Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We Don't Have 20 Answers Either

Some blog posts you just kind of nod. We think you'll enjoy this one.

If you have the answers, please forward them to your nearest racetrack.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Fountain of Youth = Union Rags

Yesterday’s Risen Star turned out to be quite a race!  Our pick Mark Valeski dueled El Padrino right down to the wire.  I admit,  I was wary of El Padrino’s last outing, but he showed he is going to be a tough customer on the road to the Derby.  At Gulfstream Park today, we could argue this is the first big Derby hopeful test,   Fountain of Youth (G2) for a purse of $400,000.   Eight starters are going to go a mile and sixteenth and on paper it looks like a two horse race, Algorithms and Union Rags.  They are the definite heavyweights here, but when you look a bit deeper there are one or two entrants that could upset today.  Let’s take a look …


#7 Union Rags  ML 2/1

For me he is still the one to beat. Yes, Hansen won the BC Juvenile, but Union Rags showed a determined effort finishing second.  He ran four wide at Churchill and just missed beating Hansen, and we have seen Hansen is beatable.  Three consistent Beyer numbers, Matz has him working well and look forward to him getting back on the winning track.  There isn’t a lot of front end speed so the pace suits him well.  Normally, it would bother me with a jockey change, but I see no drop off with Leparoux taking the irons.

#5 Discreet Dancer ML 3/1

Realistically Algorithms would be in this slot, but I’m going with handicapping instincts and I really like Discreet Dancer in this place.  If the odds hold, he would be my money play.  It will be his first big test, but he has shown excellent speed over his first two (98 – 96).  Pletcher is bringing him along perfectly, his workouts have been outstanding and Velazquez jumps on board.  Some might say he is the rabbit for Algorithms today, but if he gets loose there is no way he will give it up. 

#2 Algorithms  ML 8/5

He had a monster race in the Holy Bull taking down Hansen, popping a 105 Beyer.  My only issue, and fell prey to it yesterday, but his biggest race was on an off track. Prior to that his speed was improving but to jump from 88 to 105 is always suspect.  El Padrino showed me up yesterday, but overall, I will shy away from these youngsters with these big pops.  He certainly has all the ability, training and breeding to win it.  Regardless, the price will be miserly so we would layoff anyway.
No dark horse today.

Bombs Away:

#1 Neck ‘n Neck ML 15/1

It was between him and Fort Loudon and in the end will go with the #1. He has shown nice speed improvement, and ran a good race in the SF Davis at Tampa.  He raced seven wide and was closing fast.  Ian Wilkes puts blinkers on, and that is always an interesting to play, has shown he can handle the distance, and if Lezcano keeps him close he might have a shot to win it.  It’ll take a big effort, but again I stress with young 3YO’s you never know who wakes up.


7 – 5 - 2 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: All Larry Jones in the Risen Star at FG

Wow, what a nice race run by R Holiday Mood in the Hurricane Bertie!  It wasn’t so much of that she paid a nice mutual ($12.60), it was the fact we got a nice horse improving and coming off a win.  From a handicapping perspective it is so satisfying to find those kinds of opportunities and then see a good price.   Today, we are going back over to the Fair Grounds, and look at a race for 3YO Derby hopefuls.  It’s the Risen Star (G2) going a mile and a sixteenth for a purse of $300,000.  We have seen several of these colts before in the LeComte.  The race is fairly wide open, no overwhelming speed so the pace should be square.  It’s these kinds of races where you have lightly raced 3YO that look somewhat evenly matched where an upset occurs, I think I have one today.  So here we go …


#1a Mark Valeski ML 4/1

Larry Jones is positioning the lightly raced colt for the Derby.  Won last out in an Optional Claiming race here at FG, with an improving Beyer of 84.  This will be his first route, but the breeding says that it will be no problem for him, and Jones hits 25% on the sprint/route play.  Strong workouts, good racing style for this group today and Jones put’s the meets number one rider on board, Napravnik .  All things being equal, he has an excellent chance to win this race.

#1 Mr. Bowling ML 4/1

We saw him in the LeComte surprise the field with an excellent performance.  I see no reason he can’t repeat here.  Good speed, like the #1a, a good running style for this race, and has been working out well.  He has raced well everywhere he has been, and is showing himself to be a versatile 3YO. Other than Shared Property, he is the only graded winner in the race.

#7 El Padrino ML 2/1

His last outing produced an eye popping 100 Beyer at GP over this distance.  He ran well in the Remsen at Aqueduct and you can’t ignore Pletcher horses.  That being said, as the DRF noted his only wins came on off tracks.  I’m suspicious of horses, especially young ones that pop a big number.  It sets them up for a bounce and tough day.  You can’t ignore him, but I’m wary.

Dark Horse:

#8 Shared Property ML    6/1

He had a decent effort in the LeComte finishing third, had to fight his way through and came in wide.  His workouts look been solid, has the speed to go with this group and has a G3 win to his credit.  I think the key for him today is how Goncalves rides him, his past history shows he comes out wide, if Goncalves can get him into a better tracking position; he has the ability to run by them all.   He flashed a nice 87 in the Arlington Washington Futurity, and has been progressing upwards.

