Monthly Archives: April 2008

Derby Elsewhere

“Just Add Bourbon”, entrepreneurs showing some southern hospitality in Louisville (Mary Pumphrey)

Just in case any new readers come over from the Times (none have yet) in search of Derby reading, I thought I’d show some hospitality and offer up some Derby links.

Fellow TBA-er Michael of Curb My Enthusiasm is “on the ground” in Louisville and shares my non-bandwagon position on Big Brown. Here’s a recent post of the contenders tentative work schedules. Keep an eye out for regular reports.

Jessica over at Railbird, also a fellow TBA-er, is having Ed DeRosa of the Thoroughbred Times as a guest poster from Louisville. Keep an eye out over there as well.

There’s a new blog on the scene that I’m really enjoying, and not only for the hilarious name… Take Off That Silly Ass Hat is specifically a Derby blog, and a good one at that.

Next week look for a few guest posters here at GbG to share their thoughts on the Derby (great idea Jessica, thank you!!) (and no pressure Charles… you’ve been training forwardly!)

You can also check out the Top Kentucky Derby Contenders.

New Poll, Is Cross Entering Eight Belles Fair?

Thanks to all who voted in the R2R legend poll… 24 of 44 GbG readers find Rags to Riches to be legendary with 13 thinking that she’s almost legendary and 8 thinking that indeed she is not legendary. We can all agree on one thing, she’s pregnant!

I was just tooling around Ye Olde Internet and noticed a lively discussion at Facebook in the Kentucky Derby group regarding the fairness of cross entering Eight Belles.

I hadn’t thought too much about assuming that if she draws a lousy a post and scratches that the next in line would assume her spot. I’m still a little unclear of the timing of the draw and when the field is set (i.e., if she scratches she hoses someone else), so if anyone can enlighten us, please do.

What do you think? Fair, not fair… do you think she can win?

Comments are Live…

I noticed that Alex Waldrop, CEO of NTRA, posted his second blog post today, discussing the newly launched horseplayers coalition.

The most exciting part is that they now have “real” comments for his blog. You know, the kind that are visible and create dialog… not the kind that just go into the wind never to be seen again.

On his first post, I made a comment welcoming him to the blogoshere and suggesting displaying comments. This comment does not appear as one of the 60+ displayed with the post. Perhaps they have a comment policy about not displaying all comments they receive? Perhaps they didn’t quite have their functional enhancement worked out and therefore didn’t capture all the comments?

I also noticed in some people’s comments that they thank Waldrop for his email, one comment simply states “thank you for getting back to me”. Hmmmm, I guess I’m with Kathy Griffin on the D List if my comment doesn’t even get published!

Pettiness and hurt feelings aside (sniff, sniff), there are some interesting comments that span the spectrum of concerns. Here’s just a sample:

I feel that if there are TB owners that opt out of CARMA’s (California Retirement Management Account)Retirement Fund, it should be made public. There should be a list, possibly, of those who “opt-in” and those who “opt-out.” As a whole, the Owners are good hearted and contribute a lot of money toward the care of their horses after racing. But, those that do not, the fans should be aware of. Unfortunately they are out there. If they weren’t, the 4x grandaughter of Seabiscut wouldn’t have been bound for slaughter. Exceller and Ferdinand would never have met their horrific and inhumane deaths. Not to mention a lot of the former racers at OLD FRIENDS. The condition of some of those horses when they were “found” was deplorable. The owners need to take responsibility.

The card that Aqueduct offered on Saturday (April 19) was a joke — races for NY-breds filled with bad horses. The best breeding states don’t have so many restricted races — so why not offer bonuses and have the state-bred horses run in open company. That would force the breeders to improve their stock.

One suggestion I would like to make is making channels such as HRTV available to more homes, specifically as part of BASIC cable packages, making it easier for fans and novices alike to consume our product. I live in Chicago and only recently (beg. 4/30/08) has HRTV become available on Comcast cable TV. But in order to receive HRTV I am required to upgrade to their digital service and then pay an extra monthly fee for the special sports tier package. If we can find a way to make our product easier to see, I have to believe it would only create more interest and more dollars through the ADW’s, ect. Whatever the additional upfront costs might be to make this happen, I believe the exposure it would bring to the sport would be worth it in the long run for the overall health of the game.

You mention the meetings of the NTRA quaterly. It is a shame that horse players are not represented in this meeting. I have previously stated that racing must clean its own house before trying to promote to new customers. Racing must also embrace the idea of customer service. Fans and bettors are considered outsiders. Look at the makeup of your board meeting. Your money is coming from the fans who bet. Time to shake up the house Alex. The viewpoints of these groups will vary widely and all must be heard. The Keeneland meet is an example the signals are limited and exclusive. Many have to make arrangements to bet Kee if they want other than their current accounts. This is not customer friendly.

Hear, Hear commenters!

See? Things can change, the signal is at least two ways now. Get over there and share your views, but don’t use my name when you comment!

