o Track Times Today - With Bernie Dickman - Racing, Breeding, Pari-Mutuels
Track Times Today

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
They're thrilled and excited, etc . . .

    At the time the recession hit the country in full force in 2008, the North American thoroughbred handle was flourishing, surpassing $15 billion for seven straight years, from 2001 through 2007. It dropped to $14 billion-plus in '08, then under $13 billion in 2010, and has been stagnant in the $11 billion-plus range since. Those who didn't comprehend that there was a segment of the population that could no longer afford to go to their favorite racetrack blamed the drop on the sport itself, stressing that track managements weren't innovative enough to keep the younger set interested in the sport.

    That premise was completely bogus, but the notion that the sport's leaders were living in the 19th century in many other respects was right on the mark. Track after track did help the handle by adding more exotic possibilities and bettors were bombarded with pick 3s, pick 4s, pick 5s, pick 6s, Superfectas, Super High 5s, Pick 6 Jackpots, rolling doubles and much more. 

    Betfair bought Hollywood Park and closed it soon after, and now owns TVG (or part of it, I'm not sure) and that European company is still trying to convince the public that exchange wagering can help the game. But Monmouth Park's exchange wagering program hasn't caught on, and never will. There's a reason why New Jersey execs mention the gimmick often but never offer any wagering statistics to prove the point.

    One concrete area that highlights the futility of too many of the publicity departments at the tracks and industry organizations comes with the four words most utilized by those groups when making announcements about new appointments, new ideas, or new anything. Those words are delighted . . . proud . . . excited . . . thrilled. Have you ever noticed that all the announcements contain at least one of those words? Can't anybody come up with something else?

    A few days ago, it was announced that Keeneland and Churchill Downs are partnering on two new state-of-the-art facilities in Kentucky, one in the Knox County city of Corbin and the other in the Christian County city of Oak Grove. So, of course, the principals felt it necessary not only to report the facts, but to embellish them with the age-old ho-hum comments.

    Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason told us: "Keeneland is excited to partner with Churchill Downs on this initiative . . . "

    Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney said: "Corbin is thrilled to be part of this historic venture . . . "

    "We are proud of the significant investment Churchill Downs and Keeneland are committed to . . . " was Oak Grove Mayor Bea Burt's take on the issue. 

    HBPA executive director Marty Maline chipped in with: "The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is excited for what this announcement means for our sport . . . "

    All that was missing was one person who was "delighted."

    Congratulations to all the principals and the PR people involved. We are all delighted, excited and proud to digest your thrilling remarks. Can't wait for the next one.   

    WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? - When is someone at the Blood-Horse going to make the change at the top of all the leading sire lists pertaining to the closing date of the information? For instance, today is Sept. 19 yet today's lists say: "Listed below are all available Northern Hemisphere statistics through Sept. 19, 2017." Not a chance!

    One of the many definitions of "through" is: "to and INCLUDING." That very specifically means you include the date in question. You can't include Sept. 19 if the races haven't been run yet. Today's lists are up to date through yesterday and should read "through Sept. 18." It's years past the time that somebody at the Blood-Horse realizes it.   


Thursday, September 14, 2017
25 races and four stakes on tap . . .

    Gulfstream Park came through Irma unscathed and racing will resume with two cards and 25 races on Saturday and Sunday. There were 700 horses evacuated from the track's barn area, mostly to Palm Meadows, and they began to return on Tuesday. 

    The Saturday program kicks off at 12:15 and consists of 13 races and 134 entrants, headlined by the $100,000 Miss Gracie Stakes for 3-year-old Florida-bred fillies at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf, and the $50,000 Sea of Grass, an overnight handicap for fillies and mares at one mile.

    Sunday's card will have 12 races and 105 entrants with a 12:45 post time and features a pair of $50,000 overnight handicaps for 3-year-olds and up.  

    SIXTH WINNER FOR SOLDAT - The latest Florida freshman sire to get a winner is Woodford Thoroughbreds' Soldat, who bagged No. 6 when Son Son Son scored at Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico on Sept. 3. The filly bred in New York by Marie Bates is 1-1-1 in three starts.

    Soldat is now just one winner behind Pleasant Acres' Treasure Beach, who had a second-place finisher yesterday when Treble in Paradise, at odds of 17-1, made her debut at Thistledown. Treasure Beach leads the frosh sires in Florida with seven winners and is nearing $340,000 in progeny earnings. Pleasant Acres also stands the second-place sire, Brethren, with $227,000 in earnings; he has five winners. Eleven of Florida's 14 frosh sires already have at least one winner.

    BOUNCE THIS - Like so many of the younger set who believe that the world began on the day they were born, today's TV equine analysts and those writing for the major publications have taken many of the old traditional sports terms and trashed them to suit their own needs. No longer does a baseball player reach first on an error, he just "reaches." No longer is a college football player a freshman, he's a "true freshman," so as not to confuse him with a false freshman.  

    In racing, the old traditional "wire-to-wire" has been replaced by many with gate-to-wire, which is bogus, because in order to go gate-to-wire a horse has to have the lead on the first jump out of the gate and never relinquish it, which probably happens maybe 10 percent of the time. But the TV guys and gals see a "1" at the first quarter and automatically relate that the horse went gate-to-wire.

