Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Harness Fans: Big Carryover at Balmoral Park

There is a record pick 4 carryover at the growing Pick 4 pools at Balmoral. If you are a harness fan, check it out. There are also free PP's for the event.

Balmoral has been working hard on their handle, and has been extremely "player friendly":

"September has seen the Balmoral Pick 4 again rise to historic levels. The average pool this month will be around $30,000, a level nobody dreamed possible when the takeout was dropped to 15% last year following a Pick 4 average of just over $8,800 in 2009 at the old 25% rate. It is fairly obvious that Balmoral and the low takeout has gotten some of the Big M Pick 4 players to stick around until the flagship track of harness racing opens and that has helped raise the pools."

Free PP's available here (pdf).

Note: Michael from Balmoral emailed us selections for tonight's card (click to enlarge):

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: A Jewel of a day at Belmont

To Honor and Serve had a nice race in the Pennsylvania Derby yesterday.  Lezcano rode him perfectly and when asked just took command of the race, easily it seemed.  The nice surprise was the strong close by Ruler On Ice, it appears he might be rounding back into form off the Belmont victory, it will be interesting to see where he shows again and if Gomez stays with him.

Today we head back to Belmont on this very quiet stakes day.  Yesterday was the dirt and today we go back to the weeds, with the John Hettinger Stakes ($100,000), going a mile and an eighth on the inner turf course for filles and mares,  3YO an up (NY State breds).  There are eight horses entered with two for the MTO.  This is a wide open race to state the obvious.  Many have won at this level, all show consistent Beyer’s within the same range, some coming off the bench and others trying to recapture the magic.  What it spells is a longshot kind of race.  I’m going to present this differently today, going to list out my four contenders and if wagering would watch the tote carefully.  I would look for early money and see which one goes into overlay status.


#4 Hessonite ML 8/1

This lightly raced filly has had an excellent campaign as a 3YO, winning three of four, including her last outing at Saratoga at this level.  What makes her so interesting is when Dominguez rides she wins, regardless of distance or surface condition.  Going a bit longer today, but with her stalker style she could use it.  The downside is her ”in and out” Beyer’s, but then again, no one in this group has been a real steady teddy in that area.   Dominquez is up and that alone makes her dangerous.

#6 Gitchee Goomie ML 8/5

The obvious favorite and deservedly so, winning the Yaddo ($101,000) last out at Saratoga. She’s been in the money at the G1 and G3 level and good low 90 Beyer’s.  Garcia rides her well, the only risk is, like Hessonite, she is a closer and could get into trouble and not get to the line in time.  Overall, she looks the strongest on paper.

#7 Akilina ML 6/1

You could call her the “Bombs Away” selection.  She hasn’t won in her last 11 starts, been off since May and she has shown very little, so why do I have her in this mix?  Call it a hunch play,  her workouts have been good, she has won three times at Belmont in the past, and Clement has super good stat’s with horses like this.  She may need one under her belt, but her past speed figures, regardless of finish, suggest she can run with this bunch. 

#8 Rogue’s Jewel ML 3/1

She is a horse at first glance you could pass on, but the more I looked at her the more interesting she became.  Her last outing was a good one, finishing second to Gitchee Goomie in the Yaddo ($101,000.  What I like here is that since her connections moved her to the grass, she has really perked up and has one win and two seconds.  Castellano stays with her and Carlos Martin is having an excellent 2011 season with a 22% win record with a positive ROI.  Her past Beyer’s have been wobbly but since J J has been aboard she has shown consistency.  Might be one of those late bloomers and is now ready to assert herself.  If she drifts out on the tote, would be hard pressed to pass her up.

Like yesterday, I'll not be posting the Balmoral Pick 4 today. Will return Wednesday with the $15,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 selections. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

TOC Fact Checks

In 2011, social media in its various forms allow for very little to slip through the cracks. Usually (sometimes within minutes) a "fact check" item will appear across the wires after a comment or presentation, which is then discussed on the many internet interaction avenues.