A Better Fit

Majestic Warrior schooling in the paddock at Saratoga (Jessie Holmes)

Majestic Warrior is entered in this weekend’s Derby Trial Stakes, a 7 1/2 F stakes at Churchill.

While others thought perhaps he was merely precocious after his (lack of a) performance in the Florida Derby, I want to see him cut back before I make up my mind (in the comments, because I didn’t post this sentiment on my own blog… why would I do something crazy like that?).

I haven’t looked at the past performance but there are definitely some interesting entrants. Perhaps we’ll be seeing some future milers?

Majestic Warrior’s been working consistently at Payson and just put in a nice 3F at Churchill (36 B 2/12). Best of luck to him, I know my jaw dropped when I saw him in the Hopeful.

Lotso Prado

Edgar Prado at Saratoga (odizl)

Quite a few news items on the recently inducted Hall of Famer Edgar Prado today.

First we learn his decision to ride Adriano is out of loyalty to trainer Graham Motion and prior to comeback performances of Tale of Ekati and Monba.

Prado, who won the 2006 Derby with Barbaro, made his surprise announcement mostly because he has a longtime relationship with Graham Motion, the trainer of Adriano. The two had success years ago on the Maryland circuit, and, after Prado rode the colt to a win in the Lane’s End on March 22, Motion asked the jockey for a commitment. He got it.

Then we find out he takes a spill on a Motion trained filly, is hospitalized and released! It sounds like he’s ok… I certainly hope so, best of luck for a speedy recovery!

Laughing, Hopefully All the Way to the Bank

The Twinspires, looking maaaah-velous (eqqman)

This cracked me up.

If you were looking for a sign that Pyro has bounced out of his Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) fiasco in top shape and is back to being the Pyro of old, you certainly didn’t get it Monday morning when the colt worked six furlongs in fog so thick it wasn’t able to be timed by the Keeneland clockers.

This is a crazy year, no? The foggy Gotham, War Pass out, possibly a couple of talented fillies in, a bunch of horses who haven’t raced on dirt yet, a bunch of confirmed dirt horses doing their final prep on poly, a South American invader and a hype machine so strong I’m wondering if it’s the real reason the Times started it’s racing blog.

I’m much more interested to see Pyro’s work at Churchill anyway. I was surprised to see Curlin get back to work so soon. Since he’s shipping to Churchill presumably with Pyro, I wonder if Pyro’s last Derby work with be with the master? I hope that doesn’t tinker with his odd too much!

Meanwhile, one has to look no further to understand why Steve Davidowitz is my handicapping idol. In his more recent DRF column, he shares some Derby lessons, both generally and his own.

The thing I like about Davidowitz is that he’s holistic. He reminds us to not only take into account each horse but to look at how each piece of the puzzle could potentially come together (or not). Seeing people tout Big Brown as being “head and shoulders” above the rest based speed figures and a flashy performance cracks me up.

I have all the same questions about Big Brown that I had about Curlin last year. Foot issues not withstanding, let’s say he can hold the distance, will he hold up in stretch battle? Can he look a horse in the eye and dig in?

I suspect there are a lot of people out there who think he won’t get a chance to answer those questions, but I’m not one of them. When he checks off all the items on my “prove it me” list, then I’ll be singing his praises, just like I now do for Curlin.

Davidowitz goes on:

I also have come to realize that it is a bad mistake to settle on a firm pick before the final field is known, before post positions are drawn, and before the overall pace of the race can be mapped out. At the same time, trying to stretch your view of the race to accent marginal longshots for a win play, usually is a prescription for a stack of losing tickets.

Sorry Ernie, I’m not gonna do a top 5… but I will update my Derby Dating selections at least one more time before the big dance! Until then, check out some Kentucky Derby Odds!

There’s So Much Going On!

There was a quite a flurry of activity today what with the NTRA launching their much anticipated Horseplayers’ Coalition and the NY Times launching their Triple Crown blog, The Rail.

The Horseplayers’ Coalition is, in the words of the NTRA:

a consortium of horseplayers whose common objective is to seek legislative and regulatory solutions to tax and business issues that impact racing fans and pari-mutuel racetracks.

In short, it’s a political action committee. Get on over there and get involved if this is your sort of thing!

It’s great that they’re doing it and smart to do it not too long after tax time… those of you who had a good year last year will no doubt still be smarting and perhaps mad enough to do something about it. And if you ever wondered why things are they way they are, it’s because of special interest groups, so now that we are one let’s get busy!

I haven’t had a chance to look at The Rail too closely yet (my job sort of precludes me from doing as much reading as I’d like, let alone any day time posting). But I did already glance one thing that I’ll be posting about the before the evening is over. I only have one question, is it journalism or is it a blog?

All kidding aside, it’s great that they’re doing it, especially with the sad decline in turf writing in newspapers. On the classy side, they gave a shout out to the TBA in the blogroll and my favorite film making brothers did a guest post… nice!

