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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Choices at a Race & Sportsbook

I attend a yearly convention in Las Vegas starting the day after the Preakness and have made it a yearly tradition to meet some friends (non-racing fans) for the Pimlico-Preakness card on Saturday morning. Building off my previous post on the subject (Derby Rose Loses Shine), every year they have a great time and every year they will not bet a single solitary pari-mutuel dollar until I see them the next year.

About 45 minutes prior to Preakness post, we're sitting in a typical racebook at a Vegas Strip Casino looking around at the sparse crowd.  Less than an hour prior to post for one of the four most important days on the racing calendar and there are several empty seats. Additionally, roughly half of the patrons are clearly wagering and watching other sports, completely uninterested in the Triple Crown chase. Even as recently as five years ago, my early Saturday morning east coast flight to Vegas required a full-on O.J. Simpson airport sprint from plane-to-baggage claim-to-cab-to racebook to secure a coveted available seat. 

On the day following the Preakness, I spent half the day in another Vegas Racebook and there were five, count em’, five of us playing the horses while the Sportsbook side was teaming with fans watching the NBA Playoffs. Now ask yourself, which of the following is more interesting, easy to bet, and enticing to the average sports enthusiast wanting to place a bet?

  1. Select either the Heat or Pacers with a point spread and a 10% vig

  1. Select either the favored Yankees at -170 or the underdog Royals at +150

  1. (i) Scan over countless TV screens at tracks most people have never heard of. (ii) Find the odds. That is, if you can understand the nomenclature on the screen to begin with (iii) Procure some sort of past performance data or scratch sheet with an accompanying miniature golf pencil (iv) Determine how to plunk down a bet on a horse or horses, which depending on the jurisdiction and type of wager could see a vig as high as a 27% (v) Select a horse. Keep in mind that unlike your NBA bet that is set in stone, once you receive your ticket the odds will change, often radically prior to post (vi) What the heck is a Super Hi-Five?

  1. Take the two dollars you were going to bet on the horse with the same name as your first girlfriend and save it for tipping cocktail waitress as you spend the next three hours watching other sports

  1. Both A, B, and D


How can this be fixed? What are the right solutions? Is the game completely doomed? Stay tuned–some ideas coming in a follow-up blog post.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Update - Arlington Park R6 - May 27, 2012

 Yesterday, I took the time to shine a spotlight on a bad chart.

Today, it is only fair to shine the spotlight on that same race again - this time to commend both Equibase and Arlington Park for taking the time, on a dark day no less (no live racing at Arlington Park) to cut a corrected chart.

Screenshot - Corrected Chart:



I would like to say THANK YOU for making this a priority. We at HANA want you to know that your efforts here are very much appreciated.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Little Respect For the Horseplayer Please

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Today we have three pictures. The first is a screenshot I took while watching race replays on my laptop. The race in question is R6 at Arlington Park from May 27, 2012. The second and third screenshots were taken on Tues 05/29/2012 at about 1:00 pm Eastern time and show the Official Chart as it appeared on the Brisnet.com site. (I mention the date and time of the chart screenshots in the hopes that someone at Equibase will give this a second look – Corrected beaten lengths and times for the horses involved would appear to be in order here.)

Screenshot #1 - From Race Video - A Three Horse Show Photo



Screenshot #2 - The Official Chart



Screenshot #3 - Official Chart (Enlarged)




The screenshot of the race video clearly shows three horses noses apart. A photo was required by the placing judges to separate them.

Yet the Official Chart shows daylight between these horses.

I hate to ask the obvious, but…

If the Official Chart can be so blatantly off – How much hope, if any, should we as horseplayers hold out that the published times (and speed figures) for the horses involved will have any semblance of accuracy when the first of these horses returns to race again a few weeks from now?

We at HANA would like to know what you think about this. We welcome commentary from players, track management, horsemen, and (in this case) the chart caller.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alkalinization, Lasix and Milkshaking: A Veterinarian’s View

Earlier today, a fellow horseplayer sent me an email with a link to the following article at the New York Time Horse Racing Blog.