Yesterday on the Steve Byk Radio show, the TOC's Lou Raffetto was interviewed. Among other internal issues (one owners group is battling another in California), Mr Raffetto commented on the handle losses in California referring that "takeout is a key blogger issue for a handful of people who won't let it die".

This "blogger issue", backed by all available economic theory and literature since 1971, has, in part, resulted in (the last time we checked) upwards of $200 million dollars in handle losses in 2011, in Mr. Raffetto's state.

That's a whole-lot of "bloggers", isn't it?

The opposing owners group fact checked Mr. Raffetto's interview and immediately alerted all media to a posted pdf. You can read the pdf on here.

Horseplayer groups, horseplayers on chat boards, opposing factions and regular everyday horse racing fans on twitter and facebook allow for very little obfuscation in this day and age. Mr. Raffetto and the TOC is learning that new reality, in real time.

Weekend Handicapping: 3YO's battle for a Million at PARX

For today’s race we will be making a stop at PARX for the Grade 2, Pennsylvania Derby going a mile and an eighth over dirt for 3YO's aiming for a $1,000,000 purse.  There is a field of nine and quite the mix bag of entries.  What makes this race so difficult is finding the horse in its best form cycle.  We have some good entries, recent winners and many have won at the Graded levels, now to pick the one that is ready to win. Not an easy task with this bunch.


#7 To Honor and Serve ML 3/1

This Bernardini colt bounced back after getting lost in the Amsterdam sprint, finishing a miserable sixth.  He flashed a nice 102 last out which he has done before winning the Remsen(G2) last year.  Mott puts Lezcano on board were they have a nice26% win record together.  He looks ready to pick up where he left off as a 2YO. He will go forward and there is plenty of pace for him to take advantage of. 

#9 Rattlesnake Bridge ML 4/1

He made a good showing in the Travers(G1) against a very tough Stay Thirsty. Consistent Beyers in the 90’s, getting a weight drop and JohnnyV stays with him.  I tend to lean to lightly raced 3YO’s and this is his seventh start and only one bad race, a fourth in the Jerome(G2) on a sloppy track.  He will stay close to To Honor and Serve at the front.

#3 Pender Harbour ML 12/1

Throw out that last effort on turf and you have one tough 3YO.  He will be happy to be back on dirt where he showed improving Beyer’s.   I’m not worried about the layoff, he has been working well and with Contreras up, that makes him even more dangerous.  I wouldn’t surprise to see him run right by the front runners in this one.

Dark horses

#1 Ruler On Ice ML 5/2

I know it’s interesting to see the morning line favorite in the dark horse group.  But not totally convinced that the Belmont winner is the real deal or just an outstanding mudder.  Two of his three wins have come on off tracks, and interesting to note the other non off track win came here in an allowance race back in February.  The big angle here is the jockey switch.  Valdivia had been on board for seven of nine efforts and now the hot Garrett Gomez takes over.  Interesting stat, Kelly Breen has a rather pedestrian stakes race record this season only winning about 10%, prefer to see a trainer in the 15% range.

#8 J W Blue ML 8/1

This 3YO made a nice recovery in the Travers(G1) after getting off slow and seemed not engaged. He came 5 wide to pick up third behind Stay Thirsty and Rattlesnake Bridge. Has shown nice improving Beyer’s moving up into the high 90’s, and get’s a big weight break today.  Dutrow with Velasquez are an excellent team and this is the dangerous entry here today. He has been on the board five of seven in his 3 YO season and looks to be in perfect form right now.

"Bombs Away"

#2 Arthur’s Tale ML 12/1

This one of those horses that looks like he is ready for the big effort and then just comes up short.  He seemed to wake up in the Wood Memorial (G1) and then went quiet.  He has been off since April and the angle here is his two wins have come off layoffs. I’m going with the “off the bench” form play here.  I agree there is plenty not to like, speed fig’s don’t match well with this group, Garcia is the death knell for me and Albertrani season has been so-so, but this is one of those horses that might be ready to punch through.  At 12/1 why not?

