Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

31 March 2009

Racing's Favorite Punching Bag

There is a poll on the right margin called "Racing's Favorite Punching Bag". A slow Tuesday is a good time to to explain what this is all about. This Punching Bag is not a speed bag or a heavy bag but the people and personalities in the game that take an undue amount of abuse or criticism, much of it unwarranted. Most of this abuse seems to stem from jealousy, private racial hostility or human nature to resent those that openly speak the truth. Surely there are times when these punching bags deserve their abuse but I am still trying to find the crime in IEAH acquiring a 50% stake in Gotham winner I want revenge. This week the gym has been packed and our punching bag poll mates have been getting worked over for little or no reason. Let's see a few examples before we vote;

IEAH Stable

Sheikh Mohammed

Frank Stronach

Churchill Downs

Rick Dutrow


Breeders Cup

30 March 2009

Female Jockey Mania At Aqueduct

With five women riding at Aqueduct this past winter the press is starting to take notice. There hasn't been this many local articles about racing outside of the triple crown in years. It just goes to show that if you want some attention get a few cute girls into the mix. First there was the Maylan Studart article in the Times, then the Davis article in the Times and the trifecta was capped by an article about all five in the Daily News. Will this get more people out to the Wood Memorial this Saturday? Not sure if it will draw one person to the game but every little bit helps in a game that is attention starved. For my money Rosie Napravnik is one of the best jockeys in the room boy or girl.

Photo Credit: Bryan Smith NYDN

Maylan Studart NY Times

Jackie Davis NY Times

Female Jockeys NY Daily News

28 March 2009

What Happened To The NTRA Pick 4?

A few years ago there used to be a NTRA pick 4 on a big racing Saturday like this weekends Wood Memorial/Santa Anita Derby day. It was a interesting wager that combined the best races of the weekend, not only was it a fun wager but it was a wager that offered value. The pick 4 was a great complement to the NTRA TV coverage as usually all four races were on TV. The wager seemed to be popular, why was it vanquished? The demise of this wager is a step in the wrong direction for promoting the sport. With super derby prep Saturday looming next week this bet will be missed.

Grade I Play Of The Day 28MAR09

Gulfstream Race 10 Florida Derby

There are umpteen different analysis versions available for this race. If they don't tell you that Quality Road lays over this field they are not looking at this race properly or they have found themselves filling in the unfortunate role of pari-mutuel patsy. Some are even saying that two or three horses in this race are closely matched. Not only should these cappers not be betting this race but they should head to the DMV for an eye exam. The field may be closely matched in the paddock but at the wire Quality Road is going to be all alone. Adding to the appeal Quality Road is the morning line second choice. With hype horse Dunkirk sure to take win money like a pari-mutuel black hole you may even see 9-5 on Quality Road. When you go to the windows tell em Powercapper sent you and make a stout bet on Quality Road. If you have been infected with some sort of greed-like affliction call out an exacta with Dunkirk tossed from both slots with Q.R. keyed up top to placate your greedy tendencies.

Win #2 Q.R.

Quality Stats

69 15-9-10
strike rate 22%
cumulative return $146.90
$2 ROI $2.13

Belmont Park Walking Directions

People asked so here is a power cap transit special. With the Belmont Special train only a memory people without cars need a way to get to the races. As someone that has lived a few blocks from Belmont I know the local area well. Out of all the local train stations Queens Village is the closest. Floral Park is too far east and Bellerose is inconvenient leaving you far from the front side entrance. Here are the walking directions to Belmont from Queens Village Station. There is a faster/shorter way but it involves walking on the Cross Island under the railroad underpass and that is only for the bravest of urban explorers, inquire within about that special route.

Walking Directions From Queens Village LIRR To Belmont

27 March 2009

The End Of The Line For The Belmont Special

The MTA finalized plans to cancel service to the Belmont Park. This station was one of the first to be electrified in the early 1900's. My favorite station on the LIRR will sit idle for the foreseeable future. There will be nearby service to the Queens Village Station but there is still a half mile trek to the track. Perhaps NYRA will arrange for buses to shuttle riders from this train station to Belmont.

