Monthly Archives: April 2008

Hello Belmont!

Mr. Umphrey and Divine Park in the Westchester, opening day at Belmont (~ RAYMOND)

Pardon my lack of posting today, because you know, this is the week when all bloggers are posting at least 6 posts a day… wait till Friday, I’ll be a posting machine!

Brief thoughts:

Belmont, yay!

Loving the ML odds of the Derby.

Love the parrot story, thanks SF!

Speaking of SF, look for Brooklyn Backstretch at Superfecta while SF is out of town and BB works out annoyance with blogger.

I heart Pyro.

Churchill Downs has the best sweet corn muffins.

I love my friend Joan and talking horses with her, she says “Tale of Ekati — I have this thing against Tale of the Cat offspring. I have this problem with the sire and cats in general.”

Looks like anyone wishing to play the Derby/Oaks under cards can do so at bricks-and-mortar simulcast facilities. (Phew, and thanks Jessica!).

Take a look at Big Brown’s feet for yourself.

David shares non-derby related a view from the inside.

And Franks shares some favorite Derby memories… glad to hear Pyro works for the “the system”.

Special Railbird correspondent “Blinkers Off” wins the best report from Churchill… even Ray Paulick thinks so!

I Heart Jim Squires

Man, Jim Squires, owner of Two Bucks Farm in Versailles, Ky, is quickly becoming my favorite read over The Rail, or anywhere for that matter.

His current post, “Why the filly has a chance“, not only discusses both Eight Belles and Proud Spell, but shares some interesting insights into fillies & colts in general.

Forget that nonsense that intimidation is a male prerogative in the equine world, too. Young females often run the colts off their food in the pasture. And a lot of big handsome colts have had to be moved to safer quarters just to protect them from a dominant, mean-tempered little filly.


But there are two big obstacles for fillies facing colts for the first time, that could be easily overcome by experience in earlier prep races. When running against one another, fillies do a lot of talking in the gate, shrill whinnying for the most part. But the sound of colts in the gates is different, more slamming around, grunting and snorting. Colts seldom whinny in a race gate. This can be unnerving to fillies, who are often in a hurry to leave, sapping adrenaline as object of a chase.

And his post from Sunday entitled “The Last Winstrol Derby?” is still drawing some eye opening comments!

Derby This & That

Churchill Downs (blake seely)

Note to self, “if you had more PTO you could theoretically take the week prior to the Derby off just to read all the reports coming out of Louisville”.

A few things caught my eye as I bounced around the internet today.

Cheers to glimmerglass for an excellent comment on fellow TBA-er Alan’s Rail Piece that speculates on the potential brouhaha if Eight Belles scratches.

Eight Belles is 4-0 this year; if one of the boys possibly “bumped” by her has accomplished that and earned as much graded money as she has, then they wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.

There are more then a couple colts going who haven’t a prayer but no complaints exists when they are still being entered.

And a special nod goes to commenter Joe for noting that there are already about 6 too many horses running anyway.

Over at fellow TBA-er Thoroughblog I noticed this quote from Asmussen about Pyro:

I’m not looking to run him on a synthetic track again.

Read no Breeders’ Cup for Pyro.

Steve Davidowitz reminds us to not overlook the Derby under card [DRF+]. That is, if we’ll be able to play it if we’re not literally at Churchill Downs.

Lava Man & Noe Garcia

Lava Man & Noe Garcia

Lava Man and his beloved groom Noe Garcia before the Khaled Stakes at Hollywood Park (Charles Pravata)

Charles Pravata was kind enough to send me this great shot of Lava Man and his groom Noe Garcia prior to the Khaled in the paddock. While he didn’t win, I thought he ran well and was definitely not the checked out Lava Man of his prior 3 6th places.

His connections seem to be eyeing another try at the Gold Cup! And while trainer Doug O’Neil was disappointed he didn’t win, he felt that Lava Man would probably need a race or two to get back into good form. Only fair for 7yo!

I took a look over at YouTube to see if I could find the race. Not only did find it, I found two excellent “extras”!

Here’s a clip of handicapper Rich Perloff discussing Lava Man. While discussing works he also points out the difference between breezing vs. handy between the east & west coast tracks. Someone in the crowd also raises my point about Lava Man’s 3 flops coinciding with his groom’s absence.

Here’s some footage of Lava Man preparing for the race.

And finally, the race itself…

Welcome back old man!

Farewell Aqueduct

Aqueduct men’s room (~ RAYMOND)

It took all the restraint I could muster not to use this shot right away, but I thought I’d wait and use it as an end of the meet shot. Perhaps he perfected this skill while reading the form between races?

Check Brooklyn Backstretch for a proper and excellent recap of the meet!

Third is Better than Sixth

Lava Man and Corey Nakatani winning Lava Man’s 3rd consecutive Hollywood Gold Cup (Charles Pravata)

Lava Man just returned to show in the Khaled on the turf at Hollywood Park.

