Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

18 December 2009

Breeders' Cup Headed Towards Folly?

The Breeders' Cup released a round of strategic planning initiatives that seem to be based in questionable logic. These guys are are promising more change than the laundromat where Obama used to wash his college duds. If not timely or based in reason change can be foolish. The Breeders' Cup has undergone massive changes over the last few years. Now it looks like a plan has been hatched that will foolishly squander the appeal the Breeders' Cup held over the public.

Parking the Breeders' Cup at one location is an idea that I have a problem with. They might have missed these problems due to the "group think factor" of the board meeting. One of the broad appeals of the Breeders' Cup was that it was a world class event like the Olympics, The World Cup or the Super Bowl. These world class events travel around and the variety of locations provide these events a national or global home market. The Breeders' Cup benefited from a national home market. The memories of watching the Breeders' Cup at your home track resonated over the years and the Breeders' Cup built this relationship with fans from coast to coast. By parking the event at Santa Anita or Churchill they are going to lose the broad appeal factor. One of the charter goals -promoting the game to a broad audience-of the Breeders' Cup will be ignored. Churchill is a difficult/expensive place to fly to unless you are a box shipped on UPS- it costs more for me to fly to Louisville than to LAX from New York. Santa Anita is a beautiful facility with consistently great weather but it has a surface that is foreign to most American dirt horses. By moving the event around the drawbacks of each venue are mitigated. From the fans perspective parking the Breeders' Cup at one location makes a world class event depreciate into a provincial event.

It seems that the Breeders' Cup is dealing with revenue issues. There are going to be less foals in this corrected economy and thus less revenue for the B.C. This is unfortunate timing for the B.C. as the program has expanded to fourteen races over two days. This epic two day event featuring over ten hours of horse racing had grown a little too large to be consumed whole like the old seven or eight race format. A group supposedly tuning its marketing to short attention span twitter-ers should realize that anything over 140 characters or 4 hours is too much. When your revenue is not sufficient to finance your two day whopper of an event it is time to swallow the pride and cut it back to one day. For example I flew out to Santa Anita from New York this year for the Breeders' Cup program, but I spent Friday on the beach. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The signs are there but Breeders' Cup and their hired consultants seem to be ignoring them and stubbornly managing around a plan based in folly.

The emperor has been naked for two years now; it is time someone finally outed this "Win and you are in" marketing as a waste of time. Now it seems they want to expand this ludicrous concept to more races and more countries. When has the winner of a Grade I like the Whitney -or any GI race- ever been excluded from the Breeders' Cup? What about the sprint this year? Did the "win and you're in" series help bolster that field? The intention to help make a complex game easier for casual fans to comprehend is an appropriate marketing goal. However the "win and you're in program" fails on every level. The whole program is absolute humbug to the core. How confusing is it when a horse like Fernelly won the "win and you're in" Del Mar mile but after the race he wasn't really in because he was not nominated? This whole effort is just a waste of time and does nothing for anyone. Hopefully the "Breeders' Cup Racing Series in partnership with North American and European racetracks" is a departure from the "win and you're in" concept, but I fear the emperors extended family will join him in his absurd garb.

The other goal expressed in their initiative is "social and digital media". Social media has become the marketing solution de jour because it is cheap, easy and everyone else is doing it. When everyone is doing something in a massive "little me too" copycat session the cumulative negative effects accumulate quickly, like leaves in a catch basin. Unfortunately because of over exposure social media has become well beyond cliche. The marketing returns that people are so anxiously awaiting- returns that are just a quarter away will never happen. Myspace is dead, facebook is a bore and twitter is the largest jumble of drivel ever assembled in the history of the written word. While it may be compulsory for a entertainment medium to have a presence on these social media outlets- it may be wise to temper the expectations as these fads wind down.

Someone at the Breeders' Cup needs to take charge. The wandering ideas of group think and foreign consultants have threatened to ruin a very good thing. The Breeders' Cup did so many things right- in their rush for change they seem to be dropping the good and picking up many short sighted marketing ideas. Like so many corporate types the "little me too" factor dominates new initiatives. Unfortunately the real factors are being ignored. My advice would be to keep the rotation of tracks, right size the event back down to one day and ten races to match declining foal nominations. If they really want people to become fans of racing they have a very good game to work with. Why beat around the bush with foolish marketing concepts? Make the game an even more attractive concept by lowering takeout and showing the world just how exciting this game can be. Once they win they are in.

16 December 2009

Play Of The Day Year In Review

All year we have been plugging away at the "play of the day". We have learned a few things from this exercise. The first thing I learned was that I am an ordinary handicapper at Saratoga; even a losing horseplayer. Saratoga would be a good time for me to take a European sojourn while the rest of the horseracing world is betting on twelve horse fields with shippers from all points. My strength is that am a good handicapper at a track like Aqueduct; this is a track where I can isolate over 50% winners at a gaudy ROI. The third thing I learned is that the game can be beat; in fact it can be brutally beaten with the existential handicapping principles discussed in the play of the day posts. In an era of "computer cappers" and outsourcing handicapping to commercial speed figures - having a holistic understanding of the game may be more profitable that ever.

Most handicapping publications will go on and on about class, speed and form. These are the three critical factors when handicapping horse races but they are not the chief quality of a winning player. It is rarely spoken of but the number one quality a punter must have is discipline. Discipline is not sexy nor does it fill parimutuel pools so it is not in managements best interest to promote discipline. Racetracks talking to the horseplayers about discipline is like a maître d’ selling you on rice cakes as he seats you in a restaurant. It is in your best interest to have discipline in spades if you intend to make money from handicapping horseraces. This is a struggle at times. There are rare days when I travel to the races and it is expected that I am going to wager on almost every contest. It is important to keep the "Action Jackson" mentality in check and isolate it to pleasurable visits to the races. The overwhelming majority of days when a player is not going to the races is key; these are the days when the punter can assassinate races from afar and focus on the prime targets without getting mixed up in "emotional" gambling.

The antidote for discipline is confidence. Too much discipline and you are betting $2 to show on a 4-5 shot. While discipline is important it must be paired with confidence. Confidence is what allows the player to pull the trigger and blast the target with a large "power bet". This is a bet that is large enough to make you a little uncomfortable without doing any permanent damage to your financial health. This bet could be $20 for some or could be up to whatever the parimutuel pools can handle up to the point of diminishing returns. With increased confidence a $2000 win bet on all "play of the day" horses in 2009 would have returned $180,800 for a profit of $70,800. They say that this game can not be beat or that punters require a rebate to break even. The game can clearly be beat; the requisite qualities are a cool trifecta of power handicapping, contemplative discipline and stone-cold confidence. It is an investment with a 64% interest return.

play of the day breakdown

Turf/dirt or sprint/route revealed only marginal differences in the returns. However the location variable was key. Strong returns at Aqueduct with diminishing returns elsewhere.

09 December 2009

Philly Park Contest

As part of the celebration for the grand opening of the new casino called Parx at Philly Park we at Power Cap are sanctioning a contest. The first person to locate a reference to horseracing at the new Philly Park Casino website wins the pictured Belmont Park hat.

artists rendering of Parx At Philadelphia Park

The grand prize/never worn

08 December 2009

Philly Park Purse Surge

$5 for a large pizza, $1.20 for a pack of smokes and less than $500 a month for a nice one bedroom. The numbers are my fondest memories of my time in Philadelphia. Cheap living in an honest working class city. At that time the racing world had an even larger chasm between New York and Philly. Philly Park was barely holding on at the bottom of the racing class ladder while NYRA was the king of the new world. Ten years later and it looks like the roles have reversed. In a huge coup that nobody has even noticed New York is now the backwater with Philly presenting the better purses and potentially the better product.

Usually I have no interest in Philly park but today (Tuesday)they have a overnight stakes that has attracted nice sprinters such as Saratoga Russell, Cherokee Country and Joey P. Top New York jocks such as Ramon Dominguez, Lezcano and Channing Hill canceled a day of leisure and headed down I-95 to ride in the $75K Valley Forge Stakes. Usually I spend Tuesday with a nice book but I followed the lead of masterclass jockey Dominguez to Philly to cap the race and have a look. One glance at the rest of the card and something hit me- Philly Purses have surpassed NYRA purses. This is quite the deal for the horsemen. You have to have rocks in your heads - or a slow NY bred- to run in New York.

