Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

24 February 2010

Derby Trail Hyperbole

When trainers start talking about their three year old colts this is a good time to tune out. Lately three well bet three year old colts on the derby trail who where incisively hyped up by their trainers all disapointed. All three trainers did interviews on TVG/HRTV all three went to the post either a favorite or second choice.

The ultimate hype horse was Eightfiveinafifty. This was just a maiden winner but his trainer appeared on TVG, HRTV and had numerous articles written about him. Not only was Gary Contessa acting as his trainer, but he was also acting as this colt's publicist. In the lead up to the Whirlaway Gary Contessa said“But I would bet that this horse will get two turns. Watching him in the mornings, I get the impression that he’ll run all day; he never gets enough. When he’s done galloping in the morning, it’s all the rider can do to pull him up. If I breeze him five-eighths, it’s at least a mile before he gets pulled up. He has a lot of gears.” As we all know Eightfiveinafifty was bet down to 1-4 and had a disaster of a race. There was some sort of rankness, then an equipment failure which nearly lead to Eightfiveinafifty taking a solo tour of Ozone Park. This horse opened up at 1-9 on the tote; clearly someone was listening to Contessa and they paid for it.

Eightyfiveinafifty's disastrous Whirlaway performance

Then there is Buddy's Saint who was the favorite in last weeks Fountain Of Youth. After crossing the wire first in all of his New York races this colt was tabbed as a derby favorite by many. Moved by the hope of a derby winner, inner track stalwart Bruce Levine uncharacteristically moved a string of horses down to Gulfstream for the winter. The normally reserved Levine has also acted as Buddy's Saint press agent, appearing on TVG to talk about Buddy's Saint. "I think he's a Derby horse. He doesn't have to show me," says Levine, 55. "His 2-year-old year was very good. We have to pick it up a bit, but I wouldn't trade horses with anybody in America. He's done everything I've asked of him, and then some." Like Eightfiveinafifty Buddy's Saints fountain of youth was a disappointment. After some early trouble Buddy's Saint was equus non grata at the front of this herd. He finished next to last disappointing the chalk bettors.

A trainer that is no stranger to the spotlight is D. Wayne Lukas. He trains Kentucky Derby hopeful Dublin. This is a trainer that knows that a good three year old colt can win just one or two prep races on the derby trail and can find a lucrative home at stud. Think about a horse like Proud Citizen that was trained by Lukas. This colt amassed just one GII victory in the Lexington Stakes and parlayed that into a gig standing stud in Kentucky. Having a press friendly trainer like Lukas certainly helped Proud Citizen have a good life after his racing career was cut short by a leg fracture in the Belmont stakes. Lukas is working the same magic for Dublin. Lukas said about Dublin "I’ve led some pretty good horses over there [to run in the Kentucky Derby]," Lukas said, "and he could be as good as any of them." Dublin did not make Lukas look totally foolish, he finished a respectable second to race favorite Conveyance. With a positive press friendly trainer like Lukas on his side Dublin will continue to race in the limelight. With all of this positive press Dublin will have every chance to achieve fame and land a home at stud.

D. Wayne Lukas looking dapper in the limelight

When betting the triple crown trail perhaps it is best to avoid the articles in the racing form. Not only are the trainers responsible for the care and development of their charges, but they also work as their publicists. The smart money takes what the trainers say with a grain of salt. Let the performances on the track sway your opinion; not the words of a man who stands to gain by the fame of the horse that he is touting.

18 February 2010

Derby Winner?

Everyone who watched Odysseus dominate at Tampa this week had to be impressed. After keeping an eye out all year this colt is the first three year old colt to impress me. This colt rated kindly and won as the rider pleased under his own courage. The rating gear and the lack of greenness for such a lightly raced horse was especially impressive. Combine those attributes with the ability to go two turns at first asking over a tiring track like Tampa and we may have something special.

He seems to have all the requisite skills and maturity to be a really nice horse. The connections Tom Albertraini and Padua Stables know how to get a horse to the triple crown. Time is their enemy but I think Albertrani can pull off the derby gate with this horse. The Tampa Bay derby is next up for this promising colt.

14 February 2010

Primetime~ Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 9
Love the rail, the speed and the distance ability of #1 She's Prime. Not much speed in here and I think she could be clear and loose on the lead at a square price. The forecast is calling for windy conditions; this usually favors the front runners. In a field were the two turn resumes are short, She's Prime is a two turn master. When you consider the set up, the class and the price, She's Prime, indeed.