As a local taxpayer and dedicated horseplayer it is sad that $1.8 billion of my taxes have gone to construct a new Yankee Stadium and Mets Stadium yet they canceled the train to the best stadium of them all. I hope the ballfans enjoy spending $500 watching their favorite steroid fueled meathead chase balls and I hope they cheer really loud when the PA system tells them to.

Here is a few of my favorite photos of Belmont Train Station

From Power Cap

From Power Cap

From Power Cap

Dubai World Cup Card 2009

If every racecard was like this the sport people in the gambling versus sport racing debate would win hands down. This outstanding card features 48 graded/group stakes winners. The intrigue is provided in that the horses arrive from six continents, it is a showdown on a global scale.

This is the rare kind of card that I can watch without having a stake in the outcome. However like most times I do have an opinion and I will take the opportunity to pari-mutually express that opinion. The forecast is calling for thunderstorms and reduced visability so keep an eye on the sky.

Dubai World Cup GI

This race more than any other of the great globally recognized group stakes is dominated by favorites. Typically the favorite is the big American horse or the big Godolphin horse. This year the big horse will be neither. Michael DeKock is holding all the trump cards with Asiatic Boy. This horse loves the track, has been prepped the right way for the race and loves the distance. There is no monster like Curlin to usurp his glory

In the pari-mutuel pools that are available for Americans there should be fair value on Asiatic Boy. Over the years the American horses have been grossly underlaid in these pools. A sterling example is Lavaman who was 5-2 a few years ago in the Dubai Duty Free who finished a no-hope last. For the world cup I am going to askew the win pool for my prime wager and make my home in the exacta pool. I feel that Albertus Maximius is not up to the task and will either be the favorite or a well bet second choice. I feel that Bert Max will be out of the frame, opening up value for a longshot to spice up the exacta.

World cup exacta Asiatic Boy Keyed over Happy Boy, Well Armed, Casino Drive, Joe Louis, Muller, Paris Perfect and My Indy

Exacta 4 / 5,7,8,9,11,13,14

Sheema Classic GI

This star studded field features twelve graded/group winners. The cream should rise to the top here as they have twelve furlongs to decide who the cream is. For my money I may play a multi-race wager that leads into the world cup. The class horses here are Youmzain, Purple Moon, Quijano, Doctor Dino and Kirklees. If you can afford to go five deep you can rest assured you have the winner. If you want to bet one horse take the price on Purple Moon, he has shown that he is up to the task and he should improve second time over the course.

Dubai Duty Free G1

This is a good race to start a pick 3. Like the Sheema Classic count on the class the rise to top. If we can beat Kip Deville here we should start off with some value.

My $1 Pick three that starts in the duty free will look like 3,4,8,10,12,13,15,16 / 6,7,10,13,14 / 4 = $40 wager

Mr. Fantasy Off Derby Trail

Does Terry Finley read Power Cap? The horse who reacted adversely to the crowd at the Gotham is off the derby trail. He will be spotted much more judiciously in The Withers. With his talent he has a chance to win many New York bred races like his brother Tin Cup Chalice. Shipping may be an issue but if he likes a good road trip those summer races like the WV Derby feature huge purses and moderate competition. Mr. Fantasy's summer fantasy may involve standing in the winner circle of B level tracks like Mountaineer, Philly Park or Hoosier. The lucrative New York Bred triple could be his for the taking. Taking this colt off the derby trail was a sharp call. The derby is not everything and Finley recognizes this. The man in charge of West Point is a smooth operator.

26 March 2009

Chemical Culture Pervades

Drugs in American racing is not a unique phenomenon. For many generations anything American with legs or roots has been enhanced with a substance or genetically engineered for a specific quality. It is disingenuous for the New York Times to single out racing as a bastion of synthetic advantage. Everything from your corn based breakfast cereal to your dinner steak to your ballgame has been chemically enhanced by one substance or another. The chemical enhancement culture is everywhere and in everything. Racing is just another part of this culture where chemical advantage is annexed.

