Track Times Today

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Great Race Place feeling the pinch . . .

    Racing's biggest problem - short fields at too many tracks around the country - reached new heights this week with the announcement that Santa Anita has canceled Thursday's program due to insufficient entries. Not Ruidoso Downs, or Prairie Meadows, or Sunland Park, but Santa Anita, which TVG's analysts remind us every five minutes or so is "The Great Race Place."

    And it's not an aberration due to a mid-week program, based on these numbers: On Saturday, Santa Anita's 10-race card had 83 entries, for an acceptable average of 8.3 horses. However, included in the mix were two five-horse races, one of six and one of seven. The average was saved by the 10th race, which had 14 runners.

    The situation took a turn for the worst on Sunday, when the nine-race program numbered just 58 runners, an average of 6.4. Included this day were two races with four runners each and one with five.

    It wasn't any better at Aqueduct on Saturday, where the card featured 66 entrants in nine races, an average of 7.3, including one five-horse affair and two of six.

    Gulfstream Park, with its Championship meeting ended, still had 95 runners in 11  races on Saturday, an average of 8.6, despite one race with a field of five. The handle at all three tracks, naturally, feels the effects of the short fields. For instance, someone wheeling a horse in a $5 exacta in a 7-horse race expends $30, while the same bet in a 10-horse race costs $45. Multiply that by the handle lost in all the various exotics when there are short fields and it results in a serious hit on the day's bottom line.

    There seems to be a consensus of horsemen I have talked to that the increased costs of training, feed, veterinarians, vanning, farriers, etc. have knocked out much of the middle class, just like in so many other aspects in the country. At the sales, the high-end prospects are still selling en masse, but the middle-of-the-roaders are just not making it. Just check the RNAs at any of the 2-year-old sales.

    QUITE A DAY - The claiming ranks reached a new level at Tampa Bay Downs over the weekend when the 6-year-old mare Laur Net was taken for $62,500, highest claim ever at the Oldsmar track. The new owner is Ron Paolucci's Looch Racing Stables, which more than made up for the price a few hours later with a major score in the Gr. II Charles Town Classic with its purse of $1,250,000.     Paolucci's Imperative won the race by a neck and collected $732,000, while another Looch runner, War Story, finished third and took home $122,000. A third runner from the stable, Cautious Grant, wound up eighth and last and still earned $20,000, a total of $874,000 for the trio. Cautious Grant more than accomplished his purpose, though, as the 84-1 shot ran 6/5 favorite Stanford into defeat on the front end, making way for the come-from-behind 1-3 finish of his two stablemates.

    Laur Net is an Illinois-bred with a major Florida influence, by Strong Hope (formerly at Winding Oaks Farm) out of the Lucky Lionel (formerly at Franks Farms) mare Lady Lionel, and she's won 7 of 27 races. She scored by 2 1/4 lengths under Ronnie Allen Jr. with a mile on the grass in 1:36.52 and will compete next at Delaware Park.        

    

Friday, April 21, 2017
They win the first two events at Gulfstream for juveniles . . .

    Wesley Ward has been heralded as the king of the early 2-year-old racing season for many years, getting his youngsters ready to roll when racing secretaries at Keeneland, Gulfstream and Aqueduct card rich maiden specials that anyone can take advantage of. Ward took advantage of three of them at Keeneland last week, and now Carlos Munoz and his trainer, Javier Negrete, has done likewise at Gulfstream.

  In Gulfstream's first 2-year-old event on Wednesday, with a purse of $50,000, Munoz entered a pair of runners and got a little lucky when only five others joined the fray. He won the race with DiMaria, a Kentucky-bred filly by Data Line who paid $31.60 to win and collected a check for $24,000. DiMaria drew away from the others late and was clocked in :51.50, not far off the track record of :51.07 for the 4 1/2 furlongs.

    The other Munoz-Negrete entry was La Chica Ripool, a Florida-bred filly who became the first starter for freshman sire Soldat, who stands at Woodford Thoroughbreds. La Chica Ripool set the pace, putting up fractions of :22.16 and :45.12 before tiring to finish third, 6 1/4 lengths behind her stablemate, and Munoz picked up another $4,400.

    On Thursday, another owner/breeder who likes to pick up some of that early money, Fred Brei, sent out Slacks of Course to win the second 2-year-old event at Gulfstream. The colt is by Brei's stallion, Awesome of Course, who now stands at Ocala Stud Farm and has been responsible for some major paydays for his owner in the past several years. Slacks of Course paid $2.80 under Tyler Gaffalione and earned a check for $34,000 for Brei's Jacks or Better Farm. He was caught in :52.03. 

    The reason for the difference in checks for the two winners is that DiMaria is a Kentucky-bred, and didn't get to take advantage of the two $5,000 bonuses for Floridians that Brei received for Slacks of Course. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Frosh Sires Brethren and Soldat get first runners . . .

    Two Florida-bred 2-year-olds have made a seasonal appearance thus far, I'm Corfu, by freshman sire Corfu, finishing fifth at Keeneland and Heir Horse One, by deceased champion Wildcat Heir, finishing fifth at Turf Paradise. That will change early in the day tomorrow by way of a pair of rich filly races at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park, both at 4 1/2 furlongs.