Win #1 She's Prime

2010 stats
4 1-0-1
strike rate 25%
cumulative return $39.80
$2 ROI $9.95
average winner $39.80

13 February 2010

Frame Of Reference~Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 1

Frame Of Reference is the likely second choice today in race 1 but he is my top selection. I like three things about this colt.
  • Frame Of Reference is a colt with 3 wins and gets to face N3L comp based on his age.
  • Drops out of a tough race with multiple winners and he was bet down to 5-2 that day.
  • The race favorite Geno Green is a game horse but he will likely be bet down to odds-on. There are solid knocks on this favorite; he has not run for over six weeks and scratched(29JAN10 trainer) in the interim. Maybe the claim-o-rama is taking a toll on him as he has changed barns four times in the last 5 months.
5-2 ML may not be all a dreamboat price on A $750k colt in for $7.5 K, but with the expected deluge of action on vulnerable Geno Green I think there is built-in value.

Win #6 Frame Of Reference

2010 stats
3 1-0-1
strike rate 33%
cumulative return $39.80
$2 ROI $13.27
average winner $39.80

12 February 2010

Not Fit For Marriage

In the post sexual revolution Western world people are just not marriage material anymore. This is not only applicable to the domestic situation paradigm. Even in sports men can not stay committed or married to one thing. To be a fan of horse racing you must be married to it. This fact was illustrated while the commentators discussed the Rachel/Zenyatta match-up on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption" and "Around The Horn". Rather than discussing the event the reaction was more of a shrug of the shoulders. Tony Realie referred to the one favorable responder on Around The Horn as "the only person to visit an OTB not on the recently deceased list" and stated the only thing that would get him to watch it would be "if Danica Patrick was one of the jockeys". Then Mike Wilbon on PTI, apologizing to his dead father who "loved" horse racing, said "he could care less but would feel guilty as he flipped the channel to find something really interesting.

ESPN Commentator Tony Reali thinks horse racing is for old guys

These opinions are not isolated; these are the ubiquitous opinions of the masses regarding horse racing. As a leisure pastime horse racing requires too much thinking and commands too much engagement for the common man. Horse racing is high maintenance entertainment. The modern man needs something quick, easy and emotionally stimulating. The entertainment of choice should tug on the emotional heartstrings producing feelings of wonder, awe, anxiety and anticipation. While horse racing does cultivate many emotions in people it does so after a long term engagement. Before the deep positive feeling are developed the horse racing fan will likely bear the emotional devastation of losing a large wager or seeing a horse get hurt. Horse racing's long term engagement of reason has little appeal for a population that used to jumping from one short term thrill to another.

The ball sports discussed on TV have broad appeal because they are easy to understand. Due to the constant droning by the TV presenters, everyone can be an expert without feeling thing sting of being wrong or confused. The presenters hold the hands of the fans and make opinions in people where there are is limited brain activity. By providing all the requisite thoughts needed for the viewers the presenters ensure everyone that watches can follow along with ease. In contrast racing's complex PP's can bewilder the masses with a barrage of numbers, obscure figures and industry verbiage. The horse racing game is challenging; even the commentators frequently look foolish as their expert opinion fails to produce most of the time.

The appeal of these games is mostly in manipulating the emotions of the viewers. In contrast racing appeals to reason; reason is a mental facility that many people either do not use or do not realize even exists. With so few people using reason in their daily life racing has a limited market to draw upon. People are not going to say "horse racing? I'm too shallow and flaky to follow that". Instead the horse racing game is dismissed a total bore and a mindless exercise of animals running in an oval. Sadly most do not even realize the challenge and enrichment procured from internalizing and solving the puzzle of "who is going to win this race today?". While horse racing flounders TV-centric games that manipulate emotions like football or MMA fighting bring in the big ratings.

Compared to the long term marriage commitment required to follow horse racing, watching ball sports is like going to a singles bar. You can just jump into a singles bar, have a few drinks, maybe a dance or two and if the night is really good it may end at an hotel room. When these ballgames are over the viewer can cut all ties, just like a guy leaving the hotel. With racing there are long-term commitments; you have the bankroll to propagate, there is the guilt tied in to losing, there are future cards to consider and self control to master. This commitment only appeals to the few. These days manipulating passions is going to trump fostering long term reason time after time. It is clear that the commentators on ESPN clearly prefer the singles bar fun over the long term enrichment of marriage.

