The long-awaited return of Three Rules highlights a huge stakes-filled Saturday at Florida's tracks, with four of the rich events slated for Tampa Bay Downs and five at Gulfstream Park.
Three Rules is a son of Gone Astray who won his first five starts at two in 2016, while adding his name to the list of winners of all three divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes series. At three, he was second in the Gr. II Swale, third in the Gr. II Fountain of Youth, fifth in the Florida Derby, third in the Chick Lang and first in the Gr. III Carry Back at Gulfstream in his last start on July 1.
Three Rules has earned $939,160 and can become Florida's latest millionaire with a victory in the $125,000 FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes at seven furlongs. The colt bred by his owners, Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Geoff Roy and Tom Fitzgerald, has Emisael Jaramillo aboard and is listed at 3/2 in a field of seven in the third race on the program.
Next at 8/5 with Antonio Gallardo is the gelding Mo Cash, a son of Ocala Stud's Adios Charlie who finished second to Three Rules in the Carry Back. Mo Cash led every step of the way before Three Rules nailed him at the wire by a neck. Previously he had won the American Fabius and OBS Sophomore Stakes and was second in the Big Drama.
The other stakes are the $125,000 FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs with R Angel Katelyn (High Cotton) listed at 2-1 with Gallardo; the $100,000 Sandpiper for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs and the $100,000 Inaugural for 2-year-olds at six furlongs. Aside from the two $125,000 races, the rest of the Tampa program features 2-year-olds.
With just 15 days left in the calendar year after Saturday, leading sire lists in several categories can be decided by both the Tampa and Gulfstream races.
Most of Florida's leading sires and leading freshman sires are represented on the Saturday cards, and Ocala Stud has a slew of them. At Tampa alone, the venerable farm is represented by In Summation, Awesome of Course, Adios Charlie, Hear No Evil, Prospective, repatriated Kantharos and pensioned High Cotton. Ocala Stud has brought in several new stallions for the 2018 season, the latest being Rainbow Heir, who they hope will be an able replacement for his sire, the late Wildcat Heir, the unquestioned Florida leader for the last six years or so, including this one, in which he has progeny earnings of more than $6 million.
Frosh sires represented are Anthony's Cross, Poseidon's Warrior, Winslow Homer, the surprising Passion for Gold, Rattlesnake Bridge and Beau Choix. Aside from Adios Charlie, High Cotton, In Summation and Awesome of Course, other top 10 Florida sires in the mix are Wildcat Heir, With Distinction, First Dude, Gone Astray and Two Step Salsa.
When it comes to innovations in the Sport of Kings, let nobody say that Gulfstream Park's management doesn't stand at the top of the list. The track that is giving us the $16 million Pegasus World Cup, the Rainbow Pick 6 and much more, has now come up with six 2-year-old stakes worth $75,000 each, plus $600,000 worth of races for horses "bred in a Representative Country of the Confederacion Hipica Del Caribe." The whole shebang tomorrow is called the Clasico Internacional del Caribe.
Topped off by the $300,000 Caribbean Classic Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, which drew a field of 12 3-year-olds, the countries represented are Panama, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Ecuador. At 7/2 in the morning line is Justiciero, a Kentucky-bred who has won eight of 13 starts, including the Puerto Rico Triple Crown.
Two of the 2-year-old races preceding the Caribbean will be run at six furlongs, two at one mile, and two on the grass. There are 14 Florida-breds entered in the six, but only 10 are by current or recent past Florida stallions.
In the Hut Hut Stakes for fillies are Mariealena, by Ocala Stud's High Cotton, who will no longer be breeding, and Weekend Mischief, by Into Mischief.
The Wait a While, also for fillies, includes Unstablenthemornin, by Double Diamond's First Dude, Florida's leading active sire, and Homemade Salsa, Get Away Farm's daughter of Two Step Salsa who won the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Gulfstream West and is 2-1-0 in three starts. Two Step Salsa has surpassed all of his personal records this year for earnings, winners and 2-year-old winners, and is headed toward $1.9 million in progeny earnings. Also entered is Gift of Glory, by Lookin At Lucky.
The Buffalo Man Stakes features Silent Tiger, by Hartley/DeRenzo's With Distinction, who has been in the top two or three on the Florida lists for five or six years.
The House Party Stakes for fillies has four Florida-breds - Lil B. Quick, by former Winding Oaks sire Graeme Hall; Frau Riley, one of the winners in the first crop of Brethren, who moves from Pleasant Acres to Arindel Farm for the new breeding season; Florida Fuego, by former Ocala Stud stalwart Kantharos, and Writer's Almanac, by Mineshaft.
Tip Sheet, a two-time winner by Brethren and second behind Soutache in the $400,000 In Reality Stakes, will contest the Smooth Air Stakes, along with Winking at Thedude, a son of First Dude.