From Sid Gustafson at the New York Times Horse Racing Blog -
Alkalinization, Lasix and Milkshaking: A Veterinarian’s View:
http://therail.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/alkalinization-lasix-and-milkshaking-a-veterinarians-view/

"The more Lasix, and the closer it is administered to the race, the more intense the alkalinization effect of Lasix, according to the science presented at the K.H.R.C. race-day medication hearing. Lasix alkalinizes horses, creating a competitive metabolic advantage similar to milkshaking, rendering the drug Lasix a clear and present doping agent. Human athletic regulators have deemed Lasix a doping agent, and horseracing regulators will eventually have to come to that appropriate conclusion. Lasix has significant potential to alter and enhance racehorse performance."

I realize that the issue of race day meds has rapidly become a divisive one within the horse racing community. I also realize that coherent (sometimes heated) arguments can be made on both sides:
  • We need race day meds. 
  • Race day meds must go. 
 Personally, I found Gustafson's piece informative and (if true) telling - specifically, the sentences towards the end of the following paragraph:
"As well, in my experience as both an attending veterinarian and a regulatory veterinarian, the attending veterinarians administering Lasix are often requested (as long as they are in the stall with the horse before the race to give the Lasix) to administer intravenous sodium bicarbonate, calcium and a wide variety of other substances, including adjunct bleeder medications and undetectable performance-enhancers to stimulate or calm horses while sustaining added endurance. By pharmaceutically altering and manipulating a variety of physiological and neurological parameters for competitive advantage, medicating veterinarians influence the outcome of horse races and racehorse performance. In addition, these race-day medicators put horses at increased risk to break down. The statistics presented at the hearing clearly show horses medicated on race day break down more often than clean racing runners. The connection is indisputable."

In my opinion, the most disturbing thing found in Gustafson's write up is the following paragraph:
"It should be noted here, as well, that California allows trainers to take horses on and off Lasix without public knowledge. The attending veterinarians are allowed to use the steroidal estrogen hormone Premarin instead of Lasix. The California attending veterinarians are at liberty to switch out established race-day Lasix administration for race-day Premarin without the public disclosure of the change. All the while the horse is listed on the program as a Lasix horse race after race, despite differing medication regimens from race to race. This can result in significant variations in the type and dosage of administered medications from race to race, with associated alterations in performance. A horse listed as a Lasix horse may legally receive Premarin instead of Lasix. Next race the horse may receive Lasix, or Lasix plus Premarin, or only Premarin. The betting public is not made aware of these medication switches. Potential performance variations because of medication changes are hidden from the public by the California Horse Racing Board. Its regulatory veterinarians are forbidden to disclose the information to anyone but the testing laboratory, so the lab knows why certain Lasix horses do not have Lasix in their urine. The race-to-race medication choices are orchestrated and controlled by the racing veterinarians administering the race-day medications."

I hate to ask the obvious but...

How can a state regulatory body like the C.H.R.B. have so little regard for the wagering public it was created to protect?  

We at HANA would like to know what you think about this. We invite commentary from players and horsemen alike.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday 05-21-2012 Thistledown R5

I received an email earlier today from Gary K., a horseplayer who was betting the Thistledown card on Monday 05/21/2012.

Here, unedited, are Gary's comments:



I thought you might be interested in one of the all time best examples of lack of pool integrity which occurred today (May 21, 2012) at TDN 5. It highlights both the problem of past-post odds change AND the influence of robotic wagering which should be banned as far as I am concerned.

I was watching the betting pools at TDN 5. As the race started there was around $13k in the win pool most of which was bet on #7 who was 1-5.   

Part way through the race, the odds changed tremendously with 30-1 and 50-1 shots dropping to 9-2 and the 1-5 favorite jumping to 5-1.

Here is a snapshot of the final pools:

----- ----  ------ --  ----- --  ----- --
Horse Odds     WIN  %  PLACE  %   SHOW  %
----- ----  ------ --  ----- --  ----- --
#1     9/2  15,449 14    133  3  2,089 11
#2     9/2  15,357 14    184  5  2,093 11
#3     9/2  15,227 14     43  1  2,074 11
#4       4  15,987 15    530 14  2,341 12
#5     9/2  15,342 14    234  6  2,109 11
#6     9/2  15,478 14    291  7  2,198 12
#7       5  13,431 12  2,243 61  5,164 28
-----------------------------------------

As you can infer from the totals, very late in the wagering, some robotic wagering program must have mistakenly bet $15k to win and $2k to show on all horses except the #7.