06 February 2010

The Prius And Synthetic Surfaces Revisted

The unintended consequences of "consumer morality" have once again caused havoc for those that travel on four legs or four wheels. The complex designs of the Toyota Prius and the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita have placed people in danger. We first drew parallel lines between these two technological wonders last year. Since then the troubles of both technologies have increased exponentially.

One of the chief appeals of the Prius is the moral high ground. Through technology this automobile promises to be efficient and safe. Through technology the problems of pollution and finite resources are addressed. Saving fuel and producing less emissions makes people feel good about themselves. They may be saving even more fuel after faulty software causes difficulty braking and drivers end up injuring themselves and their family in a crash. The Prius is rated at 49 MPG highway. My 87' Chevy Sprint was rated at 51 MPG highway and the brakes worked like a charm twenty years ago. The Sprint was smart compact design, that was simple and easily maintainable for years and years of use. The Prius will be difficult to maintain over the long term; after a few years a huge chemical laden battery must be disposed of and replaced. This could flood the environment with lead, nickel and lithium. Over the long term this car will be plagued by unintended consequences.

23 year old Chevy Sprint has better MPG than cutting edge Prius

Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface is much like the Prius. Both are an outgrowth of "ethical consumerism". When California mandated that tracks install a synthetic racing surface, they did this action with nothing but moral benevolence in their hearts. This technology was supposed to mitigate the consequences of injuries and death. The Pro-Ride was a way to use technology to increase safety and make horse racing a kinder and gentler endeavor. The Pro-Ride surface has been a miserable failure. Not only are the safety benefits not been realized but this is an all-weather surface only if the weather is sunny.

Once again rain caused Santa Anita to close this weekend causing untold hardship for the horsemen and track management. The unintended consequence of "sand gauge" has caused the drainage system to fail under the mixture of polymer, wax, sand and rubber. With poor drainage this technology is rendered a complete failure, much like the driver that crashes their Prius due to brake failure.

Are the stats showing that synthetic surfaces are safer than dirt accurate? Ed at BEB brings up a salient point regarding the stats comparing surfaces. The stats comparing synthetic to dirt surfaces are comparing new synthetic surfaces to dirt surfaces that may be 50 years old. A closer look reveals that the problems with horse breakdowns are not a surface issue but track maintenance issues. Not only did technology not address the problem, but what is even worse they may be addressing the wrong problem. The rash of breakdowns at places like Del Mar was more of a track maintenance issue that was framed as a surface issue as there is more money in selling a new surface than maintaining a racetrack to exacting standards. In just a few years when the new surfaces wear out, the track maintenance issues will return.

While the early stats look good for a new all-weather surface, this has not been proven over time. As these surfaces age they may disintegrate into something more dangerous than the dirt surfaces they replaced. Over time the Prius may not be a viable vehicle after a few years as it's complex systems fail and repairs exceed the cost of acquiring a new vehicle. Once again the technology that delivers ethical consumerism has failed. It turns out there is so substitute for simple yet smart design coupled with sound maintenance.

Vicious Rapids~Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 2


Like the price, second off the layoff form and chances of Vicious Rapids. This is a horse with a good shot to win at an appealing price. That last race was tough with two highly regarded horses running one two. The races at Presque Isle were better than they looked. Both the win and place horses of the 05SEP race went on to graded stakes placings. The winner of the 21AUG race whistle Pig is a hard knocker with 14 career scores. Vicious Rapids gets off the rail today and could find a really nice trip rallying from just off the pace. This race is also second time dirt and he should move forward with a spin over the course. These are quality connections from Finger Lakes that will not attract much play. A fair price is likely in the 8-1 range. If we get a little lucky with Vicious Rapids and beat Eightyfive cents in the next race the multi-race bets could be quite the score.

Win #3 Vicious Rapids

2010 stats
2 0-0-1
strike rate 0%
cumulative return $NIL
average winner $NIL

04 February 2010

Apple Polishing~Play Of The Day

Aqueduct Race 9

Apple (9-2ML) shines as the standout in race 9 today. This condition remains a power cap goldmine as many handicappers -who can't see past a speed figure- have missed the tremendous edge that the 4 year olds wield over the N3L's. This filly slips into the N3L condition on the grounds of her age . She is the only filly in the field with more than 2 wins. She also beat 25K open company to earn that third win. She has second off the layoff form. She has the cozy rail post and figures to take over from Runnin on Guilt when that off the layoff runner tires. Price figures to be square as the OTB players hammer their favorite Dutrow/Dominguez combo while other clueless degenerates take their customary last race stab with one of the hopeless longshots. Power players will try to woo fates fancy with an Apple.