The Pulpit Stakes will include Seattle Treasure, one of 11 winners by Pleasant Acres' freshman Treasure Beach, and Nauti Boy, by Mizzen Mast. Seattle Treasure finished third in the Juvenile Turf Stakes at Gulfstream West.
The handle will be in the blockbuster range again for Gulfstream, and the races should provide some legitimate contenders for the upcoming 3-year-old races in Florida.
There are just 31 days left in the race to become Florida's leading freshman sire of 2017, with one of the two major categories possibly decided, and the other a tossup between two sires from Pleasant Acres Stallions.
Heading into the weekend, Poseidon's Warrior leads in the earnings category at $576,404, with another Pleasant Acres stallion, Treasure Beach, at $513,429. In third place is Brethren, who began the year at Pleasant Acres but who will ply his trade in 2018 at Arindel, the farm of his owners, the Cohen family.
The most winners title is up for grabs between Treasure Beach and Woodford Thoroughbreds' Soldat, both with 11. In third place is Ocala Stud's Prospective, with seven.
Brethren is the unquestioned leader in the blacktype runners category with four, two more than Treasure Beach.
Poseidon's Warrior has the most accomplished 2-year-old in Firenze Fire, winner of the Gr. I Champagne and the Gr. III Sanford, with earnings of $449,100.
With Gulfstream Park opening tomorrow, and Tampa Bay Downs heading into its second weekend, all the stats lists are eligible to change before Jan. 1.
Four months into the state's pari-mutuel fiscal year, it has become readily apparent that there have been two major changes in the racino landscape in South Florida.
The first is that Pompano Park has (maybe temporarily) lost its position as the No. 1 money-churner down south. Through Oct. 31, the "credits in" column at Pompano reached $444,981,563; Flagler dog track, the perennial second-place entity, checked in with $453,587,913. It's the first time that has happened since Flagler's slots parlor opened in mid-October of 2009.
It isn't so much that Flagler's business has ballooned; "credits in" from this period in 2017 reached $453.5 million, last year's was $435 million. But Pompano's business is way down - in July from $148 million to $129 million; August from $141 million to $114 million; September from $135 million to $90 million, and October from $139 million to $110 million. It's easy to see how Flagler took over the top spot.
I don't know what has precipitated the change, but I will attempt to find out.
The second change down south is that when all the facilities closed down for anywhere from four to eight days due to the hurricane in September, Hollywood dog track (Mardi Gras) never reopened. It's reportedly to make renovations needed after extensive hurricane damage. The track that has benefited most is Gulfstream, Hollywood's nearest geographical competitor. Last year, Gulfstream's "credits in" from October totaled $57.6 million; this year it jumped to just under $72 million.
Finally, to put a stamp on just how much casino takeout affects slots payouts, digest this. Even though Pompano trailed Flagler in the "credits in" department, the trotting track's net slots revenue totaled $37,588,392 to $27,149,956 for Flagler. Why such a big disparity? Pompano's takeout rate is 9.64 percent; Flagler's is 6.42 percent. But factoring in Pompano's decline in business, maybe the slots fanciers are beginning to catch on.
Tampa Bay Downs opened yesterday and 4,212 showed up even though there was no stakes race carded on the initial program. On-track handle was $317,112, and the per capita $75, about average for the track, and continuing to show that the Bay area bettors like to show up, but they don't come with their wallets or purses bulging.
Despite field sizes that continually eclipse most of the other venues, ITW handle (what was bet around the state) was minute - $180,884 - but ISW (everywhere else) reached $2,612,606, putting the total handle at more than $3.1 million. It will get better.
True to its abandoning racing in recent months and years, the Tampa Bay Times didn't have one word on the Tampa opening in Saturday's edition, other than the entries.
NO PLAY - Mardi Gras (Hollywood dogs) has been inactive since the hurricane - closed for renovations. The effect on surrounding racinos, mainly Gulfstream Park and Dania Jai Alai, has been very apparent. More on that tomorrow.
BAD BEAT RECORD - Andy Beyer wrote a column several years ago about a man who was supposed to win a big racetrack jackpot, but a weird quirk in the rules prevented him from collecting. He called it the worst "bad beat"of all time. That one has to take a back seat to one that's infinitely better.
A woman named Katrina Bookman, playing the slots early this month at Resorts World Casino New York (at Aqueduct), thought she had made that life-changing score when the screen popped up with the news that she had hit for $42.9 million. Casino employees rushed over to her, but no prize voucher was printed out. The casino people said the machine was broken.
The New York State Gaming Commission removed the machine from the floor and after examination, announced that the proper payoff should have been $2.25 and the display of $42.9 million"was clearly a malfunction."
