Welcome to the 8th edition of the Monday Super Spectacular Blog!
It was Preakness week and frankly instead of a horse racing pool, next year I think we should just guess who won't scratch. Sadly, it threw a good deal of multis into the dust bin, but it was a Triple Crown race and that's all that matters. We like those, even without the great Kegasus (another sad story).
Here are a few thoughts for this week.
Our pal Mage gave it his all but perhaps it was a little too much too soon for him with his limited starts and we saw the expected regression. Or maybe it was not the trip for him anyway off slower splits. Or maybe the other two horses were just faster. Whatever the case, he showed up and the connections seemed happy with him.
As for the winner, I thought Johnny V gave him a nice ride, keeping him off what looked like a pretty dead rail and he rationed his speed like Angel Serpa to prevail in the shadow of the wire. I've always felt National Treasure was a nice horse (and I'm pleased I got to use a Grunderism on the Super Spectacular blog).
Pimlico had lots of complaints about the jockey cam. I find it truly incredible how the creative folks in the tents want to show us neat stuff, while virtually every single one of us just wants to watch the race. Even the soon-to-be President of HISA weighted in so you know it was pretty bad.
I remember last year at the Little Brown Jug it got super-weird like this. Someone thought it would look great to show the head-on before the start, and then join the horses with the pan shot about three seconds after the word go. This shows us absolutely nothing of course - we can't see breaking horses, who is on the gate or off, or how our bet got off the gate.
Rumor has it after a day and a half of this someone with some pull called and they went back to normal. But why it takes that kind of intervention is beyond me.
I always feel a little bad for the Preakness.
"Did you ever watch Secretariat's Derby?"
"It was great, 159.2! Track record. What a machine"
"Did you see his Belmont?"
"Hell ya, is water wet?"
"What about his Preakness?"
"I guess I must've seen it on Youtube"
Crunk posted the handle numbers and they were fine - over $100M was bet on the card - but down from last year, in part due to the short field in the Preakness itself.
First, I doubt you can screw up a Triple Crown race because of their long time branding. I'd think you could you could run a set of donkeys, slap some numbers on them and people would watch the race. That's why things have brand value. But for us, I think you can chip away at that positive branding and I wonder if we're starting to see that.
I find Derby and Belmont cards are a must play event due to the undercard and sets of races. I'm ready to fire on each bright and early for the entire day. Saturday wasn't that for me, and I find myself getting less and less excited about the card itself as the years go on.
That's me, but as I read social media I think it's some of you too.
Can the bloom fall off the rose for a Triple Crown card? Over time, perhaps. I'd like to see - whether it means moving it a week or two or something else - this card beefed up. And the race itself as well, because seven horse fields are not something most of us as players get excited about.
In this day and age with smaller foal crops, supertrainers and Grade I races permeating the landscape like fast food joints maybe that's just not possible, but I throw it out there.
Oh boy Pimlico. If you happen to be a track executive reading this blog and don't understand what Shottakingtime is talking about here, please DM him for an explanation; it's important.
A brief shout out to Mage's connections. This is not the Pletcher barn with Repole or a celebrity chef who are used to the spotlight but I thought they handled it like complete pros. They looked like they were having the time of their lives and I felt their access to the horse and good cheer allowed us to join them on their journey. I wish it worked out better for you, but thanks for letting us come along for the ride.
Prolific Paulick commenter Tinky referenced the gate incident narrative with regards to the the awful injury to Havnameltdown and he's having none of it.
CJ had a Preakness Stakes schedule idea and (as the kids say) it's lit!We all know how you feel Jeremy.
I’ve been awful betting thoroughbreds all week, so might as well take a shot at Arabians— Jeremy Balan (@jeremybalan) May 20, 2023
How can she be so happy when my horses aren't firing?
When you talk for a living things can come out, ummmm, bad sometimes. TVG host Ken Rudulph was caught in the crossfire this week for sharing his opinion regarding the industry (which he has since apologized for).
