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Showing posts from June, 2013

Harness Stakes Night A Real Gem

Yesterday evening at Pocono we saw the best harness racing had to offer with three stakes that would be graded grade I's if harness racing graded stakes. It was quite the evening.

Highlighting the night was the super-interesting Hempt where if you weren't a fan of open stakes draws before the race, you sure were afterwards. The three best horses had the three worst posts, and it made for one of the most entertaining races we've seen in years.



Captaintreacherous, the top colt so far in 2013 had the furthest outside post. Just inside of him was Sunfire Blue Chip and just to his inside was Vegas Vacation. Another good horse, Code Word, drew the advantageous two post. In what shocked quite a few people, out of those three outside horses, the Captain being forced to let things settle from the far outside ended up working to his advantage. After the dust cleared, he found himself second over with a ~56 back half to work into, with a completely spent front end.

A few things made…

Saturday Harness Notes

Yesterday the long-term framework was released for Ontario racing. Bill Finley summarizes it in HRU (Pdf, page 2) for those interested.

I'll have more on it next week, but it's pretty much as expected. For many years racing's factions fought over racedates, rules, slot money and everything else under the sun. The framework pretty much says "throw that out of the window". Now racing will rely on handle and customers for funding and revenues, and that alone.

It's a wake up call for the alphabets, not for customers or those pesky HANA types. Customers and many industry watchers have been talking about it for years.

The California Who's Who Primer

I got to thinking today and said to myself, "Pocket, this whole California thing sure is cray cray. I wonder if people who don't follow the situation much even know what's what and who is who."

In the interests of public service, I figure I'd jot down this primer about California. I hope, when you see tweets, retweets, twitter spats, chat room discussions, emails, and whatever else, this might help you a little bit.

Here we go........

The CHRB - The CHRB is the California Horse Racing Board. They oversee a billion dollar industry and they are staffed by appointees. The CHRB was previously chaired by Keith Brackpool, but now it is chaired by David Israel. They have a meeting every month and it's streamed on the web where fans on twitter supply running commentary, which isn't overly complimentary. It's a big organization that has an ominous logo and releases press releases on Friday afternoons.

David Israel - This man, CHRB Chairman, has been in some twi…

Saturday Night Harness Recap

Last night was an interesting evening in harness land. At the Meadowlands, ostriches and camels and maybe some sort of Russian alpaca's raced; and there was some harness racing. At Pocono, the best of the best was on display with eliminations for three huge stakes races, culminating in a big night next weekend.

From an attendance and handle perspective, the camels and ostriches kicked some butt, forever reminding anyone who yet doesn't know, the Meadowlands rules the betting world.

At Pocono - 'I cant believe this track races one full mile' - Downs, we saw speed rule speed, with very few bias busters.

A few notes:

People bet drivers, and they sure look at confirmation bias when doing it. Conversely, Vinny Ginsberg grabs some catch drives off pros and sets lifetime marks; Doug Mcnair takes some horse's off Tetrick and rolls; Andrew McCarthy does what anyone with a pulse would do with Dynamic Youth and roars to a lifetime mark. I have no idea why people don't rem…

What's in a Name

I don't follow pop culture. Although I enjoy movies and music and respect those who are good at their craft, the more a celebrity speaks the less I like him or her. Regardless, being on the twitter it was hard to not notice that Kanye West and one of those Kardashian people named their newborn "North West".

Other than my initial horror that the South West might be royally pissed at the overlook and it could spark a new dumb-baby-name civil war, I just felt bad for the kid. Why, with things so hard on kids nowadays growing up, does any parent want to saddle them with even more? I don't know.

Anyway, it's neither here nor there. It's a free country and I don't want to live in one where majority rule picks baby names, so good luck to the little one. And congratulations on your newborn, strange celebrity people.

While most of us are looking to name babies Rachel or Jack or Pete or Julia, when it comes to horse racing, many of us are Kanye and the Kardashian l…

Distractions Don't Only Happen To Animal Kingdom

Barry Irwin in today's TDN has an explanation for Animal Kingdom's poor showing yesterday at Royal Ascot.
About 25 minutes after walking calmly around the pre-parade ring at Royal Ascot today prior to the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, Animal Kingdom suddenly stopped, turning his head left as his nostrils flared while he took in a scent, and dropped his penis and started acting stubborn. It was not a simple matter of Animal Kingdom having unsheathed his sword. The personal member was on display for quite a spell. The horse was gone. I know what you're thinking: If Barry needs a job he's a sure-fire hit as a writer for Penthouse Forum. But beyond that, he makes a strong point. We all get distracted.

