Track Times Today

Monday, February 27, 2017
Winning ticket cost just $194.40 . . .

    Thanks to the Gulfstream PR department, it turns out the mystery of who hit the big jackpot last week wasn't really a mystery at all. The winning ticket, worth $324,179, was the product of a joint effort by 12 friends from "all over the place," in South Florida for an annual group outing sponsored by Jim Beam. The only mystery is how much Jim Beam was utilized after Frank Calabrese's first-timer, Nick the Cardshark, won the sixth and last race at odds of 27-1. There had been just two other live singles heading into the finale. 

    The winning 20-cent ticket cost the group just $194.40, a mere outlay of $16.20 per person, assuming each had an equal share. Art Friedman, who acted as spokesman for the 12, revealed that they make the trip every February, and two years ago, had five in a row before missing in the sixth. Friedman also made up their ticket - with 4-7-10-9-7-12 the winning combo.  

    WHAT'S IN A NAME? - Back in the old days, much of the time owners used some combination of the stallion and the mare to name their horses. That changed somewhere along the way, right about the time that Florida breeder Norman Casse began naming his using three or four words, all strung together, and the rest of the world followed suit.  

    There are clever names, boring names, and, very often, stupid names, along with names where people try to fool The Jockey Club and often get away with it, plus some pretty good steeds from the past whose monikers have been pilfered. One of those is Guadalcanal, who reappeared several years ago after his namesake competed with some success against Kelso and the other great handicap horses of the 60s.

    Today, in the second race at Parx, the winner in a photo was Ima Frayed Knot, and if that isn't one of the great ones, I don't know what is. Kudos to the person who named that 12-1 shot and to those who wagered on him. 

    GIVE ADEMAR A CHANCE - More than once in this space I have mentioned that the most under-rated jockey who competes at Tampa Bay Downs is Ademar Santos, who manages to make it into the top 10 at the track every year despite riding a long list of bums. Poor Ademar gets on horses who are 15-1, 20-1 and 30-1 more than anybody else who has a pretty good record. If you're a show bettor, he will not stop riding until the wire pops up and the number of long shots he brings in second and third is remarkable.

    His latest stats read: 148 mounts, 16 winners, 15 seconds and 13 thirds, with earnings of $212,245. Not close to Daniel Centeno, but Daniel never rides the type of horses Ademar does. On Sunday, he was aboard Coquivacoa, a 4-year-old filly by Northwest Stud's Flashstorm who had made two previous starts at Mountaineer. She was second in her debut in October, and seventh in her second try in November. 

    Ademar rushed her out of the gate from the 11 post, sat just off the pace, moved between horses on the turn and it was all over. Coquivacoa won by three lengths without anybody getting close - AND PAID $59. Good handicappers usually can flush out up and coming riders before the word gets out, but not in this case, it seems. I guess that helps me then, doesn't it? 





Saturday, February 25, 2017
Pool goes for more than $324,000 . . .

    Gulfstream Park's  Rainbow 6 jackpot left the building Thursday and without further verification, it may have gone out in the pocket of a real player, Frank Carl Calabrese.  

    There were just three single tickets alive heading into the 11th-race finale, and when Calabrese's Nick the Cardshark loped home by 5 3/4 lengths and paid $57.40 under Carlos Montalvo, the pool was hit for $324,179. Sound reasoning would lead one to believe that the only person alive with the 27-1 shot would be the owner, especially since Calabrese is known for his wagering prowess.   

    Of course, Ken and Sarah Ramsey might have been alive for the finale based on the results of the first five races, three of which were won by progeny of their fabulous stallion, Kitten's Joy. After Live Oak Plantation's Kabang, a Tapit gelding, got things going at $18.80 in the sixth race, the Ramseys won the seventh (owned and bred) for a payoff of $7.20, West Point Thoroughbreds the eighth at $17.40, the Ramseys the ninth (owned only) at $6.20, and the Ramseys the 10th (bred only) at $17.40. Could Ken and Sarah be holding the winning combo? Or Frank Carl Calabrese? Word will probably leak out shortly, if it hasn't already. 

    HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN? - The conspiracy theorists had cause for further dismay at Oaklawn Park Thursday when First Thought went wire-to-wire in the second race. When he broke out of the gate in the six-furlong race, First Thought was sitting on the board at 5/2. He continued on top with a two or three-length lead down the backstretch and around the turn, and as they hit the top of the stretch. That's when the odds changed on the TV screen and he was 2-1.

