Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Will it be a Party at Belmont or just Crazy?

Due to horrible weather in New York the Bold Ruler Handicap was postponed to November 7th at Aquaduct.  If the weather holds today at Belmont we will look at the 8th race, The Smilin Sera.  It is for 2YO fillies going a mile on turf for a purse of $60,000.  Hopefully we get this race on the grass otherwise it becomes a one horse race with the MTO entry of #9 Disposablepleasure.  So let’s look at this race as if we get a normal day at Belmont.  There are 8 entries and several fillies here look real good.


#3 Crazy Party ML 4/1

One of Todd Pletcher entries and has flashed one of the strongest Beyer’s at 72 going longer in distance.  This will be her third start and she gets off the rail for the first time.  She has had a nice string of 4f workouts, not bullets but consistent and Nakatani takes over the reins.  She will lay off the front running Take It Inside and has all the ability to run her down and win this one.

#7 Royal Bonnie ML 3/1

Showed well in the G3 Ms Grillo earlier in the month finishing second (DQ’d to 4th).  She shows excellent Beyer’s (70-73) and improving.  Weaver has this filly right and ready and Velasquez is on board.  The only reason I don’t have her first is that Weaver has a horrible stakes record (2% in 93 starts).

#5 Wholelottashakin ML 6/1

She broke her maiden at second asking when moving from dirt to turf and her Beyer’s reflected that change going from a 61 to a 71. I like the way she runs and the added distance will play to her speed.  Bush is consistent with whatever is handed to him and pulls Solis for this one over Castellano.  If that last effort was any indication of her potential she could blow right past the first two.  The winner of her first race came back to win a $75K stakes race.  Have a good feeling about this filly.

Dark Horse:

#4 St Pancras ML 3/1

The second half of Todd Pletcher entries.  Last out at Woodbine was an ugly effort but it looked like she got hung out against some tough girls.  Several of those horses have come back to win big races or finish in the top three.  You could play her as a “key race” angle and wouldn’t be surprised to see her win.  In her winning maiden race she posted a 72 Beyer which makes her competitive with this bunch.  Workouts look pedestrian but Pletcher might be hiding her from us.  Not sure if the value will be there but definitely in a Trifecta wager.

Bombs Away:

#1 Bourbonstreetgirl ML 5/1

Her last outing in the G3 Ms Grillo was a rocky ride.  Place third by DQ, but she had nothing but problems in the race.  Her speed figures don’t really measure up to the top three but 2YO’s can perk up and surprise.  Her numbers are close enough to consider that she has the ability to get up into the 70’s.  What is interesting is Contessa puts Dominguez back on.  He was her maiden winning jockey back in August at the Spa.  One last thing, she had a solid effort in a $75K stakes race going wide.  She is the dangerous one. 


3 - 7 - 5 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Pletcher sandwiches Rodman in the Bold Ruler today

Last weekend at Keeneland, “Bombs Away” horses ruled the day in both races.  We had Great Hot (Brz) in the Raven Run paying $10.60 and then in the Dowger,  Senada came in and paid a whopping $35.40.  We missed on Senada, but it was nice to see our second selection, Upperline finish second.  Today, we head back to New York and will look at the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont.  It is for 3YO+ running 7 panels and we have a field of 8 sprinting for the $100,000 purse.

At first pass, other than Rule by Night we have several good horses here that are trying to find their way back to the winners circle.  There isn’t a lot of front end speed and a couple have flashed impressive Beyer’s in the past but reflect being bouncers.  When you get this mixed bag of form, pace and jockey changes you never know what is going to happen. 


#1 Caixa Eletronica ML 5/2

I know this is a total chalk pick but it is hard to ignore this 6YO winning 5 of 10 this season, sprint or route.  Post nice consistent Beyer’s in the high 90’s and has JohnnyV back in the irons where he won two straight.  In fact, Velasquez has ridden him 4 times and won 3, including the G3 Westchester here at Belmont.   He likes to race forwardly and could wire this field.  No value here but it looks like his race to lose.

