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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Euros seem to be much better behaved . . .

    What is it that European horsemen seem to have discovered that their American counterparts haven't?

    Watching our country's races on TVG often, we constantly see fractious horses who refuse to get in the gate and have to be pushed and pulled and prodded by several assistants before they'll slip into that narrow space. Then we see the ones who go berserk waiting for the race to begin and dump their riders, often getting cast in the gate or flipping over backwards, and many times wind up being scratched. During the running of races, we see riders checking badly to avoid clipping heels, and others having to swing wide while being pushed out by the horse or horses inside, and riders standing up to avoid the two in front who have come together and closed up the hole. These are not rare examples - they are everyday occurrences.

    TVG has given us the chance to watch the Europeans in action from many venues - Ascot, The Curragh, Sligo, Newmarket, Lingfield, Chester, Epsom, Goodwood and a host of others. If there's one thing we have taken away from this experience it's that we don't see horses acting up on the way to the gate, or having to be pushed into it, or leaping high into the air once they're in. And, no matter how many horses are in the race, often up to 20, there doesn't seem to be much checking and bumping and the like from start to finish.

    The European runners seem to be much more well-behaved than the U. S. horses, and the jockeys help the situation by not venturing into places where they don't belong.

    Somebody must know the answer to this dilemma. It's certainly not me.    

    MORE FROSH SUCCESS - The belated success of Florida's freshman sires has continued in July, with Pleasant Acres still leading the way by a wide margin via Treasure Beach and Brethren, and Journeyman Stud's Winslow Homer and Northwest Stud's Wrote both getting their first winners.

    Treasure Beach remains in the top six nationally after the smashing victory of Vino at Monmouth Park. The colt owned and bred by Mr. Amore Stables ran away and hid by 7 1/2 lengths in a $36,000 maiden special at five furlongs that came off the turf. Four rivals made early bids at Vino, but he was much the best over the sloppy surface, and collected $21,600 for the effort that announcer Frank Mirahmadi called "a sparkling performance." Treasure Beach has surpassed $167,000 in earnings.

    Brethren's third winner was Dunk, who had finished third twice at Gulfstream under Ramsey Zimmerman, then rolled by nearly nine lengths when paired with Emisael Jaramillo. The colt owned and bred by Arindel earned $34,000 for the score, raising his bank account to $42,400. Brethren has surpassed $102,000.

    Winslow Homer's first winner was Chloe Raven, a filly bred by Darsan who went off at 4/5 in her debut at Louisiana Downs and was all alone at the finish - by 7 3/4 lengths - in an $18,500 maiden special. Wrote's first winner was High Providence, a colt bred by Nina Camperlengo who broke his maiden in his first try at Lone Star Park at odds of 12-1, coming from off the pace to score by 1 1/2. 



Tuesday, July 11, 2017
What is profit lines' win percentage? . . .

    Analytics is defined as the "discovery, interpretation and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify performance." Whew!

    One of the simplest applications of analytics in sports today involves baseball. For some reason known only to the analytics nuts, pitchers are only allowed to throw 100 pitches nowadays (give or take a few), even if they're in the process of fashioning a no-hitter or a shutout. I would love to know what the percentages are for the number of times the bullpen has blown the game for the guys who left after seven innings with the lead after having given up none, or one, or two hits. In the NFL, I would love to know how many times a kickoff returner doesn't make it back to the 25-yard-line. Those are a pair of stats we don't hear about, though. 

    Perhaps no other sport has as many analytics gurus as thoroughbred racing. One of the strongest points that possible newcomers make for their reluctance to get involved is that handicapping is too complicated. There are Thoro-graph numbers, the Ragozin sheets, Beyer numbers, Equineline figures, Equibase figures and probably a dozen more. I have always wondered, if any of these shortcuts to picking winners is so good, why isn't everybody using the same one and making millions? And if they're so good, why are the inventors giving out the info instead of just betting on the winners themselves? 

    My latest foray into the world of analytics came this week when I checked out a betting column on the Twin Spires ADW. I have always been aware of the first column, which lists the morning line of each horse. And the second column, which posts what the odds of each horse are coming up to post time. But I never paid attention to the third column, which always had numbers that may or may not have mirrored one of the other two columns, most often, not. 

