any excitement are those where no horse gets a breather anywhere in the mile
On Captaintreacherous and the lack of talent in the three year old class this season:
  •  I laugh when I hear people talk about the captain. He always gets a breather and TT is always beating the crap out of him to hold off a parked out horse. He will get his bridle jerked next year and I will make a prediction the owners will protect him as much as possible and will eventually shorten his season. The press releases will be non-stop the moment it goes off the rails---and it will.
On Intimidate's owner Mrs. Farrow:
  •  I feel there should be a POY award - Person of the Year and the inugural award should go to Mrs. Farrow. Our tables were adjoined the other night at Pocono and thus spent most of the night talking to her and her kids. She might be the most amazing person I've met---racing or otherwise. Hers is a story that should be told to the masses. BTW she didn't blame the driver [on Intimidate's poor finish]/didn't throw her trainer under the bus. Just accepted the result for what it was and get this--the moment she knew she had no chance of winning she was screaming for Mister Herbie to win. What a lady.
On how a railbird like him got invited to the dining room on Breeders Crown night:
  • I just told them I was Murray Brown's nephew
Harness racing has a fear of change, a towing of the line, a lack of rocking of the boat and there is a cowtowing to every special interest or fiefdom as a matter of course. No one spouts much other than pablum. Scott might not deliver his thoughts in the most poltically correct way. But for the love of the sport we need a whole lot more like him.


Monday Round-Up Harness Style

Good morning peeps!

Saturday's Breeders Crown is a hot topic. I got a few emails of interest, and there were a few letters and tweets flying the last couple of days. I've been called smart, a doofus, a lover of great horses and a hater of some, too. How one can be all four with an opinion that doesn't move much is what it is, but it's been pretty fun.

Someone wondered why I didn't list the Captain's Breeders Cup win as an "impressive performance" this weekend, like I did with Bee a Magician or Iluvthenitelife or Foiled Again. The simple answer is because when a 1-5 shot gets an easy half and wins by a head I do not find that the least bit newsworthy. In fact, when that happens in any race as a bettor, often times I wonder what's wrong with the 1-5 shot and look to bet against him or her next weekend (especially if the horse that almost beats him is parked first over the mile, going his trip via Tioga). It's not hard to understand why I glossed over it.

Someone asked why I would flip my thought to Bee a Magician as Horse of the Year for this season after Saturday from the Captain. (I wrote a post yesterday).

That's fairly simple, too. This is a replay of 2005 for me. That year Rainbow Blue was against Windsong's Legacy. The old guard wanted Windsong's Legacy to win because he was a colt (a very good one who won the trotting triple crown), just like they always do (fillies win only one of four horse of the year awards in harness racing, not because they weren't great fillies, because of politics and stud books). I was lobbying for Rainbow Blue of course because she was, well, Rainbow freaking Blue. This year we again have the glamor boy against a filly and both have good won-loss records. I can't tell where the glamor boy fits in the hierarchy of three year old colts - is he No Pan Intended or Rock n' Roll Heaven - I have no idea. I can easily tell where Bee a Magician fits though and it is not difficult. She's easily one of the best trotting fillies I have ever seen. Saturday confirmed that, and there's the flip.

Someone emailed asking me what I thought about Steve Ross's, one of the dudes on Pennsylvania Harness Week -  letter to Harness Racing Update. Steve wrote that negativity regarding the booting stuff in racing should not be talked about in the media or by fans (I guess I am incurring the wrath of Steve right now). He says we must "accentuate the positive".

I hate to mince words but: What a load of hooey.

Think about that for a second. The thing Walter Case got kicked out of racing for years ago is going on each week at a harness track near you. Instead of stopping the booting (the rule is in the rulebooks) by calling it where the story will end tomorrow, Steve wants some 1.5 billion people using Facebook, twitter, google, smartphones and computers and telephones and a pen and paper, to shut up.

I am sorry to break the news - hold it I am not breaking it - but guess what? Tetrick booted the Captain again in the Breeders Crown final. Pacing Guy talked about it here. I guess he didn't get the memo from the Harness Racing Politburo.

Have a great day everyone.


Bee a Magician Steals the Show on Breeders Crown Night

If you ever want to differentiate a "good horse" from a "great horse" the easiest way to do it is to look who sharp bettors or racing historians compare the horse to.

When did you know Somebeachsomewhere was "great"? When people stopped comparing him to Rock n' Roll Hanover and started comparing him to Nihilator and Niatross.

When did you know Rainbow Blue was "great"? When people started asking, "she's better than Shady Daisy and Fan Hanover isn't she?"

After last night's jaw-dropping performance, we are seeing the same thing happen with Bee a Magician. She is not being compared to Maven, or Check Me Out, or any number of good three year old fillies we've seen in the sport the past ten years any longer. She's being compared to CR Kay Suzie or Moni Maker. A few people (and I am one of them) think she is ready, with the right conditions, to break 150.