Special Note:  Some might be surprised I left off the #5 Rush Now ML 9/2.  He is an excellent 3YO who will go to the front and set a determined pace.  I just think the others are stronger and will suffer at this distance.


7 – 9 – 3

I will not be posting the Balmoral Pick 4 this weekend.    

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: The British are coming .. The British are coming @Woodbine for the Mile(G1)

Yesterday we saw Winter Memories bounce back and run a very nice race.  The 3YO that impressed me was Theyskens' Theory , finishing second.   Gomez did a fine job with this import after getting bumped in near the start. I expect good things in the future from him.  All this leads me to today’s race at Woodbine.  We are going to look at the Woodbine Mile(G1) on turf for 3YO+ for a purse of a $1,000,000.  What makes this so race dynamic is the three first time imports and one other with a handful of USA races under his belt.
Why the big deal?  Several weeks ago on my blog I shared some tips l learned from Night School at Horseplayer Now on how to handicap imports.  The key is that we can’t ignore first time imports any longer.  They are winning consistently on our turf courses at first asking and usually at nice prices.   That makes this race problematic and more contentious then usual. 


#4  Courageous Cat ML 3/1

What can you say?  This is the top turf miler in the country right now.  Has won at all Grade levels, the most recent at Hollywood Park, the Shoemaker (G1).  His Beyer’s hold consistently over 100, and has the ability to go wire to wire today.  There will be some other speed to push him, but he should win his third in a row.

#5 Right Now(FR)  ML 8/1

This will be the fifth race in the USA for this French 5YO and is ready to move up to the G1 level.  Had a solid third to Courageous Cat in the Poker(G3) and looks poised to break through.  I like Gomez here too, especially after bringing Theysken’s Theory in for a second yesterday.  He will rate off and close in a hurry, good position if the speedster burn up.

#8 Turallure ML 5/1

This is one of those horses is either very good or very bad.  He is having a solid 4YO campaign winning two of five races, including the Baruch(G2) posting a 103 Beyer.  He has won at this distance and is versatile racing back or up front.  Thinking he will lay back and wait it out. Has Leparoux again, where he brought him to the finish line in first in two of the last three races.   Lastly, his trainer, Lopresti, while not having a ton of entries this year (62), his results are near the top.

Dark Horses:

#4 Side Glance(GB)  ML 4/1

Many will have this British invader in the top three and rightly so.  Recent win at the G3 level at Salisbury makes this 4YO gelding a dangerous one.   He will have his jockey of choice and gets a nice weight break for this one.  He likes to rate and should be in good position to close up on the front runners.  If the price swings out past 4/1 I’d be real interested in playing him to upset.

#2 Forte Dei Marmi (GB) ML 15/1       
Another British first timer and could also consider him a “Bombs Away” threat, but actually like him to upset.  Roger Attfield has taken over his USA training and has JohnnyV in the irons, and that alone makes him an interesting play.  Like Side Glance,  a big weight drop, and while winless so far as a 5YO, coming to the USA could be the tonic for him. Add the First time on Lasix, and you have a bunch of hunch angles with this one.  Definite play in your Tri’s and could pick up some of this huge purse.

“Bombs Away:”

#10 Kara’s Orientation ML 15/1

Hard to believe to see a recent G2 winner with high Beyer’s sitting in the long shot chair.  But here he sits, two straight wins, excellent speed patterns (88-89-98) and loves to go wire to wire.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ramsammy do what he did in the Sky Classic(G2,) and just let him go and see how he holds off the ‘Cat.  At the very worst, we will find out if this 4YO is the real deal.


4 – 5 – 8

As a reminder will be blogging at  this evening Pick 4 selections for the $25,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Balmoral Park.    

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Will the Garden City(G1) be filled with Winter Memories?

