Track Times Today

Friday, December 09, 2016
Handle surpasses $11 million . . .

    For sheer excitement, quality of racing and all kinds of wagering opportunities for the betting public, Gulfstream Park's Claiming Crown is probably second only to Breeders' Cup day. Following are some of the salient points gleaned from last Saturday's program.

    1. There was only one race out of nine - the Jewel Stakes - that had a field of nine, the other eight had 10 to 14. In all, 111 runners left the gate, an average of 12.3 per race. It was a handicapper's dream.

    2. Because of the large fields and all those wagering opportunities, the all-sources handle for the day reached $11,115,864.

    3. Winners came from everywhere - four bred in Kentucky, two in Ontario, one in Florida, one in New York and one in Great Britain.

    4. Ken and Sarah Ramsey were prominent, again. They own and bred the Kitten's Joy who won a maiden special on the first race of the day, before the Claiming Crown began; they bred Defer Heaven, who won the Express Stakes, and they own and bred the winner of the last race, Keystonevictory, who captured the Emerald Stakes.

    5. The bettors got it right on five races, which were won by favorites, although Keystonevictory ($3.30-1) and Defer Heaven ($2.40-1) were just lukewarn choices. 

    6. The race that knocked most out of every exotic pool was the fifth, the Glass Slipper Stakes, which was won by the lone Florida-bred to visit the winner's circle, Tormenta de Oro, who paid $91.80.

    7. Two winners were college graduates, Tormenta de Oro having been bred by the University of Florida Foundation in Zuber, and Distaff Dash winner Spectacular Me by the University of Kentucky.

    8. There was no lack of exciting finishes, with three of the earlier races being settled by a neck and two by one-half length. The final race, the Emerald, featured a major rush to the wire, and the first six horses were separated by one length. In fact, the horse who finished 10th, Andalusite, was just 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner.  

      DOWN TO THE WIRE - Florida's freshman sire race is going to go down to the wire with Woodford Thoroughbreds' Biondetti and Ocala Stud Farms' Overdriven as the only two contenders. Both have nine winners with 23 racing days remaining, and Biondetti leads Overdriven by just over $36,000 in progeny earnings, $345,545 to $309,198.

    Don Ming's Gary D. has just three starters for the year, and all three have won.   

Monday, December 05, 2016
2016 will go over $11 billion again . . .

    It's been reiterated here often that the North American pari-mutuel handle reached a peak in 2000 when the total climbed over $15 billion for the first time and remained there for six more years, through 2007. The recession then took its toll, and in 2008, the handle dropped to $14.3 billion, then two years at below $13 billion, and in 2011, wound up at $11.4 billion. The wipeout of the middle class was, of course, a major factor in the drop.         .

    Despite the unsubstantiated tales of the younger set now being more interested in other forms of entertainment, that handle has held true for five straight years. In 2015, it was just under $11.3 billion, a 1.5% increase over the year before. Today, the figures released for the first 11 months of this year show that wagering in the United States has totaled just over $10 billion, compared to $10.675 billion in all of 2015. Adding on the final month, plus the total for the year from Canada, and the $11 billion mark is safe for another year. Whether it will ever reach $12 billion or more again is anybody's guess, but it's not going in the wrong direction at the present time.

    GET YOUR MICROSCOPES READY! - Will anybody ever be surprised at the actions of Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering? If you want to inspect the figures for the state's poker rooms, here's a hint. Using a magnifying glass doesn't help that much - a microscope would probably be better suited for the task. Whereas the table used to be fairly easy to read, it's now sprawled over the computer screen in such a manner that makes it a real chore. Even with my recent successful cataract surgery.

    The main problem, at this time of year, is that they list each venue at the left of the page, with all the info from July 1 through Oct. 31, in minute lettering. To the right, are the months of November through June, with nothing next to them - because we don't have figures for those months yet! Why doesn't someone at the Division tell the graph-maker to leave off the months that are nothing but white spaces and triple the size of the months gone by? Then add a month every 30 days and in the meantime figure out a way to solve the problem later in the season? Like, make the graph two pages!

    Anybody who is in the dark about the impact that the poker room at Oxford Downs near The Villages has made on the poker room at the former Ocala Jai Alai fronton, digest these numbers. Prior to Oxford, the former fronton enjoyed gross receipts of $3.4 to $3.6 million a year. 