Actually it worked out very nicely for those who bet the 1-5 shot and got paid at 5-1.

But this is really absurd. Granted, this cost the robotic programmer $90k ... an expensive lesson.  

But it points out how ridiculous it is to allow robotic access to the pools. As well as the changing of the odds during the running of the race.

Gary K.




FWIW, here are my comments:

Looking at the win pool totals, by all appearances, the last second bettor did the following:

  1. Took a stand against the #7 horse who was the 1/5 favorite at the off.

  1. Dutched every horse in the race except the #7 horse so as to equalize the odds no matter which horse won the race.

Note: This probably was done through a robotic wagering interface. However, our last second bettor COULD have used an app or spreadsheet that isn’t in any way connected to the tote to arrive at amounts needed to equalize the odds on each horse. From there, he or she could have keyed the bets in manually – or even called them out over the phone. Doing that for 6 horses so close to the off might take guts. (But it certainly isn’t rocket science.)

  1. One thing IS obvious. The wagers were made VERY LATE in the betting. The advantage in betting last is that your opponents (the other bettors) are denied any chance to react to the odds created by your last second bet.

If the above scenario is in fact what happened, if in fact our last second bettor acted on purpose (and the bets were not the result of some whale team’s computer glitch) then our last second bettor goofed where it counts! A serious math error was made in estimating final pool size, and based on that: final odds for the eventual race winner.

In fact, the actual final pool size and odds guarantee a nominal loss to our last second bettor if any horse other than the #7 wins the race – and guarantee a catastrophic loss if the #7 wins the race. (That’s actually what happened. The #7 horse won by more than 16 lengths.) Ouch!

One other scenario crossed my mind when I saw the dollar amounts in the pools for this race:

What if our last second bettor’s primary play was a LARGE win bet on the #7 horse? But instead of making the bet in the pari-mutuel win pool, what if the real bet was made through a bookmaker that doesn’t (normally) lay bets off in the pools? What if the player believed that the #7 horse was close to a sure thing and made the aforementioned dutch bets on the other horses in the race as a ploy to inflate the odds on the #7 horse? (Ala George Smith/Pittsburgh Phil)

Stranger things have happened.

EDIT 05/24/2012 - An Update from DRF:
http://www.drf.com/news/thistledown-betting-still-mystery



Jeff Platt
President, HANA




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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Trainer Jamie Ness 14 for 16

A buddy of mine who lives in the Philadelphia area called me up yesterday. I hadn’t heard from him in a while. Of course we talked about racing. For as long as I’ve known him, his favorite track has been Delaware Park. He was excited, as he always is this time of year, because opening day at Delaware Park was this past Saturday. He mentioned that horses in the Jamie Ness barn had been running lights out there so far.

Being a racing database guy, I ran Ness’s name through the database and found some mind blowing numbers. In the five day span beginning on May 11, 2012 and ending on May 15, 2012, Jamie Ness’s horses won an amazing 14 races from 16 starts:

query start:         5/16/2012 8:13:26 PM
query end:           5/16/2012 8:13:27 PM
elapsed time:        1 seconds


SQL:  SELECT * FROM STARTERHISTORY
      WHERE TRAINER='NESS JAMIE'
      AND DATEDIFF('D',[DATE],NOW()) <= 5


Data Summary         Win     Place      Show
Mutuel Totals      70.00     46.10     37.30
Bet               -32.00    -32.00    -32.00
Gain               38.00     14.10      5.30

Wins                  14        15        15
Plays                 16        16        16
PCT                .8750     .9375     .9375

ROI               2.1875    1.4406    1.1656
Avg Mut             5.00      3.07      2.49