Last week we finally scored a double.  Grassy came home a winner in the Bowling Green and at Hastings we had Northern Causeway getting off at 3/1 and winning.   So this weekend we will start at Belmont Park again and handicap the Garden City (G1) for 3YO fillies going a mile and an eighth over the inner turf.  We have another tough group of gal’s, with three coming out of the Lake Placid, an import and some improving fillies.  With little early speed in this race, and most are strong off the pace, you have to believe an outsider can score today a big ticket. 


#3 Hungry Island ML 3/1

She will be the second favorite in this race, even though she had a smashing victory in the Lake Placid(G2).  Her Beyer’s have been steadily improving each race; she has won four in a row and looks poised to do it again.  This will be her second race off a layoff, the last time was back on May 11 here at Belmont and she came back and won.  I can’t find anything in her form that would suggest she not repeat today.

#4 Winter Memories ML 8/5

This will be her redemption race after the disappointing fourth in the Lake Placid(G2).  Many have blamed Lezcano for her poor showing, but after looking at the race it appeared to me she just didn’t fire.  Today she gets Castellano, two nice workouts and should bounce back and be tough.  With little speed here she might go forward and nail it.  With three wins in her four outings you can’t ignore her not to be closer this time.

#7 Theysken’s Theory ML 4/1

Her only appearance in the States was as a 2YO in the BC Juvenile where she took off and gradually faded into sixth.  As a 3YO she has fared much better winning two of three at the stakes level and has one G3 win to her name.  Imports have done very well on their first time out, especially ones coming in from England and France.  She has Gomez in the irons and that makes her even more appealing.  I don’t think the added distance will be a problem, in fact, may even set her up to surprise.

Dark Horses:

#1 More Than Real ML 8/1

This lightly raced 3YO has all the makings to go right by all of them. She made a good account of herself in the Lake George after being bumped and then going four wide.  She has been working well and Pletcher is still hot.  I’m not worried about the layoff, she has won coming off the bench as a 2YO in November at the Breeders Cup.  If Nakatani keeps her out of trouble she could win it.

#6 Kathmanblu ML 8/1

I’m lukewarm on her in this race.  She did show a strong effort in the Lake Placid(G2) but overall she is inconsistent after getting off to a good 3YO season.  Maybe the switch to Lezcano will be the tonic for her, but not feeling it with this one.

“Bombs Away”

#8 Pinch Pie ML 10/1

I had this filly in the Desert Vixen at Monmouth and while she placed a distant third in the Alabama(G1) to two dominant fillies on dirt.   She is back on turf where she won two in a row and Dutrow has won 34% when working with Rose.   This is one of those horses that is improving and not sure where her ceiling will be, but would not be at all surprised to see her win or be real close at the wire.

Later today will be posting the $20,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Balmoral Park at

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Charles Town Comes to Play

We just realized something - we were remiss in mentioning the solid takeout reduction at Charles Town.

Takeout for trifectas, superfectas, pick threes, and pick fours will shift from 25% to 22% effective Sept. 17. The drop of three percentage points reflects an overall takeout reduction of 12% for the four bets.
“We’ve listened to our customers, weighed the risks and rewards for our business, and arrived at this decision,” Zimny said. “Cutting the price of two-thirds of the exotics we offer by a double-digit percentage is both significant and, at a minimum, a step in the right direction.”

Another track is trying to win your business.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Heading North for the BC Derby at Hastings

Yesterday turned out to be a good day.  Grassy won the Bowling Green at Belmont and paid a decent $5.60 to win.   Later that night we played the Pick 4 at Balmoral Park, and while missing it, had three winners in those four races, the big one being Sporty Gypsy winning and paying $63.00!   So feeling our oats on this Sunday, I decided to go north again and handicap the BC Derby(G3) at Hastings, going a mile and one eighth over the dirt for 3YO’s.  There is a field of 12 and what makes this race tough is none have won a Graded race and several shippers swooping in.  So let’s take a look …


#9  Northern Causeway ML  7/2

He has won two in a row since returning to the dirt surface.  Nice improving Beyer’s (89-85-83), excellent workouts and a trainer that knows how to win.  He is the front end speed in this race and if he gets loose can wire this field.  His breeding suggests the added furlong will be no trouble, and looks ready to make it three in a row.