"It happens to the best of us, " said pedigree expert and 4 and a half day a week guest on At the Races with Steve Byk, Sid Fernando, this morning via an Apple product. 

"I remember this one time I was on twitter and people were talking about the Vietnamese Dong,…

Tuesday Notes & NA Cup XXX

Sitting here a few minutes to post waiting to watch Animal Kingdom, and not really wanting to work, I figured I might as well write a post.....

The North America Cup on Saturday was a fascinating affair. Here are a few observations and opinions:

This crop is not last year's crop. The top to bottom pure speed is not there yet, and probably won't be there. It makes for an interesting year, though.

The third quarter made the race. Sylvain Filion's horse must have felt wonderful, because he pretty much sprinted from the half (which was not slow) on. This caused the brouhaha near the three quarters when Vegas Vacation could not hook the leader, and the Captain was gapping cover. Those horses were all pacing as fast as they could, like it was a last quarter around the turn. The last sixteenth was glacial.

So far we've seen no standouts. The Captain leads the division yes, but he is certainly not near his father's ability. He is nowhere near as fast and not even close to …

Fathers, Sons & Horse Racing

I watched the US Open yesterday. Justin Rose, the supremely talented Brit, won his first major in clutch fashion playing the last two holes with ice in his veins. I noticed as his final tap-in dropped he looked to the Heavens, talking to someone that was important in his life. We found out later he was thinking about his father, whom left him when he was only 22.

In the interview he later noted that it was his dad that guided him through the sport of golf and taught him how to be a "good man". I think that's the most important thing a father can do. If you teach your son to be a good man - mostly by leading by example - your job is done.

Yesterday got me to thinking about that. I too lost my father at a young age, and I know he tried to teach me the things needed to be a "good man". In horse racing, the lessons taught me are still with me.

I remember in high school a horse the stable owned was being retired and it was important to him to find the horse a good …

North America Cup Card Trumps the Sports Weekend

The US Open is in full stride with Phil right there ready to try for his first US Open. Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals are on tap. The Foster is at Churchill. But for me at least, nothing tops this North America Cup Card at Mohawk Raceway.

At times the Cup card can be a bit of a snoozefest. Sure there are stakes races, but usually there is one standout where we have to fight a short price. Tonight, at least on paper, this is not the case. This card is very good for both fans and bettors. In fact, I think it's the best Cup card I have seen in many years.

In race two, the $270,000 Armbro Flight it's tough to see past Maven. We've been a fan of this filly since she beat Check Me Out in her first start last year and she has rarely disappointed. However, she is beatable and at 3-5 or lower I will look elsewhere. Personal Style, Cedar Dove and even Bax of Life, could be there with some luck.

In race three, the $364,000 Elegant Image has an even money shot in the morning line, …

Foot Issues and Changes of Heart on Out of Competition Testing

The New York courts recently ruled in favor of the NYSRWB in a case regarding out of competition testing. With some restrictions it can go on. Trainer Mark Ford, whose name was on the top of the case filed in 2009, told HRU he likes that he lost:
"I am in favor of out-of-competition testing wholeheartedly," he said. Ford explained that he believes the claiming game has been turned upside down in recent years, in part because of the overwhelming success of some trainers. "There is no more claiming game," he said. "It has been wrecked and if we don't do something about it we're all going to pay the price. The landscape has changed so much in recent years. The claiming game is important for all owners, in my opinion. It is also important for newer owners and syndicates. If you are up against it - trying to do things the right way - and get your head kicked in over and over again, you don't tend to end up in the game for too long. Or alternatively, you …

Brouhaha With Some Baffert Bacon

Earlier today the Baconater (some people know him as Ray Paulick) wrote an article on a quarterhorse trainer who had a horse die at a recent race at Ruidoso Downs. The story, and the protagonist of the story, was the trainer of said horse.

But intertwined in the article was thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert's issues regarding his horse deaths. Read the article for how it was woven in, if interested.

This prompted Bob Baffert's wife Jill to post on twitter the following:
End of school Mass.. We prayed for @raypaulick that peace and light fill his dark, spiteful heart.
— jill baffert (@jillbaffert) June 13, 2013 That caused quite a brouhaha on the twitter, with tweets and retweets and everything else.