 WIN PLACE  SHOW  DATE/Track/Race#/Surf/HORSE
---------------------------------------------------------
5.40  3.20  2.80 5/11/2012 PEN 2  D  FT CITIZEN KAT
4.00  2.80  2.40 5/11/2012 PEN 5  D  FT LADY OF GREATNESS
3.80  2.40  2.10 5/11/2012 PIM 2  D  FT RIDGE AMOUR
4.80  2.80  2.10 5/11/2012 PIM 4  D  FT GRAY BONES
6.40  3.00  2.60 5/11/2012 PIM 7  T  FM HIGH CRY
8.00  4.00  2.80 5/11/2012 PIM 8  D  FT MY CHARMING CLYDE
5.00  2.80  2.20 5/12/2012 DEL 1  D  FT GRAYSONIA
6.00  4.20  4.00 5/12/2012 DEL 4  D  FT NO CROSSING LANE
3.20  2.40  2.10 5/12/2012 PEN 1  D  FT RACHEL THE MODEL
      2.80  2.10 5/12/2012 PEN 5  D  FT TRIBAL MISTRESS
2.80  2.10  2.10 5/12/2012 PEN 7  D  FT SUGADADEZE
                 5/12/2012 PIM 2  D  FT EL DEIRDRE
4.20  3.00  2.40 5/12/2012 PIM 4  D  FT COUNTRY CHIC
6.80  4.00  2.80 5/12/2012 PIM 10 D  FT TAPIS MAGIQUE
5.20  3.40  2.60 5/14/2012 DEL 8  D  FT GUAM TYPHOON
4.40  3.20  2.20 5/15/2012 PID 8  D  FT MOHAWK MAGIC
---------------------------------------------------------



I’ve been looking at racing stats for more than 30 years. In all that time I can’t recall ever seeing a trainer on a streak as strong as this.

Jeff Platt
President, HANA

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Official - Canterbury Park Cuts Takeout on Pick 3's and 4's

From the Bloodhorse:

We’re excited to offer our players the lowest Pick 4 takeout rate and the second-lowest Pick 3 takeout rate in North America,” Canterbury Park president Randy Sampson said in a release. “We understand that players are price-sensitive and have many options as to where to bet their wagering dollar.
“It’s our hope that this lower takeout makes Canterbury Park the place to play horizontal wagers.”

Please consider taking a look at the past performances for this player friendly track.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Wait Til Dawn could surprise in the Selene @Woodbine

The Peter Pan (G2) turned out to be an interesting race yesterday.  Right To Vote took off and ran some blistering fractions and didn't quit.  Mark Valeski ran his race pressing the pace and then taking control from the outside at the eighth pole to win it.  Interestingly, Mark Valeski went off at 6/5 which isn't a bad price considering Teeth of the Dog scratched. I would have thought Mark Valeski would have dropped to even money or worse.  What did surprise is how Right To Vote got away at 47/1! He impressed me with his race, showed wow speed and grit deep into the stretch.  The early reports are he will be in the Dwyer and I think that distance of a mile and sixteenth will suit him better.

Today, we head back up to Woodbine for the G3, Selene for 3YO fillies going a mile and sixteenth over the synthetic surface for a purse of $250,000.  It's a small field of six and will cover the three contenders and one outsider.

Contenders:

#1 Wait Til Dawn ML 9/5

We all know #2 Tu Endie Wei is the horse to beat in this feature, but that would have been too easy. So I looked for the upset horse and I kept coming back to Pletcher's filly.  She will be making her fifth start as a 3YO and first on synthetic.  Has won once at this distance, winning her maiden at GP then tried a G2 race at Oaklawn finishing fourth but posted a much improved Beyer. You have to like the improving shipper, with the dangerous Contreras on board. She also posted a nice work at Saratoga a week ago so she looks ready.  She'll press Tu Endie Wei making for an interesting duel at the end.

#2 Tu Endie Wei ML 7/5

Baker Reade's filly is four for four at Woodbine with three nice stakes races to her credit.  Her only defeat came at this distance at Keeneland in a G1 affair.  She won at first asking as a 3YO and takes the natural step up to G3.  We know she's fast and will take off with this group, the question is can she route?  This isn't the toughest bunch so she should prevail, but those extra panels can be her undoing.

#3 Dixie Strike ML 3/1

She had a two for four 2YO campaign here at Woodbine, both of those wins came at this distance. She went south to start her 3YO season and won at first asking taking the Florida Oaks on turf, since then she has had two uneven efforts.  Now Marc Casse brings her back home and put's Husbands back on and that makes her dangerous.  She flashed two solid works before a pedestrian effort last week.  Her Beyer's have improved down in FL and if she is a horse for course, then watch out.