#3  Hurricane Lake  ML 9/2

After a spotty 2YO campaign, he has won three of eight and ITM six times.  He was recently claimed by Mike Mitchell at DelMar.  This is strictly a connections play; Mitchell has excellent results with recent claims, sprint to route and 2nd off layoff.  Add in Garcia and that pairing has a 29% win record.  His recent Beyer’s are in the 80’s, and if he can get off cleanly could upset this field.

#2  Inhisglory ML 10/1

Here is another speed horse and will go out with Northern Causeway.  I’m going to toss out the lame effort in the Canadian Derby and focus on three straight stakes wins.  Beyer’s have been consistent and has won twice here at Hastings.  He should bounce back and have a big effort.

Dark Horses:

#12 Northern Indy ML 8/1

He is the only one that has shown a good placing in a G3 race, a second in the Canadian Derby last out.  Beyer’s are moving up and today he could break into the 80’s.  He has won only twice in eleven tries and is one of those horses that you have to wonder is he improving or has he found his top?  Not sure but can’t ignore him.  He will sit a bit back from the #’s 9 and 2 and could pounce if the pace is a scorcher.

#8 Line Change ML 10/1

He got off to a hot 3YO campaign, winning 5 of 8 on the eastern seaboard including his first stakes race at Delaware Park in the Floor Show ($75K).  His Beyer’s showed him to be a bit of a bouncer but still raced well and won.  Then his owners switched him off Gary Capuano and headed into Canada where his last two efforts have been dismal.  Now again, his owners have switched trainers and this time he is under John Morrison who is one of the better dirt trainers.  Looking for a big improvement and expect to see him looming near the front.

“Bomb’s Away”

#5 Jebrica ML 6/1

I know a 6/1 isn’t much of a longshot and some would have him as a dark horse in this race.  I agree he is dangerous having just won at this distance in the Emerald Derby ($65K) at Emerald Downs.  In  that race he posted a 100 Beyer,  far higher than anything in his past.  His connections have strong ROI’s but not sure if a bounce is coming regardless of his last 5f bullet work.  If I’m wrong then this lightly raced 3YO has all the makings to win.  He is versatile to run up close or rate off, and switches to Baze, who is one of the all time winning riders.  Watch the odds and if he slips off the tote board grab him.


9 – 3 – 2

Will be posting the Guaranteed $25,000 Pick 4 Selections for Balmoral later today at

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: A Grassy day on the Green at Belmont

For the Handicap Weekend, I decided to pass the Super Derby and welcome back Belmont Park after a dismal turn at The Spa.  Today’s feature race is the Bowling Green Handicap (G2) Turf going a mile and three eighths, for 3YO and upward.  This is a great race, what I like about it is that all the horses have shown they can go the distance, proven turf winners, consistent speed figures and for some, this is their possible breakout race.  It’s a contentious race, where all have the opportunity to win it and that equals decent prices no matter who you like. So here we go …


#7  Grassy ML 5/2

He is the only G2 winner in the bunch, winning the Red Smith at Aqueduct in November.  He has run well at Belmont in the past, solid Beyer’s (high 90’s) and Gomez is back on.  I’m not one to get too caught up on weight but he is carrying 117 and the two times he did in the past he won, interesting.  There isn’t a ton of early speed in this group so the race shape lines up well for this 5YO.  Not a lock for sure but should be there at the end.

#6 Center Divider ML 5/1

Some of you might raise your eyebrows to this one considering he hasn’t won at the graded level.  What I like about him is his consistency since turning 4.  The Chad Brown – Castellano connections is red hot, three solid works since last out.  JJ will have him up close and just got this feeling he is ready to bust through and make his statement.