An outstanding example of a real synthetic coup is corn. Before rich petroleum based fertilizers and genetic engineering corn was a not very tasty, not very nutritious Native American crop. With the powerful assistance of petroleum based fertilizer combined with genetic engineering corn yields have increased from 20 bushels per acre in 1900 to 138 bushels. These impeccable gains in corn yields have led to cows forgoing a grass diet to eat the cheap corn. Instead of having a steer eat his natural diet of grass for 3 years to reach 1000 lbs you can combine corn feed and steroids and have him reach 1200 lbs in 18 months. Nature is not this easy and nature throws up road blocks. When nature objects, science and chemical culture provides the answers. When the cattle get sick from eating an unnatural corn diet the chemical culture prescibes that the cattle ingest a regular regimen of antibiotics. Without these antibiotics your common steer might not live long enough to make to your dinner plate. When the corn diet fattens the steer quickly it is also unnatural and killing the steer slowly. So when you sit down to your next steak dinner remember that you are not eating beef but you are consuming oil, steroids and antibiotics.

The same philosophy that has held sway in the world of agriculture has made its way to American sports as well. There way be a time when all the statistical records of major league ballplayers from the period from 1994-2007 may have an asterisk next to their name. Almost every homerun/pitching record setter has been linked to human growth hormone and anabolic steroids. It is almost like baseball in the 1990's was like corn agriculture in the early part of the 20th century. Numbers that were static for over a generation were exploding and expanding like an Obama deficit. Pumped it up with synthetic substances and the homerun yields exploded exponentially. While this may be unsavory the public largely ignored that drugs were the foundation of the statistical explosion. Huge crowds showed up for the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGuire show in 1998 when both players smashed the home run record with the help of anabolic steroids. This drug enhanced farce was a huge boon for MLB and helped it make a comeback after its disastrous 1994 labor strike. Only with the recent public outcry has baseball corrected it's ways and has begun to sun chemical culture substances.

With racing sort of a being a hybrid of Gambling/Sport/Agriculture it is of little surprise that chemical enhancement American philosophy has made its way to racing. Yes American horses race on Lasix and in some jurisdictions anti-inflammatory medication like bute. It is unfortunate that American racing has polluted the thoroughbred gene pool with these substances. The rest of the world really does have it on the drugs in racing issue. When viewed in the context of America in the late 20th century American racing and drugs is hardly a surprise. It is part of a larger culture that laughs at the laws of nature and blasts natural consequences with synthetic substances. Now that we are squarely in the 21st century many of the consequences for our dependence on drugs and chemical shortcuts have began to emerge. There is a growing market for grassfed beef and notorious steroid ballplayer freaks like Barry Bonds are shunned.
Racing has begun the task of reform and in many ways is ahead of your dinner which is still loaded with steroids, antibiotics and petroleum rich fertilizer. Today is a golden opportunity for racing to get ahead of the curve and dump the chemical dependence addiction in the rear view mirror.

Florida Shipper Play Of The Day 26MAR09

Aqueduct Race 3

Dancing Robbins a Finger Lakes shipper by way of Palm Beach Downs and is live here at 12-1. Horse has double the wins of anyone in the field. He also is the only one that has benefited from a warm Florida vacation. His pace is tops in the field. If he can class up he is the winner here and at 12-1 is great wager.

W #7 Dancing Robbins

68 15-9-10
strike rate 22%
cumulative return $146.90
$2 ROI $2.16

18 March 2009

Horseracing Is For Horseplayers

While I like Handride's passion for the sport, I do not agree that horse racing will ever be a mainstream sport the way NFL/MLB/NBA is mainstream. First I am a horseplayer and second I am a fan who marvels at the view from the grandstand at Belmont. While the horses are gorgeous the view only captures my attention for a moment. What keeps me hooked in this game is that I am a dedicated horseplayer who keeps daily notes, maintains a database and has devised my own system to handicap races. A horseplayer has more in common with Bobby Fischer than he/she does with Joe Six Pack tailgating on Sunday afternoon. Horse racing is a niche sport and it caters to gamblers, horseplayers or punters. Horseplayers are people who seek out puzzles to unravel, these are people who are excited by unraveling complexity, and do not want to be emotionally manipulated by simplicity. Example after example proves without a doubt that horse racing is most successful in jurisdictions (HKG, AUS, LON, NYC,SIN, TYO, IRE) where gambling flourishes.