The woman's lawyer answered: "Does that mean that a casino can always say a machine is broken whenever someone hits and hits big?"
The commission said that the penny slot machine Bookman was playing has a max payout of $6,500. The highest possible prize payout at Resorts World Casino is $500,000.
But all was not lost - as a consolation the casino offered the woman a steak dinner. You can bet we haven't heard the last of this sad tale.
What promises to be a blockbuster winter racing season in Florida kicks off Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, followed by the opening of Gulfstream Park one week later. And, as usual, it will be interesting to see if the Ocala Star-Banner deems either event important enough to include a line or two.
Of course, the newspaper that didn't feel the $12 million Pegasus World Cup, hosted by one of Marion County's biggest landowners, and which cut Monday racing columnist Bill Giauque's contribution to every other Monday, can hardly be expected to give a hoot about either opening. We'll soon see. Oh, by the way, I went to check on Sunday's Gulfstream results in the Monday paper . . . there were none.
The Gulfstream opening will be highlighted by the 19th edition of the popular Claiming Crown. This will mark the sixth straight year the event will be held at Gulfstream and it's worth $1.11 million. There are 294 nominations to the nine-race event which is topped off by the $200,000 Jewel at 1 1/8 miles. Ken and Sarah Ramsey are the Claiming Crown leaders with 15 victories, the same number as the trainers' leader, Mike Maker. The Ramseys have seven nominated, while Maker has 29, which include the Ramseys seven.
Handle for Claiming Crown days has been huge - more than $10 million each of the last three years - with a record $11.1 million wagered in 2016. There are four defending champions among the nominations, Super spender in the $110,000 Canterbury at five furlongs on the grass, Tormenta de Oro in the $110,000 Glass Slipper at one mile, Chepstow in the $110,000 Iron Horse at 1 1/16 miles, and Shaft of Light in the $110,000 Rapid Transit at seven furlongs.
The second edition of the Pegasus World Cup will be held on Jan. 27 and the purse has been elevated to $16 million. Among the entrants will be Gun Runner, the Breeders' Cup Classic runaway winner who is a cinch for Horse of the Year honors. Gun Runner is 11-3-2 in 18 starts and his earnings are nearing $9 million. He was slated to campaign again in 2018 at the age of five, but the plans have changed and the Pegasus will be his final race before shipping off to stud at Three Chimneys Farm in Lexington.
Among the other highlights of the Hallandale Beach meeting will be the appearance of Puerto Rico's Triple Crown winner, Justiciero, in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe on Dec. 9. Gulfstream will be the first track outside Latin Ameridca to host the race which has been contested for more than 50 years. The Puerto Rican-bred son of Coach Billy G. hasn't raced since he won the Gr. II Antonio Mongil Jr. Stakes on Aug. 20, due to Hurricane Maria. He did compete in an exhibition race to keep fit on Oct. 29 at still-shuttered Camarero.
Another winter highlight will be the return of Three Rules, the Gone Astray colt who swept all three divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes last year. Three Rules has earned $939,160 for Shade Tree Farm, Geoff Roy and Tom Fitzgerald and has turned in some super works in preparation for his return, including a bullet 59:95 for five furlongs on Sunday. He's expected to make his return in the $125,000 FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa on Dec. 16.
Not long after Three Rules worked, a player in New York hit Gulfstream's Rainbow Pick 6 for $141,853. The previous hit had come on Nov. 9 when the lone winning ticket paid $52,137.
The training track at Tampa Bay Downs opened for business on Nov. 6 and Saturday's opener will really be the second day of the meeting - the first was July 1.
Tampa will be the host of a new four-race FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series with $450,000 in purse money up for grabs. The first two $125,000 races - the Marion County FSS for 3-year-old colts and geldings (with Three Rules) and the City of Ocala for 3-year-old fillies - will debut on Dec. 16, Cotillion Festival Day, both at seven furlongs. Also on that program will be the $100,000 Inaugural for 2-year-olds, and the $100,000 Sandpiper for 2-year-old fillies.
The other two races in the series will be run on Kentucky Derby day - May 5. They are the $100,000 Silver Charm for 3-year-old colts and geldings and the $100,000 Ivanavinalot (dam of Songbird) for 3-year-old fillies, both at one mile and 40 yards.