#5 Z Fager ML 5/1

You can’t pass on the place finisher in the Lecomte.  He was closing fast on Mr. Bowling and just missed.  Asmussen is always is dangerous in these situations and you have the crafty Shane Sellers on board.  This is the dangerous one in this race.

Bombs Away:

#9 Tizanexpense ML 10/1

This colt is going for his third in a row, and is taking a big step today.  I like that he is two for two here at the Fair Grounds, his speed is improving with each race.  The post position isn’t the best but he has won from out here before, Michael Maker (like Asmussen) is dangerous in these kinds of races.    He can go forward or come off the pace, it’ll be interesting to see how Mena races him.   Lastly, he picks up a weight break for this one


1a – 1 – 7  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flashback: "If I was Kentucky Racing Czar"

We read Bill Finley's article on slots today. He details the potential lost hundreds of millions of dollars of purse money in Ontario and Pennsylvania, and wonders what went wrong.

Bill also looks at the Kentucky situation and says:

"Kentucky racing interests have to learn from the mistakes made elsewhere. And so far it doesn't look like that is happening."

He goes on to say that we never wrote slots deals correctly by offering nothing to customers; we just "stuffed it all into purses" and never thought about the future.

A HANA board member wrote a post in May of 2009 here, and with Kentucky looking to perhaps finally get casino gaming and slots, we thought we'd re-run it. Now that we know now, what we know now, this article we think is was pretty darn good. Keep in mind it was written three years ago, while the ink was not even dry on other racing slot deals.

No the Kentucky slots and casino bill may not pass this month, or even this year, but keep in mind: It's never too late to plan for when it does.

May 14, 2009 HANABlog: If I Was Kentucky Racing Czar

Kentucky racing, and its problems competing with neighboring slots states is well documented. Short fields have plagued Kentucky for some time. Ellis Park may run only a short meet, Churchill cut a day a week recently, and Keeneland, despite wonderful racing and great takeouts, suffered a 20% drop in handle.

The simple fact is that we have not written slots deals correctly, and now we are paying for it. There is no one alive who believes that for racing to grow, places like Indiana and Penn National should be taking entries from the Bluegrass state. By flooding the supply of racing at places people do not watch, or bet with little demand, we are hurting racing. "If you supply it they will come" is not a policy for growth, it is a policy for self-destruction.

How do we ensure that Kentucky and its mass appeal to grow racing is protected for years to come? For that, I am a Kentucky Racing czar for a day, and I have a magic wand.

1. I get slots passed. I am fully confident this will happen. The people of Kentucky will not let racing flounder in this fine state, with its tradition for racing. Headlines across the world, as well as lobbying, is going on as we speak. It will happen.

2. I write a slot deal that makes sense; one that focuses on demand, as well as supply. Deals in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were based on a flawed business model. They increased the supply of races, and the supply of dates, watering down the product. When you increase supply and flood a market with inferior product without decreasing prices (i.e. takeouts) your business will not grow. This is ECON 101 and just because we run brown horses in a circle does not mean we are exempt from the rules of business. Why slot deals were written like this putting ALL the money into supply and expected to work is beyond me. The fact that this is the way we still write these deals is even more disconcerting.

The 'New Slots Deal For Kentucky' is a blueprint for the future. We change this up to ensure growth in 2010 and beyond.

* Instead of 10% of slots to purses and 10% of revenues for tracks like almost all jurisdictions, this split is changed. 1% of revenues are sent to a central slush fund (my Czar office) to market and grow racing in Kentucky and outside its borders. Several issues like horse safety, uniform drug policies and other racing centric, pro growth items can be led by the state, for the game overall.

* 1%-2% are sent back to the horseplayer. This is done with player rewards, rebates, giveaways and so on. We have to decrease takeout in 2009 if we expect to grow. Our game is too expensive for gamblers in the 21st century and with new revenue, it must be used to make the game more attractive to bettors. In addition, the "slots drag" has had a horrible effect on handles. Right now at Churchill there are people leaving the track after a hit, they grab a form and can't wait to bet tomorrow. With slots that same person might take those winnings and shove them in a slot machine, losing his bankroll for tomorrow. This drag must be addressed with pricing.

* 1%-2% are mandated to go to the facilities and to promoting the game on the Internet, as well. We need to ensure our customers have a wonderful place to play the races, whether at home, or at the track. What can people like Wolf Kratzenberg do with a set, expanded marketing budget at Turfway? Let's find out.

* The rest go to profits and purses, just like they should. We need to up purses, and with core business falling (remember, at EVERY jurisdiction that slots have been installed, handles suffer), profits have to be funneled back into the companies and horseman involved.