    I know the tracks swear they can monitor when and where all bets come from, but a change when they hit the top of the stretch? Come on.  

    BO OVER BOW - A horse showed up in the 10th race at Gulfstream on Thursday - Bow Town Cat - by Cowtown Cat out of Clara Bow, by Way West. Todd Schrupp and Simon Bray reminded us oldies that everybody under 45 or so believes that the world began the day they were born. That's why they laugh at the Fabulous Fifties, Elvis, the Bee Gees and disco, are positive that basketball originated the day Michael Jordan came to town, and constantly spout that today's athletes are "bigger, faster and stronger." (They always leave out "fatter.") I can't imagine finding any football player today who is faster than Bob Hayes (Cowboys) or Henry Carr (Giants) of the 60s.

    Todd and Simon deliberated over the pronunciation of the Bow in Bow Town, whether it should be like cow, or bo. They clearly had no idea of who Clara Bow was. Thankfully, track announcer Peter Aiello got the bo right. By the way, Pete, who used to announce the quarter horse races at Hialeah and was the track's PR director, has become quite proficient during his stint at Gulfstream. He has a great announcing voice, speaks clearly and picks up horses who may not be close to the leaders when they begin making a move from the rear. Good choice. 




Monday, February 20, 2017
She goes over $100,000 . . .

    Every once in a while, if one makes a habit of studying the tote board for clues to produce clever wagering, something pops up  that makes us scratch our heads. At Gulfstream Park on Sunday, Flash Jak was the morning line choice in a $6,250 claimer at six furlongs with red-hot Paco Lopez aboard. The 5-year-old daughter of Northwest Stud's Gone Astray was favored on the board from the outset mostly at just under 2-1. The second choice was Unknown, with Tyler Gaffalione. (The horse wasn't unknown, that was her name). 

    As Paco led his mare toward the gate, she had been bet down to 6/5, and Unknown was 9/5. As they were ready to break, the board changed and Unknown dropped to 6/5, while Flash Jak jumped up to 8/5. The gate opened, they broke cleanly and a few seconds later, the board made its final change: both horses were 2-1. It was one of the most bizarre odds movements I've ever seen.

    What made it more bizarre was that Paco quickly placed Flash Jak just off the pace in the two path, moved her up to the lead on the turn, and just hand rode her home to a 5 1/2-length score while looking under his arm for any competition. There was none. Unknown never got out of a gallop despite Gaffalione's urging, and she finished a distant sixth.

    Because of the strange betting pattern, Flash Jak's backers were rewarded with a juicy payoff of $6.40; Unknown's backers ripped up their tickets - she went off as the $2.30-1 second choice. Flash Jak, who was claimed out of the race, is now 7-6-3 in 30 starts and the $10,000 winner's check boosted her career total to $102,020. She's cheap, but she brings home the bacon.    


Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Genting managing 460 machines . . .

    After being unable to find any answers last week concerning the relationship of the Aqueduct casino and the Nassau OTB casino, I finally solved the first major question: just where is the Nassau casino? Answer: It's inside the Resorts World Casino New York, or Aqueduct. 

    It seems that in 2013 Nassau OTB was granted the right to offer slots, but protesters and community groups stood in the way of implementation. However, in April of last year, a deal was struck to place 1,000 Nassau OTB machines at Aqueduct, although only 460 have been placed. I don't know why. That boosted the number of machines at Aqueduct to 6,400.

    From what I can determine, without someone clarifying it for me, OTB is not obligated to contribute to NYRA, with one caveat. If revenues at Resorts World decline to to levels of 2013, negatively affecting the horsemen's association, then there will be a contribution. Genting, which owns Resorts World, is managing the OTB machines separately from its own. Then there's a provision that I cannot comprehend, something about "divvying up" $9 million to OTB for two years and $25 million a year after that. I think the writer doesn't understand the meaning of "divvy" and probably meant fork over. 

    P. S. I have now found a December column by Dave Grening in DRF clearing up several points.

    "Under the deal, which was included in the state budget passed last spring, Genting can designate up to 1,000 of its current 5,450 VLTs as belonging to Nassau County OTB. Nassau OTB will receive $18 million from Genting over two years and up to $25 million in the ensuing years, and it will use some of that money to pay down part of its $12 million debt.

    "Meanwhile, racing would only get revenue from those machines if revenue from the other machines falls below 2013 levels. Racing industry officials are estimating the impact could be $16 million to $18 million, with purses taking as much as a $12 million hit." 