    For the July 1 of 2015 through June 2016 fiscal year, the fronton's take dropped to $2,974,293. That's because Oxford opened sometime in May and handled $72,788, then came back with its first full month in June and took in $274,182, or $346,970 that would have gone - all or in part - to Ocala. The fronton, in June, while Oxford was flourishing, took in just $173,832, its lowest month in a dog's age.

    In the four months of the new fiscal year, the magnifying glass reads the score of the Oxford-Ocala game as Oxford $1,101,942-Ocala $582,596. Multiplying the Ocala receipts by three, and a low of $1.74 million means the fronton will do half of its previous best seasons. It makes it easy to understand why the new venues that are cropping up are so despised by management of those in place for years.   

     

     

    

    

 

     

 

    

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Not one word about Tampa's opening Saturday . . .

    This is what appeared in the Sunday sports section of the Tampa Bay Times concerning horse racing: "Connect beat Divining Rod by a head at the end of a stretch duel in the $500,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. The time was 1:35.34 in the final Grade I stakes of the year in New York. Connect earned $300,000 for the win, lifting his career earnings to $1.25 million for owner Paul Pompa."

   It wouldn't be so pathetic if not for the fact that Saturday was opening day of the Tampa Bay Downs meeting. This is certainly not the first time I've lambasted the Times for its horrendous coverage, while at the same time Don Jensen taking reams of space to inform the public about a dog at Derby Lane, or an owner, or a race. The Saturday matinee at Derby Lane drew a crowd of 1,344 and the all-sources handle was $204,981. Attendance for the Tampa Bay Downs opening was 4,010 and the all-sources handle was $3,578,062, without benefit of a stakes race.

    I guess that's the Times' editors thinking: if there's no stakes race at Tampa, there's no need for coverage, even though it marked the first day of what promises to be a bang-up meeting. On Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby day, and Sam F. Davis day, and Florida Cup day, to name a few, they draw more people and handle more money than Derby Lane does in a month. 

    Since the last meeting in Oldsmar, the one that ended in May, the Times merged with the Tampa Tribune and I wrongfully guessed that it might make a difference in the racing coverage. Apparently not. We'll see if anything changes, but I'm not hopeful.

    GULFSTREAM ON DECK - The Championship meeting at Gulfstream Park opens Saturday and it, too, promises to be a blockbuster. Anxiety has been building for months for the $12 million Pegasus at the end of January, and the prospect of seeing California Chrome's swan song is certain to bring out the players in droves. The smart phones will be clicking from the time he walks over from the barn area until he makes tracks the other way when it's over. There won't be an empty space at the walking ring prior to the race and they will be five or six deep. 

    The final weekend at Gulfstream West has passed with a handle of $4,629,931 on Saturday and $3,768,897 on Sunday. Just in time, too, because a great deal of turf racing really tore up the course and the huge clouds of dust that ensued made it difficult to appreciate the racing.

    It may just be wishful thinking but I am still hopeful that Gulfstream will give up the two months at ye olde Calder and let John Brunetti have a boutique meeting at Hialeah. Of course, I'm not privy to the particulars and it may be that there are roadblocks to the idea that only the principals know about.  

    

 

  

Monday, November 21, 2016
$12 million Pegasus Cup to be run on Jan. 28 . . .

    The winter racing season in Florida kicks off in earnest in the next two weeks with the opening of Gulfstream Park's Championship meeting on Saturday, Dec. 3, preceded by the Tampa Bay Downs opener just five days from today.

    There are several major stakes days scheduled in Hallandale Beach, but all eyes will be focused on Jan. 28, the day of the inaugural Pegasus World Cup, a $12 million event which California Chrome's owners have mapped out to be the final race in the unprecedented career of the world's richest equine. There are seven stakes in all scheduled for that day, including three Gr. III's, the William L. McKnight, La Prevoyante and Hurricane Bertie.

    The Dec. 3 opening features the nine races making up the Claiming Crown, worth $1.1 million. Other major stakes days prior to the World Cup are Dec. 17, when the first three graded races will be run - the Rampart, Harlan's Holiday and Sugar Swirl - and Jan. 21, which will feature five Sunshine Millions races totaling $900,000 in purse money.

    The $1 million Florida Derby is set for April 1 and there are nine stakes scheduled for that program, worth a total of $2.45 million. 

    Although Tampa opens Saturday, there will only be one other racing day in Oldsmar in November, on the 30th. In December, the track goes to a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule, but will be closed on the 24th and 25th. The first stakes race is the $100,000 Inaugural, to be run on the second Saturday, Dec. 3.  