3. I resist the urge to increase racedates and work to make this a reality. Every jurisdiction who has slots has increased dates massively. This waters down the product, decreases field size, and decreases handles. We are back to square one, we have hurt racing, and we have done exactly what we said we would not do.

If we leave dates the same as they are in year one, with this new revenue the following can happen:

* Ellis Park runs a regular meet, but with a ~40%-50% bump in purses. This meet competes more favorably with nearby meets, attracting full fields.

* Kentucky Downs purses skyrocket for their short meet. With some marketing work, and with these big purses attracting solid stock, there is a chance this boutique turf meet can be a jewel in racings landscape for generations.

* Keeneland's meet grows leaps and bounds. With solid revenues, purses will attract the very best, and more quality races can be added. Because this track is a focus of TVG, we are exporting the very best of racing to the entire betting world. This grows our sport, inside Kentucky and beyond. Keeneland's brand is protected and insured.

* HRTV at Churchill is met with the same as Keeneland. Amazing racing, beamed to the world.

Increasing dates and watering down the product will not help racing in the long run. It must be resisted at all costs at the flagship tracks if we want to use slots money to grow the sport. The "B" circuit is there for these horseman with subpar stock. We have to promote and focus on the best, to be the best. Slots were never intended to be an income redistribution scheme, they were put in to grow racing.

So as Czar there is my blueprint:

* Give the demand side some of the slot money through player rebates and lower takeout
* Promote with a central organization as well as mandating the tracks use some of the money to promote
* Resist the urge to grow dates, allowing for Kentucky the potential to offer the highest purses and best racing in the country
* Kentucky becomes a leader once again, in a sport that clearly needs strong leadership.

The status quo is clearly not an option. I know some of this is considered 'pie in the sky' to racing insiders. But therein lies the problem - this ideal is common-sense to most other businesses and would have been enacted years ago. Other businesses are not wrong, we are, and we have to do something about it.

This is an opinion piece at HANAblog. We offer anyone who wants to discuss the issues to send us their thoughts. If we like them and they offer out some good discussion, we will print them. We want to hear from everyone in racing, because if we do not work together, we can not move forward. If you'd like to sign up with HANA, please do. We are but a click away.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two Reminders!

A couple of reminders today.

One HANA Harness informs us that there is a monster carryover pool brewing at Balmoral tonight in their pick 5. Balmoral has been blowing handle right out of the water with their new low takeout bets. $100k + is expected in the pool tonight, at 15% takeout. Free PP's and information is here.

Second, if you have not, please take our poll we put up yesterday. Details here. Thanks to everyone for sharing it too!!!

Lastly, we love free PP's and Bris has got them. Press release below and web link to get them here! offers free Ultimate Past Performances Feb. 23-29
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 22, 2012) – As a thank you to valued horse players, Brisnet, the official data source of the Kentucky Derby and is giving away FREE Ultimate Past Performances for all racetracks running Feb. 23 through Feb. 29, 2012.
Log on to to discover why Ultimate Past Performances are the choice of many of the nation’s top handicappers, including National Handicapping Championship Tour winner Paul Shurman.
“Horseplayers are concerned about the rising cost of handicapping information,” Director of Marketing Ed DeRosa said. “Ultimate Past Performances have offered the same great value at $3 per card for the past 10 years, and we thought the time was right to introduce’s superior handicapping information to a wider audience.”
In addition to all the information commonly found in typical past performance products,’s Ultimate Past Performances include a suite of proprietary data such as speed and class ratings, pace figures, Prime Power, exclusive pedigree information, trainer-jockey angles, and track bias statistics.
“One of the first things I do when I start handicapping is to make notes from every race based on Ultimate Past Performances,” Shurman said.  He won $75,000 as the National Handicapping Championship Tour winner and went on to finish sixth in the National Handicapping Championship.
You must be a member of to download free Ultimate Past Performances; registration is free. The promotion applies to all products in the Ultimate Past Performances family—including Ultimate Past Performances with Comments, Ultimate Race Summary, and Condensed Ultimate PPs—for all tracks racing Feb. 23 through Feb. 29.
Bloodstock Research Information Services (BRIS) provides Thoroughbred horsemen and horseplayers with a wealth of data, including bloodstock and handicapping information, through its website,, and BRIS handicapping tools are available through Churchill Downs Incorporated ("CDI") acquired the BRIS family of account wagering and data services businesses in June 2007 in conjunction with the acquisition of the AmericaTAB account-wagering franchise. CDI consolidated the BRIS and AmericaTAB account-wagering platforms under the brand in November 2007 and continues to provide franchisee services to a number of account-wagering platforms based at racetracks not owned by CDI. 
- END -

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trainer Suspended for Altering Paperwork of Ineligible Winning Horse

According to a story in the Daily Racing Form:

Trainer Paul Aguirre has been fined $2,000 and suspended five days in a stipulated agreement with the California Horse Racing Board after admitting to altering the registration papers of a horse who won a race in which he was not eligible last summer.

Read more at the link.