NBA/NHL/MLB/NFL needs a fantasy league because the games themselves are not engaging as a stand alone entity. There is not that much to think about if you are not gambling on a pro-sports game. It is sit, watch the commercials and root type of thing. The TV talks and you listen. The info streams in from the TV, from the computer and from the handheld device. It is mostly a one way info stream. The engagement for the pro-sports fan involves an emotional attachment to one team. The profit for the NFL is in having that emotionally attached fan going out to order a TV package, buy $120 jerseys, $130 sneakers and $75 fathead wall posters. The expression of the pro-sports fan is in consuming. The expression of a horseplayer is in wagering.

Racing can not rival those pro-sports games in the merchandising department. Racing is not selling a fantasy or emotional projection, racing is providing the vehicle for you to challenge your mind. Nobody is going to go out and buy $120 Merlin Circle(well maybe me) sneakers. Take away that blind emotional fan attachment and the pro-sports games are a bore if you do not have action on the games. If games are a bore racing is even more of a huge bore if you do not have an opinion on the races.

Where racing diverts from team sports is that there is nearly nil rooting interest on a daily basis with racing. If racing had a fantasy following like the NFL this fantasy would neglect 99% of racing's content. However all is not lost for what the pro-sports game lacks racing holds in spades. Racing is a tremendous mental puzzle, when the game is healthy and the racing is robust there is nothing better than a day at the track. If you open up an account with any ADW and you have just bought a ticket to the greatest game going and your favorite team is your account balance.

Why waste the public's time and market the game as small time fantasy when the game is the greatest gambling orgy known to man? There are small time micro-sites available to rein in the newbies. YOUBET.NET is where you can open a play bankroll account. Road to the Roses is a derby prep fantasy. TVG had a fantasy league a few years ago that was a abject failure. With failure staring right in your face why continue to bang your head against the wall with fantasy games? Even a play money exercise is more engaging than a fantasy game where you have to wait for the Saturday stakes to see your horse win so you can get a point or two. What about the other 1000 races a week where there are no graded stakes horses? These fantasy games are for entry level fans of the game and most quickly move past entry level fan to full blown horseplayer in a matter of months.

How can you sell the sport as a list of top horses while the mental challenge of handicapping is neglected? This game is massive rush when you start to open up your mind to the form of the thoroughbred. The juice is in building opinions and the benefit is in bridging new synapses in your brain while discovering ideas about what constitutes winning form. Breaking down puzzles is what fuels the interest in racing.

Suddenly in the last two years sending a colt to stud is not as profitable as it once was. Some of the factors pushing away casual fans are turning around. The racing game is gaining economic appeal over the breeding game. This should help keep stakes horses in training for a few more years. This could widen the appeal for the entry level fans of the game.

Another problem is too much racing. It makes the product unpalatable on a daily basis for all but the must dedicated of horseplayers. This problem is also attempting to correct itself. Tracks going bankrupt is an excellent thing for the overall health of the game. There is too much racing and not enough horses. Short term pain means long term vigor. On any Saturday during the summer there are a dozen (SAR,MTH,SUF,PHA,DEL,CNL,CT, MNR,PEN, WO, FL, PID) tracks running on a Saturday along the east coast, this is too much racing and this goes on 7 days a week almost every week of the year. The product is watered down and needs to right size down to a quality product. Right sizing the game is a dirty job but fortunately the hand of market forces will do the dirty job.

With less entertainment options and a more concentrated version of the game bored sports fans who are looking for a challenge will be drawn in to the greatest show on turf. Patrick is doing a great job of pushing the game into the present, but let's not lose sight of what the game really is.