    A few days ago I clicked on the third column and found that the third column was reserved for "profit line odds," which I found is akin to the people who decide that analytics can tell what a team's chances are of beating another team in the playoffs.

    Profit line odds "represent each horse's estimated probability of winning based on a rigorous computer study encompassing thousands of races. Profit line odds incorporate numerous handicapping factors (speed, class, pace, form, weight, distance, surface, trainer, jockey, pedigree, recency, etc.) The horse with the lowest profit line is deemed to be the most likely winner according to the profit line." 

    Very neat, and concise and to me, a lot of baloney. Where are the analytics that show the percentage of times the horse with the lowest profit line actually won the race. That's a number worth knowing. I haven't seen it anywhere. And, how does the profit line factor in the horse getting left at the gate, or the rider running up on the inside after getting left and burying his horse in a 21-plus quarter, or the horse being carried six wide on the turn by a bolting rival, or the fact that the horse was fouled in his last three races, or any one of a great many other problems not listed in the explanation.

    A computer can accomplish many objectives, but picking out the winner of a horse race is not one of them. Otherwise, we'd have a 1/9 shot in every race. Anyway, the use of speed, class, pace, form, etc. is just what a good handicapper determines when he goes over the PPs in the Racing Form. I would rather Twin Spires left out the profit line and used the space instead to give me the jockey and pedigree of each horse, like DRF/ExpressBets does. 



Friday, July 7, 2017
Treasure Beach leads with three winners . . .

    After a very slow start, the five freshman stallions at Pleasant Acres have made a huge move and taken over the top spots among Florida's first-year sires, and they appear to love Gulfstream Park.

    Last week, Seattle Treasure and Treasure for Gold won on back-to-back days over Gulfstream's grass course, giving Treasure Beach three winners and putting him on the top of the list - his earnings have surpassed $113,000. Both won in $60,000 maiden special company and collected checks of $40,000. Seattle Treasure went wire-to-wire under Carlos Olivero, holding off even-money favorite Channel Cat and Hall of Famer Javier Castellano by a length in :56.77 for the five furlongs. Treasure for Gold had to steady early with red-hot rider Tyler Gaffalione, but she inhaled the leaders in the stretch and won by a length in :56.65.

    Also in the field against Seattle Treasure was Yeehaw, a colt by another Pleasant Acres stallion, Anthony's Cross, and he finished a solid third, just a head behind the runner-up.

    Yesterday, Tip Sheet became the second winner for Brethren, another PA freshman, making Treasure Beach and Brethren the only two Florida freshmen with more than one winner. Tip Sheet, owned and bred by Arindel, raced greenly in his maiden special debut but a drop into claiming company was all he needed. He was off third under Emisael Jaramillo, went three wide on the turn and was up by three-quarters at the wire. The runner-up was pacesetter Duke of Miami, looking to become the first winner by Northwest Stud's Duke of Mischief.

    Poseidon's Warrior, who has one winner, just missed a second when Incredible Warrior lost by a nose at Prairie Meadows and he's a cinch to break his maiden shortly. 

    Pleasant Acres stallions have six of the 10 winners by Florida's freshmen so far. 




Friday, June 30, 2017
Alcanudance, Pink Mama are crowd favorites . . .

    With all the attention paid to the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup, graded races, and the hype surrounding horses such as Arrogate, American Pharoah, California Chrome, Zenyatta, etc., most of the time the little guys who are the nuts and bolts of the game are overlooked. A couple of the feel-good nuts-and-bolters were in action in the past week and they deserve a little hype of their own.

    Alcanudance is a Florida-bred by Alke who was born in 2007 at CloverLeaf Farm II north of Ocala. It's the farm that was originally developed by Bob Brennan and called Due Process Stable South and is now Woodford Thoroughbreds.

    At Finger Lakes on Monday, Alcanudance made the 81st start of his career, and there are precious few thoroughbreds who make it through 81 races these days. It was a $5,000 claimer at five furlongs and the gelding was sent off at 2-1 - he had previously made four starts this year, posting a pair of seconds.

     Alcanudance was sent right to the lead and he went wire-to-wire, putting up fractions of :22.19 and :45.99 en route to scoring by one-half length in :59.02. It was the gelding's 30th victory of his career to go along with 15 seconds and 17 thirds - that's 62 times in the top three in those 81 races. If he had been racing in top company, or even middle-of-the road claimers, Alcanudance would be a millionaire twice over. Instead, he just edged over the $300,000 mark.