This story is about the integrity of the game.

First we have a trainer who enters a horse into a race at Hollywood Park that the horse isn’t eligible for. To make matters worse, the horse wins that race at odds of more than 27 to 1.

But things didn’t end there. The trainer admitted to going into the racing office afterwards and altering the horse’s papers to make it look like the horse was eligible for the race in question.

The CHRB is the regulatory body in California entrusted with protecting the interests of the wagering public. The CHRB is responsible for ensuring that racing as a gambling game is conducted with honesty and integrity. The CHRB is also responsible for handing out appropriate punishment when people who break the rules are caught.

Eight months after the incident occurred: The CHRB fined the offending trainer $2000 and suspended him a grand total of 5 days.

We at HANA are left scratching our heads. Do principles such as honesty and integrity still exist in racing? (Did they ever exist at all?) Is there some hidden facet to this story that hasn’t come out yet – something that is being kept out of the press?

We at HANA invite you to take a short survey. We'd like to know what you think.

Link to survey:

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Monday, February 20, 2012

With High Takeout Players Clubs Are Needed: DRF

Today in the DRF Jay Bergman looks at rebating back action to on-track players.

"Through the early stages of private ownership, the New Meadowlands has emerged as a racetrack in search of ways to attract customers. While not brand new, the Big M Club continues to evolve as a means of rewarding players for their play."

Ironically, the slotless Jersey track has tried to gain more handle through rewards systems like this, but across the river, the slots track has not.

Since the fall of 2006, when slots and slot players first arrived at Yonkers, there became a two-caste system. Slot players were encouraged to sign up for membership and its rewards and horse players, well, they weren't told anything.

In the five years hence there is still no rewards system in place for horseplayers, although the Empire Club has been modified and improved.

How is it possible to provide rewards to slot players, when the essential takeout is just 8 percent, and offer nothing to horseplayers when the average takeout is well above 20 percent?


The read the full, comprehensive article, please click here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: R Holiday Mood in The Hurricane Bertie at GP

Good morning everyone! I'm experiencing computer issues today, so I apologize for this edition of Weekend Handicapping being short.  Today at Gulfstream is the 14th running of the The Hurricane Bertie (G3) for fillies and mares 4YO and upwards going 6 1/2 furlongs. We have seen several of these girls before and it should be an interesting race.


#3 R Holiday Mood ML 6/1

We had her in the Ocala $60K last time out and see no reason she can't repeat here. Cutting back in distance should suite her fine and see this race as a natural progression for her. It's hard to ignore a Pletcher/Velasquez combination and she gets 5 pound weight break to boot.

# 7 Her Smile ML 5/2

You can't ignore this fillies class. Having won the Prioress (G1) at Belmont and a nice showing in the Breeders Cup Sprint finishing third.  She has the speed and gets Castellano back, so she will be a tough customer. The only issue she has been off for awhile, and history shows she needs one before finding her groove.

#1 Pica Slew ML 5/1

She almost won the Sugar Swirl before a solid Pomeroy Pistol overhauled her.  Has won at this level and looks like Brian Lynch has her perfectly positioned for today.  If she can find that 3YO speed she could go wire to wire over this field. 


3 - 7 - 1

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Wide open sprint at Laurel today

Today for Weekend Handicapping, I thought we go over to Laurel Park and take a look at the The Barbara Fritchie Handicap (G2), for fillies and mares 3YO and upward.  It’s for a distance of 7 furlongs and a purse of $200,000.  We a strong field of eight and many of them recent winners, good speed and I found four contenders in this feature.  So here we go …


#6 Nicole H ML 6/5

She will be the favorite but not the one to wager on.  This 5YO has won at this level before, taking the Distaff at Aqueduct going 7 panels.  She has won her last two; her speed figures are the best of the field and see no reason not to repeat.  Hushion and Dominquez is a solid pair and this mare has all the ability to take this group.  However, there is some tough company in this field and she might be vulnerable.

#2 Red’s Round Table ML 5/1

This is a big step up for this 4YO but I do like that she has won her last two easily, the last here at Laurel.  In fact, she has won four of five at Laurel lifetime, one of those horses for courses angles.  Her Beyer’s have improved enough to stay with the #6, and while I don’t place a big emphasis on weight breaks, she is getting 6 pounds today.  I also like that she has won eight of ten lifetime and Timothy Keefe is solid with horses that won last time out (28% rate with a $3.53 ROI!)

#1 Aquitana ML 6/1

Here is another filly taking a step up in class today.  She has done well here at Laurel as well, winning three of her three starts.  Her Beyer’s are right up there with this group, and she fared well against Nicole H in the Interbourough at Aqueduct, coming in third.  Her works have been good and her running style fits this race.  One last note, she has done well over off surfaces, and rain is forecasted today.