#4 Rodman ML 3/1

This horse can post some impressive speed figures and knows how to win.  The trouble is you never know what horse you are going to get.   He can be really good or horrible.  I like the fact that Dominguez is back on board where he put Rodman in the winner’s circle in the Irish Tower ($60K) at Aqueduct.  He can race at the front end and is another can go wire to wire.   Also like the cut back in distance angle with Rodman, it should suit him perfectly.

#1A  Calibrachoa ML 5/2

The second part of the Pletcher entries.  This 4YO had a nice string of 4 in a row including back to back G3 wins.  He like Rodman can fire off some hot Beyer’s (103-107-107) but seems to flash a bounce pattern.  So with his 82 last out in an off track effort in a G1 race, he should be primed to race big.  Likes to rate off the front runners and gets Lezcano for this one.  Interesting to note, the top the contenders get big jockey switches for today, kind of a New York jockey all star race.

Dark Horse:

I can only find one here that I like.  Some would ask what about Justin Phillips?  The only way he plays here if the track is off.  Looking into the #6 past, the only two wins were on off tracks, so if Belmont is off today then Justin Phillips fits here.  Otherwise, I like # 8 Rule by Night ML 8/1.

This 4YO had a good outing last out winning the Duck Dance here at Belmont, popping a nice 96 Beyer.  Two prior were clunkers, one at Monmouth and the other at Saratoga.  Has raced twice at Belmont and hit the board both times.   This is a hunch play, Steve Asmussen is always dangerous in these situations and brings Nakatani in for the ride.  This connection wins 33% of the time and right now at Belmont they have been clipping at 29%.  If Nakatani rides him up close watch out, he can nail this bunch.

“Bombs Away"

#2 Uptowncharlybrown ML 20/1

This is a true mystery horse.  A lightly raced 4YO with 2 wins in 7 starts on the board 5 of 7 lifetime. Has had three trainers and has had only one start this year.  As a 3 YO showed potential in finishing a respectable 5th in the Belmont, a 2nd in a Grade 2 and a place effort in a G3.  Beyer’s have been consistent in the low 90’s, not fast enough on the surface to beat this group, but now Coletti has taken over and drops Paco Lopez onto the saddle.  It will take a huge effort, but likes this distance and could be there if all the others are not up to form today.  

1 – 4 – 1A

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: The Dowager looks very British today

What a nice way to return to the Weekend Handicapping with a “Bombs Away” winner in Great Hot, yesterday at Keeneland.  Today’s race at Keeneland, unfortunately is a bit more muddied, and is one of those turf races that anyone could perk up and win.  We are going to look at the Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes race for a purse of $125,000 going a mile and a half over the turf course.  It is for fillies and mares 3YO and upward and a field of 12 have signed up.  As if this writing, there are no scratches.


#1 Cheeta(GB) ML 3/1

I’m going to throw out her effort in the Beverly D due to surface conditions and she was over her head classwise.  The winner and runner up in that race came back to win, so you have a major key race angle here.  She has won at the G3 level and exhibits solid 90 Beyer’s on turf.   It’s hard to ignore a Clement/Gomez hook up , and she has shown to win coming off layoffs. 

#10 Upperline ML 6/1

I could have easily put this 4YO filly in the dark horse category but I like her chances in this group.  She ran a credible race in the G1 Beverly D, flashing a 92 Beyer and like Cheetah has won at the G3 level, albeit on dirt.  What I like about her is that she post high Beyers regardless of surface or where she finishes, good workouts and Stidham has a nice Graded Stakes record hitting 22% of the time.  Total gut play here.

#5 Hasay(GB) ML 6/1

She will be making her fourth start as a 4YO and show herself to be a good one so for.   We all know Graham Motion turf horses are tough and he wins 21% of the time.  Her speed figures have been improving with each race (79-80-88), and she is a recent winner taking the $76K in the Omnibus at Monmouth.  Hard not to like this filly that has hit the board in 8 of her 11 starts.

Dark Horse:

#11 Askbut I Won’ttell ML 5/1

Some would have her in the top three and I would have a hard time arguing against it.  She is a solid turf horse coming off a win at Arlington in a $100k Optional Claiming event.  As a 4YO she won two G3, one of the Cardinal at Churchill Downs.  Her speed is not far off the top two and has the ability to fire big time. I do like the fact that Chris Block is handing the reins to Leparoux.