Highlight of the meeting, of course, is the Tampa Bay Derby in March, a race that has been a major contributor as far as sending runners to the Kentucky Derby for more than a decade. The list of quality runners who have come out of the race includes Kentucky Derby winners Street Sense and Super Saver, Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit, and Musket Man, Bluegrass Cat, Brethren, Destin, Golden Ticket, Any Given Saturday, Burning Roma, Verrazano and Carpe Diem. Then there's Always Dreaming, who broke his maiden at Tampa earlier this year, then went on to win the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
Sunshine Millions Preview day at Gulfstream West was a huge success, with the eight stakes - each worth $75,000 - resulting in a solid handle of $6,271,389. There were many bullet points gleaned from the program, from the standpoint of horses, breeders, owners, jockeys, etc. Here's a rundown:
JUVENILE FILLIES SPRINT - Tyler Gaffalione picked up his first victory on the card with Silver Bay, who became the first stakes-winner for Ocala Stud Farm's freshman sire, Currency Swap. The gray filly had just broken her maiden for Richlyn Farms 15 days earlier.
TURF PREVIEW STAKES STAKES - Emisael Jaramillo, Gaffalione's No. 1 rival in the South Florida jockeys' colony, came from last place after three quarters with even-money Enterprising to nail Galleon Mist in deep stretch. Gaffalione was aboard the runner-up. The winner, a gelding by Elusive Quality, was bred by the late Leonard Lavin's Glen Hill Farm, one of only a handful of the pioneering Marion County farms still in operation, and shipped in from Woodbine for the race.
JUVENILE SPRINT STAKES - Edgard Zayas, Gaffalione's No. 2 rival, steered 3/5 favorite Wildcat's Legacy to a 3 1/4-length score over second choice Highborn, with Jaramillo aboard. The winner is from the last crop of Journeyman Stud's perennial leading Florida sire Wildcat Heir, who died early in 2015 and is set to win another leading sire title this season with progeny earnings of more than $5 million.
JUVENILE TURF STAKES - Zayas made it two in a row with Laurel shipper Nauti Boy, at the direct expense of Gaffalione and The X, who came in from Keeneland. Nauti Boy, a son of Mizzen Mast, had to survive a claim of foul by the runner-up before the prices were posted. The third horse was Seattle Treasure, one of 11 winners from the first crop of Pleasant Acres Stallions' Treasure Beach, the Florida leader in that category.
SPRINT PREVIEW STAKES - Jose Batista broke the string of winners by the top jocks with Quijote, owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, always on the list of leading owners in North America. The gelding by Pomeroy hadn't raced since July 1 at Gulfstream and vied for the lead between horses for most of the six furlongs before proving to be best in deep stretch.
DISTAFF STAKES - Gaffalione was unable to get any response in the stretch from 2-1 favorite Mama Joyce, and the race proved to be a long shot player's dream. Lirica (10-1), a 3-year-old filly by former Ocala Stud leading sire Kantharos, was up at the wire to win by one-half length over Monmouth shipper April Gaze, who was 11-1 with Zayas aboard. Pacesetter Stormy Embrace, in from Laurel and off at 13-1, held on for third. The $2 exacta paid $200 and the $1 trifecta $925.10.
JUVENILE FILLIES TURF STAKES - It was an all Get Away Farm finish, with Homemade Salsa and Gaffalione coming from off the pace and scoring by two lengths as the 9/10 favorite. The filly was bred by her owner, Manny Andrade's Get Away Farm, and is a daughter of the farm's bread-and-butter stallion, Two Step Salsa. Homemade Salsa is 2-1-0 in three starts and looked very sharp in all three. With the victory and the winner's check of $44,175, Two Step Salsa surpassed $1.7 million in progeny earnings, his best season ever. Homemade Salsa is one of her sire's 13 juvenile winners this year, which leads all Florida stallions.
CLASSIC PREVIEW STAKES - It was a repeat performance for Mr. Jordan, the 5-year-old by Kantharos who won the race last year by 3 3/4 lengths at odds of 1/2. This time around, with Zayas in the saddle, the bettors weren't as sure and the gelding went off at 9/5. He took the lead passing the half-mile marker, galloped away from the field, and had plenty left as he hit the wire 11 1/2 lengths in front. The $45,105 winner's check bumped his career total to $605,340 on a fabulous record of 8-4-6 in 24 starts.
Like I said the other day, betting on favorites in the 13 Breeders' Cup races Friday and Saturday is never good for the pocket, and this time around the devastation was more pronounced than in most of the past.
Not only did the faves fall like trees during a hurricane, in most cases they failed to hit the board. So, not only did the win and exotics players suffer an excruciating weekend, the place and show devotees followed them right down the tubes.
On Friday's four-race program, the only favorite to win was Mendelssohn in the Juvenile Turf, and he paid $11.60. Battle of Midway paid $30.40 in the Dirt Mile, where favorite Mor Spirit ($2.40-1) finished eighth. Rushing Fall returned $8 in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and favorite Happily was 14th and last. In the Distaff, it was Forever Unbridled ($9.40), while favored Elate wound up fourth at 2-1. Opening-day ledger: one winning favorite, one favorite in the money.