Dark Horse/Bombs Away:

#4 Katie Get Excited ML 6/1

It's hard to ignore a Ricky Griffith entry, especially one that is on the upward swing.  She won her maiden to close out her 2YO season then wins at  first asking as a 3YO in an Allowance N1X.  This is a big step up today and stretching out were Ricky wins 27% of the time.  He doesn't run a big string but his entries show up ready to go and finds a way to win.  She had a nice 5f workout on the 6th and looks ready to go.

Selections:

1 - 2 -3

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Mark Valeski in the Peter Pan

Today at Belmont, we have the Peter Pan (G2) for 3YO going a mile and an eighth for a purse of $200,000.  Their are 11 going forward and it's a race loaded with speed.  There are a lot of colt's here to like, all lightly raced and most are multiple winners.  The other two challenges with this group is most have never gone this distance, and how much upside do they still possess? That makes it anyone's race.  It's a solid group and actually I like them more than the Derby entrants.  So here we go ...

Contenders:

#5  Mark Veleski ML 5/2

I chose him to win the Risen Star (G2) and looked like he had it until El Padrino chased him down.  He looked strong in the Louisiana Derby (G2) almost winning it.  It's hard to ignore him when he has shown he can go this distance, has been working out well and of course, Larry Jones.  Jones has a 33% winning record in Graded Stakes and 43% with Rosie Napravnik.  I also like that he has won twice off layoffs.  He is no lock but going with the trainer/distance angle.

#10 Teeth of the Dog ML 6/1

He is the only one to win at this distance in his maiden win and then returns to give a tough show performance in the Wood Memorial (G1).  In each of his four races his Beyer's have improved and could really move up today. Michael Matz is tough in these situations, and Bravo has this colt wired.  The only question is does he chase the speed or rate off?  Coming from the outside will be a real test for him.

#2 The Lumber Guy ML 7/2

He is three for four, coming off winning the Jerome (G2) at a mile.  His only off race at this distance in the Wood Memorial, running wide and then tiring.  There are two angles here on this colt,  one is Hushion is stellar with winners coming back, dirt route races (30+% winners) and a 20% hit rate in graded stakes.  The other is that he has won all three races coming out of the inside gates, the Wood he was in the 8 hole and ran three wide.  With him coming out at #2 and his speed of 96 he could get loose on this field.

Dark Horse:

#9 Master Rick ML 10/1

He woke up when Asmussen took over winning two in a row at Oaklawn Park.  His last race was a stakes race with an eye popping 99 Beyer going a mile.  He is another one with the early speed and has shown he can carry it.  We all know Asmussen and Nakatani are dangerous in these spots and today is no different. You have to like the step up in class on the improve and stretching out.  The outside post could be a hindrance for him with all this speed, but Nakatani is crafty in these spots

#6 Good Morning Diva ML 12/1

This is a simple Mark Cramer angle here. Shipping in from Florida, new trainer in Tim Hills, jockey switch to Leparoux and stretching out in distance.  He won the Calder Derby in his first route and posted a solid Beyer. He likes to press the pace which might work out well with the speed today.  The only knock is he might be a foul weather horse, both wins on an off track.

Bombs Away:

#1 Right to Vote ML 20/1

Here is another speedster stretching out today.  He shows to be a bouncer on his speed figures, but I do like how he showed himself in the Champagne against Union Rags and Alpha as a 2YO.  Harty sets him up nicely by taking a OC$100K first time as a 3YO and brings him back to Belmont where he won his maiden. Kind of a horse for course angle today and will need a big jump in effort to run with this crew.  His pedigree says he can get it done.

Selections:

5 - 10 - 2  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Canterbury Park Wants Your Business

Last summer, the inept government of the State of Minnesota completely shut down over all too familiar political petty bickering that inevitably ends up hurting the very people they were elected to serve. Canterbury Park was one such entity harmed by the shutdown through no fault of their own as they are regulated by the Minnesota Racing Commission (MRC), which is a state agency. Even though Canterbury Park pays for the costs of regulation a judge ruled that the MRC must close, thus Canterbury lost a full three weeks of racing.