#5 Colonialism ML 6/1

I know another surprise here.   This lightly raced 4YO just cleared his classifications and has never raced at the Graded level.   Why today?  I will admit this is more hunch than past performance, but I’m always suspicious when Mott drops a horse in a race that on paper doesn’t look right.  He is known to be a careful trainer with his horses and wouldn’t subject his charge to a demoralizing effort if he didn’t think him to be ready.  Building block Beyer’s (88-89-90-91), Mott has a good record with winner’s last out, and Castro takes over. Finally, with little speed in this race, he could be the one to get out front and be gone. Lastly, what I like too, his he appears to be a tough horse, the comments say, “stubborn”, “willingly”, “bid between” and “prolonged drive”. 

Dark Horses:

#3 Sanagas (GER) ML 2/1

He will either be the favorite or second choice at least.  I do like him in this race; he showed how good he can be in his last race a stakes win at Saratoga.  He popped a 94 Beyer and as many wonder, where is his ceiling.  The only reason I don’t have him in the top three is not sure if he will bounce after that last effort.  He seems to like coming off the pace, this race should set up nicely for his style.   He can definitely win it, I need to see one more. 

#4  Bold Hawk ML 10/1

This is one interesting horse.  Had a strong 3YO campaign winning the Hawthorne(G3) and a good showing in the Hollywood Derby (G1) and then disappeared for three years.  He returned as a 6YO last season for two races, running a 3rd to Grassy in the Red Smith (and just missing). Now at 7, he has four races under his belt, and seems to be all over the track, except the winners circle.  Nice Beyer’s (91-91-90-90), and excellent works.  Blinkers go on for the first time and Espinoza rides him again after a nice race last out.  One of those dangerous horses.

“Bomb’s Away”

#1 Kindergarten Kid ML 8/1

He probably will attract some wagering so not a classical long shot here.  His last outing against some of these horses set the pace and weakened.  This 4YO is the only one that shows any kind of early speed which makes him interesting.  I will admit I have a bias against Garcia on turf, so would shy away from him, but Tagg is an excellent trainer in these situations.  Not sure if he can hold his own with addition of Grassy and Colonialism.  Might surprise us all today.


7 – 6 – 5

Will be blogging my Pick 4 selections for the Guaranteed #20,000 Pick 4 at Balmoral Park later today at

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Another Baffert Interlude in the Derby today

Today we head back to the west coast and have a race where the turf meets the surf.  I’m going to look at the Del Mar Derby (G2) for 3YO’s on turf going a mile and an eighth.   It’s a field of 10 fighting for a purse of $250,000, all but one are west coast turf horses, with Banned being the outsider.  There is virtually no front end speed in this race, and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to the “pace makes the race” in turf races, the lack of it here makes this race wide open for an upset or a surprise.  Here we go …


#1  Midnight Interlude ML 7/2:  Baffert trained winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) comes right back from his even effort in the LaJolla.  He faces several from that warm up again today, but I look at that last race as a tune up.  He has had two nice works since 8/13 and Baffert hits 24% on 2nd off races.  I know many think Bejarano is the plague on turf but with an inside ride, saving ground in a pace less race and getting some distance added he should come through and win. 

#7 Banned ML 5/2: Here is another tough horse.  Back to back wins at Churchill Downs and seems to race well anywhere.  This will be his first visit to Del Mar and while many don’t take this turf course too seriously it will be interesting to see how he does.  He is cutting back in distance and has the ability to go out a bit, so might work. His Beyer’s show him to be red hot, and Proctor doesn’t goof around when enters a horse in Graded races.  I’m writing as if he is the winner and will be the favorite, but with nothing to chase he might not kick into gear.

#5 Cloud Man ML 6/1:  This colt is dangerous and believe he is ready to break through.  Granted it took him several efforts to move through his allowance condition but improving Beyer’s, a string of pearls on his workouts and Sherriffs has excellent ROI in these situations.  Talamo stays with him, and might struggle with the distance but like his chances here.