Bombs Away:

#8 Endless Expanse(Ire) ML 8/1

This 4YO is a mystery horse for sure.  She  won 3 of 10 and shown credible efforts since coming to the States.  She is coming off a layoff and might return to those early high Beyer’s.  I’m always suspicious when Clement drops one in class and off a 90 day layoff. 


1 - 10 - 5

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Will the Doll hold off the Hot Summer or is it all a Mizdirection at Keeneland?

This Saturday’s Weekend Handicapping we will go to Keeneland and will look at the 13th running of The Lexus Raven Run (G2) , going 7 furlongs for 3YO fillies.  There is a field 13 and as of this writing there are no scratches.  At first pass, this is a contentious race, based on there is no dominant filly in the group.  Several have done well then faded a bit which is not unusual with lightly raced 3YO’s.  There is no clear cut front end speed, which makes it difficult because you don’t know if one will wake up and wire the race.  In the end, there should be no surprises if a longshot pops in and we see a nice payoff.  In fact, I think it will be interesting to see who goes off the favorite.  So let’s take a look:


#2  Groupie Doll ML 5/1

Right off the bat, she is a lightly raced 3YO that reeled off three straight wins after her dismal debut.  She has speed to run with this group and her last out coming 4 wide she almost caught Strike the Moon.  In reading the form notes, it appears several horses she has competed with in the past have gone to win.  A couple of mentions are in her last outing, the 9th place finisher took a $250,000 stakes race and the 10th   finisher in that same race won a $176,000 stakes last weekend.  Lastly, she is one of the few to win a Graded race, the Gardenia (G3) at Ellis back in August.

#12 Mizdirection ML 4/1

I have always liked this Puype trained filly.  Had selected her to win the San Clemente, where she finished second to Up In Time.  She has shown herself to be solid on turf and now tries synthetic, were Puype’s record is mediocre (turf to synthetic).  What does make her attractive is that she likes to go forward, has decent speed and Garrett Gomez is up.

#3 Hot Summer ML 5/1

Some might be surprised not to see Strike the Moon or Roman Treasure sitting here.  They will be the dark horses in this race.  When I look at this filly, I see a young horse that is on the verge of coming together.  Her speed has been fairly consistent of late, she won a G3 at Saratoga and she is getting a weight break now.  When I look at her last race, it looks to me like she was brought back quickly and might have been tired from that tough race at the Spa.  I like Fawkes Graded Stakes record and Velasquez is back riding her.  If she can put it together she can win this race.

Dark Horses:

#7 Roman Treasure ML 6/1

She has flashed the best Beyer’s of this group, the problem is which one do we get today. She has shown solid bullets at Keeneland, big jockey switch from Dominquez to Leparoux.  If she can stay out of trouble and go to the front she might take all the marbles.

#11 Strike the Moon ML 6/1

Hard to ignore her last outing, a good win in a $400,000 stakes race holding off Groupie Doll.  Her works have been good and has shown flashes of good speed.  She has a history of being a bouncer, and based on her last race of 92 she should be ready for a bounce today.  One other thing that makes me shy away from her is the Trombetta is 0 for 23 in Graded Stakes races this season.  She might make me look bad today, but like others more.

Bombs Away:

#4 Great Hot(Brz) ML 6/1

This filly has posted back to back 91’s and showed herself well in her last outing a G1 at Santa Anita, finishing third to Zazu and Ultra Blend.  She has won 3 of 6 and this season has been ITM 4 of 5. She has proven herself to be tough down the stretch and if Chantal can keep her close, she has the ability to clear this field.   


2 – 12 – 3 

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Knife in the Back for Players Everywhere

Guest Editorial by: Jeff Platt, HANA President

HANA has learned that an RFP (Request For Proposal) in the form of a .PDF Doc has been sent out by Monarch Content Management to just about every ADW (except TwinSpires and ExpressBet.)  In case you were not aware, Monarch negotiates track signals on behalf of the following entities: CARF, Del Mar, Fairplex, Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Hollywood Park, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park, Pimlico Race Course, Preakness Stakes, Black Eyed Susan, Portland Meadows, Santa Anita Park, Tampa Bay Downs, and Timonium.