Win #1 Apple

2010 stats
1 0-0-1
strike rate 0%
cumulative return $NIL
average winner $NIL

Arromanches Remembered

Yesterday's first race was named in honor of Aqueduct hero Arromanches "the horse that refuses to lose". Arromanches hasn't been seen near Aqueduct in 8 years but he is not forgotten. His regular jockey CC Lopez still has affection for Arromanches “I rode him for nearly everybody that had him – and I can’t tell you how many people had him – and he made money for all of them. I was very fortunate – he was a great horse to ride and I really loved him.”

Horses like Arromanches are the heart and soul of the game. Arromanches compiled a record of 31 wins, 15 places and 9 shows over 73 starts with earnings of $807,924. His 15 minutes of fame grew out of a 10 race win streak during 2001-2002. Like fine wine Arromanches improved as he got older; his win streak spanned his 8 and 9 year old seasons. If every thoroughbred was as honest and as durable as Arromanches the game would be much more interesting. When Arromanches went to stud he was relegated to the backwater of West Virginia. Just when slots fueled breeding activity in West Virgina picked up Arromanches was shifted to Indiana. While we can only assume that he is being personally cared for he has been all but ignored by the breeding market. Why would horse breeders not want the qualities of soundness, gameness and honesty bred into their foals? He only had 17 runners in 2009 with 12 winners-an excellent percentage- while standing for a rock-bottom fee of $750. Arromanches deserves better and the thoroughbred deserves better. Horses like this should appear more frequently in the pedigree book.

Racing has developed many of the same afflictions plaguing modern culture. There is entirely too much focus on quick thrills, fickle fashion that lacks substance while ignoring the virtues of "Arromanches" hard earned excellence. It was this instant gratification culture that doomed Arromanches to a lonely career at stud. Fashion dictates that only precocious two year old stakes winners or a flash in the pan derby trail horses are successful at stud. Horses like Arromanches that have soundness and race year after year are cast aside and removed from the gene pool. In their stead horses with known soundness issues like Unbridled's Song -think Eight Belle's, Old Fashioned, Dunkirk, Winslow Homer) propagate.

Arromanches was a true champion horse; a horse that had gameness, soundness and a heart as big as the racetrack. His mettle was not proven in one huge performance but over a body of work that spanned seven years of racing. It was nice of the NYRA to remember one of our favorites.

01 February 2010

A Look Into The Bowels Of Aqueduct

While other local sports facilities profit from government arranged financing or municipal welfare, Aqueduct continues to receive nothing while it decays. When Aqueduct was cleared for slots in 2001 NYRA looked to be at the fore of the slots curve. Construction on a new MGM casino commenced in the Big-A grandstand. Then the construction was halted to make way for 9 years of political corruption, backdoor deals and kickbacks. While the local polito's have dished out out tax dollars to the sports teams, Aqueduct has received nothing while the politicians have profited from the favor of those that want to build the casino.

In the last decade Aqueduct's local entertainment competition has received over 2 billion in public funds to erect new facilities. The Yankees, Mets, Jets, Devils, Redbulls and Giants have all received public financed facilities. These teams do not contribute to the state with parimutuel taxes like racing does, nor do they contribute to the states agricultural economy or ensure greenspace like racing does. Racing does not swell the local population of shape-shifting philanders like these sports teams do. Here is the condition of Aqueduct in the closed portion of the grandstand from the eyes of a construction worker/urban explorer.

this area is closed to the public
Second Floor

fans loitering in the stairwells was once a problem, now this empty place is only haunted by the spirits of old horseplayers
Second Floor

the old backyard is used as an employee parking area


a ramp to nowhere

the back of the grandstand
Third Floor

escalators are ripped out
Third Floor

bare bones grandstand areas; there used to be a lone payphone fixed that wall that I used to use in the "beeper" age
Third Floor

an escalator is removed but is not replaced
Third Floor

the only thing snacking are the rodents
Third Floor

loft development idea: large room with good light, enjoys convenient subway access in an up and coming area of Queens
Second Floor

tearing down a wall in the men's room
Second Floor

construction halted mid-escalator removal
Second Floor

this escalator is for the birds
Second Floor
this place needs an immense amount of work before it is a viable facility
Second Floor

this floor was once teeming with race fans six days a week
Second Floor
the closed portion of the Aqueduct grandstand in almost a total ruin
Second Floor