    His best years came in 2012 and 2015 when he won six times in each season, and he's averaged $3,716 per start. It's hard not to root for this guy. 

    Then there's Pink Mama. The 4-year-old filly by Mass Media was bred north of Ocala by Mary and Richard Tortora. Mary is the former Mary Russ, who can be remembered as the first female rider to win a Gr. I stakes in this country when she piloted Lord Darnley to victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap in 1982. 

    Pink Mama won at Gulfstream on Sunday for trainer Gerald Bennett at odds of 1/9, marking her sixth straight victory, the first four at Tampa Bay Downs and the last two at Gulfstream, and by a combined margin of 31 1/4 lengths. In this one, an optional claimer starter allowance, she rated in third place under Samy Camacho, moved three wide on the turn, then drew off with ease to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Not bad for a filly who Bennett claimed at Tampa for $6,250. She's 8-2-0 in her last 10 starts, and overall 10-4-0 in 19 with earnings of $134,720. And the Tortoras have benefitted to the tune of 14 breeders' awards.  



Monday, June 26, 2017
Rain and scratches change the playing field . . .

    How much money could an owner make with a horse with some main track ability, but not enough to win even small stakes, if he told the racing secretary to drop his name in the box for every turf race that comes up on the grass and has a good purse? And every time one of those races comes off the turf and suffers from a great many scratches, the owner's horse is a go.

    It may sound strange, but think of how often a scenario pops up like with the $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. There were six entered, but when the race came off the grass Lull and Rubilinda were scratched, leaving four to go after the $60,000 winner's check. The other splits were $20,000 for second, $10,000 for third, $5,000 for fourth, $3,000 for fifth and $2,000 to be split among the rest of the finishers. 

    Now, what if the owner we are talking about tells his jockey to just sit last, save his horse, and let her run the last quarter, and see what happens. The worst would be she finishes fifth and gets $3,000. But what if what happened in the Wild Applause happens?

    The favorite ($1.15-1), Rum Go with Javier Castellano, decided not to assert herself early and just jogged around for the entire mile. Super Marina, with Manny Franco, edged Bellavais ($1.25-1), with John Velazquez, by a neck to account for the first two checks.  The third horse, Talaaqy, finished 11 1/4 lengths behind in third, and she was 30 1/4 lengths ahead of the favorite, who never did get in gear. 

    So, our owner is sure to beat the favorite and get the fourth-place check of $5,000, but she has a chance to outfinish the third-place horse and get $10,000. Am I nuts? Maybe, but if I had the opportunity, I would try it. 

    How about Saturday's $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita. There were only four entered to take on 1/9 Battle of Midway and one of them, Arms runner, was scratched. An owner could have entered this one and been assured of at least $2,000 for fifth. Battle of Midway won by 4 1/4 over B Squared, who was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Term of Art, who was 2 1/4 ahead of Quiet Dude, who lost it all by 11. Our phantom horse might have gotten home fourth and hit for $6,000. Maybe even third if he had some ability. 

    Just thinking.

    GIVE'EM NO QUARTER - The story of French Quarter has been told here often, but it's so unique, it continually deserves attention. Bred from the rescued 17-year-old mare Cent Nouvelles by Ocala advertising guru Kathy Taylor in 2010, the gelding by Shakespeare has been alternating races from Woodbine in the summer to Gulfstream in the winter for five years and picked up several welcomed breeder's awards for Kathy along the way. She spent a bundle caring for Frenchie and the nine she rescued when Eddie Martin Stable South went bust. 

    However, early in this Gulfstream meeting, owner Howard Walton and trainer John Mattine lost Frenchie in a claim for $62,500 and new trainer David Fawkes has taken him to new heights. In his last seven races at Gulfstream racing for both stables, Frenchie has won twice, been second three times and third twice, including a third on Saturday, and three of the placings were in non-graded stakes. The breeder's awards for the seven races come to nearly $18,000, and Frenchie appears to far be from ready to hang it up - he has been clocked in under 1:10 for six furlongs often. Maybe it's really true that everything comes to he (or she) who waits.