The following paragraphs are a direct quote from the RFP:

Monarch Content Management serves as simulcast agent for twelve racetracks (the “Monarch Content”), and in that capacity, enters into contracts with national advanced deposit wagering sites (“ADWs”) who desire to facilitate wagers from their customers on the Monarch Content. The national ADWs fall generally into two categories: the historic ADWs and the Micro ADWs. The historic ADWs have been a part of the racing industry for many years, trace their roots to well-regulated, publicly-traded companies, and handle hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The Micro ADWs are typically newer entrants to the ADW business, handling much smaller sums of money.

The number of Micro ADWs has significantly increased in recent years; at the same time, the incremental benefit to our racetracks of each additional Micro ADW is subject to diminishing returns. Many of the new Micro ADWs do not bring significant new handle to the Monarch racetracks. Yet each new Micro ADW must be reviewed, approved and then continually monitored by Monarch and its member tracks to ensure regulatory compliance and wagering integrity. The need for monitoring is not just theoretical, as it has recently been discovered that several Micro ADWs were not in compliance with important regulatory requirements.

Accordingly, Monarch and its member tracks have decided to issue this Request for Proposal to identify those Micro ADWs that can most effectively deliver the Monarch Content to the national ADW market. Monarch anticipates selecting five (5) Micro ADWs to receive a contract offer, although it reserves the right to increase or decrease that number based upon the responses to the RFP. The contract offered to the selected Micro ADWs will cover Monarch Content for the 2012 racing season, which begins with the opening of Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs on December 3, 2011.
In selecting the Micro ADWs which will receive a contract offer, Monarch seeks expansion of wagering on its member tracks and improvement of the customer experience, while also maintaining the integrity of the wagering pools. The following is a non-exhaustive list of criteria that Monarch has identified as relevant to its decision:
*Distribution – does the Micro ADW present an opportunity to bring new customers to wager on the Monarch Content?
*Compliance – what jurisdictions is the Micro ADW currently licensed in? Does it have a track record of compliance with state laws and regulations and contractual requirements?
Has it undergone a due diligence review by the Thorougbred Racing Protective Bureau or similar entity?
*Innovation – does the Micro ADW offer innovations, wagering or otherwise, that could expand distribution of the Monarch Content, enhance the customer experience, or otherwise be of benefit to the industry?
*Source Market Fees – what source market fee agreements does the Micro ADW have with Monarch and non-Monarch tracks?
*Price – what host fees is the Micro ADW willing to pay the Monarch tracks?

It appears ADW operators are being asked to enter into a bidding war over Monarch track content.

Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone over the past week. I’ve spoken with many ADW operators as well as a handful of people in track management. None of the ADW operators are happy about this. None of them are optimistic about being chosen as one of the 5 who will be awarded a signal contract. 

A source who I consider to be reliable told me that signal contracts between Monarch and the non Magna tracks are not exclusive. That means independent tracks such as Hollywood Park, Del Mar, and Tampa Bay Downs have the ability to negotiate signal contracts with ADWs and OTBs independently of Monarch if they so choose.

Is that a real possibility? Hopefully it is. But right now it’s too early to tell.

I am a horseplayer advocate. I can’t sugar coat this for you. It is my opinion that if this goes through, and Monarch pulls track signals from ADWs, the result is nothing short of a knife in the back for horseplayers everywhere.


Let me count the ways:

1. Track Signal Availability

Track signals are about to be yanked from ADW lineups. This has some serious implications.

This is harmful to you the player because choices you currently have as a consumer are about to be permanently taken away from you. In my opinion, this is potentially far worse than previous signal wars. It appears people who do not have the best interests of the customer in mind are attempting to dictate who you can spend your money with as well as upping the wholesale cost of making a bet.

To us at HANA, this has the appearance of a thinly disguised attempt to crush retail competition by denying them product to sell.

I can’t help but wonder how the courts would view this in the event an ADW denied content turns around and sues Monarch and/or Tracks affiliated with Monarch under US Anti Trust Law. 