Well, finally Canterbury Park has some good news for the player, horsemen, and the track in advance of their summer meet opening Friday, May 18th. For starters, the State Legislature passed a bill allowing Canterbury to expand its card room from 50 to 80 tables and to increase limits per bet from $60 to $100. Further, the bill will also allow for simulcasting at the state Indian Casinos. This in turn will fuel an increase in purses.

For the player, Canterbury Park has announced a decrease in takeout on all Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers to 14%. We strongly applaud track management for their commitment to increasing mutuel payouts to the customer on Pick 3 and Pick 4 wagers. This is great news for the player and we encourage you to support tracks like Canterbury Park that make an effort to improve the product for its customers.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This Saturday At Hollywood Park Sounds Pretty Special

Two Great Ladies, Zenyatta & Caroline
On Monday, Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue's Caroline Betts took to the microphone on Eye On Gaming's weekly radio show (link to listen here). Caroline, a professor of Economics at USC, has been a long time advisor to us at HANA (see our interview with her here). She talked takeout and racing of course, and you can't help but learn something listening to the banter. It was a great interview.

For those who know her, though, her greatest passion is the retirement and care of thoroughbred racehorses. She works tirelessly at helping them find homes, and have happy lives. It seems not a day goes by without seeing a tweet or a facebook post on something she has cooking to help our equine pals.

For those of you near Hollywood Park, there is something very special planned this Saturday, and we thought you may want to know about it.

A "Day at the Races" is being held and you can get tickets here. The tickets include valet parking, a program, lunch and some good times with like minded bettors and horse lovers. What could be better?

It's been said you can tell what kind of person you are by the friends you keep, and in this case it may be game, set match. There's a silent auction planned and boy, is there is some nice stuff for you to bid on.

How about a private drum lesson from Richie Ramone of the Ramone's?

How about a private poker lesson with Cindy Laviolette?

How about a print donated by Mike Smith?

A set of golf clubs donated by a professional bettor?

Dinner with (one of our faves, I don't know about you) Zoe Cadman and a star of the NBC show Community?

And a ton more.

There will be some sharp players at the event, some celebrity types, and hopefully some sun, and of course some horses.

Consider helping out if you can, and if you can't, please take a look at Caroline's website and make a donation.

She's one of the very best people in our sport, and we wish her, her event, and the horses she's about to save because of it, the very best.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shine Comes Off the Rose After Derby Week

Derby weekend is a refreshing reminder of what is great about this sport: Pageantry, high quality racing, parties, and a festive atmosphere with something for everyone. It also serves as a nice, albeit brief diversion from the everyday reality of the politics, business, and institutional level of inaction that threatens this sport we love.

Unfortunately, the industry won't see most of the 165,000+ people or their money until the next first Saturday in May. The population at large, no matter how much fun they had this past weekend, is highly unlikely to become regular customers. When the huge Derby crowd heads home from Churchill Downs back to their respective local markets, the product gets infinitely harder to consume. Each jurisdiction has different ADW rules and ease of consumption. If you were with a group of people from ten different states that are not regular horseplayers but loved the Derby, each will have a different way of getting down bets on subsequent races of interest. That is, if they are lucky enough to reside in a state where it’s legal for them to do so remotely.

The racing product is too difficult to consume and too complicated for the once or twice a year customer to enjoy on a regular basis to become a full time enthusiast. While Churchill Downs put on a great show over a fantastic weekend, the casual fan will slip though the cracks. When the short-term high of the Triple Crown wears down and the dialogue once again resets to focus on slot machines, medication issues, breakdowns, and disputes, we’ll all yearn for a time when human and equine stars dominated the narrative instead of bickering, ineptitude, and inaction. If the industry keeps paying lip service to what ails and continues to ignore fundamental problems (the least of which deal with marketing the game correctly to attract a wider audience), even the Kentucky Derby is at risk of becoming extinct.