Will she be as good as that? Who knows, but that doesn't matter. Almost each year we see the word "great" being thrown around, where it almost becomes banal. But each time when you ask someone is "he or she better than X" there is waffling. With Bee a Magician there is no waffling. She's stamped herself as something very special and people are beginning to appreciate what they're seeing.

The quiet and unassuming daughter of Kadabra stole the show (video here).

To read a recap on the best performances of the evening (and for racing history buffs, a look at the comparisons between last night's three year old colt pace and Life Sign's Jug) please take a look at HRU on page 7 (it's a pdf).

Have a nice Sunday everyone.

Breeders Crown 2013 Upset Specials

Tonight the Breeders Crown card starts at 5 sharp at Pocono Downs. There are some really nice horses competing this evening, and we should see the usual - the cream rise to the top - but there is a chance we might see some upsets, too.

Free program pages are available here.

In the first big event of the evening for two year old colts, the on paper champ, Father Patrick looks like a lock. However, I'll upset hunt in here. For a short priced favorite I like to be sure he will get a cakewalk trip, or is lights out open lengths better than his competition. Father Patrick probably is better than them all, but with a horse like Nuncio from the outside (possibly going crazy fractions again), uncertainty is added to the race. I will take a small poke on Credit Fashion, who might sneak a neat inside trip here.

In the two year old filly pace I am going to be betting She's Da Bomb. Fillies get sharp and stay sharp for awhile, but travel and a change of routine can mess them up. I think that's what happened to her last week, with that anemic performance. She is at least five lengths better than she showed, I think. I'll go back to her and hope she shakes it off.

In the two year old filly trot I see no board value, but that's okay, because sitting it out for my perceived value in the Open Trot is worthwhile. I have followed Intimidate for a long time and love the horse but I feel he will be, by far, the most overbet horse on the card. I believe he has things set up nicely for him this year, and if he is up against it in the least, he will be lucky to hit the board. I see board value on Wishing Stone, who is a little horse. Little trotters excel the smaller the track, and he should fire good here off a nice trip. At 12-1 I will play. I will also use Uncle Peter, who I think is handy enough to work out a trip.

In the three year old filly pace Iluvthenitelife is the Captaintreacherous of her sex. In fact, a sharp bettor mentioned to me that on a half mile track he'd like to see a match race between her and the Captain, because he thinks she'd beat him. I think he's onto something. Having said that she always looks on paper like a horse who can get beat. Betting against her has obviously backfired, but tonight there truly is a horse who looks sharper than she does - Shebestingin. I will also use Carol's Desire somewhere because if for some reason the drivers of the chalk turn it into a match race, funny things can happen.

In the two year old colt pace I have been toying with the thought of keying Luckbewithyou and I think I am sold on doing that. That horse was really good last week.

The Open older mare trotters has no board value, in my opinion. Maven and Check Me Out should be there somewhere. The three year old filly trot and open mare pace really don't interest me as a bettor. There looks like board value on Shelliscape but everyone and their brother are calling her for an upset. I do like her, but she looks like she'll be hammered at the windows.

The three year old colt pace provides a chance at a third upset of the evening. Captain has the rail and the hype. The others are chasing. I didn't think he was great last week, and two horses were marvelous: Sunshine Beach and Lucan Hanover. The former jumped a head number and it probably cost him, and the latter came home in 53.4. Conversely, the Captain was all out in 149.2 with a slow last half. Vegas Vacation threw in a total clunker, barely coming home in 55 and not even with a 27 last panel, off the best trip he's had since he was probably a maiden. Remember, this is a colt off cheap fractions who came home in 25.3 at Mohawk. I will use him to bounce back, possibly with a nice trip, Sunshine Beach on a possible speed mission, and Lucan Hanover. If the Captain was soft last week and is showing some wear and tear, it can make me some money. If he bounces back and goes 148, well it won't be the first time I've lost to him as a bettor this season.

Last up is a really, really cool race: The Open Pace. Not long ago the three year old pace was the feature, but no longer. The older horses are tough, fast and some of the best pacers we've seen in awhile. You can go 100 different directions in this race, but I think I will key on Clear Vision.

Best of luck everyone, enjoy your night, and good luck at the windows.

Thanks to the Breeders Cown for the picture, which I got off Garnet's full Crown card analysis at Horse Racing Nation. Garnet is a good handicapper so give it a read if you are playing.  

Cautionary note: Remember, Pennsylvania has some of the worst takeout rates on the planet. Tonight the pick 4's provide you with the best rates. And there are pool guarantees.




Pick a State, Any State, Can You Bet?

There is a thread at Paceadvantage.com talking about a new "source market fee" for Pennsylvania. In effect, this means if you live in that state, you will be subjected to having your takeout hiked (if you play an out of state ADW) and your choice stifled as a customer.  Distribution of the signal throughout the state will also be curtailed. As noted in that thread, some of racing's best customers for many years are having their accounts closed.