I also can’t help but wonder how the US Dept. Of Justice would view this. Keep in mind that the DOJ interviewed many parties (including ADW customers) at the time of the TwinSpires – YouBet merger. Shortly after those interviews were conducted, TrackNet was quietly disbanded.

Monarch and its sister company TroutNet were formed shortly afterwards. Monarch negotiates signal contracts for Magna tracks. TroutNet negotiates signal contracts for CDI tracks. Monarch and TroutNet are managed by members of TrackNet’s former management team.

Note: If you as an ADW consumer believe your choices and the ADW market space itself are being impacted in a negative way by this, here is a link to a page at the DOJ website where you can report your concerns:

2. Hidden Takeout Increase

If you are a Micro ADW customer, signal fees on Monarch track content are about to go up (by as much as 33%.) Translation? Your rebates on Monarch track content are about to go down.

That means your effective takeout is about to go up.

As a result (and this will be true even for the best players) the number of good wagering opportunities (and your likelihood for showing a profit over any significant period of time) at a Monarch track is about to go down as well.

As a result, handle, pool size, and (eventually) purses will shrink. Ultimately, jobs for employees who work at Monarch tracks will be put at risk.

How do we know this?

Look no further than the recent takeout increase in California. Here we are, little more than 9 months into that increase. Year over year California thoroughbred handle is off more than a quarter Billion dollars. That’s right… I said Billion… with a B.

The TOC and the CHRB are trying their best to downplay those numbers. They have publicly denied just how bad things are and have said that the takeout increase just needs “more time” in order to work.

Try telling that to the more than 100 employees recently laid off by Santa Anita.

Ready or not here it comes.

A knife in the back for players everywhere.

California Screamin'

If you're like many horseplayers who want to bet horses in competitive fields at a fair price, and consider what else that's happening in the sport a distraction, you may have not been paying attention to the infighting in California. Today Art Wilson writes an article on the massive dysfunction in the state's racing corridors, with (it appears) no end in sight. 

"So you think Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are the only dysfunctional ones with their gridlock and inability to get anything done? 

Well, I bring you the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, who are waged in a battle for supremacy in the state."

The article contains quotes from various industry watchers like Lou Raffetto and horseplayer advocate Andy Asaro. It is a good synopsis.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blanchard Summarizes the TRA Simulcasting Conference

Via a podcast, Greg Blanchard talks about pricing and other issues in an interesting interview.

As many of you know, Greg and his track partnered with HANA Harness on a pick 4 wager earlier this season.

"In terms of racing in North America every track has a different set of circumstances, so there are many different viewpoints still on the takeout issue. I'm a believer that the pricing is too high in general terms and we have to work at bringing that down to a more competitive level if we're going to able to compete with other forms of gambling."

Please give it a listen!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: A wide open Spinster at Keeneland today

Yesterday was one of those days in racing where everything fell into place.  Gio Ponti had a wonderful run in the Shadwell(G1) along with my pick Get Stormy (finishing second) and then later that evening hitting a small Pick 4 at Balmoral for $127 on a $24 ticket.  If you had played the Trifecta on the Shadwell with my top three and Gio Ponti it would have paid $192 on a $48 ticket.  A good day all around!  Today the stakes calendar is light and the only big race scheduled is the The Juddmonte Spinster Grade 1 for filles and mares, 3YO and upward going a 1 1/8 over the synthetic track at Keeneland. 

This will be the race that reminds us how humbling handicapping can be.  It is wide open, I mean throw a dart and you will have a great chance.  I will admit, I don’t like seeing a bunch of turf horses moving to a dirt/synthetic track for the first time.  There is no form, you don’t know how well they will do and generally brings chaos to the handicapping.  It also means tons of value, so if you want a price and can find an angle it’s a big payoff.

For this race I’m going to do it differently, three contenders and my Bombs Away pick. Honestly they are all dark horses here, I could argue a case for all but one or two to win it.  We have a packed field of 11 to choose from so good luck!