Florida-bred Caledonia Road ($36.60) began day two on a strong note for the fave-haters, while the people's choice, Moonshine Memories finished seventh. Florida-bred Blonde Bomber was third at 30-1.
The Turf Sprint produced a $62.40 payoff for Stormy Liberal, while Lady Aurelia, at 9/10, was 10th.
The big bomber of the afternoon came in the Filly & Mare Sprint, where New York-bred Bar of Gold galloped home at $135.40 and fave Unique Bella was seventh at even money.
Next it was Wuhelda ($24.40), bred in Great Britain, with Lady Eli struggling home in seventh at odds of 3/2.
The 1-2 finishers in the Sprint didn't light up the board, but Roy H. ($11.80) and Florida-bred Imperial Hint (4-1) were both highly playable. Drefong ($1.40-1), who was no doubt singled on many exotic tickets, was never in the hunt and finished sixth.
The bettors weren't fooled by the morning line-maker in the Mile, making Florida-bred World Approval the 5/2 favorite, and the son of Northern Afleet didn't disappoint. With a strong ride by John Velazquez, the white horse from Live Oak Stud is now the biggest money-winner among the four millionaires produced by the farm's magnificent mare, Win Approval. Morning line fave Ribchester went off at 7/2 and finished fifth.
The Juvenile was another race where many pundits expected unbeaten Bolt d'Oro to be a single on many exotics tickets and they no doubt were right. But he went off at 7/10 and was all out to finish a never-threatening third behind Good Magic ($25), who was a ton the best.
Talismatic continued the the light-up-the-board onslaught, winning the Turf and paying $30.20. Highland Reel finished third at $1.40-1.
Gun Runner righted the ship for the players who felt he should have been favored by winning the Classic, assuming any of them had any cash left. He was the $2.40-1 second choice when the gates opened, compared to Arrogate's $2.10-1. Arrogate couldn't find his old form once again and finished in a dead-heat for fifth.
Thirteen races, two winning favorites, two others finishing third. What a country!
The most important weekend of racing is upon us once again, and once again the wagering opportunities are more than enough to make even the most laid-back adventurers salivate over the possibilities. The two days of the Breeders' Cup are infamous for making a mockery of the morning lines, although those subjective numbers, as the years have passed, have more and more reflected the difficulties of isolating winners.
There are just two races where the linemaker ventured below 5/2, the Juvenile and the Classic, and the latter has to be viewed with an asterisk.
In the Juvenile, Kentucky-bred Bold d'Oro is listed at 9/5 off his perfect 3-for-3 ledger. The colt by Medaglia d'Oro won both the early Grade I's in California, the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner, and, as usual, the California pundits have convinced themselves that anything that races out west is better in most years than the denizens of the east. That, of course, remains to be seen.
There are just seven Florida-breds entered over the two days, but one of them is Firenze Fire, the colt by Pleasant Acres Stallions freshman sire Poseidon's Warrior. Although garnering little respect along the way, Firenze Fire has won 3-of-4, including the Gr. I Champagne at Belmont Park and the Gr. III Sanford at Saratoga. He's listed at a generous 6-1 with talented Irad Ortiz aboard.
The Classic is loaded with the best older horses still standing and it will be interesting to see if Arrogate (2-1) still has enough fan approval to get the nod over Gun Runner (9/5). After winning seven in a row, and being acclaimed the horse of a lifetime, Arrogate bombed in the San Diego Handicap, then came within half a length of catching Collected in the Pacific Classic, and he lost much of his luster.
Gun Runner is 5-3-0 in his last eight starts, and is on a three-race winning streak - the Woodward, Whitney and Stephen Foster. Collected is in the 11-horse field, too, and he's listed at 6-1, as is late-bloomer West Coast.
Live Oak Plantation's World Approval drew the No. 5 post in the Mile on the turf, seeking to go over the $2 million mark for owner/breeder Charlotte Weber. The 5-year-old gelding's dam is Win Approval, possibly the only broodmare in history to have produced four millionaires - Miesque's Approval, Revved Up and Za Approval are the other three. World Approval, trained by Ocalan Mark Casse and to be ridden by John Velazquez, is 10-2-4 in 23 lifetime starts, and has won four of his last five, including the Gr. I Ricoh Woodbine Mile and Gr. I Fourstardave in his last two.
Another Florida-bred given a good chance based on the line is Imperial Hint, who is listed at 9/2 for the Sprint with Javier Castellano. The 4-year-old colt is by former Get Away Farm stallion Imperialism and was bred by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, same operation that gave us multiple stakes-winner Three Rules. Florida-bred Calculator, a 5-year-old by In Summation bred by Ocala Stud, drew the No. 1 post in the Sprint with Johnny V. and is listed at 20-1.