-Board Member JD-

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Paso Doble dances through the Vigil at Woodbine

The wonderful story from yesterday's Derby was not only Doug O'Neill getting his first Derby win, but for Mario Gutierrez showing all the jockey's out there that with hard work and a good agent you can make it out of the small tracks (Hastings) and hit the big time. He rode the perfect race yesterday, getting I'll Have Another in the right place off the pace, clear of trouble and then laid into the third lane and ran down an impressive Bodemeister. Regardless what happens in two weeks at Pimlico, Mario's future looks bright!

The only major race on the schedule today is at Woodbine and it's the 58th running of The Vigil (G3) for 4YO and upwards, sprinting 7 panels for $150,000 over the synthetic surface.  A field of seven has entered and many of them have been up against each other last season.  It's a hard knocking crowd, with plenty of speed, and most are making second starts off a layoff,  that makes it interesting.


Contenders:

#2 Paso Doble ML 5/2

This 6YO gelding of Mark Casse had a nice debut in 2012, finishing third to Essence Hit Man (the favorite today) in the Cartier ($168K).  His past performances show he really fires his best efforts on the second off a layoff, and his bullet workouts would support that pattern.  His stalking style fits well here with three front runners, he should be poised to win his first graded event.  The Casse/Husbands connection wins 27% of the time, and Husbands is red hot right now.

#5 Essence Hit Man ML 7/5

He is the superior speed in this race and has two wins in a row to show for it.  His recent effort in the Cartier ($168K) was stunning, posting a 104 Beyer. There is little doubt he will get out on the front and take off, the question is, are there others that will make him earn it today? There might be in #1 and #3 and that could make him vulnerable.  If there is any nit picking to do, it's that he is inconsistent winning off a layoff and sometimes he gets beat on his second off of one.  He'll be tough to beat today, but looking for some of that inconsistent pattern to show itself.

#7 Signature Red ML 6/1

He'll be making his 5YO debut today and has always been in the hunt in every race.  Has won at this distance twice in five attempts here at Woodbine, and has won a G2 event (Highlander).  He has shown flashes of great speed, likes to press the pace which is a nice set up for this race.  Workouts have been crisp and Contreras rides him well.  The big issue does he break cleanly?  His history shows some wonky breaks from the gate, if he get's of sound then watch out he could run down the speed in this one.

Dark Horse:

# Bear Tough Tiger ML 4/1

This lightly raced 4YO won his debut in 2012 and that makes him four of five overall.  His only loss was at this distance but he still posted his best Beyer of 96.  Today he takes a big step forward moving up to stakes company.  His works have been sharp, Reade Baker excels in these situations and Quincy Welch is three for three when in the irons.  I prefer horses moving up in class off a win, and his past shows a big improvement with his second effort.  He is my money pick today.

Bombs Away:

# Something Extra ML 12/1

This 4YO is more of angle play today, having won two of three at this distance at Woodbine. I'm going to toss out the effort in the Cartier ($168K) for he was blocked late and never seemed to be in the race.  He will get out early and be part of the speed in this one.  His speed in the past would say not today, but in the Cartier he really showed improvement regardless of the situation.  I would think that improvement would continue today.  Gail Cox wins 20% on the second off layoff and 21% in sprints.

Selections:

2 - 5 - 7

Will be back blogging tomorrow at my blog:  http://the-clocker.blogspot.com/

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Weekend Handicapping: Derby Day for Gemologist

The first Saturday in May has arrived and I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to handicap the Kentucky Derby.  In fact, I took the entire week off from blogging at my site to avoid it, and when all said and done, I can’t resist the temptation to pick the winner.  Before I begin, I will say that most of the entrants have the ability to win this race, and as we know, when you have fields this big (20) anything can and will happen.  So let’s dive in ….

Contenders:

#15 Gemologist ML 6/1

He is five for five and seems to get better in every race.  Pletcher’s 3YO has won twice here at Churchill and has no problem with the distance.  His running style fits this bunch, he can lay off the pace or take it to the wire if he wants.  Workouts have been solid and it’s hard to find anything to go against him.  You could say the post position is a bit troubling, but he came off the ninth hole to win the Kentucky Juvenile.   

#14 Hansen ML 10/1

When he won the BC Juvenile here in November he beat eight other entrants today. Distance and speed are not in question.   He does like to get out front and with the other speed in this one, it might work against him.   But then again, Dominguez is no fool and pressed in the Gotham and won it, so it will be interesting to see how he breaks and how up close he gets.  Michael Maker has him primed and ready.