So not only are Philly based owners paying less for a large pie at their local pizzeria but they are also paying less in trainer day rates while cashing in larger purses. This is a great deal for the horsemen of Bensalem Pennsylvania. If I could have made more money driving the limo in Philly than New York I never would have left Philly. In New York we pay more for less with an onerous tax burden. However the lure of New York is that we have the old world at our finger tips while making more money than anywhere else in the country. This may have been true in the past but New York along with New York racing is living on past glory. The big lure of New York is the class racing but those days are also over. With the dilapidated facility in Ozone Park, inferior purses and a corrupt regime that has presided over a 9 year slots farce the time for New York to be a backwater is upon us. People just have not realized it yet.

Purse Comparison

If you are running a PA. Bred the deal is even better:

Now, somebody who is really invested in the business can actually make more money in a single race than the total purse. Imagine a race with a $42,000 purse. The winning owner gets 60 percent, or $25,200. If the horse is a Pennsylvania-bred, the owner gets a 40 percent bonus off the winnings. Now, he has $35,280. If he's the breeder, he gets another 20 percent of that. Now, he has $42,333 on a $42,000 purse. If the owner happens to stand the stallion in Pennsylvania, he gets another 10 percent.

What is fueling this purse surge? When I lived in Philly ten years ago the purses where less than half of NYRA purses. 18K claimers ran for $6K and maiden specials for 18K. The slots in Philly have been a raging success. Philly Park's casino opened in December 2006. In the first 3 weeks, players bet $175 million on the slots. In the fiscal year ending in June 2007, they bet $1.666 billion. In the next fiscal year, they bet $5.8 billion. In the fiscal year just ended, they bet $10.9 billion. Revenue (winnings after the players are paid) was $144 million, $469 million and $825 million, respectively.

Are all of these slot players making their way to the Philly racetrack inflating handle? Surely $10.9 billion in slots handle would have a spillover effect into the racing handle? A crowded casino combined with better purses and better claiming races would surely inflate Philly Park handle to beyond what NYRA achieves. Surprisingly the wagering on Philly Park races is only a fraction of what Aqueduct handles even as the Aqueduct grandstand lies in decay and the racing is inferior. Bettors are loyal to NYRA regardless of the quality of the races. A cursory study of 3 days last week reveals that Aqueduct handled $21 million the three days they ran against Philly Park. Those same three days Philly Park handled a total of $3.6 million- a staggering chasm especially when you consider the racing at Philly might just be superior.

What we have here is a pure slot purse advantage for Philly Park. Unless bettors start patronizing Philly Park this is terrible for racing. All of the "meat and potatoes" claimers are running at Philly Park while NYRA is left with an unappetizing menu of New York breds and beaten claimers. NYRA is presenting an inferior product that will eventually disenfranchise the bettors if they haven't been chased away yet.

Few "diners" migrated to Philly Park. While the best "chefs" have been lured away to cook at Philly Park the food has not been a lure for the public. The Philly "chefs" are basically cooking for their own profit while their food is going strait to the trash without being sampled by the wagering public. Meanwhile up at Aqueduct the "chefs" are being pulled right out of the dregs of the culinary world. While the restaurant at Aqueduct remains full the food is no longer world class. It is only a matter of time before the wagering public realizes how far New York racing has fallen and they turn away from racing all together. Can Philadelphia Park progress from being anything other than a horsemen welfare venue? The key may be in luring the Preakness north and snagging the attention of the public. If a $75K overnight stakes can lure Power Cap a million dollar classic can lure the masses.

03 December 2009

Big Push~Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 3
The 5-1 morning line is appealing on #4 Big Push. Horse has a ton of speed and he will likely be clear in here. The windy conditions will make speed very dangerous over this inner dirt course. Big Push has defeated graded stakes winners such as Affirmatif and General Quarters and also set a track record at Monmouth. The 5-1 will be a gift.

Win #4 Big Push

54 21-7-5
strike rate 39%
cumulative return 170.20
$2 ROI $3.15
average winner $8.10

02 December 2009

Not Very Bold ~Play Of The Day

After posting the horse as a single earlier I feel compelled to list Bold Union as the play of the day. The filly has a huge class edge over this field and should be make short work of this group. She was beat last out by Tar Heel Mom who is a talented older sprinter. Not a big price on Bold Union but a "metal thing on the door that keeps out the bad guys" type horse that should be incorporated into the wagering strategy on the inner track.

Big-A Race 8

Win #7 Bold Union

53 20-7-5
strike rate 38%
cumulative return 166.20
$2 ROI $3.14

The Last Fan In New York City

This kid is destined to be the last urban fan of horseracing in New York. For someone in my mid 30's there are few of my generation of sports fans that have the attention span to digest horseracing. Typically my generation of sports fans prefer to be spoon-fed ball-sports. Ideas are provided by the presenters and radio hosts and then parroted at the water coolers and cafeterias of the workplace. It would be glorious to talk racing with my colleagues but the last thing I want to do is bore someone with something they could care less about. Talk about a one way ticket to pariah-ville. Instead we have this web page.

If this trend continues the last local horseracing fan must be about 13 years old. It looks like I have located him. This kid must be in the same boat as I, lots of thoughts, a wellspring of fervor but no outlet. Perhaps he should start a blog. I can only imagine him trying to talk horses with his 13 year old classmates; not only would they be confused but if he is enrolled at a NYC public school he would likely face the double whammy of physical violence combined with social rejection. His description of school as "eighth grade hell" validates that presumption. Like sheep and liberals children are an ultra-conformist lot that do not tolerate divergent ideas; anything associated with horseracing is quite the divergent idea to urban youth. Hopefully "horseracing kid" has found an outlet for his interest and a safe place to discuss his opinion. We may have a budding Bobby Frankel here.

"horseracing kid" takes on opening day at the Big-A

Aqueduct Inner Track is Upon Us

The longest horseracing meet of the annum in New York begins today. This meet is so long it transcends the calender. Four months of the inner dirt will span the late fall of 2009 to the early spring 2010. This meet has all the utilitarian appeal of a metal fabrication warehouse. This is not Del Mar, Keeneland or Saratoga; this meet is a wagering factory no more no less. What the meet lacks in aesthetic appeal it holds in wagering appeal. With basically only two distances on one surface with a closed circuit of horses, the handicapping becomes much easier as the variables are reduced to a bare minimum. If you venture out to Ozone Park you will find a warm clubhouse and a dedicated group of horseplayers who love the joint. Tourists, softies and the meek need not apply. This is working class horseracing in the raw. It is also the time of year when I have found that I can really get into the heart of the races and align my mental rhythm with the ebbs and flows of fleeting fortune.
From Power Cap

There used to be a solid claiming contingent during the winter but I am afraid that these ranks have been thinned. There used to be a population consolidation that happened as New Jersey, Delaware and Massachusetts shut down their flat races for the year; these horses converged on New York during the winter. Now with slot purses available at many tracks up and down the eastern seaboard the heart of the Aqueduct inner meet will be different. This year I see the heart of the meet consisting of New York breds and the conditioned claimers. Bottom level racing but it is fair and the track plays formful; hopefully it will have full fields and hold the workmanlike appeal for most of the winter.
From Power Cap

The first card is a bit of a disappointment; five races restricted to New York breds and four maiden races. My plan is focus on a long lunch during the early portion of this card. Can you say toasted buffalo chicken sandwiches with sharp provolone and ranch dressing. The contrast between hot and cold is a flavor bonanza. That should cover races 1-6 if you throw in a relaxing post lunch siesta.

The late pick three has some appeal; at least enough to merit watching. In the seventh the heavy chalk "Not A Peep looms large. This mare came out firing off the bench and holds the lethal weapon that all inner track lovers have; speed. Citifiesta came firing off the layoff, she could win with progress second time off the layoff. I will use just one more, Submerge showed some talent last year and is stakes placed over the course.