The gamely 7yo gelding returned from his hiatus to press the pace and make a run in the stretch but he couldn’t catch pacesetting Epic Power. As it turned out Mr. Wolverine blew pas both of them. Top This and That looked game for forth.

Jay Hovdey has a nice piece on Lava Man [DRF+] that’s worth a read. It doesn’t surprise me that his 3 consecutive bombs overlap with his groom Noe Garcia’s recovery from his devastating injury. There was piece last year that speculated that he’s a bad shipper in part due to home sickness.

If you’re a Lava Man fan it’s worth picking up The Story of Lava Man DVD (although I would check ebay). It’s been awhile since I’ve watched it (and I’m too lazy to fire it up now) but I seem to remember several indications that Lava Man is very sensitive to his surroundings and bonded to Garcia. Let’s hope the reunion does them both good.

A Lady Follow-up

As it turns out, my fellow TBA colleague Jessica at Railbird has written not one, but two incredible posts on the points that I breezily touched on in my previous post.

One, entitled The Gender Gap delves more deeply into the fillies vs. colts issue by way of Rags to Riches in the Belmont. She also provides some real stats on the “inclusion” of women in the industry. It’s a must read, and her question still stands with regard to marketing the sport to women… “what can be done about it?”.

And another post entitled “Here’s a She-Tip for You, Andy Stronach” uses a specific example to illustrate the lack of marketing to the women fan base (cited at 52%!!).

Great reading, and sadly it’s still timely.

Ladies, Drugs and Players

No, that was not my Saturday night, it’s the various topics I’ve been reading about this morning!

Steve Klein has a nice piece at DRF about Mike Maloney, a professional horseplayer, entitled “Pro’s advice: Don’t quit your day job” (DRF+). Before my weekend in the handicapping torture chamber you could have counted me in for definitely wanting to go pro some day. Currently I can be counted as a solid “perhaps”.

One of the great suggestions Maloney shares is that anyone serious about being a player should spend time on the backstretch to get a better understanding of what goes on and how the horseman (and women) think.

“What I learned pretty quickly, and I wasn’t a great handicapper at that time, is that I knew more about a horse’s chances of winning than the guy who saddled him in most cases,” Maloney explained. “Not that they weren’t good horsemen, but it is a rarity to find a combination horseman and handicapper. Bobby Frankel and John Langemeier are a couple of exceptions that come to mind, but it is a real rarity to find one.”

I know I always look to see who a jock chose in a race, but you never know what the circumstances are… could be the jock or the agent thinks they have the best chance on the horse or it could be out of loyalty.

He also goes on to talk about track bias.

“Track bias is a very valuable tool that is underused,” Maloney said. “Some players not only don’t understand it, some of them don’t believe in it. I think it’s very important to handicap the first two races of the day very thoroughly.”

The first two races might be all Maloney needs to get a handle on what the track bias is on a given day. If not, he uses the rest of the first half of the card to figure it out. Then he makes more serious bets later in the day.

I’m a fan of biases and try to make use of them whenever possible (meaning, when I notice them). I did pretty well on last years Derby card noticing that both Bejarano and the 7th post position were hot (this is how I settled on Hysterical Lady in the Humana Distaff and decided to box Street Sense (#7) with my pick Hard Spun).

Over at The Rail Jim Squires has a kick ass piece on the pervasive use of legal steroids and how perhaps it may be coming to an end. Let’s hope so!

It’s an eye opening piece and full of things I never put together, such as:

The risk of injury and subsequent financial loss is always given as a reason why owners are in such a hurry to retire famous horses whose continued presence in competition until they fully mature at 5 and 6 years old would clearly create fan following and enhance the sport’s popularity. But insiders know that the longer horses are on a steroid regimen, the more likely they are to be permanently damaged.

Wow. I never thought of that, but then I can’t say that I knew as much about steroid use prior to reading this piece… it makes perfect sense and one more big giant reason to ban steroids.

Last, and certainly not least, one of my esteemed TBA colleagues makes some excellent points about how backwards American racing is regarding frequency of racing and segregation of fillies and colts. She also lays out the points of why Eight Belles should run in the Derby, and I have to say that I agree.

In her post Val is using Australian racing as the example of how fillies and colts are frequently run together without much fanfare or discussion… it’s just normal. I don’t know anything about Australian culture, except that I suspect they’re way more accepting of gambling, but I wonder if in general there’s less sexism or if they just don’t apply it to animals?