#5 Lovely Lil ML 6/1

She has won at the G2 level going a mile so today is a cut back in distance play.  Her speed numbers are a bit low for this group, so it will take an all out effort to catch them.  Her running style of going forward might hurt her chances, and that is why I have her in this spot.  I’m thinking Hushion has her in here to set up the #6, so unless it all falls apart, can’t really see her winning but maybe a share.

Outside of these four, the #3 C C’s Pal is an outsider, she has won two in a row, but her speed figures are a touch in consistent.  If the pace crumbles she could squeeze by and win, but there is too much forward contention for that to happen.


6 – 2 – 3   

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Strong Lesson Provided to Racing From Ontario

In Ontario, Canada, each year the industry receives a whopping $345M in some way, shape or form, from slot machines. This money fuels up to 60,000 jobs, and helps put on races like the Queen's Plate, Canadian International, North America Cup, and hundreds of other events. In addition, it supports up to 17 racetracks - big and small. It is one of the largest racing jurisdictions in the World.

Up until last week, things seemed to be humming along. This week, things are different. Ontario's storied horse racing history is in potential peril.

Bizarrely, Ontario currently spends up to $345-million annually to prop up a money-losing horse-racing industry. Or, more to the point, Ontarians prop it up by spending their money at slot machines that were added to racetracks in the late 1990s. At present, 20 per cent of the revenue from those machines is used to keep the horses running; Mr. Duncan strongly hinted that he intends for the province to keep it instead. 

Although we have seen the writing on the wall in states like Pennsylvania and Indiana with cuts. This makes those look like chump change. An entire industry could be on its last legs.

The way slot deals were written, and continue to be written in places like New York, were kind of like a McRib sandwich. They sounded good, but in reality were not too appetizing. Opening a cash floodgate without a plan, was, and is, a failure.

We at HANA, and in fact many other industry participants, like the Meadowlands' owner Jeff Gural, feel that slots money is a gift that should be used wisely. It's a lot of money, and putting 100% into purses, and on-site capital improvements (89% of handle comes from off-track), is not a long term sustainable business model.

We think Ontario is illustrating that reality right now.

Things like lower takeout make sense. Things like a slush fund for marketing the sport make sense. Betting exchanges to go after a new demographic make sense. Free data for new patrons makes sense. A betting czar and league office funded with slots make sense.

Cultivating customers so they will be customers for a lifetime - long after slot machines go away - makes sense.

Right now Ontario racing participants may have to fall back on the customer for their livelihood. But there are few left.

The situation is so very sad, because although we are horseplayers, we love this sport - right down to the grooms and trainers and everyone else who works with these lovely animals.

Let's hope other jurisdictions like New York and possibly Kentucky, learn something from this, and begin to build a long-term slot money plan, so it never happens again.

We wish our friends in Ontario the very best.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Fast Fillies in the Madcap at GP today

The Donn turned out to be an exciting race yesterday.  Hymn Book, one of our dark horses; nailed Mission Impazible at the wire after having to race wide and getting bumped.  It was a solid performance by the 6YO, and Redeemed, the Bombs Away choice, had a good showing as well, finishing third.  On the other side of the coin, it was a disappointment for the connections of Ruler On Ice, Shackleford and Flat Out.  None of them showed much, and you’ve got start wondering if there better days are now behind them.

Today is another quiet day on the stakes calendar, but there is an interesting turf sprint at Gulfstream for 3YO fillies.  It’s the 1st running of the Madcap Escapade for $60,000, going 5 furlongs over the grass.  We’ve got an interesting field of seven and should be a fun race with good prices.  What makes this one tough is we have several first time grass starters and the others have had limited exposure, so it’s wide open.  Here we go …


#3  Alydarla ML 4/1

I’ve got to believe she will go off the favorite seeing how she has won two in a row with improving Beyer’s.  Her last race was on turf and overhauled Sabrina’s Dance (the #1 today) here at GP.  It’s hard to argue against her, with a  recent win on grass at Gulfstream and the top Beyer grass figure.  This will be her first stakes race, but it looks like her connections are moving her through the levels carefully.

#7  My Due Process ML 5/2

She broke her maiden back at Saratoga over the turf at 5 ½ furlongs, since then they have been running her on dirt where she won the NATC  Futurity ($122,000) at Monmouth.  Granted it was muddy track, but she handled the field easily, also the place horse has come back to win.  She has shown she has the speed to go with the #3, and you have to be wary of Dale Romans entries in these situations.

#1  Sabrina’s Dance ML 7/2

She got nosed out in her last to Alydarla, but has shown she likes the grass, posting a 75 and a 77 Beyer.  Nick Canani makes an interesting jockey switch to Lezcano from Castellano.  There is a lot of pace in this race, and I think if she rates off she will have a chance today.

Dark Horse:

#4 Matching Skies ML 6/1

On her first try on grass, she wins and breaks her maiden, here at Gulfstream.  It was a tough race and Mark Casse is bringing her right back and into a stakes race.  That by itself is interesting  he is skipping the conventional allowance ladder.  It makes me think he sees something in her.  She catches a weight break today too; Maragh stays on board and could be finding her stride.  Anything at these odds makes her an interesting play.