The featured Tate stakes looks a great spot for Bold Union to go out a winner. This speedy filly drops way down class to restricted three year olds and has a two bullet works on the ledger. Her speed and class is a potent combination over this course.

Last week there was a massive speed bias on the turf course. The rail was out 18 feet; at the top of the lane the course was about as wide as a sidewalk. Inside speed horses dominated on the turf all last week. The rail remains at 18 feet for today's lone turf race. Today's ninth race for 16K open claimers may the last or the next to last turf race run all year. I will cover both speedy inside horses Midwatch and Lemon Shore with this speed bias in mind. In addition I would be remiss if I did not cover the very game stalwart Bon Marie along with old pro Bestowed; these two have enough speed to sit right off the pace, poised to score as they turn for home.

race 7 pick 3 1,3,8 / 7 / 1,2,5,11

a video portrait of Aqueduct from a few years ago

25 November 2009

Aqueduct Trip Report

Ozone Park- After a few months away from New York racing I took the A train ride down to Aqueduct today. There were rumors on a message board that the grandstand was shuttered. After a few weeks of trying I could not get a strait answer from anyone on the grandstand -if they can't figure this out how can they figure out the races- so I had to go see for myself. The grandstand remains open. Most sections are closed but two sections remain open, which leaves hundreds of seats for the two dozen or so people that watch the races from the "power perch". The highlight of the facility is the nice Holiday display by the front entrance.
From Power Cap

The clubhouse entrance

What I like best about the Aqueduct grandstand is that both the paddock and the races can be watched from the grandstand seats. You can spend $5K on Yankees seats but they will be no better than the seats available in the Aqueduct grandstand-the Aqueduct seats are free everyday. There are loads of nuggets to be mined from up there. From fractious horses in the paddock to bad trips on the track.

Just a few souls in the grandstand

Year after year it is the same people at Aqueduct everyday. They are dedicated fans that deserve better than the condition that Aqueduct is in. New faces are few and far between- for the horseplayers that remain Aqueduct is a home away from home. Their dedication is tested by the condition of the venue. There is bird dung on most outside exposed surfaces and around every corner is disrepair.
From Power Cap

grandstand is open but nobody is home

Just 18 years ago the place looked like a top notch facility. As time as passed the facility has deteriorated with little help from NYRA or the state. It is an injustice that other local sports venues have received billions in aid while Aqueduct is left to rot. Outwardly the place is a dump but inwardly Aqueduct is a very rich place, perhaps the richest in all of New York City. There is no pretension at Aqueduct; it is filled with such a varied cast of characters. On top of the characters the people that attend the races there are people of dedication; almost like loving children that take care of their terminally sick mother when others would have dispatched her to a nursing home long ago. Make no mistake, Aqueduct is sick and she needs a full rejuvenation to return to her past glory so some of the fair-weather children can return to her side.

From Power Cap

a gray, drab fall day at the Big A

The racing card was interesting for a Wednesday and was one of the reasons I made the trip out there. There were two turf races -turf rail was out 18 feet very speed favoring- the competitive racing yielded many very attainable longshots. Awesome Mich made the day for me. It is too bad that handicapping is esoteric, if everyone could learn the ways of form, pace and class this game would once again be the king of sports. However handicapping will always be a challenge- if the masses are to return they will demand a clean and inviting facility, something Aqueduct is not.

From Power Cap

the play of day yields a generous return

This Would Be Awesome~Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 5

When I looked at this race I quickly noticed that Admiralty was entered and I internally blurted "lock!" Then I see that he was recently thumped at Delaware for a tag and was rather flat in the lane last time at Belmont. Was this same horse that beat stakes horse Mambo In Seattle in the open allowance after the 2008 Big Brown derby? He clearly has lost that three year old form and has disappointed since that last win 18 months ago. With a vulnerable heavy favorite this race could yield a longshot winner.

From Power Cap

My longshot pick in here is Awesome Mich. He is one of only two horses entered for the three year old condition -the other is Lohad- which gives him a class edge over the non winners of three lifetime condition runners. Mich is going to require some forgiveness for the ugly runs over the sloppy tracks at Monmouth and Meadowlands. It seems that he couldn't even stand up in the mud so I hereby abolish him of his cross-Hudson sloppy track sins. This is a gelding that has beaten 30N3L at Monmouth; now he gets to run for 10N3L. At 12-1 he is a good value play up top, and with the track fast he should run his race.

Aqueduct Race 5

Win #8 Awesome Mich

52 19-7-5
strike rate 37%
cumulative return 148.40
$2 ROI $2.85

19 November 2009

Do Low Minimum Wagers Lead To Degenerate Gambling?

This ought to be a hit amongst the action junkies, Churchill is going to lower the minimum wager on pick threes and trifectas to fifty cent starting today. With handle taking a slide across the board tracks have to angle for every edge to make sure they hold their share of the shrinking parimutuel pie. Takeout on these wagers is 19%.

The good news is that this gives horseplayers more options at the low end, the bad news is that another avenue of low minimum degenerate gambling has been widened. Are these low minimum exotic wagers bad for "OTB type" action junkies? Would some people be better off if they focused on win, place and show? If punters can not afford the $1 pick 3 should they even play the pick 3? Is the industry casually introducing degeneracy to racing fans by instituting all of these low minimum wagers? Do I need to arm myself next time I go to the track to fend off all of the seedy fifty cent and dime players?

Flushing OTB patron and sometimes Churchill Downs fan Dat Wi Nguyen was "very happy" when he learned about the $.50 pick 3

18 November 2009

Entering The Nuclear Winter~ Play Of the Day

We are transitioning into the nuclear winter portion of the New York racing annum. Those left standing post-B.C. are the most dedicated sort. This is the time of the year when the racing can be monotonous -- in between all of the gray skies and frigid breezes there are nuggets of gold just waiting to be mined.

P.J. Campo has ran this beaten claimer condition "N3L or 3YO" for two years at Aqueduct. For the first few years the public struggled with the condition and we were able to find a nice edge on the races run in this condition. This type of race is a sweet spot for the handicapper that understands race conditions and would like to wager on a race that has the "stacked deck" of many easy tosses with just one or two contenders.

Aqueduct Race 9

Exhibit A is Geno Green. He could be a textbook example of the power horse that is going to win this beaten claimer condition time after time all winter. 4+ wins for a three year old going against a field of 4,5 or 6 YO's with only 2 wins. Once the public figures this out - they will soon enough- the price on the Geno Greens of Aqueduct will all be of the odds-on variety.

Geno Green looks like a solid rock to work around in this race. The Sedlacek barn would have to have rocks in their head to run One Lucky Date in this race; they will likely scratch for Thursday's race leaving Geno Green the dominant and likely lone speed. Geno Green is dropping off a win; this could raise some red flags for some but my vetting of the Repole Stable indicates that this is a highly positive move. What we really like is that Geno is in for the three year old condition while all others except for Jaystone are in for the N3L condition.

Jaystone may be value at 20-1 but he does not look like much competition for Geno Green. This leaves Geno Green as a "metal thing on the door that keeps that bad guys out" (I hate the L-word) type favorite. The kind of favorite to build plays around that are especially reliable in "nuclear winter" Aqueduct racing. We aim to be alive in the pick 4 with Geno singled at the tail end.

Stats (no crooked accounting here)
51 18-7-5
strike rate 35%
cumulative return 143.20
$2 ROI $2.81

The Old Man On Bobby Frankel

When I first started going to Aqueduct in the 1980's the trainer the old man always talked about was Bobby Frankel. He was always reffed to "as the greatest trainer ever". "it was a sad day when he went to California". When he would claim a horse it would "always be stepped up in class and win either first or second out. The old man "made it a habit to bet his horses first off the claim". When Bobby Frankel was based in New York betting him was "like taking candy from a baby". Success usually brings enemies. Back then Frank Martin used to "claim all the time off of Frankel for trainer Sigmund Sommer". Martin "would have to drop the horses claimed off of Frankel to win." Frank Martin's primary owner Sigmund Sommer "was a local Billionaire with almost unlimited resources but he could never claim off Frankel successfully" Frankel's greatest achievement was "claiming Barometer for $5,000 and winning the Brooklyn Handicap". The old man says "God Bless Bobby Frankel R.I.P".