I was on a call tonight with a number of racing fans and bettors and asked what side people are on in this. Most sided with Paulick - this episode is a charged issue and everyone sides with the horses -  but I then asked, "was this gratuitious? Does it seem to be jammed in th…

Driver Intent is the Number One Driver Factor of All

One thing that any newbie bettor does in harness racing is look at the driver. It is the number one obvious positive. The top drivers choose the best horses, and the best horses win races. Whether it's a chicken or egg it doesn't really matter.

However, time and time again betting only this factor leads you into the poorhouse. In pari-mutuel gambling, the last thing you want to do is bet something everyone else is betting.

When you run the numbers, positive impact values tend to occur, without the resulting ROI with driver changes. People keep betting them generally due to confirmation bias (they remember when it works, not when it doesn't which is the importance of keeping statistics). Where does the ROI get better, if anywhere? In my opinion, if you are looking at drivers through an intent prism.

Harness racing is a speed game. A driver who tries with a horse will win more races than one who does not try. It doesn't matter if the drivers name is Waples or Sears, or T…

Racing Has Little Evolvement in a Society That Expects It

A & W, for those who may not know, is a burger chain that's been around forever. In my hometown it was there long before we had a McDonald's. It was situated on the highway in a drive-in setting - y'know where the waiters and waitresses would come out to the car and put a tray on your window. It really wasn't a bad burger joint.

Last week I went to the new and improved (so they tell me) A & W, which is supposedly making a big comeback.

In high school I would order a two patty "Papa Burger" if I was hungry, and this time I did the same. Holy firecrackers. This new papa burger was huge enough for six papa's who play lineman for the New York Giants. I ate it all, and my brain told me I just consumed a side of beef.

What's that have to do with racing? In a roundabout way, I think a lot.

Anthony MacDonald - a winning driver and could be racing activist - wrote a blog on SC today asking a for a few things from racing. He believes racing must be rec…

If You Can't Turn a Newbie Into a Horseplayer This Crown Season, Why Bother Trying

The Triple Crown races as stand-alone entities are da bomb.  It's not because they're horse racing events, it's because they're events steeped in Americana.

However, just like you and I may be enthralled with watching skiers ski and shoot a gun at a target every four years doesn't make us want to go skiing and shooting, Triple Crown watchers don't seem to want to handicap the other 362 days a year either.

We hear the reasons why. There's too much time between races, we're not on network TV enough, takeout is abysmally high where no one can win, and of course, racing is far too complex a pursuit.

While many of those reasons may have merit, this Triple Crown season, in my opinion, had the tools to break down the barriers in terms of what's important in this game - becoming a bettor and supplying money for purses. Why? Because anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of sport could've easily swept the three events; while landing on some se…

Sunday Notes

Yesterday's Belmont Stakes and North America Cup elims are now in the books. Here are some random thoughts for those interested.

A lot of handicappers were waiting with anticipation to see how the track was playing. Conventional wisdom seemed to point to a drying out track being kind to closers. Such was not the case as it turned out to be like an east coast version of Santa Anita.

Point of Entry raced huge in the Manhattan, going wide and digging in like great horses do. My only problem with him was his place in the pick 4 sequence. As players we live for a chance at a huge score on big days, and trap races in a pick 4 really dampen that. I didn't take a pick 4.

Perretti Farms' Forty Tales took advantage of the crazy pace and stormed home to win nicely. Congrats to everyone at Perretti.

When you put Oxbow in the mix he sure is a good horse isn't he? He was contesting a fast pace in the Derby and raced really well, got things his own way at Pimlico and raced really wel…

Old Belmont's, Great Horses, & Orb

I read Paulick's piece this morning about when the racing bug bit him. I remember reading a survey somewhere (it might have been a HANA survey question a couple of years ago) about 'when you got interested in racing'. Most of the answers were 'my dad took me to the track'. For me, and it seems Paulick, it was different.

I remember visiting my brother who was in University - first of my family of miners and tailors to go - when I was a lad. He subscribed to Sports Illustrated and there was a story on Spectacular Bid going for the Triple Crown. I was fascinated. This horse looked like a fast one, and although I knew nothing about racing, I was going to watch this Belmont Stakes thingamajig.

To my horror, this Spectacular horse spectacularly flamed out. I made a proclamation as young kids do which was unassailable, "boy, he's not very good", and I felt duped by this SI article.

I didn't follow his career thereafter (I lived in the sticks and I prob…