#7  Embur’s Song ML 5/1

I’m going with speed all the way.  She has the early foot and she is two for two at Keenleand.  Three Grade 3 wins to her credit and breeding says she can do nine furlongs. Pletcher dumps Husbands after that strange ride in the Seaway and puts Castanon on board.  Six of nine on the synthetic  and she looks like she is ready to get back to the winners circle.

#10 Theysken’s Theory ML 6/1

Had this 3YO filly in her debut in the Garden City where she finished second almost catching Winter Memories.  Her first outing on the turf at Keeneland was a disaster so want to give her a second chance.  She is the only turf horse in this field I will take the chance on synthetic for the first time. While McGaughey doesn’t have a good turf to synthetic record, just have a gut feeling she will bounce back and be there at the end.

#12 Pachattack ML 5/1

The only reason I have her here is because she has the highest Beyer’s on synthetic (103), has won at this distance and longer, can race forwardly.  Now here is what I don’t like, has never won in the USA when her weight goes over 120, today she carries 124.  I’m not sure the pace of this race suits her, but you have to respect her most recent effort in the Personal Ensign (G2). 

Bombs Away:

#4 Sugar Again ML 12/1

This lightly raced 4YO has won five of nine starts, she is two for four on synthetic (at Woodbine). While her last race was on turf in the Paris Opera ($80K) there is something about this filly that says she might be ready for that big race.  I like the fact that Solis is on board and Sheppard has a good record with surface switching. She posted a bullet workout at Keeneland over 5f.  If Solis takes her forward and rates her just off the pace, she could take it all.  She has a solid closing kick into the deep stretch.


 7 – 10 – 12

I will be posting on my blog  the selections for the Guaranteed $25,000 Pick 4 at Balmoral tonight. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Can Gio Defend The Shadewell(G1)?

Today we take on our first race at Keeneland.  There are a lot of stakes races this weekend and as most know, I enjoy the turf the best.  So I selected, The Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) for 3YO and upward going for a purse of $600,000. There is a field of eight and we get quite the variety today.  There are horses coming in from all over the country and one import making his first start.  What I like about this race is there is no clear cut winner, so plenty of value should be available.


#2  Sidney’s Candy ML 3/1

I’m going with him based on his four turf races which include two wins both at the G2 level.  His Beyer’s are the highest of this bunch when he has been on grass, plus Pletcher puts Rosario back on board.  That to me is a big sign, for Rosario was the key rider when John Sadler trained him. Other than Get Stormy, he is the speed of this group and has all the ability to go wire to wire.  He’ll probably end up being the chalk here, unless Gio Ponti gets a big backing. 

#4 Zoffany(IRE) ML 3/1

We know that imports that have done well overseas and come in have done exceedingly well.  This 3YO is no exception, five wins in eleven starts and ITM eight of those eleven races.  I have a strong biases to lightly raced 3YO’s, especially ones that have won at the G1 level.  He has struggled of late in France and is more of sprinter.  But the conditions today should play right to him, the big question does he go forward with Sidney’s Candy or rate off, history says he will lay off. I look for a strong finish.

#8 Get Stormy ML 5/1

I like that he has won two G1 races on turf, one being the Makers Mark here at Keeneland, has been posting consistent Beyer’s and a big switch to Gomez (who I think is the best on turf).  If his Beyer’s were a smidge higher I would have him winning this race.  He has the speed and cutting back in distance could be just what he needs to nail this one.  For the price right now he is where my money will go.  One more note, Bush, his trainer has a high win % on Graded Stakes (31%).  Reminds me of Turallure in the Baruch.

Dark Horses:

#5  Gio Ponti ML 5/2

Most will look at him as the sentimental favorite, and I would be one of them.  I would enjoy seeing him defend his title in this race.  It was his last win last year in this race, and with so many near misses of late, it would be great to see him come back.  Without Cape Blanco in this one, he might find his footing and make that late charge to the wire we have so enjoyed.

#3 Dance and  Dance(IRE) ML 8/1

Made his first start in the Woodbine Mile, and never got out into the race, due to a rank start.  Showed a decent Beyer of 98, and should be much better in his second start.  So let’s give him one more look.