13 November 2009

Dirt Tracks Relegated to Nature Trails and Construction Sites

Unfortunately NYRA canceled this weekends Stuyvesant Handicap GIII $100k USD for older horses due to lack of interest from horseman. Meanwhile a few hundred miles away at Woodbine 12 horses are entered for the Autumn stakes GII $150K CAN for older horses. Similar purse, similar condition but one race can not even muster five participants while another is overflowing with entries. This illustrates the success of synthetic surface racing and the fading appeal of dirt racing.

While many fans of the sport have lamented the demise of dirt racing it seems that in places like New York dirt stakes racing has become an anachronism. The NYRA dirt stakes calender has become filled with short fields that are always at the mercy of weather. Up at Woodbine the stakes menu on the polytrack has flourished. Large competitive fields with shippers and little worry that weather will effect affect the races. Meanwhile at Aqueduct the weather played a major role in canceling the Stuyvesant. NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes "“We decided today because we only had five entries and two or three of them said they were not going to run if it rained. The forecast calls for two inches (Nov. 14), so we didn’t want a field of two or three horses."

At Woodbine the Autumn Stakes attracted a competitive full field of main track and turf horses from coast to coast. Teide will ship in from the west coast, Sr. Henry from Keeneland, and Storm Caller from New York. Not one horse was to ship to New York for the canceled Stuyvesant. Woodbine is quickly eclipsing New York as the top east coast track for horsemen and horseplayers. The synthetic racing at Woodbine features large competitive fields that have generous returns. Competitive racing is the excitement that people look for when playing racing. While the horsemen have embraced synthetic racing, most American horseplayers still maintain an aversion to synthetic racing. The reliable speed horses, the mental shortcut speed figures and the quarterhorse "run and gun" style of running has lost the edge. Racing over the synthetic is fair racing. A poster who goes by"The Fatman" at paceadvantage outlines the aversion to synthetic track racing:

Those accustomed to SPEED BIASED DIRT TRACKS just can't come to grips with having to handle FAIR racing. There's more to racing than betting the speed. More to it than just looking at numbers, seeing who's fastest early and then just betting that horse. Well, at least that's the case when it comes to POLY. What I like about POLY is that the BEST horse has a chance in every race, no matter what the PACE. You can't say that about DIRT and you certainly couldn't say it about KEE and CALI, when they had those speed biased tracks.

The POLY HATERS can write whatever they want but it all comes down to not being able to handle the 'extra' that's necessary to win on these surfaces.

Almost forever the 'truism' was that SPEED usually wins. Not any more. The game is a bit more complicated than that on POLY.

While dirt racing in New York flounders, synthetic racing at Woodbine has blossomed. Synthetic surfaces may be the future, however in the breeding world synthetic surfaces have reawakened the past. The stamina breeding practices of past generations have have once again become the breeding ideal- while dirt speed breeding associated with breakdowns and distance challenged one-dimensional speed freaks has become the new anachronism. The horses, the prices and the future is in synthetic racing.

07 November 2009

Breeders' Cup Trip Report

Arcadia Ca - After driving the limo all night on Thursday I caught the first flight out of Kennedy for Burbank on Friday morning. After pulling an all-nighter and then flying all morning, going to the track was out of the question. With the sleep situation critical I watched the Friday B.C. card from the hotel. After sleeping for 12 hours Friday night, I was roaring and ready to go for the Saturday card.

visually appealing scenery at Santa Anita
photo credit East Of Allen

Santa Anita is a facility with visual appeal. This venue combines natural beauty with the architecture of the early 20th century. Santa Anita is right up there with American top-class racing venues like Arlington and Keeneland. Perhaps the best part about Santa Anita is the weather. The weather is a gift from the heavens-a combination of the warm sun of the desert with a hint of cool salty ocean air- a welcome respite from the brutal cold of New York winter. The only blemish is the smog that obscures the view of the huge mountains that abut the facility.

International Superstar L. Dettori up on Delegator

There was much bemoaning about the Breeders' Cup running in consecutive years at Santa Anita. However after witnessing the spectacle first hand, those grousers are wrong. With Santa Anita you are all but ensured grade I weather, the facility is beautiful and the area has outstanding infrastructure. Santa Anita is an easy place for horses and people like me to travel to. With great weather and fast/firm there is little chance for a washout. Who can forget the disastrous Monmouth Breeders' Cup; sloppy tracks and bog turf courses are not conducive to good racing or safety. That weekend will be remembered more for the ill fated George Washington than any of the winners. Even the last Belmont Breeders' Cup was a cold and nasty day. If the Breeders' Cup ever wanted a permanent home, Santa Anita would be a good choice.

packed grandstand and apron

Comparing a regular Saturday at Aqueduct to Saturday at the Breeders' Cup really exposes the problems of New York racing. Racing in New York seems to be dominated by only one type of fan, the middle aged to elderly urban working class male degenerate. At Santa Anita there was great diversity in the crowd. Everyone from the horseplayer to the tycoon to the rural horselover to the teenage girl with a horse fetish was in attendance. It was a nice mix and people were friendly, the strangers I was sitting with were even nice enough to invite me out to dinner when I told them I was traveling alone.


The races were a nice mixed of longshots and relieable favorites. It was no secret but dirt horses and those stretching out are poor bets on synthetic surfaces. Once again not one horse prepped on dirt won a race at the Breeders' Cup. Horses cutting back in distance with previous turf or synthetic success dominated the races. It seems like the public is yet to master synthetic surface wagering, but the track plays fair. Some of these grousers dont like these new surfaces but this seems like the mindless complaining of people that refuse to adapt to change. For me it was a fair day in the parimutuel department. Goldikova was a short priced wagering highlight and I had a few bucks on longshot Furthest Land.

Furthest Land lands a mini-score

The real highlight of the day was undoubtedly Zenyatta. As a New York guy I never developed a Zenyatta-affection, but my heart softened for her today. She is a big, regal but smart looking mare; something really special. There is something different about her, it looks like she isn't trying but she covers so much ground. Mike Smith "She is sent from God. It is His filly. I think he wanted a horse and sent her down her to race against everybody" Fourteen for Fourteen can not be marginalized, the naysayers have been silenced.

Crowd before the classic

At Santa Anita she has a huge following. Trainer John Sherriffs "She loves the crowd. When people yell at her she does her little prance. I don't know. She has a relationship with her fans" There was this one part in the parade where the crowd erupted in applause, Zenyatta wheeled around, stopped and started to paw the ground and prance, the crowd went absolutely nuts for her- it was like the horse was mugging for the crowd. It was nice to see so much affection for a horse. When she won it was like the home team won a ballgame. It was great validation for a crowd that had largely showed up to see her. It was the kind of win that will mint a few thousand new racing fans.

Thousands of these signs filled Santa Anita
photo credit AP

06 November 2009

The Sport Of Kings As The King Of Sports

TVG was generous enough to sponsor the B.C. Mile. The B.C. Mile sponsor's parent company Betfair may just hold the key to making the Sport of Kings the king of sports once again. What Betfair did overseas is nothing short of revolutionizing punting. Every horseplayer that utilizes Betfair can not only bet horses at a fixed price, but they can lay horses that they feel are likely losers. Solid opinions based in reason are rewarded. Technology has changed the world, the betting exchange can change the horseracing experience for the fans. With the betting exchange, racing becomes a game of reason exposing competing games like slots as gambling vice. Betfair is a massive success and has allowed Betfair to purchase a controlling interest in America's TVG network.

The effect of a betting exchange is the empowerment of horseplayers. Instead of an parimutuel exotic betting lotto, where the chase of big scores can lead to long losing streaks, reason is the chief driver of the betting exchange. The betting exchange is the "Holy Grail" of technology that racing in America needs. Decades of marketing has failed to draw new generations to the racetrack; handles are tumbling and once packed grandstands have degenerated into lonely dumps. The betting exchanges is the breakthrough that will spark the renaissance that will bring horseracing to a new generation.