#4 Union Rags ML 9/2

After winning three in a row he has shown to be a touch uneven over the last three.  What I do like is whenever there has been a break in his racing he wins coming back.  His tactical running style fits perfectly for this race and I see no issue with his speed or going this distance.  The only concern might be if he stays back on the break he could get jammed up with the pack coming in from the outside.  Leparoux is red hot right now and have to believe he has a plan for him.

Dark Horse:

#11 Alpha ML 15/1

Since the BC Juvenile he has really found a nice groove and looks poised to go all out today.  The angle here is that he is improving, McLaughlin has a real strong record with second off a layoff and we get a jockey switch to Maragh.  Now the problem will be can Maragh keep him steady in the gate while waiting for the others to load?  If he can, I look for him to get into a nice mid pack position and pounce on the pace entering the stretch. 

#5 Dullahan ML 8/1

Everybody says he is a turf horse, which is interesting since he has never won a turf race.  Yes, his wins are over synthetic and for me that has no bearing on today. His two races as a 3YO have been at a mile and an eighth.   He has raced in big fields before and will be set up for a great closing rush.  He is a mystery horse and would call him dangerous in this situation.

Bombs Away:

#2 Optimizer ML 50/1

I liked him the day he won his first outing at Saratoga.  Since then he is zero for 8 and has shown flashes of his potential.  Today there is no pressure, for no one expects anything of him, and that is what makes him so dangerous.   His breeding says he can nail this distance and with this big field and being a closer, it could set up perfectly for him.  If the pace gets heated and the stalkers falter, he could blow by all of them.  When fields get tangled up at the top of the stretch it’s the one that swings wide off the pace that can get it done.  If he is there at the turn, then it’s his for the asking.  

Selections:  15 - 14 - 4



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Derby Call In & Chat Friday at 8!

Want to share your opinions with others via an internet chat? Want to hear from some solid pro players on how they're tackling the Derby? Tomorrow night at 8PM you can, and we hope to see you there!

HANA (The Horseplayers Association of North America) is very pleased to make the following special event announcement:

HANA KY Derby Day Card Conference Call:

When: 8:00 pm Eastern - Fri May 4, 2012

Attendee Dial-in #: (712) 432-1001
Attendee Access Code: 469962956#

We at HANA have assembled the following panel:

John Doyle - 2011 NHC Tournament Champion, Professional Horseplayer
Bob Gregory - 2012 World Series of Handicapping Tournament Champion
Mike Maloney - HANA VP, Professional Horseplayer
Jeff Platt - Horseplayer and HANA President


HANA members (and horseplayers everywhere) are invited to call in and listen to our panel talk about the races on the KY Derby Day Card. Space is limited to the first 1000 callers (on a first come first served basis.) Note that the dial in number is not toll free. (Having a good long distance plan helps.)

Questions can be submitted live via web chat and email. During the call we will have people monitoring the War Room at Paceadvantage.com and questions will be taken live.

Link to the War Room:
http://www.paceadvantage.com/WRtips.html

Questions can also be submitted via email live during the call or ahead of time at: derbychat@hanaweb.org.

You can also submit questions live during the call using the Derby Chat link on the HANA website:
http://horseplayersassociation.org/derbychat.html

Make plans to join us & to keep up to date on the event and with HANA, please sign up here. It's free!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pull the Pocket: Horseplayer Bible? I Think That's Long Gone

Pull the Pocket: Horseplayer Bible? I Think That's Long Gone:
http://pullthepocket.blogspot.ca/2012/05/horseplayer-bible-i-think-thats-long.html

We don't see a horseplayer bible any longer. We're seeing, in my opinion, an industry megaphone. And that's everything the Daily Racing Form editorially never was.

Sid Fernando on twitter recently said along this topic line (paraphrasing), 'yesterday's revolutionaries are today's establishment'.

I think that's exactly what we're seeing with the Form. And I wonder if its cutting edge, customer-centric journalism is gone forever from its pages.
 

Great blog piece from Pull the Pocket. Read more at the link here.


-jp

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