Why, you may ask, would tracks and horsemen do such a thing to their customers, especially one which already has 30% exotic takeouts, millions and millions from slot machines, all in a sport that's bleeding handle? Because they can, and taking more of a shrinking pie is what this business has been built  hampered with for many years now. It's just the way it is, in a business devoid of critical thinking.

And as the kids say, it's pretty cray cray, because getting a bigger share of the pie for purses has never even been a "problem" for this sport.

Do you know what the UK, Australia and other places get from each dollar wagered for purses? Hong Kong? Much less than the current 7% or more than US racing does. In the UK less than 1% goes to purses, in Australia it is less than 2%. As Steve Crist wrote in the DRF several years ago:
  •  Though American racehorse owners constantly complain about not getting a sufficient return on investment, in comparison to other countries, we do a pretty efficient job of directing betting commissions back to owners through purses.
So we're working on a problem that isn't really a problem. If handle to purses were the issue, we'd be 700% better off than the UK is, but we clearly are not. What happens when we focus on promulgating a bumper sticker policy, where the customers get left holding the bag? Your national handle goes down, and as more states who see what you did try it, the problem gets worse. When that happens, revenues, racedates and purses (the thing you were trying to "fix") fall, because handle has fallen. When slots get the old heave-ho, well then things really get bad.

Look at this list of states and what you as a customer have to do to be a customer at this big ADW:

 If the thread at Paceadvantage.com is correct, you can change the above beside Pennsylvania to "No" and "No".

When we tell customers "no you can't bet" a not-so-funny thing happens. They don't bet.

Picture the above if Amazon.com or E*Trade or Ebay or iTunes had the same restrictions. We'd probably never even have heard of any of them, or worse, China probably would've created them and taken all the revenues through an offshore network.

In Ontario this past week, one of the government officials who is now in charge of racing in the Province said this: "We discovered the [slots] program had allowed the industry to turn its attention way from its customers — racing fans and horseplayers."

If this official looks south of the border he would see the same thing happening, although it can be argued, it's even worse.



Horse of the Year Could Come Down to the Breeders Crown



Each year the Breeders Crown usually has compelling storylines. At times we’ve seen horses slam dunk their divisional honors, and other times, fail to. And it probably should be that way. The harness racing season is a long one, and if a horse can stay sharp and last where he or she can win such a big race in October, he or she deserves accolades.

Somebeachsomewhere won his Crown in an effort that was awe-inspiring, just like the first victory of his career was. Rock n’ Roll Hanover answered all questions to those who wondered if American Ideal was a better horse with a trip. Conversely, Well Said, after a tough two heats in the Jug, faltered; as did Deweycheatumnhowe and Donato Hanover. It’s tough to win out.

This year is no exception. And it’s maybe even more important to win your Crown Saturday, because Horse of the Year honors might lie in the balance.

To read about the contenders please continue at Harness Racing Update here (pdf page 6).

The more I think about it, this is a race - for fans and bettors anyway. The media has concentrated on one horse, but he has lost a race and has set no world records. Others like Maven (who has two) and Iluvthenitelife (with one) should not be discounted, even though some might want to.

Breeders Crown night should be very interesting.

Supporting Something (That Makes You Feel Pretty Good, Too)

I got a picture sent to me yesterday via email of a thoroughbred race horse. He was in his stall, perfectly groomed, with super-clean bedding and a stall that looked like a room at the Waldorf. This horse is a darn good horse who has made some money, but it really is not uncommon.

We see it each day.

I remember betting Keeneland last week and a horse in the post parade jumped right off my TV screen. He was glistening, his ears were up, he was fat and happy. He looked like a show horse. Some people look at win percentage of a trainer to choose one as an owner, but I often find myself looking at how the stable looks itself. I figured this horse was trained by Jonathon Sheppard or Graham Motion or someone like that, but it wasn't. This ten claimer was trained by a woman I had never heard of, who had a zero percent win percentage.

We see it each day. Walk a shedrow of a harness or thoroughbred racetrack and the care these horses receive is amazing. Probably unparalleled.

Unfortunately, what happens to some of them afterwards can be the exact opposite. And that's where other organizations have to come in.

One such group, that transforms horses from this to this, is Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue (I picked that one because I know someone who runs it, but I could've picked others). They are currently having an Ebay auction of some amazing items. Halters of the could-be horse of the year Game on Dude, possible Breeders Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, and the iron tough Richards Kid are all there for the taking. For smaller budgets, their 2014 calendar is for sale, too.

Just because a horse stops racing, does not mean he or she transforms into something else. They are still horses, still our buddies, still that glistening horse in a post parade.  Please consider helping them out.  One donation can keep a horse fed and cared for a month or two, which might be just enough time to have them post parading in a field near you, as a wonderful life-companion for a lucky adopter.



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