The Wave of the Future

Under the whip (geni80)

I don’t watch too much of the coverage of races on network or cable when they’re on. I DVR them for posterity and watch the race part, but I want to see odds, the paddock and the parade, not patter.

I had ESPN’s coverage of the Lexington on with volume down as I was deciding how to make my play. When I turned on the volume the patter was about Samba Rooster. Apparently he’s a bit of handful and HATES the whip. They were discussing that the strategy with Samba Rooster was that Garrett Gomez wouldn’t even carry a whip. Samba Rooster does best when you make him feel like he’s pulling against you… and clearly it worked as went off at 17-1 and placed paying $17.

Jerry Baily, a hall of fame jockey, added “most horses will give you everything they have without hitting them”.

Then, Randy Moss chimes in with…

I think this this is the wave of the future, I think we should do away with whips completely

Hear, f-ing hear!!! Naturally Tessitore cut in jokingly that it was “very European of him” and then they cut to the bugler. But how fantastic of him to say it! I can’t STAND over whipping and to hear someone of Randy Moss’ stature suggest that not only should there be less whipping, but NO whipping was well, fantastic.

I’ve blogged about this before (still at the old site) but it bears repeating. In England they have very clear specifications about the use of the whip. Superstar jock Frankie Dettori was banned for 14 days for his whip use on Ramonti during Royal Ascot. Can you imagine if one our superstar jocks was banned for whip use during the Breeders’ Cup?

Of course that would require there to be some kind of standard and then someone to actually enforce it… let’s hope we see the day when issues such as over whipping and drugging are taken seriously, because until then it’s really hard to convince people that the sport of kings is not “troubled… and filled with dirty little half-kept secrets” or worse, “old-fashioned animal abuse made into a business“, no matter how hard we try.

Before cutting to the bugler, Moss got in “by the way, this shows the horse is very intelligent…”.

Hats Off to Swifty

Hats Off to you Swifty, well done! (Joelle Smith)

and to David Flores for an excellent trip! I was surprised that Behindathebar sat so far off the pace but he moved up nicely throughout the race and Flores was able to position himself perfectly. If Racecar Rhapsody would have gone with him he might have gotten up in time as he had a nice closing kick.

Riley Tucker also did well, but not well enough to make one of exactas.

And how about St. Joe Samba Rooster?

Estoy triste Tomcito que lo hicieron mal, me hubiera gustado haber visto a él en el Derby. (Gracias Google Translate!)

Lexington Picks

Yours truly is a bit woolly headed today, which is ridiculous given that I only had two beers last night with one kick ass movie in between them. This makes me all the more impressed with my colleagues who can drink buckets of Funky Cold Medina and then compose lengthy well thought out emails!

As for the Lexington, there’s a lot to like! I’m looking for St. Joe and Samba Rooster to set a fast pace and more than likely knock each other out as I don’t see any indication that either of them can rate. I would have to see some endurance works rather than speed works given that both of them are stretching out, St. Joe more than Samba Rooster.

I really like Atoned and I’ll be happy if he does well but I’m not convinced here. I know he can get the distance but I’m not sure about the surface (even though his last work at Keenland was nice) and I’m not sure what he’s gonna do with a fast pace given that all but his first two races where on the slow side. Of course a faster pace could be just what he needs but I’m going to look elsewhere today.

Salute the Sarge looks interesting and I’m somewhat tempted but not all synthetic surfaces are equal so I’m not counting on his west coast synthetic record to automatically transfer here. I think he could handle the pace and the distance but I’m going to look elsewhere given his odds.

There are 3 that I like almost equally, Racecar Rhapsody, Riley Tucker and Tomcito. All will do well with a fast pace and all of their running styles will do well with a speed duel, should it materialize.

Racecar Rhapsody is cutting back in a 2nd off start… this should suite him. He likes Keenland and if Tomcito doesn’t like the surface I think RR is the closer here. I really liked his inside move in the Lane’s End and thought he looked game in the stretch, give him a faster pace on a proven track and he looks attractive.

Let me just say that I really want Tomcito to win because I really want him in the Derby. I’m not saying he’s my pick to win the Derby but I think he’ll make it more interesting. After seeing his first U.S. performance we can now tell that he will probably do well with fast fractions, but in addition to the concern about the surface, I’m also wondering if this is actually enough distance for him? Also of note, his handled gate work at Keenland is kind of insane!

And last but not least there’s Riley Tucker. His last out at the distance at Keenland was nice and I’m guessing he’ll do a bit better off a faster pace but he’ll have to work get a good position breaking from the 10th. It’s hard to tell anything from Mott’s training style sometimes and this is one of those times… consistent 4F at 48 for the last 4 works.

I just got off the phone with Swifty… he also likes Behindathebar. My concern about him was the same with Salute the Sarge, not to assume all the synthetics are equal. I think he can do well given the pace so I’ll probably include him too if for no other reason than to avoid what happens every time Swifty and like different horses.

Good luck everyone!

Picks: Riley Tucker, Tomcito, Racecar Rhapsody, Behindathebar