    The "bounce" is  another area that is prevalent among the TV and publication groups, the theory that if a horse runs a tough race he or she will "bounce," or run poorly, if he or she comes back too soon. The problem is that nobody has been able to come up with a time frame as to when the bounce no longer applies. Time after time, analysts - and trainers, too - discuss if a horse's next race is coming up too soon, even when the race is four weeks away.

    These analysts never discuss all the runners who defy the bounce theory, because there are no rules involved. They just guess. The truth is, if you can't pin down the length of time any horse needs to recover from a hard race, then you don't have a legitimate theory. The late Dr. Ron Chak, who was the veterinarian for venerable Ocala Stud Farm for decades, told me that all you have to do for a horse is make sure he or she gets enough electrolytes into the system.

    I remember a horse trained by Dick Dutrow a few years ago named Laysh Laysh Laysh. This horse once ran three times in 11 days in New York and won all three. Talk about bouncing the bounce. 

    I brought this all up because of a 2-year-old named Driven by History, a gelding by Two Step Salsa currently campaigning at Presque Isle Downs. While a slew of 2-year-olds haven't started yet, and many more have started once or twice, Driven by History has started six times in the span of two months and six days, the latest coming this past Monday. He went off at 70 cents to a dollar with Antonio Gallardo and scored by a length, raising his record to 3-3-0 in those six races. He's won two in a row and three of his last four while earning $66,200 without benefit of running in a stakes race. I assume he might rectify that shortly.

   By the way, for the "gate-to-wire" people, if you really feel the need to be precise, the correct term should be "gate-to-mirrored image."   




Thursday, September 7, 2017
Tyler wins two stakes on rich program . . .

    Tyler Gaffalione currently has a solid lead in the Gulfstream Park jockeys' race. He's won 64 races, 10 more than Edgard Zayas and 12 more than Emisael Jaramillo, and his mounts have earned $1,660,310. He's making a ton of money and doesn't need to stray far away from home, but he'll never be accused of letting the grass grow, etc., etc.

    Steve Gaffalione's kid spent many of Gulfstream's dark days riding at the recent Saratoga meeting, and yesterday he turned up at the eye-opening boutique meeting at Kentucky Downs. And why is the KD meeting eye-opening? How's this? Yesterday's 10-race program featured four stakes races and $1,977,000 in purse money.

    Tyler rode in seven of the 10 races, including three of the stakes, and wound up the afternoon with another nice bundle to deposit in his Hallandale Beach bank account. Riding for such as Michael Maker, Shug McGaughey and David Fawkes, Tyler won two races, the $150,000 One Dreamer Stakes and a maiden special with a purse of $130,000. He finished third in the $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies which was worth $32,550 and third in the $400,000 Tourist Mile Stakes, worth $38,800. The trip to the bluegrass was certainly well worth the effort.    

    A decade or more ago, when historic racing was being introduced (I think Oaklawn Park was first), the idea was met with a great deal of skepticism. Now, however, like the introduction of racinos, historic racing has become the backbone for certain meetings. Kentucky Downs is a perfect example - of the nearly $2 million the track handed out in purses on Wednesday, $625,620 was generated by historic racing. That's impressive, and a major reason why so many important stables show up to make the two weeks ultra successful.   


Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Simulcasting and casino open through Friday evening . . .

    Due to the imminent threat of Irma, Gulfstream Park has canceled its live programs beginning tomorrow and continuing through Sunday. If all is well, live racing will resume on Wednesday, Sept. 13. The track will be open for simulcasting through Friday and the casino will be open through Friday evening.

    Owners have been told they have the option to leave their horses at Gulfstream, or Gulfstream West, or move them upstate to Palm Meadows. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
DRF stalwart knows how to handicap . . .

    Brad Free has been a Daily Racing Form stalwart for years, both as a writer and a handicapper, and his recent presence on TVG is a welcome respite when compared to so many of the stale male and female entities we have been used to watching and who can't handicap their way out of a paper bag.  

    Case in point. In the eighth race at Indiana Grand today, Brad made his case, quite emphatically, for the No. 2 horse, Weregild, who was 20-1 in the morning line. Brad felt that the favorite, Promises to Keep, was okay but didn't justify his price of 4/5, and Weregild was a solid longshot for several reasons. Brad noted that he was adding blinkers for the first time, was going from dirt to turf and had some noticeable help in the pedigree department for that move, was going from sprints to a distance, and had the services of Deshawn Parker, whom he feels is the best turf rider in Indiana.

     Weregild was on the board at 20-1 for quite awhile until Free began his tutorial with about five or six minutes to post time. Then, on successive flashes, he dropped to 17-1, then 12-1, then 7-1, and Brad caught the drop. By the time the race went off, though, he had drifted back to 11-1, but somebody socked in a little cash, and I have to believe it was because of Brad's discussion. I know I went on-line and made a little play. 

    Weregild shot right to the lead and held it until the top of the stretch where he was joined by Promises to Keep, and the pair ding-donged it nose-to-nose all the way to the wire. It took several minutes for the judges before putting up the favorite, but Brad's handicapping was right on the money. Very refreshing and a great help on a Tuesday when the TV audience is made up mostly of a slew of neophytes.