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?