Florida has two intriguing entrants in the Juvenile Fillies, Blonde Bomber (No. 5 - 20-1) and Caledonia Road (No. 12 - 15-1). Blonde Bomber is a Fort Larned filly owned and bred by Ocala's Arindel Farm and didn't make an impression in her first four tries. Then she broke her maiden at Gulfstream and followed that with a 7 1/4-length score in the Our Dear Peggy Stakes. Caledonia Road, a Quality Road filly owned by Peter Vegso, broke her maiden at Saratoga, then finished second behind Separationofpowers in the Gr. I Frizette. Ironically, Separationofpowers drew the 13 post, right next to Caledonia Road.
Live Oak has another entrant in the Turf Sprint, Holding Gold, also in the barn of Mark Casse. The 4-year-old gelding won the Gr. II Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland and is listed at 15-1. Florida-bred Pure Sensation drew post 12 in the race; he's a 6-year-old gelding by Zensational from the Christophe Clement barn and is 10-1 for owner/breeder Patricia Generazio, who also owns the No. 1 horse, New York-bred Disco Partner.
I will mostly stick by my usual wagering pattern, taking four or five horses in an exacta box and hoping for the best. It has yielded many satisfying results in the past.
Despite any other stallion farm's fake news conclusion that it is the leading entity of its kind in Florida, just perusing the roster of Ocala Stud Farm and the state's leading sire list, is immediate proof that the nursery brought into national prominence by Joe O'Farrell in the 1960s is without parallel.
It's surprising that any Florida publication would accept advertising with such a false premise, but advertising revenue is advertising revenue at a time when it is at a premium.
Here are the facts. Ocala Stud currently has seven stallions with runners at the races: High Cotton (3rd on the money list with $3 million in progeny earnings); Adios Charlie (5th, $2.3 million); In Summation (8th, $1.5 million); Awesome of Course (9th, $1.3 million); Overdriven (second crop - 10th, $1.4 million); Hear No Evil (23rd, $404,000); Prospective (freshman - 33rd, $216,000).
In addition, the Ocala Stud roster includes Fort Loudon and Uncaptured, whose first crops will race in 2018, and The Big Beast, with first crop yearlings of 2018. Then, there are the brand new well-bred stallions who will stand for the first time in 2018 - Jess's Dream (Curlin); Greenpointcrusader (Bernardini), and millionaire Noble Bird, a son of Birdstone who just joined the group yesterday. Overdriven will no longer be breeding, so the farm now has 12 active stallions.
And, how about Joe and Helen Barbazon's Pleasant Acres Stallions, housing the top two Florida freshmen of this year, Poseidon's Warrior and Treasure Beach? Poseidon's Warrior is the sire of Firenze Fire, winner of the Gr. I Champagne and the Gr. III Sanford and the leading 2-year-old earner in the country so far. Treasure Beach is the sire of nine 2-year-old winners.
To the farm that pretends IT is the leader - stop it already! To any publication that allows it to say so in order to collect advertising revenue - stop it already!
Ralph Nicks trained the filly Hearts of Red for two seasons for owner/breeder James Spence, and the daughter of Lion Heart posted a record of 3-1-2 in 11 starts at two and three, earning $154,867. She didn't win a stakes race, but finished second in the Dream Supreme at Belmont Park and third in the Gr. III Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Following her retirement, Hearts of Red wound up in the hands of Nicks and Barry Berkelhammer, owner of AbraCadabra Farm in Ocala. They bred her to Wildcat Heir at Journeyman Stud and in 2015, she foaled a filly now named Wild in Red. For whatever their reasons, maybe because Nicks liked her dam, they never offered Wild in Red at auction.
The filly showed up for the first time at Gulfstream West today in a $20,000 claimer at five furlongs with Jose Valdivia aboard. Her two listed works were nothing to brag about, and Wild in Red went off at 6-1. She broke well, and when the two leaders bolted to the outside on the turn, Valdivia shot his filly through on the inside and she exploded to the wire, galloping home by nearly eight lengths, clocked in :58.38.
The winner's share of the purse comes to $13,200, and there's a breeders' award of more than $2,500. However, surely to the dismay of Nicks and Berkelhammer, Wild in Red was claimed by the Drawing Away Stable for the $20,000 tag. So the owners collected more than $35,000 in one shot, but they lost the filly they no doubt tried to sneak by in her debut.
What made the new owners take her? Maybe they saw her work, or liked her dam, or loved Wildcat Heir, who has been Florida's leading sire for five or six years, even after his premature death in 2015. He's way out in front this year, with his final crop at the races. Wild in Red is from that crop, and should help him keep his title for at least another year.