    The second race at the Big A is a $100,000 maiden special that has drawn a field of six, including Stream of Gold, a daughter of Get Away Farm's Two Step Salsa, one of Florida's leading sires. On Sunday, Two Step Salsa's second-leading money-earner, Classic Salsa, won at Laurel Park to gain his 11th victory in a span of 31 races, raising his lifetime bank account to $374,169. The 6-year-old doesn't appear to be slowing down, getting the six furlongs in 1:10.57 after posting fractions of :22.28, :45.66 and :57.80, and winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Classic Salsa has two victories and a third in three starts this year, and was claimed out of the race for $20,000. The consistent performer has also won at Belmont Park, Aqueduct, Pimlico, Tampa Bay Downs and Turfway Park. 

    At about the same time that the Aqueduct race goes off, Gulfstream's second will feature a field of seven fillies competing for $50,000, which includes an FOA of $5,000. The No. 1 horse is Go Astray, a daughter of Northwest Stud's highly successful Gone Astray. She's owned and bred by Ramiro Medina.

    No. 2 is Panty Hose, by Ocala Stud's Awesome of Course, owned and bred by Fred Brei's Jacks or Batter Farm. 

    No. 3 is DiMaria, a Kentucky-bred, followed by the first two runners by Pleasant Acres Stallions' freshman sire Brethren. No. 4, Minaj, and No. 5, Baylor, are both owned and bred by Arindel, one of the co-owners of the stallion by Distorted Humor who won Tampa's Sam F. Davis Stakes. 

    The 6 horse is Kentucky-bred Lounge Act, trained by the country's perennial leading 2-year-old conditioner at this time of year, Wesley Ward, and No. 7 is La Chica Ripool, the first runner by Woodford Thoroughbreds' Soldat. She's owned and bred by Carlos Munoz. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017
Finishes fifth at Keeneland

    The honor of getting the first Florida 2-year-old runner of 2017 goes to Bridlewood Farm's freshman sire, Corfu. 

    I'm Corfu, owned and trained by Wayne Rice and bred by Donna Burnham, finished fifth at Keeneland Wednesday in a $60,000 maiden special at 4 1/2 furlongs, earning a check for $1,341. The race was won by McErin, a son of Trappe Shot who went off at 30 cents to a dollar and scored by 7 1/2 lengths in :52.41. Corfu, by Malibu Moon, was bred to 55 mares and has 29 registered foals in his first crop. 

    BANG-UP MEETING - The Gulfstream Park Championship Meeting that just ended set an all-sources handle record of $867 million, up 7.34 percent over last year's previous record of $807 million. It seems that it wasn't that long ago, when Doug Donn owned the track in Hallandale Beach, and prior to full-card simulcasting, that the handle reached $100 million for the first time amid euphoria among track officials. 

    The meeting produced a record opening-day handle, and a record $40.2 million was wagered on the highly successful Pegasus World Cup day. Todd Pletcher won his 14th consecutive training title, a remarkable feat, and Luis Saez took the riding title with 102 victories. He was just the third jockey to surpass 100 victories at the meeting, following in the footsteps of Javier Castellano and Paco Lopez. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017
House and Senate expected to confer . . .

    Another legislative update from FTBOA lobbyist Matt Bryan in Wire-to-Wire this week and, as usual, no explanation on several key issues leaves the uninitiated in the dark. Matt knows what he's talking about, the FTBOA board knows what he is talking about, but I haven't a clue because Matt doesn't adhere to one of the first things I learned when I went to work at the Long Island Press: Write it so that a little old lady in New Jersey knows what you're talking about.

    In discussing approval by the state senate of SB 8, an act relating to gaming (by a vote of 32-6), he says the senate has approved CS for SB 8, and while I'm sure many people know what CS stands for, I don't. Tell me.

    SB 8 allows for widespread decoupling, including the thoroughbred tracks. This is an absolute disgrace from a thoroughbred standpoint, even though I know for a fact Tampa Bay Downs has no intention of ending racing, decoupling or not. I am confident that as long as Frank Stronach is at the helm, that goes for Gulfstream, too. As opposed to the rest of the industry, I could not care less if dogs and jai alai frontons choose not to have a live product anymore, both entities are pretty much dead as far as fan interest is concerned. Let them end that live product, and pay a nominal sum to the facilities that stay open as a penalty. (The House Commerce Committee also approved H 7037 by a vote of 19-11. It does not allow for decoupling for any permitholder).

    Back to the Senate bill. It allows for the continued existence of the not-for-profit thoroughbred permit in Marion County. Would it have been so difficult for Bryan to mention who has this permit? I assume it's OBS, but why not tell us? The bill also creates a statewide supplemental purse pool for thoroughbred races. Just what does that entail? I'm sure most people in the business would like a clarification, I know I would.

    The bill also calls for reducing the tax rate on slot machines from 35% to 30%, and later, to 25%, and a portion of that first reduction would go to purses and breeders' awards. It's about time. The extra share of the percentages would add greatly to the purse structures and awards. However, why  couldn't Bryan reveal when the percentage would drop to 25?

    This is a big one. It would allow blackjack tables at South Florida tracks. While poker is very popular at all the facilities, it can get a little too complicated for many. No matter how many poker tournaments I watch on TV, I still can't quite get when you should go "all in."But everyone knows blackjack and the game would add tremendously to the bottom line.

    The House bill, by the way, also clarifies that slot machine gaming is not allowed outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties. However, it should be expanded in one area - to include Tampa Bay Downs. The reasons are obvious.  

    Bryan says that the House and Senate have hinted that they will convene a conference of both entities to try to come to some mutual (and mutuel) agreement. I won't hold my breath. And when and if they do come up with something, I  hope Matt doesn't expect us to understand all the nuances without some simple explanation.