DeRosa wrote a blog post today about negative buzz with Kentucky Derby winner and likely 3-5 Preakness chalk American Pharoah.
- "American Pharoah was working awfully hard out there” and “He looks worse here than he did Kentucky Derby week; He’s a different horse."
Well, that's that, right?
No, not really.
I would submit a large majority in the game of horse racing lean towards Ed's "sources", and take the connections' word with a grain of salt. Not because they are lying, but because it's the way it is. Horse racing in the 1920's and 1930's was partially branded as the game of "ringers and rascals". We are conditioned to believe nothing, or very little that people close to a horse or barn tell us. Over the years we remember this branding whenever we see it ("International Star usually takes Thursday's off!"), and discount the times the connections really were telling the truth ('he worked great, he was fine', from a winners circle interview).
This type of branding most recently has entered the fray with the New England Patriots football team. After the 250 page Wells report was released, telling us Patriots' QB Tom Brady was fibbing about his role in deflating footballs, very few level-headed, unbiased fans ran to their defense. It's the Patriots after all. Don't they all cheat? Just today it got even sillier in that camp, when the Pats released a rebuttal that the texts from the man who is responsible for deflating and inflating footballs were not referring to said crime, but to the fact he is fat, and when he spoke of deflating he was referring to himself losing weight.
I think I need to google milkshake while I eat this poppy seed bagel.
Horse racing's present structure will not change. This is not Hong Kong with 1,000 horses, all monitored by video camera and where every vet visit, supplement, and injection is logged. With that, and with horse racing's history, ringers and rascals prevails. The Zayat's, or anyone else for that matter, can shout from the rooftops things are perfectly fine, they might just be and probably are, but it really won't matter. The thousands of horses, the thousands of owners, and hundreds of thousands of races before them set the bar that they have to live with.
Preakness weekend always feels muted, but we should remember, this is a big deal. Last year, 9.62 million watched on TV, $84 million was bet, and the infield was like a rock show. This might feel like smaller potatoes after the Derby but in the grand scheme of things, this is huge. This weekend's bets for me? The 12% pick 5 is a must play. For Canadian fans you will need to look elsewhere to play that. Woodbine's hub doesn't carry the pick 5 (takeout too low!).
Draft Kings moves on to NASCAR. And the Kansas legislature has moved to allow fantasy sports as a skill game and "un-ban" it. It makes you wonder, in only a couple of years state laws have been changed for Draft Kings and FanDuel, but there are states who have not allowed horse racing betting for generations.
Much talk about Kentucky Derby increases in handle, but little about daily overnight handle at Churchill. By my numbers it's down, with field size up. Most everyone with a sense about gambling said they would not lose for a big day(s), but would get hurt on regular days. That has occurred, because takeout hikes are a slow burn on bankrolls, not a quick slice.
If only horse racing appeals worked like football ones. Brady's will be done in a month or two, and have no effect on him starting under a cloud. In racing someone gets a stay and can race for years.
Why does over-whipping matter? Because horse racing depends on earned media, the public controls the slot purse strings, and strange articles like this can be written by people who don't know the game. It's not about what insiders think. The general media doesn't care about "hitting a saddle pad", they just see a horse hit 32 times. If AP loses on Saturday, you know darn well that column will be written again saying "told you he'd lose because he was whipped too hard".
Have a nice Thursday everyone.