When details were announced for the first Pegasus World Cup last year, reaction was, understandably, mixed. Would there be enough owners to support the $1 million buy-in? Would the public support the venture? The answer was a resounding "yes" on all counts and the event, including Arrogate vs. California Chrome, turned out to be one of the most important of the year on the thoroughbred calendar.
Pegasus World Cup II will be here soon - Jan. 27, to be exact - and the $12 million purse has been raised to $16 million, a record for any race, anywhere. It promises to be bigger than PWC No. 1. Among other things, the event provides an exciting welcome to the new year after the always-present lull following the Breeders' Cup.
Tickets for the event range from $75 to $1,000 and based on last year, that doesn't pose any problems. The appearance of celebs from the entertainment and sports world certainly didn't hurt and the number should increase this time around. Mike Ditka, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Tony Dorsett, Gene Simmons, Usher and Bobby Flay were among them.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.pegasusworldcup.com or by calling 1-833-464-7924.
HANA IN ACTION - The Horseplayers Association of North America doesn't receive much publicity but it has proven to be a major force, especially when it comes to the takeouts at tracks around the country. HANA is a vigorous supporter of lower takeouts and whenever a track raises its percentages, HANA springs into action.
When Keeneland announced a raise in takeout before the current meeting, HANA emailed its huge base, which includes many serious bettors, and called for a boycott of the meeting. It apparently made a dent, because handle at Keeneland for the first four days was down considerably in every category, from win-place-show to exotics.
HANA execs said Keeneland would probably dismiss the boycott and say that the negative handle situation was due to poor weather and field size. It will be interesting to follow this one and see if Keeneland's management understands that big bettors are very aware of outrageous takeouts, even if some will tell them it makes no difference.
After winning the Gr. III Sanford at Saratoga, when Firenze Fire didn't fire in the Gr. I Hopeful, trainer Jason Servis took it in stride. He said the colt by Poseidon's Warrior wasn't 100 percent at the time, and Firenze Fire proved him right yesterday by winning the Gr. I Champagne at Belmont Park.
With Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, the colt left the gate with the pack but soon dropped back and was a good 10 lengths behind going down the backstretch in the one-mile race worth $500,000. But when the real running started, Firenze Fire blew by the pack and was up at the wire to score by half a length and earn the $300,000 that goes with it. The race had many ramifications, not the least of which is that it's a Breeders' Cup Challenge race - meaning 'Win and You're In' - so Firenze Fire is automatically eligible for the Sentient BC Juvenile if the owners of Mr. Amore Stables accept the invitation.
Firenze Fire is now the leading 2-year-old in the country with earnings of $429,100 and his sire is one of just four freshmen stallions with a graded stakes-winner. Poseidon's Warrior (Pleasant Acres Stallions) also jumped up into fifth place on the national freshman sire list with progeny earnings of $498,333, and he's first in Florida.
REALLY STEPPIN' OUT - Two Step Salsa has a potential rising star in Driven by History, who captured the $100,000 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Stakes at Presque Isle Downs on Thursday. The colt bred by Pedro Maestre prevailed by a head in a driving finish against favored Shekky Shebaz and is now 4-3-0 in seven starts, winning four of his last five. He's earned $126,200 and is one of five winners by Two Step Salsa in the last four days. All of Driven by History's races have come over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle, so it remains to be seen how he'll fare over a dirt strip.
SOLDAT ON TOP - Woodford Thoroughbreds' Soldat has taken over the top spot on the Florida freshman list with nine winners, one better than Pleasant Acres' Treasure Beach. Soul P Say won at Remington Park on Sept. 29 and Champagne Tequila at Delaware Park on Oct. 7. Treasure Beach's eighth winner was Treble in Paradise at Thistledown on Oct. 2.
With three months remaining for Florida's freshman sires to exert some late-season kick, unless one not in the current top four makes a strong run, the 2017 title of frosh king will come from Treasure Beach or Brethren (Pleasant Acres), Soldat (Woodford Thoroughbreds), or Prospective (Ocala Stud). Treasure Beach and Soldat have seven winners each, and Brethren and Prospective five apiece.
Thus far, 13 of the Florida group of 14 first-year stallions have recorded at least one winner. Only Beau Choix (Pleasant Acres) doesn't have one yet, but he also hasn't had a runner. The 13 who have been successful have 39 winners among them, and 18 of those have come at Gulfstream Park. Brethren's runners, in particular, love Gulfstream, with four of his five winners coming over the strip in Hallandale Beach.
Treasure Beach has had three winners at Gulfstream, while Hartley/DeRenzo's Rattlesnake Bridge is 3-for-3, all coming in the last five weeks. Soldat's ledger is the most diversified, with two winners at Maria-plagued Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico, and one each at Mountaineer Resort & Casino, Gulfstream, Ellis Park, Arlington Park and Presque Isle Downs.