Sexism is everywhere in racing, sometimes glaringly visible, sometimes not so visible but still there. In his post Waiting on Eight Belles, Alex Brown says “It is debatable whether it is a good idea to run a filly in the Derby, but there is no denying they can win the race”. In a discussion going over at the Facebook Derby group one poster states (copied and pasted as is):

The 2 fillies dont need to run in the damn derby. yea they have the graded earnings but against other fillies they are going to take away spots from 2-3 horses that deserve a shot at a run for the roses. Just cuz rags won last year everyone thinks they can beat the boys know. Ony reason RTR won the Belmont b/c all the boys were tired from the triple crown races

Mind you, many of the comments state are pro fillies so perhaps slowly we’ll get there (thanks to young the people).

But it’s not only “should a filly run with the boys”, it’s also a sad and telling under representation of women in visible positions throughout the industry. There’s one female staff blogger at The Rail and all the personal blogs listed in the blogroll belong to men. DRF is woefully light on women and forget seeing a women included as a professional in handicapping seminars, just to name a few. And let’s not forget the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic shenanigans (sign the petition!!!).

Yet the TBA membership is about half women and I believe there’s a cite somewhere out there that more than half of the racing fan base is half women according to a NTRA survey, 52% of loyal horse racing fans are women [PDF] (thanks Jessica!).

It must be pointed out, however, that the TBA is not some utopian representation of a shiny happy future, there are certainly those who feel women have their place, but the point stands that it is a great representation of women in the sport.

Jessica at Railbird provides excellent insight on current events and compiles & crunches data with the best of them. She has a deep affinity for Google Docs!

Teresa at Brooklyn Backstretch covers historical angles of NY racing and beyond. She’s also quite a road tripper, filing reports on tracks around the country recording the history for all of us.

Superfecta keeps an eye on the current racing scene both here and abroad with a dose of history & breeding thrown in for good measure. She’s also an excellent photo editor!

Val at Foolish Pleasure also keeps an eye on current racing and with more of a focus on breeding. She also follows several notable claimers. Fav headline, “He Runs Like a Moron“.

Jen at Down the Stretch has been keeping an eye on the Derby Trail but follows racing throughout the year… she’s an astute handicapper.

Fran of the Jurga Report and Hoof Care is a hoof care specialist providing insight, research and information on all things hoof.

Jen of Thoroughblog is the morning line odds maker at Woodbine and an extremely active blogger in chronicling the Canadian racing scene, including when those excellent Canadians come down here and kick our butts!

Sue at Post Parade weaves (hilarious) stories of everyday life into racing, with occasional visits to Lone Star Park, which is open right now!

Quinella Queen at Turf Luck is our resident librarian who covers Mountaineer and all things books including Breeders’ Cups by way of the card catalog!

And Nellie of The Last Filly assures us she’s getting ready to come back off a long break… look for her to discuss breeding, racing, and retirements among other things.

Mind you, the men of the TBA are pretty great too but so far it’s only the men who are high profile guest bloggers anywhere… why is that?

I Guess People Do Read This Thing

Imagine my surprise when I found this in my inbox late Friday afternoon…


I saw your posting on Green But Game. The reason we did not post your comment to my initial blog was because we heeded your advice and added the comments to our Web site for all to see. In hindsight, we should have done both: heeded your advice and posted your comment.

I have requested that it be posted.

Keep in touch.


Yes, that Alex… as in Alex Waldrop, the CEO of NTRA.

A few days ago I was posting about his blog, Straight Up, and how it now has comments. I was also whining about how my comment suggesting that comments be displayed was not displayed. A few visits to GbG from the NTRA and one email from Alex later and there it is!

Besides a big public thank you to Alex, it’s worth noting that this really is a big step in a much needed right direction (no, not including my comment… having the blog, having the comments and starting the dialog with players).

I definitely am looking forward to sharing my opinions and thoughts over there and you should be too. Here are few more comments of note that saw on his first post:

MR. WALDROP, it is my opinion, that growth and stability for our sport can only be achieved by national unity in all aspects of this sport. state to state and track to track just isn’t getting it done.

Here’s one I’ll be making more noise about (with Curlin as the proof to back it up):

I missed your Horseplayer Magazine story, but I think the bells and whistles that go with today’s technology are great and could help expand the customer base. However, if it is “fans” you want, then you need to convince your rich owners to let their top notch 3 year olds race when they are 4 and 5. Everybody wants to cry the blues about the economics of retiring a star to be a stallion, but until people can follow a favorite horse beyond two or three races, the sport is never going to grow. It wouldn’t hurt if the Churchill and Magna monopolies disappeared too.

And here’s one I love, it may sound frivolous but it makes a HUGE difference to players… I believe I read somewhere that the BC justification was brand identification. I would argue that they could achieve the same results without interfering with a players ability to identify the horses during the race.

Has the NTRA ever considered the mandating of Colored Saddle Clothes in all races (including Breeders’ Cup Races, and stakes races at tracks such as Keeneland and Monmouth?)

Again, get over there and share your thoughts… and Alex, don’t be shy, leave a comment next time you stop by!