Power Cap

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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