Bombs Away:

#  Red Hot Doll ML 6/1

This will be her first start on turf, and normally would shy away from these types.  However, it is hard to ignore her three wins, two in stakes company, albeit minor races, but winners nonetheless.   Has the breeding in her blood for grass and shows speed.  Workouts have been good and Castellano takes over.   She likes to go to the front, and if the grass suites her she might go wire to wire.


3 – 7 – 1  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Trickmeister surprises today at GP

We wrapped up last weekend with Game On Dude capturing the San Antonio easily, and with Alpha winning Saturday it became a chalk weekend.  In reality we would have laid off both races from a betting standpoint, for there are times when you have to recognize the favorites are unbeatable.  Today we have a totally different race to analyze; it’s a G1 event at Gulfstream.  It’s the 56th running of the Donn Handicap for a purse of $500,000.  The race will go a mile and an eighth over the dirt for 4YO’s and upwards.  There is a field of 11 entered, and we have a mix bag of solid runners, some big names that haven’t really shown their full potential and a couple of upstarts.  The good news is the money will be spread everywhere and an overlay can pop through.  So here we go …


#8  Trickmeister  ML 6/1

I’m going on a limb here with this lightly raced 5YO.  I like horses moving up in class and while this is a big jump from the $100K stakes level to G1, I like his chances against this field.  He has won five of five and all wire to wire at various distances, including today’s. He’s been a winner at Delaware, Saratoga and here at GP.  His Beyer’s are consistent and see no reason he can’t run faster.  He will take on Shackelford for the lead and I’m not worried about a speed duel. Lastly, Dutrow turns the reins over to Ramon Dominguez, that combination has won 32% of the time. 

#9  Shackleford ML 7/2

He will go out with Trickmeister to the front, but don’t see him holding on to win.  He has shown he can run with the G1 group, and he did win here at GP at this distance last year.  There is no doubt he has the capability of winning this race, but he seems be more of a bridesmaid than the bride of late.  Not sure he will be able to get it done today, but his class says you’ve got to respect him.

#7  Flat Out ML 5/1

I would normally have him my number one, but just not sure where he is right now in the form cycle.  I’m going to ignore the turf race as I think Dickey was trying to get one under his belt.  He certainly has shown he can run this distance very fast and has won at this level against some tough horses.   If that turf race was indeed a warm up coupled with good works, then this 6YO might be back in form.  I’ve got mixed feelings here, but he is still one dangerous horse.

Dark Horse:

There are several in this race that could find their old form and one moving up in class that could surprise us all.  You have to consider #2 Mission Impazible, #3 Ruler On Ice and #10 Hymn Book.  Of the three the one that is most interesting is Hymn Book.  He has shown the speed at this distance to run with this classy group; Velazquez is back on and had a nice second in the Cigar.  Lastly, McGaughey wins 25% of the time in Grades Stakes races.   

Bombs Away:

#4  Redeemed ML 12/1

I was actually going to put this 4YO in my top three, but saved him as my price play.  He has been consistent with his speed and recently won at this distance at Aqueduct, taking the Discovery (G3).  He won five of seven as a 3YO and has hit the board in all eight starts.  He will rate off the front runners and could be there at the end to take it.  Prado has won three of four with him, and got a feeling Dutrow is sneaking this one in.  I like his chances in this race a lot.


8 – 9 - 7

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Davidowitz Sounds off on California Racing

With all due respect to those in California who have some official status and/or can influence people in power. It is obviously embarrassing for anyone in the TOC, or close to the CHRB to admit they made a major mistake with the increased takeout percentages that have been in play for well more than a year in the Golden State.  

But real leadership requires courage; real leadership requires the ability to admit a mistake and correct it as soon as the law will allow. So where is that leadership? Where are all the people who profess the desire to straighten out Cal racing and push it once more to the top of American horse racing?

Consider: Purses were artificially inflated by the takeout increase to no noticeable gain in field size, or in gross wagering handle.

In fact the reverse has proven true as the "Players' Pick Five" has demonstrated repeatedly via larger than expected handles on that bet while others have stagnated or declined.

More evidence has been piling up on both counts, yet the voices for reason in high places remain silent. It is mind boggling, frustrating to observers and horseplayers alike.

CHRB Board Members who stand idly by while nothing is done deserve to be challenged by horseplayers, responsible media, California track owners and government officials. The TOC is only part of the problem. They have gained what their agenda said they wanted to gain. But their experiment with higher takeouts has failed.

From this vantage point, strictly as a horseplayer whose handle was about 50 percent directed to So Cal racing and now is restricted to a much smaller percentage of play and in fact mostly towards Pick Sixes with $250,000+ carryovers, this much seems true: California Racing is acting like it has six shooters pointed down at its feet. Give it enough time and all of its toes will be gone. Time is not your ally in this.

Show some real leadership. Use your best people with your best ideas. Do something constructive.