Dark Horses:

#6  Dreamy Kid ML 8/1:  Had him as my selection at the West Virginia Derby and had a horrible effort.  This will be his first try on grass, his breeding suggests that he will be fine and has won at this distance.  He has the dangerous Rosario on board and while Drysdale isn’t having a great meet, you have to respect him here.  I look for him to bounce back and show us that same game race he had in the Swaps(G2) at Hollywood Park.  He will sit in the middle and can get up and win.

#9 Burns ML 9/2:  He won his last out in the LaJolla(G2) and some would have him the favorite here.  PVal is on board and right there makes Burns a player.  The knock on him is the distance; his only two tries at this distance were on dirt and didn’t fare well.  His last three races while at shorter distances don’t show him holding on and not stretching out.  One last thing, a minor point but his Beyer’s while very good are range bound in the high 80’s and don’t see any break outs, it will take a big effort today.

“Bomb’s Away”:

#4 Extensive ML 12/1:    Here is an interesting play.  Proctor runs him in the Oceanside and shows a decent effort coming in 3rd behind Burns and brings him back in an Optional Claimer where he wins and lo and behold gets claimed! Now his connections place right back into a G2 race.  His Beyer’s are improving and think the distance will be no problem; and gets a very dangerous Martin Garcia.  With no pace and the ability to close smartly he becomes a fun pick on the “recent claim” angle, and who would think to play it in a Graded race.


1 – 7 – 5 

A near miss last night at Balmoral in the Pick 4. Will be posting later today at  the selections for tonight’s $25,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Balmoral Park.  Have a great holiday and may you cash all your tickets today!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Another walk in the Park for Harve de Grace

Why is Saratoga such a difficult track to handicap?  I‘ve struggled finding that rhythm with this track, Del Mar and Monmouth I have a feel for those surfaces, but something about Saratoga just haunts me.  Not one to back away from a challenge, I’m going to take on the Woodward (G1) today at Saratoga.   This race is for 3YO’s and up, going over the dirt for a mile and a eighth, with a purse of $750,000.   As of this writing there have been no scratches.  What makes this an interesting race is having Havre de Grace take on the boys, along with some fine horses coming back from the Whitney.  So here we go …


#6  Havre de Grace ML 8/5:  Without a doubt she will be favorite and the question is from a betting standpoint do you lay or play her?  This Larry Jones filly has won at every Graded level, at this distance and is 12 for 12 ITM, with a 50% win rate.  She’s had a nice rest since that close call to Blind Luck at Delaware.  She can handle the Saratoga dirt and looks perfect for this race.  It looks like Rule and Mambo Meister will gun to the front and she will sit on their hip and take them out.

#8 Giant Oak ML 8/1:  I know this is a bit of a stretch here, but feel he is rounding back into form.  Was a distant third in the Whitney to Tizway and Flat Out, but posted a nice Beyer in that race and if you notice every time Bridgmohan has been in the saddle he has been close.  He has won at this level and might surprise the front runners down the stretch.     

#7 Flat Out ML 5/2:  Had that big win in the Suburban and then got bogged down in a nice effort in the Whitney.  There are no questions about distance or class level, it comes down to how does Solis ride this lightly raced 5YO?  Looking at the race shape, I’d say he has to stay close to Havre de Grace, if he slips back like in the Whitney it will be tough sledding trying to catch her.  He has the speed and form to get it done, but will need a near perfect trip.

Dark Horses:

#4 Rule ML 5/1:  Many will have him picked to win this race. He has the ability but seems to be an in and outer, never knowing which Rule will show up.  Had a strong 2YO campaign but has been really inconsistent since, with only one win last out since turning 4.  He posted a big Beyer and had to crank it up to win that race, workouts suggest he is ready, but just not buying it.  Could be wrong here but thinking Saratoga will swallow him up today.