    There's the straight scoop.

     Based on industry leaders' comments in Grening's column, nobody was sure at the time just how much the deal was going to affect purses and breeders' awards. One puzzling facet of the extra machines: currently, the Resorts world machines have been generating a profit each day of anywhere from $322 to $398, but the Nassau OTB machines are generating at least double. For the week ending Feb. 4, in fact, the OTB machines generated $1,009. Why are the OTBs doing better than those of Resorts World? That will take a little more detective work.

    P. P. S. I might have read Grening's column in December if the Racing Form didn't cost $11 a day.  




Sunday, February 12, 2017
Lowers Destin's mark . . .

    When Street Sense used Tampa Bay Downs as his springboard to his Kentucky Derby victory in 2007, the Tampa Bay Derby was his first start of the year. The son of Street Cry defeated Any Given Saturday by a nose and set a track record of 1:43.11 for the mile and one-sixteenth.

    Street Sense went on to miss by a nose behind Dominican in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, but was easily best on the First Saturday in May, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Hard Spun, with Curlin almost six lengths back in third. He became the first Derby winner to emanate from Oldsmar. 

    Along came Super Saver in 2010, and he made the Tampa Bay Derby his first start of the season, too. The colt by Maria's Mon didn't even win it, finishing third by half a length to Odysseus and Schoolyard Dreams. Super Saver then went the Arkansas Derby route and lost by a neck to Line of David. However, in Louisville, Calvin Borel guided him to a 2 1/2-length score over Ice Box at odds of 8-1.

    During that same season, Bold Start lowered Street Sense's track record to 1:42.83, and that mark stood until last year, when Destin lowered it by a fraction to 1:42.82. Yesterday, when McCraken overpowered eight other aspiring 3-year-olds to win the Gr. III Sam F. Davis Stakes, he took it down to 1:42.45. McCraken is a son of Ghostzapper out of the Seeking the Gold mare Ivory Empress,  owned and bred by Whitham Thorougbreds, the same people who gave us the magnificent Argentinian Bayakoa, champion older mare in 1989 and '90. 

    McCraken is now a perfect 4-for-4, and, ironically, one of his 2016 victories came in the $83,000, one-mile Street Sense at Churchill Downs, where he previously had broken his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs and later won the Gr. II Kentucky Jockey Club at 1 1/16 miles by 1 1/4 lengths. Brian Hernandez has been aboard in all four. 

    Yesterday, Hernandez did what he did in the first three, taking the colt back to seventh and letting everybody else do the heavy lifting. When he swung McCraken to the outside and turned him loose, it was never in doubt and a legitimate Derby contender was unveiled. Stella Thayer's VIP room just past the finish line was packed with Whitham family members from all over the place and they all crowded into the winner's circle to accept the extremely heavy trophy. 

    McCraken picked up another 10 points toward Derby eligibility, which is just a formality now. He'll probably hang around for the Tampa Bay Derby next month and might even make a start in April prior to heading for Louisville. The $120,000 check brought his total to $310,848.

    The runner-up in the Sam F. Davis was Tapwrit, a son of Tapit who was purchased by John Malone, owner of Bridlewood Farm, for $1.2 million at the 2015 Saratoga sale. In his September debut, Tapwrit bombed out in a 7-furlong maiden special at Saratoga, but he rebounded with a victory at Gulfstream West prior to winning the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He closed nicely behind McCraken under Jose Ortiz and finished just 1 1/2 lengths behind, earning $40,000 and boosting his total to $103,902. He's also a Derby eligible, as is third-place finisher State of Honor. 

    The Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes, a Gr. III event at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, was won by favored Isabella Sings, a 5-year-old Eskendereya mare who went over the $600,000 mark for Siena Farms, winning for the eighth time in 20 starts. The third-place finisher was Lambholm South's Evidently, a 6-year-old Gr. III-winning Smart Strike mare who came from out of the clouds to nail down the show spot. She's now 3-2-3 in 23 starts with earnings of $274,823 for Lambholm owner Roy Lerman, who is also her trainer.

    Gulfstream Park was the clear winner in the battle for the betting dollar yesterday, with an all-sources handle of $15,978,605, followed by Santa Anita with $10,046,272. Tampa was right behind Frank Stronach's other track with $9,488,680, while Aqueduct, suffering from weather woes, reached just $7,169,037.