Free from much of the traditional restraint of Europe, America is a place of innovation. But America still uses a tote system from the 19th century while horseracing in the UK has moved on to the 21st century. There is a long history of American and Anglo cooperation, it is time the betting exchange comes to American racing. When the players can lay horses along with betting horses the game has the great appeal of reason. With so much competition in the gaming market a horseracing exchange like Betfair can propel racing above the gaming competition and expose games like fantasy sports as unthinking obsession. If Betfair was available in the States the Breeders' Cup could be an more appealing event. Would you take my fixed prices on the Breeder's Cup Classic?

Mine That Bird- I do not fancy his chances tomorrow, his race in West Virginia was a horror. I will lay at 20-1.

Colonel John- Proven over the surface and distance, would bet if I could find 20-1.

Summer Bird- An unknown quantity over the synthetic but proven over 12 furlongs. Conflicting signals so bet or lay for me.

Zenyatta- Morning line favorite steps well up in class, faces a large field for the first time at a new distance. Laying at 4-1.

Twice Over- Nice record and he is coming into his own late this year. No bet or lay from me.

Richard's Kid- Proven over the distance for a sharp barn, would bet at 15-1+.

Gio Ponti- Maybe the best horse in America not named Rachel, betting at 15-1+.

Einstein- Hard knocker may have lost a step. Not sure so no bet or lay.

Girolamo- Up and comer could be a future monster. Would bet at 30-1+.

Rip Van Winkle- Hoof issues are scary, no bet or lay.

Regal Ransom- Seems like he would have to be very lucky on the front end to hang on. I would lay at 20-1.

Quality Road- Was going to be my pick in the derby, I would gamble that synthetics are not his thing, would lay at 15-1.

Awesome Gem- Probable longest shot on the board, bettors could get 50-1 on the parimutuel tote, no bet or lay from me.

05 November 2009

Jumpers Get No Repsect~Play Of The Day

How could a grade I winner be 15-1 in a non-winners of one race allowance? That is the case today with Spy In The Sky in Aqueduct's seventh race. We have a play here if Spy In The Sky goes off anywhere near the 15-1 morning line. At this 11 furlong distance stamina is key, many horses can not see out this trip. Spy In The Sky is a winner at 19 furlongs, he will get 11 furlong with panache. He beat Sermon Of Love by ten lengths at Saratoga and Sermon Of Love beat Chapin Beach who is favored over him here. The public does not get to handicap this type of race very much and this is a scenario which they are unfamiliar with. The obscure out of town trainer and the prejudice of gamblers against steeplechase races will all provide value. There could be generous returns here keying the long winded Spy In The Sky.
From Power Cap

Aqueduct Race 7

Win #4 Spy In The Sky

50 17-7-5
strike rate 34%
cumulative return 120.80
$2 ROI $2.42

01 November 2009

The NYC Marathon~Play Of The Day

Today they are going to run the NYC Marathon throughout the five boroughs of New York. Almost 40K runners are going to take on this course. While I am a firm believer in exercise I am also a firm believer in moderation. There is nothing moderate about 211+ furlongs of personal hell. I wouldn't make it past the first OTB on the course and would be credited with a big DNF if I ever attempted something like this. What is the point of running this far on concrete and asphalt? Just the damage to the knees alone negates any of the health benefits. If health is what you are after the road is through simplicity; eat like a peasant, think like a peasant and pray like a peasant. The founder of the NY road runners club and the NYC marathon was Fred Lebow. This man was an absolute health and running fanatic, but all of this running and focus on health did not ensure him a long life; he unfortunately died in his early sixties. My uncle Joe who smoked two packs of non-filtered Camels a day, never missed the daily double and whose only exercise was whacking himself with the DRF as he urged on the horses lived to the ripe age of 80. Clearly Uncle Joe did something right and the only running he did was to make sure he didn't get shut out at the windows. While these marathon fanatics are ignoring the modern benefits of transportation and discounting their own body crying out for a rest - we will be watching the real NYC marathon in Ozone Park.

The Marathon we will concern ourselves with is the Long Island Handicap, a more manageable 12 furlongs with 7 fillies and mares entered. Unlike punishing every part of the body by running 211+ furlongs; this marathon looks easy. If you look at races like how I look at races there really isn't any criticism for Criticism. Yes she is the favorite, but she is the alpha mare in here and holds all the trump cards; form, pace and class. There are worse things in life than betting on legitimate chalk, you could be out running 211+ furlongs for an ostentatious yet destructive show of self vanity. The race at Aqueduct will be over in two and half minutes. When the L.I. Cap is over you will have plenty of time to acquire true health of mind, body and spirit - it is surely not attained by self torture.

Play Of The Day
Aqueduct Race 7
Win #5 Criticism

49 16-7-5
strike rate 33%
cumulative return 117.50
$2 ROI $2.40

Photo Credit DailyMail UK

28 October 2009

Polytrack Is Horseracing's Version Of The Toyota Prius

HRTV is re-broadcasting past Breeders' Cup broadcasts during the down time in the early morning hours. Yesterday the 1986 B.C. was shown. Jockey Chris McCarron was off all of his mounts with a broken leg suffered just days before the B.C. In 2009 television will shy away from showing a horse suffering a fatal breakdown, in 1986 they showed the breakdown that led to McCarron's injury 4 times! Snap, snap, snap, snap! This led me to reflect on cultural changes over the last few decades and the realization that racing is in worse shape than I previously thought. Not only is racing feeding the slot machine gambling vice that will succeed it, but racing is completely unfit for the new consumer morality that holds sway today.

For hundreds of years western civilization operated under the Christian moral order; the morality of the Old Testament Hebrews, the philosophy of Greece and the law of Rome. Virtue was a product of the love of God, the love of family and control of self passions. If you fulfilled these three requirements your conscience was clear. After the sexual revolution of the 1960's the moral order was out the door. Science was tabbed to run the show and it was scientifically proven that Darwinism could run the show better than a supernatural power, or so the social engineers thought. All of that stifling moral order self control that kept your pants zipped and passions in check was for old people and prudes. A new secular moral order based on unbridled sexual passion and consumerism was launched. It was from this new moral order that were blessed with things like Polytrack and organic brown rice pasta.

God became money, the family became your roommates or television watching mates. In the new morality self control was only limited by the extent of your means. A new morality replaced the old moral order. I will call it "consumer morality", or basically technology and social engineering in the place of the moral law written on our hearts. For an example of this new morality you only need to go to a grocery store and see consumer morality in action, the outlet "Whole Foods" is a chain based on making their customers feel morally good about themselves. When California mandated that tracks install a synthetic racing surface, they did this action with nothing but moral benevolence in their hearts.

This new morality is all about divorcing the repercussions from the action. You can consume as much as you like but make yourself feel better and choose the organic product. You can live really far from your job but choose the hybrid car to hurt the environment less. It is okay to cheat on your wife, but be sure to wear a condom and make sure your tryst-mate is on the pill. We can bomb a country in the Middle East and spread death but we are doing this to encourage "woman's rights". The new morality requires no effort. It is all about feeling good about yourself by doing what you what you wanted to do anyway, but doing it in a way that integrates technology to shield the world from the effects of your consumerism.

Polytrack is racing's big foray into this new morality; it was an attempt to mitigate horse breakdowns by applying technology. Judging by the reaction of the fans and the trainers this new morality has not worked well for racing. The breakdowns have not only continued but a new type of "soft tissue injury" has emerged. The fans crowded into OTB's and other wagering venues do not seem to share this "consumer morality" that much of the suburban middle class has embraced. If polytrack gets in the way of their golden rail speed bias angle there will be hell to pay. Parimutuel wagering on synthetic racing surfaces has disproportionately crashed, while handle on old style dirt like Saratoga has suffered more modest losses. There seems to be a moral crisis among American horseplayers when it comes to synthetic surface wagering; they do not share the altruistic goals and have not supported the endeavor. With horses getting hurt and bettors abstaining racing has a problem. Racing has not been able to divorce the repercussion of horse injury from the action of racing.

With so many options for entertainment or gambling vice why would new "moral consumers" choose a sport that brutally maims animals from time to time. They would choose to do something like skateboarding or if they wanted to gamble the choice would be poker where the only organic damage is the trees felled to produce the cards(can someone say fair trade organic playing cards!).

