A Day in the Winner’s Circle

Tale of Ekati winning the Wood as my phone flies over the balcony at Aqueduct (Sarah K. Andrew)

Let’s start by examining my proclivity for procrastination. The upsides are clear, I tend to do things I normally wouldn’t like wash dishes, dust bust numerous hairballs from the Home Zoo and post plenty of “interesting content“.

This pathological behavior does, however, have a downside… one of them being that I didn’t end up with enough time to publish a post about why Tale of Ekati was my pick of the day yesterday before I had to run out to catch the A train to the Big A. But we’ll get to that (yes, I’m now going to meta-procrastinate).

Here’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for awhile, “Facebook, it’s not just for the rotten kids”. Of the many social networking sites, Facebook is the only one that “has delivered” for me for anything other than time wasting (don’t get me wrong, it’s great for that!) and proving that you’re a bigger hipster than everyone else.

I met the Hennegan Brothers on Facebook, taken part in many great discussions with people inside the industry, and now hung out with a fun bunch of Fans of Thoroughbred Racing in New York.

Group creator, the fabulous Ernie Munick (giving the thumbs up next Pablo Fragoso), organized the day billed as “Day of Degeneracy” to get people in the group to come out to the track and actually hang out (instead of just post on the group’s wall).

He also arranged for us to have our picture taken in the winner’s circle! I always wondered how to go about getting “Happy Birthday Adam “Swifty” Wiener” in the NYRA program, and now I know… you just call and give them $300! Get a group of 10 folks together and can’t afford not to do it.

Here we are, in all our glory (I’m on the far right… ironic, no?):

Day of Degeneracy, Facebook meets NYRA

Note the title of the picture “Thoroughbred Racing in New York “Facebook”. It also said this in the program! This is what I meant by pioneering an analog/digital mashup… this is no doubt the first time a NYRA program has the word Facebook in it… I love it when worlds collide!

Several of the TBA folks were included in this group, Jessica at Railbird, Teresa at Brooklyn Backstretch and Alan at Left at Gate (who’s not pictured… he was very busy live blogging the whole day).

John stopped by for a few moments in between meeting, greeting and kissing babies to get folks to the premiere in 2 weeks. And of course, Swifty was there (behind Ernie in the Classy & Classic sunglasses)… we wouldn’t miss a chance to be in the winner’s circle, or perhaps more appropriately, the Wiener’s Circle (Swifty = Adam Wiener).

Did I mention it was nice out? Notice us there, no coats. We ended up sitting outside all day in a box right in front of the finish line. We were on the third floor and there was a little balcony right in front of us that was gated. The gate was rail height (about 3 feet?) so at one point Jessica started to climb over it to get a better view of the paddock below. A helpful NYRA employee came over and unlocked it for us, no doubt guessing that it would just be easier than telling us to stop climbing over it all day.

The races were great and the place was packed. When I go to a track, I like to play the card… maybe not every race, but I find it distracting to have to pop over to the TV to watch a race elsewhere and then have my final decision making time eaten into. Surprise, I also procrastinate when it comes to wagering! With this in mind I decided to take pass on playing the bazillion great stakes races not at Aqueduct.

Prior to the Wood I was doing ok, compared to how I’ve been doing on the year I was doing great, but by normal standards I was doing just OK. I had the exacta in the 6th which brought me back to within $4 of being even. I didn’t do anything interesting in the 7th or 8th, although Jessica & Swifty had Temporary Saint in the Excelsior, but the Wood was different story.

I’m always refining my handicapping style, looking for more efficient or productive ways to analyze the data. Some things I’ve started to do recently have really been helpful. I take several passes at all of the horses, in one of those passes I note the predominant running style and type of pace the horse needs to perform well. While looking at this aspect of the Wood, I noted that Tale of Ekati needed a faster pace than he got in Louisiana Derby to do his best.

In another pass I examine the workouts. Is there any pattern, how did they work prior to their last races, have they been training for endurance, speed, etc. My note on Maryfield prior to the BC was “if she fires a bullet work before the race, seriously consider her”… and she did.

Combine Tale of Ekati’s comment line with his recent two works. “Brushed break, no factor” and two handled 4F gate works at 47.2 and 47.4 geared towards increasing his speed out of the gate. I then went to watch the replay of the Louisiana Derby… bingo. He broke very tentatively, got headed and then checked out of the race. Combine all of this with impending speed duel on the front end ensuring a brisk pace and it looked really promising for Take of Ekati.

I also thought the race would set up well for Court Vision, Bill Mott didn’t put Inner Light in to help Take of Ekati! This was one of those rare times when a flash of handicapping insight occurs with my ability to wager correctly. Here’s what I did:

Tale of Ekati to Win

Exacta box of Tale of Ekati & Court Vision

Trifecta box of Tale of Ekati, Court Vision & War Pass

Anak Nakal across the board (I thought he would improve under this pace scenario, and he did, but not enough).

Fast forward to the race… Tale of Ekati broke like a dream (he’s a good student and Barclay Tagg is a good teacher!) and Inner Light was pushing War Pass into fast fractions. Things were all going according to plan. As they came into the stretch War Pass still had a decent lead but Tale of Ekati starts to come on, and come on strong.

As they come to the wire it looks like Tale of Ekati is going to get up in time… we’re all on the balcony jumping up and down, screaming like nuts when I notice something fly out of my inside jacket pocket.

Just as Tale of Ekati is making my day, my attention is turned to the box seats below to see my phone land right behind some unsuspecting guy and what appeared to be his father! It took me a few seconds to realize that Tale of Ekati did indeed win AND that I hit the tri!

I’m also happy to report that not only does my phone still work, it didn’t even have a scratch… and perhaps the best part is it didn’t injure anyone!

As if this all wasn’t great enough, I also managed to get over my fear of betting horses to win. I liked Curlin to win the Classic, Swifty and I spent almost 2 hours the night before discussing the favorites in the classic to compare and contrast each of them. Curlin it was, and at 9/2 did I bet him to win? No. This time, just like Tale of Ekati, I learned from last mistake and corrected it under favorable conditions.

It was a perfect day on many levels… and I was lucky enough to share it with some great folks! Of course it was nice to have a bunch of witnesses to a rare flash of handicapping insight, but the best part by far was that, contrary to what seems to be going on, racing felt very much alive.