18Mar09 Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 3

With Hill shipping out soon for Santa Anita here is his chance to show them how to ride two turns. Hill has the mount on hidden power horse Pluracity who is poised to take this field wire to wire. Pluracity gets class relief in here and drops to the lower class level than the last three. Last out was a real hot pace with speedsters like Temporary Saint, Like Now and Mister Triester hard at his hooves. Today he only has to outgame Prince Of Iron on the lead who will likely be intimidated by the need the lead monster Pluracity. With warm winds forecast out of the south the track should be much more conducive to the forward running style. Pluracity is the third choice on the morning line and is the most likely winner of this race.

W #5 Pluracity


67 15-9-10
strike rate 22%
cumulative return $146.90
$2 ROI $2.19

Channing Hill Moves His Tack to Santa Anita

Looks like Channing Hill has Jockeys fever. He is leaving New York after riding the NYRA curcuit since 2005. Looks like three factors have pulled him out of New York. The first factor must be that he lost first call for Mike Hushion who also has had a slow winter. The second factor is that he has star potential in California with the filming of Jockeys. The third factor is that he has hired top agent Tom Knust. Channing's ground saving, patient style should work well in California and I bet he becomes a focal point of season two of Jockeys.

Channing Hill Photo By Holly Van Voast

14 March 2009

14Mar Play Of The Day

Santa Anita Race 4
Focusing the entirety of my handicapping effort on the Magna 5 carryover. After much scrutiny the single is going to be the very logical Pioneer Of The Nile in Santa Anita Race 4. Pioneer Of The Nile has class, form and pace edges over this field and seems to have scared off all of his competition.

Win #2 Pioneer Of The Nile

66 14-9-10
strike rate 21%
cumulative return $144.30
$2 ROI $2.19

12 March 2009

Speed & Florida Shippers

Two things to look for in the next few weeks at Aqueduct is speed and Florida shippers. Move both up a few notches. For most of the winter the track was deep, dry and tiring. There should be a few speed winners everyday that ran over a tiring surface last out that have darkened form. Prices will be available. The other power angle is the Florida shipper season has started. These Florida horses absolutely dominate for the next few months over the tired winter stock.

10 March 2009

Gotham Recap

Was at the Gotham Stakes and it was a glorious day. After months of bone chilling cold it warmed into the 60's. The crowd was rather large compared to previous runnings of the Gotham, it seems like the Gotham has become a mini-event. For almost the whole entire winter it has been cold and the track has played like a deep dry beach. Now that the thaw is in full effect, the track superintendent was able to liberally water the track. This water created a speed bias that dominated the results of the days races. The record shows that eight of ten race were won by horses on the lead.

The biggest indicator of the bias was the win by Sassification. This filly has had so many better opportunities to win races and has failed so miserably in the past. For her to go wire to wire at 49-1 versus a sprint field confirmed the massive bias. Immediatly proceeding her race the track was watered tightening it up even more. This track was the equivilent of a conveyor belt for a need the lead speed horse like Sassification.

Mr. Fantasy really acted up before the Gotham. The crowd in the paddock was tremendous, if a fire official was on hand he would have called for a head count. Mr. Fantasy was fractious, anxious and lathered up. This is no way for a speed horse to act before a graded stakes race. He lost this race in the paddock. If this colt could settle down he could run better next out. He requires a paddock check for all future races. The connections should get off the Derby trail with this one, there is no way he could handle that commotion and go 10 furlongs. Try the Bay Shore/Withers combo short term and move forward from there.

The winner I want Revenge was clearly impressive. Mullins was on hand and the horse looked sharp. My impression is that Mullins is a extraordinary trainer that works hard and has all ducks in a row. The colt stepped off the plane and opened up on a highly regarded field, winning for fun. On paper he looked like a stalker but he outgamed many speed horses at their own game and not one horse made up ground on him in the lane. I am going to think long and hard before wagering against this horse in the Wood Memorial.

The horse to watch is the place finisher. Imperial Council rated at the back of the pack while on the stretchout. I always discount closers stretching out from sprints to a route, the added distance almost always dulls the late move. Instead of dulling the late move, Imperial Council almost passed the entire field in the lane on a track where few could make up ground, especially in route races. There was not one closing move on the entire day in a route race that could come anything close to what Imperial Council did. This horse has room for improvement and Shug is taking his time. Could be peaking right around the first Saturday in May.