This leaves racing with only one core customer, the immoral degenerate. The bourgeois consumer moralists are going to shun racing due to the occasional horse breakdown and the lack of "feel good" appeal. What racing is left with is those that are filled with vice, and those that go from one debauchery to the next without a care in the world. That is why racetracks and OTB's are filled with old men that burst with profanity, suck on cheap cigarettes and could care less about what you think of them. They are vestiges of a time long gone. The new consumer morality did not stick to these people and they likely would not have participated in the old order either if they were born 40 years ago. This is why the Prius is the rarest car in the Aqueduct parking when they open the meet later today.

27 October 2009

Yankees Postpone World Series Due To Conflict With Aqueduct Opening Day

The Bronx- Citing sluggish ticket sales due to competition in the sports leisure market, the Yankees have postponed game one of the World Series to Thursday. Harold Z. Steinbrenner the managing general partner summed up the situation "there was no way we could go up against an attendance juggernaut like opening day at Aqueduct, even with poor weather they are going to fill the Ozone Park grandstand with 60K; while weather was a consideration only a fool would go up against opening day at Aqueduct " It seems like the parimutuel juggernaut once again has held sway in the sports world. The Yankees will be relegated to opening the series on Thursday. When asked why the Aqueduct meet is so long NYRA prez Charlie Haywood had this to say " our fans can not get enough of Aqueduct, it is an urban oasis of parimutuel splendor". The Yankees will be looking to capture their 27th World Series title when play opens on Thursday, the team from Philly will be looking to win consecutive titles.

25 October 2009

Pennington Freed The Slaves/Play Of The Day

There was a time when I was beholden to the New York Jets football team. When I was a kid in Flushing, New York I lived in the shadow of Shea stadium. On Saturday I could be found atttending mass at St. John Vianney but the Sunday mass was in front of the television watching the Jets game. It was not just a television show for me. It was a passionate experience, and I was emotionally behind the Jets. The Jets were the extension of some sort of tribe that I thought belonged to.

The Jets never won a super bowl in those days but the hook was that they played in exciting games. There was that bi-lateral offense assault against the Dolphins in 1986. This game was pure sports excitement as both teams scored touchdown after touchdown and racked up stats that have yet to be surpassed. It was a huge thrill when the Jets went on to win in overtime 51-45. There were other great games like the miracle in the Meadowlands in 2000 which was selected as the greatest Monday night game ever. We could go on and on about the exciting moments following the Jets. If the Jets were anything they were exciting; tons of offense, and thrilling games. Jets fans had character, if you could stay loyal to this hard-luck loser with a multiple Super bowl winner playing in the same venue, you had proved your noble and loyal bent. But then came Chad Pennington.

Chad Pennington seems like a fine person, to his credit he seems like a man worthy of respect. However his one great knock is that he is a total bore to watch as a NFL quarterback. Going from the excitement of Ken O'Brien-he could have been great if he didn't take so many sacks- to the cannon of Testaverde left me accustomed to excitement when watching the Jets. When the ultra-conservative dump pass strategy of Pennington emerged, I yawned. The Jets offensive attack became the equivalent of going to the track and betting $2 show on every favorite. It was sometime during the 2002 season that the NFL lost its hold on me. I began to see it for what it was; a medium to get the male demographic watching television commercials. The games now seemed boring and mindless. The players were faceless mercenaries who changed teams over other year chasing dollars. I was done with it. Chad Pennington freed this slave.

In honor of Pennington freeing the slaves we will play his equine namesake in the Mohawk. The namesake has a nice lone speed inside post set-up.

Belmont Race 9 (pp link under stallion E Dubai)

Win #4 Pennington

48 16-7-5
strike rate 33%
cumulative return 117.50
$2 ROI $2.45

19 October 2009

NYRA Sues Al Gore

Ozone Park - NYRA has taken the unprecedented step of suing Al Gore in New York Federal Court for fraud. Citing his work in "An Inconvenient Truth" NYRA has directly tied the fraud of climate change to decreased parimutuel handle that has placed NYRA and their 'Global Warming" extended turf season in peril. NYRA head Charlie Hayward "we bought into the global warming propaganda and it has cost us; we extended our turf season clear into December and now we have an obsolete condition book. It is mid-October and it has already snowed twice and we may have to shelf turf racing for the year " Promising not be fooled again by bogus environmental policy NYRA will revamp the 2010 condition book to reflect the post sun-spot colder weather conditions. The 2010 turf season will be moved back to late April while terminating some time in early October.

09 October 2009

Going To The Beach Play Of The Day

The focus shifts out west to Keeneland and Santa Anita this week. Both tracks have great cards for Saturday while New York racing devolves into something only the most hardened of degenerates could withstand. In the Shadwell Mile Justenuffhumor looks like the best miler on this side of the Atlantic and be anxoius to see him win his first GI. However the real sultry action is at Santa Anita this weekend.

In the Del Mar Mile we have the first and second choice both front end runners. The favorite is Cowboy Cal. His gambit is running on the front end. The second choice also likes to run on the front end; that horse Monterey Jazz is a "need the lead" type of runner. With two of the most powerful horses dueling on the front end perhaps someone from the back of the back could take advantage a favorable pace scenario. A logical winner is Whatsthescript with Allicansayiswow providing longshot appeal. I like the sequence of races here and will start a pick three covering Skyrush, Global Hunter, Monterey Jazz, Allicansayiswow, Cowboy Cal and Whatsthescript.

Mine That Bird looked absolutely over the top in a very disappointing West Virgina derby run. He looks like he has no shot whatsoever in the Goodwood Stakes GI. The DRF even picked him to win which should be good for some sucker money in the wagering. Since the derby winner will be one of the favorites the Goodwood becomes a tremendous wagering opportunity. The logical one looks like Colonel John but I will spread a few deep in pick 3s covering Parading, Gitano Hernando, Richard's Kid, Monzante along with the Colonel. With Mine That Bird sure to be off the board this is a good race to play exactas and trifectas.

The last leg of the pick 3 is the Lady's Secret GI. This race will anchor my pick 3 play. While Zenatta has assembled an undefeated record this year her campaign has been a bit like the Harlem Globetrotters. Every time she races she gets to beat up on the same old Washington Generals. This time the Boston Celtics are coming to town and my money will be on the Celtics er. Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach is the first real challenge Zenyatta has had to face all year and I am going to gamble that she is not up to it. The single is Cocoa Beach. The reward in the pick 3 should be generous.

Santa Anita Race 6 Power 3 - 2,4,7,9,10 / 3,4,6,7,8 / 1

Santa Anita Race 8 Win #1 Cocoa Beach

47 16-7-4
strike rate 34%
cumulative return 117.50
$2 ROI $2.47

07 October 2009

The Interpatation Of Saturday's B.C. Preps

The day had a wet forecast looming over it like a terminal prognosis. It thinned out the crowd and dimmed the spirits of those in attendance. However the early part of the day was dry, and it looked like the meteorologists were going to be completely wrong about a wet day of persistent light rain. They only thing they were wrong about was the intensity of the rain. Instead of light rain Belmont was walloped with a biblical strength drenching monsoon that quickly turned the fast track into brackish stream. The rain was cold, it was intense and it dominated the races, effecting times and results. The big story to emerge from these races was not a breakthrough performance and brilliant equine form but the utter dominance of the heavens over the results on Saturday.

The first stakes race of the day proceeded without any weather related interference. The heavy favorite Music Note was able to break out of the Pletcher trap set for her on the rail and draw off to a facile win.

While the horses were in the paddock for the Vosburgh the heavens opened up. A few miles to the north a powerful burst lightning illuminated the sky and deep growling thunder shook the grandstand. Within a matter of minutes the fast track was inundated with water. However the results were fairly formful with GI winner Kodiac Kowboy catching Fabulous Strike late near the wire.

The Flower Bowl was the wettest of the days races. This race was run in the most intense portion of the storm. The rain was coming down as hard as rain can fall from the heavens. It surely dominated the results here. Very slow fractions and an undoubtedly slick grass effected the results. However reason still held sway here. The winner Pure Clan is a Grade I filly and was the second choice in the wagering. I can only imagine that one or more of her competitors did not take kindly to being pelted with rain or the slick conditions under hoof.