#3 Mission Impazible ML 10/1:  This is the Pletcher horse that I believe is dangerous in this race.  Not one to win consistently but is always near at the end.  He didn’t run his race in the Whitney and would look for him to be up near the front.  The big change is Johnny V riding him and that could make all the difference.  Looks like a bouncer with his speed fig’s so that would suggest today might be a big day if you like to play form cycle angles. 

“Bombs Away”:

#10 Mambo Meister ML 10/1:  The oldest one in the field at 6, is a top winner at the stakes level and has won 3 in a row.  He is one of those hard knocking Calder horses that show up and can steal the show.  Interesting Beyer pattern of three strong efforts and then flattens, so today would suggest a flat day, but the pace might work to his advantage.  He will lay in the middle and if the others burn themselves up he could have that window to take it.  Has won at the G3 level and gut feel on this one.


6 - 8 - 7

Will be posting the Guaranteed $20,000 Pick 4 Selections at Balmoral tonight later today at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Guest Post: Nine Months Later

The takeout increase implemented by the CHRB and TOC is almost nine months old, but the new life intended for California racing has not yet been delivered. The “anesthesiologists” at the TOC have already eliminated any financial pain for that small but powerful, self-perpetuating group of owners; forcing the “surgeons” at the CTHA and the “general practitioners” at HANA to try and resuscitate the wallets of less influential horsemen and most horseplayers, respectively.

The official birth of the Player’s Boycott was recorded in the middle of January, but some of its supporters had already closed their wallets the day the infamous bill was signed into law by the lame duck appointer of some other fowl balls laying eggs and hatching plots at the CHRB.

Some may ask what the boycott and the dedicated work by horseplayer advocates have actually accomplished. The answer is 1) heightened national awareness of California racing’s failure to thrive, 2) confirmation that the primary cause of that sad state of affairs is the existing balance of power on the TOC board of directors together with the CHRB chair, and 3) sufficient interaction with reasonable and rational industry insiders that helped trigger initiation of corrective action by astute and concerned horsemen. Indeed only cooperation between horsemen and horseplayers can reverse horse racing’s decline in popularity and handle.

Careful tracking by boycott leaders of handle at Santa Anita for comparison with previous year figures revealed discrepancies between data available for public consumption from EQUIBASE and those determined privately for the CHRB by CHRIMS. Those discrepancies have finally been explained, and some CHRIMS-adjusted data is now being made available publicly. Boycott supporters continued tracking comparative handle at Hollywood Park and Del Mar which are both down for the year as was Santa Anita’s.

Some track executives have acknowledged the boycott was a contributing factor in the downturn in California handle, but even in the face of objective data, the TOC power brokers refuse to recognize that their plan is not working, and that change is in order. Fortunately, not all that organization’s members have been deceived by its leadership.

The CTHA has already gathered well in excess of the required number of TOC member signatures on a petition calling for decertification of the TOC, and submitted them to the CHRB in advance of their August board meeting. Yet no mention was made publicly of that fact by the CHRB, prompting concerns that the legally-mandated processing of that petition will be at best delayed and at worst derailed by CHRB leadership.

The CTHA took out an advertisement in the Daily Racing Form for Pacific Classic day stating that they had offered to halt the decertification process if the TOC would permit “a free, fair, and open election … for every seat in the TOC Board of directors and let every licensed California Thoroughbred owner … choose how they wish to be represented …,” but that “The TOC did not respond “

It’s now clear that those currently in control at the TOC will neither voluntarily share any of their influence and power nor cease exhibiting the blatant yet self-defeating self-interest that is causing responsible racing participants of all stripes to turn away from them -- not just angry customers.

In my opinion, people who have already shown their resolve to set things right in California by either withholding their betting dollars and/or distributing them elsewhere, should not only keep the pressure on, but find additional ways to support horsemen who seek reform as well. Together we will prevail. Going betless in California continues to display its virtues for all to see.

Long time poster, commenter, industry watcher and horse racing fan "Indulto"submitted this piece this week.  Thank you!