The tweet - “Horse racing needs to stop pretending and just be what it is. It’s a great combo of WWE/reality TV/sports/ with a healthy dose of BS on the side. It’s a great game," went off the rails in the subsequent couple of sentences.
Not putting words in Ken's mouth, but I assume he was talking about what a lot of marketers often reference - businesses being true to what they are, and not trying to be something they're not.
Whatever the point, I figured life goes on, but apparently that's not the case, as Fanduel has him under review.
I was interested what twitter thought about this, so I created a poll, and
even though twitter is rarely polarized, y'all seem equally split between beach hair don't care and the gallows.
Bucky the Great is more than just a guy who chats with famous people like Boston Big Al while drinking Costco drink mix and firing at Delta Downs in his underwear.
When they advertise these low takeout Px’s it is basically admitting their win rake it too high. If win takeout was reasonable then would be no need for Px’s because you would just parlay the winnings. These tracks with like 18% win, 25% P4, and 12% P5 pools plain hate math.— Buck Swope (@ShotTakingTime) May 17, 2023
The industry tends to haphazardly set rates via bet type and I think it is indicative of where their left brains are. In Australia if you want lower than 10% win juice you'll find it. The Massachusetts lottery has lower rake based on ticket size, as does Hong Kong racing, and of course, penny slots are the higher rake funnel. Racing - the hardest to hit bets, lowest takeout.
Lucas and Paulick are saying things no one apparently wants to hear and I guess their tweet could spur this week's edition of going on tilt. But arguing against their point with the quantitive and devoid of passion becomes harder and harder doesn't it?
Assiniboia Downs opens with lower juice!
I think Greg's tweet is one the harness industry should pay attention to.
Pretty much done betting harness racing as the bad post/bad trip/passing lane/off qually no tries, "just get a check and wait until next week" have become so prevalent. Handicapping @ChurchillDowns for tomorrow night. Sad to see. Becoming a club sport.— Greg Schuler ✨🏇 (@gschuler422) May 17, 2023
The game certainly has changed, and I think Greg's point is pretty strong.
The most troubling issue, in my view, is that a fair odds line - a staple of our handicapping for a hundred years - is almost completely useless now.
Just this week I saw a race with a horse who trotted 1:52 and looked like a slam dunk key at 3-5 (my fair odds would be maybe even money) not take as much money because another horse did. This horse, a good horse off terrible form who is barely breaking 1:55, had a short break where they must've done some vet work. He was bet heavily and was a 7-5 co-chalk. It was pretty clear this was the horse to bet, and he ended up winning.
But the bottom line was: We had to bet a horse that we had at perhaps a 7-2 or 9-2 fair odds line, at 7-5.
This is happening in Thoroughbred racing, too, but I don't think to this extent.
Modelers and the betting teams have made board odds more influential in their odds lines as the game changes and it's precisely for this reason. A horse being bet below the fair odds line of a very sharp player was dumb money 20 years ago. In the current game it can mean something. Often times we're not betting an "underlay" in our odds lines as a sharp player should; in effect we're the sucker sitting at the table.
Andy Beyer once famously stated that supertrainers have destroyed the great art of handicapping. The dearth of public money in pools and horses on go or no go (especially) in harness racing in my view does exactly the same thing.
When a TVG host says "there's certain people on twitter......" I fear they're coming for ITP, but this time they were talking about someone else! Congrats ITP!
Pretty awesome seeing the @Yankees players celebrating TAM MAJOR A’s victory at @TheMeadowlands tonight! @BongiornoRacing with the driving win for Joe Lee & owner/trainer Buzzy Sholty! pic.twitter.com/ah5v1rgRan— JBRacing (@JBRacingStb) May 21, 2023
Thanks for reading the 8th edition of the Super Spectacular Blog. I see you coming from all over. The tundra, the land of the free, Russia (of course), and shockingly even from the America's Best Racing head office. I truly appreciate it.
As always have a great week, be nice on twitter and go cash some tickets.