The Turf Classic was also run in a driving rainstorm. Rarely are turf races run in these conditions. Visibility was poor as we could barely make out the runners on the backstretch. If someone told me that Interpatation was going to win this race wire to wire I would thing that they were delusional or quite confused. Fortunately for Bobby Barbara they would have been right. In a result that defied all reason we witnessed a horse in the winners circle who had not won in over two years; his last score in a ungraded race at Philly. Somehow Interpataion outgamed the best American older horse in training.

You would need a super-duper ego or passion fueled desperation to arrive at this interpretation pre-race. This result was in the spirit of outlandish interpretations like Freud's proclamation that all men are driven by the want of sexual relations with their mama. This is the race where the heavens and the deluge of water had the greatest effect. This was a strange race, run under perilous conditions. It was like have a yacht race in a typhoon; the conditions had greater effect on the results than the competition.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup was run over an extremely sloppy track. The absurdity of the Turf Classic was followed by a reasonable result. Summer Bird who has confirmed his affinity for wet racing surfaces outgamed Quality Road late for the win. This was a slow and tiring wet surface so it makes sense that the only horses in the field confirmed to like 12 furlongs was best in the lane at 10 furlongs.

Once again this years Breeder's Cup betting will be complicated by more surface questions. Significant horses like Gio Ponti and Summer Bird will have big questions associated with their handling of the pro ride surface. Will there be a transition issue out of these very wet races. Sometimes reasons yields to the absurd in racing as the results of the Turf Classic illustrated. Take these results with a grain of salt and consider the challenge of going from a brackish river of extreme rain and mud, to the arid strip of polymer, rubber and sand at Santa Anita. Compared to Belmont last Saturday; Santa Anita might as well be a synthetic planet somewhere between the moon and Venus. These are two extreme surfaces where just about anything can and will happen.

03 October 2009

Local B.C. Preps Are A Huge Dud

The last few weeks I have been looking forward to "Super Saturday" at Belmont. Now that the card has been printed and the plans solidified I feel like I have a juvenile case of Christmas morning buyers remorse. That toy looked so good in the Toys-Я-Us flyer, but now that it is open it is quite the bore. This Saturday's Belmont card is not only a bore, it just may be defective. Those are not a gaggle of small parts, those small parts are the small fields we are forced to play with. What factors have contributed to the sharp decent of graded race quality at Belmont? Racing has attempted to expand by division and has compartmentalized the competition into too many small parts. Too many tracks, too many surfaces and too many divisions.

Thirty-one betting interests over Saturday's five Grade I races equals an average of 6 per race. It must have pained P.J. Campo to publish this card. At least three of the races will have a formidable odds-on favorite. Gio Ponti will be 1-9, Fabulous Strike looks like 2-5 and Music Note should be 1-5. Not only are these races unbettable but they are boring to watch. This is not about some degenerate needing action, it is about an entertainment venue having the attraction of a pet rock. Racing this boring is like watching old re-runs of the "A team"; no matter what happens you know what the result is before they start; so why watch? Racing intrigue thrives on competition and uncertainty. Horses need to brought together; now the 14 B.C. divisions and multitude of tracks are keeping them apart.

Never to receive much luck from the heavens NYRA also drew the cold and rainy combo from the weather hopper; conditions that are sure to further decimate attendance. Those that stay away will have plenty of company. Nothing speaks to the failure of racing more than the attendance numbers for a non-TV day at Belmont Park. These five Grade I races will bring out an estimated 7-8K in attendance. The second biggest race card in New York City and attendance is a more pathetic number than the field sizes. Some politician will try to fix this with slot subsidies. This is no answer but I understand that it is almost compulsory to install them to "keep up with the Jones'". A game with no fans that depends on slot subsidies will not survive. In the same way that a family on long term welfare will disintegrate into moral degeneracy a game on welfare will disintegrate too . The slots band-aid can not support a sport that has no public interest. Sooner or later the rug of slots welfare will be pulled out from under the game which will expose a wasted carcass. More must be done to restore the game to a healthy size.

Why are these field sizes being decimated? Could it be redundancy in stakes races? Deserted tracks putting up sizable purses to run races that nobody watches or cares about? While Belmont runs the Beldame, Philly Park will host the Cotillion the same day. Instead of a clash of Careless Jewel and Music Note; the race fan can sleep through two odds-on borefest five filly fields. While Belmont runs the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Hawthorne will run the Hawthorne Gold Cup at the same distance. If those cups are not empty enough some of the liquid has to be sent over to the Hoosier state for the Indiana Derby. Another competitor for dirt route colts that could have ran in Chicago or New York is the Ohio Derby also run the same day. Don't forget the Meadowlands just opened up and they too will run a series of stakes races that competes with the Belmont program.

The frustrating part is that it seems like there is nothing anyone can do about these fields getting chopped into smaller and smaller pieces. The market pressure is there to fold some of these tracks and restore field size. Handles have crashed as horseplayers head to the exits and funeral homes. However slot welfare is keeping many of these venues propped up and field size remains depressed. We can only watch from the sidelines as the intrigue and fans are sucked out of the sport like a door was opened up on a pressurized airplane mid-flight.

A really good example of a short field borefest is Sunday's Kelso at Belmont. This Kelso Mile is an underwhelming race. This race looks like it competed with the Cliffhanger at Meadowlands for entries , which also has a smallish field. Combine these two heats and we have a decent prep for the B.C. Mile. Decent races are hard to find in the era were tracks like the Meadowlands are propped up by Atlantic City subsidies causing all races to have small fields and zero intrigue.

The leading B.C Mile Prep in New York will at best produce a 40-1 chance if the connections choose to enter the B.C. Mile. It it did not help that the B.C. also sliced and diced this group by introducing a dirt mile. Not only are races getting split but whole divisions are getting split. Further divisions are being opened along surface lines. The three surface split among turf, poly and dirt horses has exasperated the situation. It is almost like a perfect storm has taken shape. A combination of too much slot subsidized racing, too many B.C. divisions and the new poly surface has sliced and diced the fields to a point critical point where human interest is lost.

Expanding racing by division is a horrible trend that must be reversed. The results have been dramatically terrible. Perhaps some of the dirt mile bound horses could have stayed on the turf and ran in the Kelso. The people in charge should return to their business school education and review the chapter on mergers. Someone needs to take the lead and show this industry how to merge these fields instead of expanding to an unsupportable size.

29 September 2009

Take Your Time Albany

The Times-Union published a story about how SL green is the frontrunner for the Aqueduct slots contract that was approved in 2001. In the eight years since being approved gaming revenues have fell as the bubble economy burst. Not only is the economy a clear culprit but the revenues have been hindered as gaming has reached saturation levels. There are now casinos in most states bordering New York along with multiple locations within New York. What was once a long drive and a novelty; has become mundane and old-hat. Eight years and we still have nothing.

The important thing for Albany to remember is not to rush into anything. Other masterfully executed government ideas - take the community building high-rise public housing projects - are usually well thought out. I can not even think of a good casino that was privately built, can you? If the state wants to duplicate the success that was brought to the inner-city by the housing projects, it should take their time on the slot machine casino at Aqueduct. Albany seems so efficient and rushed getting these Aqueduct slots on line.

26 September 2009

Spooky Mulder Update

Belmont named an overnight stakes race on the 25SEP09 card after 11 year old gelding Spooky Mulder. The Spook raced 84 times, won 34 races and earned $950K. What the numbers do not show is that he was born with tremendous courage. His gameness set him apart from other racehorses. There were many races were he looked beaten, but then he would pull victory from the grasps of defeat.

Among the cold hearted track degenerates the Spook had a cult following; these are among the most captious hardboots one could attempt to please. The Spook melted their hearts like they were made of butter. While other horses generally have brief careers Spooky Mulder held his form from his first race in 2001 -a $30K maiden claimer at Turfway; he won his first race- to his last win at Monmouth in 2008. In between he won dozens of allowance and claiming races. He finally won an elusive stakes race capturing an overnight stakes at Delaware in 2007.