    The Sam F. Davis Stakes, to be run on Feb. 11, is a Gr. III and the first four finishers will earn Kentucky Derby points. On that program, they will also feature the Gr. III Tampa Bay Stakes on the grass and the Gr. III Lambholn South Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares on the grass. The track's signature race, the Gr. II Tampa Bay Derby, will again be sponsored by Roy Lerman's Lambholm South on March 11. It also carries Kentucky Derby points for the first four finishers.

    April 2 is the popular Florida Cup Day, featuring six sponsored stakes races, including the usual Ocala Breeders' Sales Sophomore, Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf, Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies, and Hilton Garden Inn/Hampton Inn & Suites Sprint. Two new sponsors are aboard, EG Vodka for the Turf Classic, and 14 Hands Winery for the Sophomore Turf.  

    BIONDETTI CLOSES IN - Woodford Thoroughbreds' freshman sire Biondetti picked up his seventh winner when Pretty Nacho broke his maiden by 3 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream West yesterday for owner/breeder Thoroughbred Champions Training Center. Biondetto still trails Ocala Stud's Overdriven by one winner, but leads in the money department.   


    

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The 4-year-old gelding breaks track record . . .

    More than two months has gone by (Sept. 8) since Barbara Banke announced she was moving Kantharos from Ocala Stud Farm to Hill 'n' Dale in Lexington. A great loss for Florida, because the son of Lion Heart was far and away the best freshman of his crop, the best second-crop sire, and this year, not only the best third-crop sire but second on the general sire list behind the late Wildcat Heir. Based on Florida-Kentucky history, Kantharos appears to be another in a long line of superior stallions to practice in Ocala - it began in a serious manner with Mr. Prospector - before moving into the big leagues of the bluegrass and making it big-time.

    The Blood-Horse has changed the farm name on Kantharos' stallion page, but has yet to remove him from all of Florida's sire lists. I guess it gets a little hectic there in the cold, cold north and they can't pay attention to all the details too soon.

    A while back, I wrote that the 'Upcoming Entries' sections on the Blood-Horse stallion pages weren't giving us all the horses coming up for the particular sires in the next few days. I pay close attention to certain stallions for business purposes and I noticed, while watching TVG, that many of the runners for those stallions weren't being listed, yet were showing up in races and I was missing them.

    The Blood-Horse's Eric Mitchell answered that column with the explanation that stallion owners don't want to list entries when their stallion's runners were entered cheaply. How come, I wondered then and now, when one of those cheapies wins, it IS listed in the 'Recent Results' column, right next to upcoming entries? That includes winners in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela with their purses of $5,000, and Finger Lakes and other U. S. tracks, with their purses of $9,000.

    Back to business. Saturday's $100,000 Sunshine Millions Preview at Gulfstream West turned into a cakewalk for Mr. Jordan, a 4-year-old gelding by Kantharos who has compiled a record that can only be described as enviable. At odds of 1/2, Mr. Jordan got out cleanly in the race at 1 1/16 miles, sat a comfortable third along the rail, moved three wide on the turn, and cantered to the wire nearly four lengths in front. His clocking of 1:42.52 set a track record. (Notice I didn't use the redundant term "new" track record, as so many of the uninformed do. I also call a first-year college student a freshman, not a "true freshman," as all of the uninformed college football announcers do, so as to distinguish him from a "redshirt freshman." The way you separate those two is quite simple - you call the second guy a redshirt freshman). It ain't rocket science. 

    Mr. Jordan has put together an 'enviable' portfolio - 17 starts, six victories, four seconds and five thirds, with earnings of $513,735. The only two times he was off the board were in the Gr. I Haskell, when he finished seventh behind American Pharoah and Keen Ice, and the Gr. III Hal's Hope, behind Mshawish. If trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. keeps him away from the big guns, Kantharos will have a millionaire on his page in the near future. Plesa bought Mr. Jordan for his three owners for $155,000 at the 2014 OBS April sale, and it's turned out to be a wise move. 

    By the way, Kantharos will stand for $15,000 in his first season at Hill 'n' Dale, and at that price should get one of those monstrous books like they do so often in Kentucky.

    And finally, the competitive Gulfstream West program Saturday produced a handle of just under $6 million, despite the fact that the races began at noon, long before many bettors are plugged in, and the first few races suffered from it.