Bombs Away:

#7 Wise Dan ML 12/1

He won the Fircracker (G2) at Churchill Downs going a mile posting a soild 99, his only turf win.  It will take a huge effort today, but he looks ready (winning a $250K stakes last out).  One of those intuition plays. 


2 – 4 – 8

Will be posting the Guaranteed Pick 4 Selections for Balmoral later today at

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Plea to the Industry: Focus on Improving Handle

HANA was not represented at a recent industry conference of insiders but they had some folks there who were getting our message out:

“The industry should focus on quality, not quantity; you’ve got to spend more on (research and development); and you’ve got to focus on your customers, not your horses.”


"It would behoove the industry to make a significant effort to improve live attendance and live handle.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Panelists Present Numbers (& No Bull) on Takeout

Several of the sports' movers and shakers in the bet taking and track ownership space got together on a panel yesterday at the Simo Conference in Arizona.

On takeout:

"We all want to increase wagering," he said. "Lowering takeout in every instance increases handle. Raising takeout always decreases handle."

On whales:

"When you talk to bigger players, they would rather have lower takeouts and lower rebates," Bowker said. "That way, they also feel less sophisticated money would come back into the pools."

On host fees (which tracks have been raising the past 12-24 months):

"Bowker used as an example two racetracks he declined to name but are located within 100 miles of each other and share a common pool of trainers, jockeys, owners, and horses. Both tracks had very similar blended takeout rates -- about 21.1% -- but Premier, through deals with the host tracks, was able to discount effective rates to 17.2% at one track and to 10.33% at the other.

The track with the lower rate attracted almost five times as much handle."

For small harness tracks:

In 2011, Blanchard added a second Pick 4 wager to his menu and lowered takeout on both from 23% to 15%, a move he said generated positive publicity and greater revenue. "We saw the average pool size double," Blanchard said. "By the end of the meet, it had tripled."

For other points and statistics from the panel, please read the Bloodhorse article here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: DelMar Debutante Part 2 at Santa Anita Oak Leaf today

In the Gold Cup yesterday, the only real surprise was how flat Stay Thirsty looked.  I had a bad feeling when he dropped back a few spots and then tried to rally.  The good part was seeing Flat Out have an excellent race and finally breaking through.  He had all the makings for winning a G1 and he proved himself well yesterday.  Today, we are going to head west and look at the 43rd running of the Oak Leaf (G1) at Santa Anita for 2YO fillies.  The distance is a mile and one sixteenth over the synthetic surface for a purse of $250,000. 

This 2YO feature race has 10 fillies and some of the best on the west coast.  I can see several winning this race, and frankly there should be plenty of value here due to no one being odds on favorite.  I would consider it to be wide open, and anyone of them could find their stride and take it.  Here is how I see it:


#2  Self Preservation ML 4/1

This Ben Cecil charge made her first start in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and had all sorts of problems.  She was bumped at the start, steadied early and then found her stride and finished second to Weemissfrankie.    I look for PVal to have a smoother trip and stay a bit closer and win this race.  She can go the distance, has the speed and her workouts have been bullets at 6f.  She looks like a solid “go”.

#4  Candera ML 4/1

She has won her first two races including a recent win at the Fairplex in a stakes race.   Her breeding shows going a route will be no problem and both wins were going away.  You can’t ignore the 85 Beyer last out, the highest of the group.  What makes her interesting is that Baffert puts his number one rider, Martin Garcia on her and takes off Pedroza, and puts Pedroza on the horse Garcia had been riding.  For me, that is a Baffert signal this filly is ready, even though she is coming back on 15 days rest. 

#8  Weemissfankie ML 5/2

She is the only G1 winner in the bunch winning the DelMar Debutante soundly.  Her pedigree says she do the distance and has paired 77’s showing consistency.  I’m not sure this filly will dominate again and with Candera’s front end speed, she may have to race differently to win it.  She is good one, but I like the #2 and #4 a bit better.

Dark Horses:

#9 Dreamcaster ML 8/1

This is the other Baffert entrant that didn’t show much in the Debutante at DelMar finishing 7th after being on the pace till the stretch.  What I find interesting is her Beyers are consistent regardless of how she finished.  Not sure if she has the speed of the top three but the distance might play into her hands. Her breeding shows she can go this distance easily and maybe having the slick Pedroza on board will make the difference.