Some of us out here are rooting hard for any of that to occur.


Steve Davidowitz

Steve can be reached at

S**t Horseplayers Say

I think I've said a few. Okay, more than a few. How about you?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Game On Dude all the way today

Yesterday we saw Alpha do what he was supposed to do, dominate the Withers.  He ran a great race, Dominguez set him up perfectly and took him wide and gunned the field.  This will certainly put him up there as one of the Derby contenders.  The stakes schedule nationwide today is rather thin and the only one of interest is at Santa Anita.  It is 74th running of the San Antonio(G2) for 4YO an upward going a mile and an eighth over the main course.  It’s a smallish field of seven racing for a purse of $200,000.

This is not a difficult race to handicap, I’m a huge Game On Dude fan and it looks like he will take this field down.  I’ll admit though that he has broken my heart a few times at the finish line, but today he should do well.


#3  Game On Dude ML 4/5

No value here at the windows.  Like I’ve mentioned, I’m a big fan and will make him my top choice. The data is there, top Beyer’s, winner of G1 level races, five of fourteen lifetime and on and on.  He has been off since November and his workouts look great.  There are no weaknesses in the Baffert trained 5YO and has the ability to go wire to wire.  He will go to the front and the big question is there anyone in the field that can catch him.

#2  Uh Oh Bango ML 7/2

He has excellent credentials for this race, just winning the G2 San Pasqual. His Beyer’s are not on the same level as Game On Dude, but can handle the distance and runs a good tactical race.  The angle here is Mike Smith.  He is Chantal’s nemesis in big races and if he can coax a bit more from this 5YO you could see heartbreak hotel for the #3 again.  I don’t expect it, but then again, this is horse racing.

#7  Skipshot ML 8/1

This race shapes up to be chalky, so he fits right in here.  You might expect to see Victory Pete here and that is understandable.  He ran a solid race in the San Pasqual and had his best Beyer of 88.  Not nearly good enough to run with these boys, but I’m thinking Hollendorfer has him set up for today.  You have to respect him, winning the G2 Swaps as a 3YO, popping a 97.  He could be rounding into form and that makes him dangerous.

Dark Horse/Bombs Away:

#4  El Gato Malo ML 12/1

He is crafty one of the bunch, having shown he can win over turf and dirt and handle different distances.  He certainly has shown the speed and stamina to run with this group.  His style of racing suites this race today and if he has it still in him he could surprise.  No doubt he is in tough but you never know.  He is either going to have big day or will be running up the track.


3 – 2 -  7 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Is it Alpha day? or does he follow Hansen

Last weekend kicked off the Derby run with the Holy Bull at GP and Hansen one of the top 3YO’s had a tough day.  Stumbled at the start and couldn’t hold off a determined Algorithms.   Today we have another 3YO affair the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct.  This race will be a tad longer going a mile and a sixteenth over the inner track.  Seven horses are entered for the Purse of $200,000.  The top horse today will be Alpha and he deserves to be there, but like last week, you never know about lightly raced 3YO’s.  Our goal today is to find the horse that can upset him, and we have a decent field to do just that.


#7 Alpha ML 1/1

Other than a terrible day in the BC Juvenile, his record is outstanding.  His last effort here at Aqueduct in the Count Fleet shows he lost no confidence in his abilities.  He carries the best Beyer’s and is the class of the field.   The only vulnerability is not with the horse so much but that McLaughlin has a miserable graded stakes record.  There is no doubt it is his day to send a message to all Derby contenders.

#1  Hakama ML 5/1

This colt has the breeding and speed to take this race.  He has won at this distance on this same course; Trombetta is taking him through his conditions and ton of upside.   Will be the front runner and should hold his own against Alpha.  There is other speed in this race, so Pimental has to be careful; if he rides  him right he will be there at the end.  If those odds hold would be hard not to take him.

#6  Tiger Walk ML 6/1

This 3YO is a X factor, his first route effort he won coming off the pace and popped a 83 Beyer, that makes him competitive right off.  I like barns that run small strings and do well with what they have, and this crew is no exception.  He has shown he will rate off the leaders and if a speed duel materializes he would be in position to take over.  His workouts have been good and Karamanos knows how to get the most from him. Dangerous horse.

Dark Horse:

#4  King Kid ML 4/1

One of Dale Romans youngster moves up in class after a respectable showing in the GP Derby, finishing third.  His speed figures have improved and a big switch to Luzzi.  I agree with DRF, that Dale sees something with this colt going from a maiden win to a $100K stakes and right back to a G3.  We will see j

Bombs Away:

#3  Swag Daddy ML 10/1

He has won his last two, both stakes races here at Aqueduct over the inner track.  His Beyer’s have improved modestly, but not strong enough to stay with some of these boy’s.  He shows versatility by going to the front or laying off, so it will be interesting to see the tactics Dutrow and Alavarado use here.   I like him for the horse for course angle, and just how much upside does he have? This might be the race he really opens up; we’ve seen it countless times before with 3YO’s.  One more minor note, Dutrow wins 35% with winners last out, a strong record.