It was nice to hear from Jason Blewitt on the "Belmont in 30" broadcast that Spooky Mulder has been retired to Scott Lake's family farm. The measure of racing's humanity is in the respect afforded to horses like Spooky Mulder in retirement. It seems like Spooky Mulder will have a fine retirement with lots of friends to race against on the pasture in Annapolis Maryland.

Best Of Spooky Mulder

25 September 2009

Maryland Million Play Of The Day

Laurel Race 11 - The Maryland Million Classic
Going to continue the theme of fillies beating boys with Saturday's play of the day. For a change we are going to head south on I-95 to Laurel. Sweet Goodbye looks like a true alpha female as she has wired six out of her career eight starts. She surely will be out in front of these boys and is likely to take them wire to wire. An expected wet track should help her cause as her highest lifetime beyer figure was over a sloppy track and she has worked recently over a sloppy track. The 8-1 morning line would be fantastic but I am expecting a price like 5-2.

Win #10 Sweet Goodbye

46 16-7-4
strike rate 35%
cumulative return 117.50
$2 ROI $2.55

23 September 2009

Rice On Ice

After an absolutely sultry Saratoga meet the Linda Rice barn has gone completely frigid. She is yet to win a race at Belmont and has failed with several short priced favorites. Today she had Meriwether Jessica who was bet down to 9-2 in the feature at Belmont. The filly never lifted her hooves and finished a well beaten eighth. The important thing for handicappers to take heed is that her barn is taking money with all of their entries like we are still at Saratoga. Unlike Saratoga her horses are running like they are going uphill. This creates many good betting races were you can be assured of a well backed horse not winning. She looks like a bet against for the foreseeable future.

20 September 2009

Woodbine Mile Play Of The Day

Woodbine Race 10
That win bet on Grand Adventure is the play of the day. The price is too good to pass on.

Win #7 Grand Adventure

45 16-7-4
strike rate 36%
cumulative return 117.50
$2 ROI $2.61

Woodbine Mile

A full analysis is posted at the NTRA blog. The top pick is Ventura with a longshot selection of Grand Adventure. Bribon looms large but I suspect he runs a "C" race and not his "A" power race.
After looking at the PP's all week I crafted a wagering spree which hopefully will result in large returns.

Win 7/9
Ex Box 7,8,9
Tri 7,9/7,8,9/2,3,4,7,9

19 September 2009

To The Rescue Play Of The Day

Belmont Race 6

When I first looked at this race I was ready to anoint Lime Rickey as the power hoss but one too many dull finishes and one too many miles on the chassis halted that process. Then Rescue Squad caught my eye. He is fresh, has that big maiden breaker over the course and is royally bred. My pace scenario for this heat is honest Bro Nick, Cream Pie and Rocket all getting plenty of face time early. The rest of the field seems to be mid-packers not the kind from Green Bay but the kind of horse that likes cover and prefers to stay there.

I remember the day when Rescue Squad broke his maiden, he worked out a handy inside trip, he switched out for the drive, engaged his rival, looked his rival in the eye and caused his rival to cower in fear. Hopefully Rescue Squad has inherited the alpha-male meanness of his poppy Dynaformer. The best case scenario is that Rescue Squad has his maximum meanness scowl on display; something like the intimidating grimace of one of Stalin's go-to executioners. Not that I want him to hurt anyone, but maybe intimate a horse or two and win for fun. A Dynaformer colt late in the year figures to move forward, looking for the mild upset with Rescue Squad.

Win #6 Rescue Squad

44 16-7-3
strike rate 36%
cumulative return 117.50
$2 ROI $2.67

Power Cap Content at NTRA

Power cap blogs the B.C. Mile at NTRA

15 September 2009

B.C. Mile: Another Province In The Empire Of The Filly

When we look back at 2009 it is going to be remembered as the year of the filly. Fillies and mares have dominated the racing headlines from coast to coast. There are the extraordinary accomplishments of Rachel Alexandra which are well known. Then there is the undefeated Zenyatta who is the hero of the west. The honors are not limited to the Equine species; Linda Rice annexed the Saratoga trainers title; the first time a woman has claimed that honor. With so many dazzling performances from the "fairer gender" the post script for 2009 will surely read "the year of the filly". This phenomena has not been exclusive to the new world. Across the Atlantic a world class filly named Goldikova has dominated the European mile races and has set her sights on repeating in the B.C. Mile. In a year filled with female heroics perhaps the best filly of them all will arrive from France to make her claim at the Breeders Cup.

Goldikova is a filly that is the quintessential alpha mare. Like all alpha mares she has the burning desire to lead the herd. Not only is she an alpha mare but she has the skill-set of a world class racehorse. Her turn of foot is as brilliant as any other miler in training today, and like all brilliant racehorses she has the pace to ensure her position at the front. Far from being a run off speed horse she has the class to rate just off the lead and make her move to lead when promoted. While she may be an magnificent athlete, her best attribute may be her mind “I think she is superior to Miesque as she is better in the head. She has always been a little naughty at the stalls and that is the only fault she has,” Trainer Freddy Head told the Racing Post following the Jacques Le Marois.

Goldikova returns to Santa Anita as a formidable presence. The B.C. Mile has been her goal all year long. She will prepare for the B.C. Mile on the Arc de Triomphe undercard in the seven furlong Prix de la Foret. Not only has she displayed brilliant form this year but she has previously answered the questions that foreign raiders usually face. Her prowess has been proven over the Santa Anita turf, she is world class at the distance and the arid climate proved to be no hurdle last year. She returns as the defending champion. With similar conditions certain there is no reason to believe that she will be challenged this year in the B.C. Mile. Her intimidating presence at the head of affairs makes what is typically a contentious race; an uncomplicated affair. Her mere presence will discourage participation from overseas making her task even easier. With just a fair amount of racing luck the B.C Mile 2010 sets up as her coronation.

Goldikova's brilliance on display in the 2009 Jacques Le Marois At Deauville

Girolamo The Future Stakes Winner

If you want to know the who the most likely winner of the 2009 Jerome handicap will be, it is Godolphin stables' Girolamo. Girolamo displayed a wealth of racehorse prowess during Sunday's eighth race at Belmont. Not only does this colt possess blazing speed, but he has the class to rate kindly and the mind of a champion. Only an alpha male can cruise up to the lead like that and take such pleasure out of dominating out front. When a horse has all of these characteristics a stakes win is not a matter of "if" but "when". My intuition is that he will target the Jerome Cap' like his stablemate Discreet Cat and like his brilliant stablemate, a win looks like a certainty. Excuse me while I go out on a limb but if his form holds up we could be looking at the 2010 Dubai World Cup winner. This horse is an extraordinary talent and the pedigree assures that he will stay the classic trip.

12 September 2009

Double Dutch Power Play Of The Day

Belmont Race 8
I have perused the late pick 4 and I can see a winning ticket here. While due to reasons of wagering syndicate confidentiality I am not at liberty to reveal the entire play.

One of two possible singles looks like the chalk Gozzip Girl in the Garden City. This miss stands over the field in the same way if the Colossus Of Rhodes would stand over Garden City if it was erected on Stewart ave. Surface issues are checked off as she won the Sands Point over a yielding course which mitigates the possibility of today's soft turf posing an issue. Considering the prime handicapping factors she holds class, pace and distance edges as she scored at 10 furlongs which makes 9 furlongs well within her distance sweet spot. The late wagers will be based around her. Do not be ashamed to take the short price. She gets checks on every box of the checklist.

Win #1 Gozzip Girl

Belmont Race 9
Another horse I like is Brecciate in race 9. This guy has been working out with grade one winner Bribon. Training with Bribon and racing against this modest crew is like training with Arnold for for a weight lifting competition but competing against members of the local nursing home. Other than keeping good company in the morning the other there is more to like. Brecciate is returning second off layoff and returning off a big win, one of my personal pet angles. The seven furlongs is going to suit him very well. Brecciate will be featured prominently in my late plays and well be my grand slam single.

Win #11 Brecciate

42 15-7-3
strike rate 36%
cumulative return 112.90
$2 ROI $2.69