#10 Charm the Maker ML 8/1

This is a pedigree/key race angle here.  This filly is out of Empire Maker who won the Belmont and her Dam won at the G3 level at this distance.  The show horse won at Golden Gate recently and this filly posted a competitive Beyer of 68 in her maiden win.  McAnally has a 23% winning record with 2YO’s and to drop her into a G1 on her second start says something to me.  Garrett Gomez is on board and he has been nailing big races of late.  I like her enough to win, in the Trifecta for sure.

Bombs Away:

#5 My Gi Gi ML 15/1

This is one of those “beware the shipper” fillies, coming in from Louisiana Downs.  She finished second by a head in a $100K stakes race going a mile on grass.  Her speed fig was a 77 which puts her at the top and likes to rate in the middle of the pack which may work out perfectly.  The interesting play here is that her new trainer has an excellent record with dirt to turf, and she gets Chantal Sutherland today.   Lastly, the show horse in her maiden win, won next out by 9, she could surprise us all today.   


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I will not be posting the Balmoral Pick 4 Selection this evening due traveling on business.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Weekend Handicapping: Stay Thirsty finds the Gold Cup at Belmont

When I saw The Jockey Club Gold Cup on the schedule I was really excited about this race.  It’s a G1 at Belmont for 3YO and upwards with a great purse of $750,000 and it’s at 1 ¼ miles .  It’s by invitation only and seven horses are going.  Now that the race is here and saw the entrants, I was a little surprised how this race lined up to be a two horse race.  There is tons of speed in this race, and several will go forward making a fun race to watch, not sure the outcome will be any different but should be exciting.  So the analysis will look different today, for I can clearly see two contenders and three outsiders, so here we go:


#4 Stay Thirsty ML 8/5

He is taking on older horses for the first time but I don’t believe that will have an effect.  Has posted excellent Beyer’s, has won two in a row, including the G1 Travers last out.  Castellano rides him well and this 3YO is finding a nice pattern now.  I can’t find any negatives on him except two “out of the box” reasons not to play him. One he has never won at Belmont (0-2) and secondly, has never won at 122 pounds (0-2).  He should go to the front and wire this group.

#1 Flat Out ML 7/5

This horse has had an interesting career.  You would have to say he is a lightly raced 5YO and hasn’t raced much till this season.  So you have to think he is grown up and is finding his stride.  His Beyer’s are right there to win this event and racing style can give him that edge.  This will be his first go at a 1 ¼ and I believe it will help him. Solis has him figured out and look for him to be there at the end. If we can get better than 7/5 he is the play, especially being coupled with Birdrun.

Dark Horses:

# 3 Rodman ML 8/1

It looked like he was off to a good start in his 5YO campaign then it fell apart in the Whitney.  He certainly has shown the speed figures to stay or beat the top two, but the inconsistency of racing style is troublesome.  He has been working out well and picks up Maragh for the first time.  The downside he hasn’t gone this distance and is carrying a high weight (126).  It will take a big effort to find his way past them but has the ability if he is ready.

#1A Birdrun ML 7/5

This is a total angle play. Mott switches to JohnnyV and he has shown he can handle this distance.  Doesn’t have the speed like the others but then the pace could open a door for him.  He also runs well at Belmont winning 3 of 6 including the G2, Brooklyn back in June.   He is coupled with Flat Out, so it may kill any value here, but still an interesting play.

#5 Drosselmeyer ML  6/1

He is our mystery horse. Finished off his 3YO effort winning the Belmont last year and looked poised to be a dominant horse going into 2011.  He obviously didn’t like Florida, seemed to wake up at Belmont, winning the One Count Stakes ($60K) and then for whatever reason Mott dropped into a G1 turf race last out and he looked miserable.  He likes the distance and now has Lezcano who wins 27% with Mott horses.  The problem is that he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with this crew.  The angle is the pace is brutal, he rates off and then has enough left to get by them.  Probably not going to happen that way but one to have in your exotics.


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Will be back blogging my Balmoral Pick 4 Selection this evening at