7 – 1 – 6  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

January 2012 New York State Rep Report

If you are a NYRA customer, or interested horseplayer, here's a recap of happenings from our New York State Rep, Vic. If you'd like to become a state representative, please email

  • In December of last year, New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB) ordered New York Racing Association (NYRA) to pay back bettors roughly $8.6 million and offer a discount going forward on exotic wagers. NYRA was charging 26% for the past 15 months, when it should have been 25%. NYRA called it an "unintentional oversight."
  • A poll conducted by Siena College found that New Yorkers are slightly supportive of expanding casino gambling in the state (53% in favor), but not of the proposed $4 billion convention center at Aqueduct (57% opposed). The letter of agreement for the convention center was signed on January 3. The convention center could spell the end of Aqueduct, with winter racing moving to Belmont Park.
  • Legislation has been introduced that would enable Suffolk OTB to re-file its Chapter 9 bankruptcy application and potentially repay its debts, which includes money owed to NYRA and Churchill Downs.
  • NY Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement that NYRA stands to waste the money from VLTs if it does not carry out the recommended reforms. NYRA responded by saying that it would have been too costly to implement all the recommended reforms within one year, but it remains committed to completing them. Of the nine recommendations made during the course of two audits in 2010, five have been partially implemented and the rest have yet to begin. The audit report is attached.
  • Separate from the official audit, Thomas DiNapoli stated that NYRA will lose $19.7 million in racing operations in 2012. NYRA responded by calling the figure "misleading," and said it projects $19 million in net income, "not a net loss" (there's probably some confusion in labels here, but the comptroller may be right, especially since he said "in racing operations" – see NYRA 2012 Budget below).
  • Timothy McGinn, a former board vice chairman of NYRA, has been charged in a federal indictment of defrauding investors through his brokerage firm. He faces 30 counts of fraud and up to 30 years in prison.
  • Thanks to VLT Revenue, purses at Aqueduct have increased by almost 40%. This has led to a massive increase in claiming activity at a time when claims are usually dull. From December 28 through January 20, there were 116 claims totaling $1.9 million.
NYRA 2012 Budget:
  • Gross Revenue is expected to swell 35% in 2012, almost entirely due to VLT Revenue (without VLT Revenue, the increase drops to 6.2%).
  • Net Income is expected to be $18.9 million in 2012 (adjusted for VLTs, this changes to a Net Loss of $19.5 million).
  • Free Cash Flow is expected to be $10.4 million in 2012 (adjusted for VLTs, this drops to ($14.5) million, even after reducing expected capital expenditures from $20.3 million to $4 million).
  • The injection of VLT Revenue is expected to increase purses by 43% in 2012.
  • Because of the increase in purses, NYRA has assumed "an average increase in field size per race of 0.5" and, as a result, "a 5% to 8% increase in daily average handle." To be specific, the increase is 7.2%, 5.4%, and 6.3% at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, respectively. Note that any adjustments to the financial information above do not consider these assumptions. It's obvious that the numbers would be worse if further adjusted.
NYSRWB Monthly Meeting:
  • At the request of New York's Franchise Oversight Board, NYSRWB has commenced an investigation into NYRA's account wagering practices (specifically whether NYRA has extended credit to some bettors whose accounts weren't adequately funded). NYRA refutes these allegations. NYSRWB does not comment on ongoing investigations.
  • NYSRWB approved a blood alcohol content (BAC) testing rule in thoroughbred racing. The rule includes mandatory testing of jockeys each race day and discretionary testing of other licensed individuals. A BAC of 0.05% or more will be considered alcoholic impairment. Jockeys testing positive are banned from racing that day and could face suspensions, fines, and other penalties. The rule goes in effect April 27, coinciding with the opening of the Belmont Park Spring/Summer Meet. Note that the current NYRA house rule (BAC less than 0.04%) will remain in effect.
  • NYSRWB approved an amendment to the minimum required betting interests in thoroughbred trifecta wagers, reducing the requirement to 5 (previously 6).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Remington Park Drops Takeout

Via Press Release:

In an effort to share prosperity, Remington Park will offer a lower takeout rate on trifecta wagering. The reduction will take place during the 2012 American Quarter Horse Meeting & Mixed-breed Season which runs March 2 thru Memorial Day on May 28.

The trifecta wager takeout percentage will drop from its current 24% rate to that of just 21%. The lower rate will become one of the lowest in North America for a trifecta wager, which challenges horseplayers to correctly select the top three race finishers in order.

“We want to reward the people who play the Remington Park races,” said Scott Wells, Remington Park president and general manager. “A reduction in the takeout rate on one of our most popular exotic wagers is also intended to attract more national attention to the quality of our racing product.”

Remington Park's handle is up over 40% since 2010. They possess the 27th ranked score in the 2011 HANA Track ratings.