The Jockey Club's report of live foals for 2017 is disappointing once again with only Kentucky, California and Maryland reporting more live foals than last year, although only 90 percent of the reports have been received so there could be some minor changes ahead.
The disappointment resonates because this year's foal crop will not race until 2019, which bodes negatively for the future size of fields at every track, a problem that has plagued the sport for the last several years. Fields of five, six and seven have been so prevalent that they seriously impact the handles across the country. Few tracks have not been impacted in some way or another.
The latest numbers show that Maryland has the highest rise - from 411 live foals last year to 500 so far this year, a raise of 21.7 percent. But the numbers are so small that the 21.7 percent isn't nearly as important as a 21.7 percent rise would be in Kentucky, California, Florida or New York.
A major factor, of course, is the gap between the number of mares bred compared to the number of live foals. Kentucky, for instance, reported 17,912 mares bred in 2016 but only 12,184 live foals. That's 5,728 mares who will not have a runner two years from now.
There were 2,841 mares bred in Florida last year which resulted in 1,577 foals; there are 1,514 foals reported so far this year so it's possible the current number will reach 2016. But it's way down from the bread and butter years, and much of it is because there are so few stallions at the top end still in Florida. As mentioned here often, when they make a big splash early in Florida, they end up in Kentucky soon after. Ocala Stud's Kantharos is the latest example, but the previous list is quite formidable.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
It was a pretty good weekend for the breeding operations of Florida's racetrack owners, Frank Stronach of Gulfstream Park, Stella Thayer of Tampa Bay Downs and John Brunetti of Hialeah Park (almost a racetrack).
The first race at Gulfstream on Saturday was won by El Ciclon, a 4-year-old by Proud Citizen bred by Stronach's Adena Springs Farm. The gelding scored by 4 1/2 lengths under Luis Castillo and paid $25, but Gulfstream's owner didn't profit (unless he wandered to the windows) because El Ciclon is a Kentucky-bred.
The sixth race on the program was won by Beneficiary, a 4-year-old by Wildcat Heir bred in Florida by Mrs. Thayer, who did benefit from the outcome. The purse in the off-the-turf race was $46,000, with an FOA of $6,000. She gets 13.33% of the remaining $40,000, or $5,332.
The first of two Brunetti victories came at Monmouth Park in the sixth race on Sunday, won by Let's Parlay, a 5-year-old New Jersey-bred mare by Pomeroy. Let's Parlay won by 2 1/4 lengths under Jose Ferrer, who was winning his third of four victories on the program. Brunetti's Red Oak Farm is the owner and breeder of the mare, and the winner's share of the $50,000 purse came to $30,000. Two races later, Red Oak was also the breeder of Bobby the Boss, a 3-year-old gelding who won an allowance race by 1 1/4 lengths. (Not being familiar with the Jersey breeding program, I don't know what, if any, breeder's awards are involved).
A TREASURE AT SARATOGA - Pleasant Acres Stallions' Treasure Beach shows no letup in his quest to win Florida's freshman sire title and remain high on the list nationally. The son of Galileo picked up his seventh winner, and perhaps his most impressive, at Saratoga on Monday. Saratoga Treasure, a first-timer owned and bred by longtime Pleasant Acres client Patricia Generazio, was soundly bumped leaving the gate in the 5 1/2-furlong turf race. Jose Lezcano deftly maneuvered the New York-bred filly through traffic, made up her eight-length deficit, and she nailed favored English Soul at the wire by a neck in a quick 1:02.66, after an eye-opening stretch run.
The $43,800 winner's share boosted Treasure Beach's progeny earnings to $308,417, easily best among Florida's freshmen and fifth best in North America. Of the stallion's seven winners, the last five have come in their career debuts.
NEW MILLIONAIRE AT WOODBINE? - It wouldn't be like winning a jackpot of $758 million, but those wagering on Woodbine's Super High Five jackpot tomorrow will be shooting for a carryover bonanza of $1,112,983.
After Arrogate mystifyingly laid such a huge egg in the San Diego Handicap, the ensuing weeks leading up to the Pacific Classic had to have Bob Baffert extremely edgy, along with everybody else who had anointed him as the latest superstar of the thoroughbred world. Which was, everybody.
Was it an aberration, or was the San Diego bomb a harbinger of things to come? The finish of the Pacific Classic failed to answer the question. Was Arrogate the colt who seemed disinterested turning for home, or the one who found renewed enthusiasm the last eighth of a mile only to fall half a length short of catching Collected? The head-scratching will now continue until his next start, possibly the Breeders' Cup Classic.
One thing that the last nine winners (over 11 years) of the Horse of the Year title shared is a tremendous amount of charisma, and none lost two in a row near the end of their careers. Invasor (2006) won his last five in a row, all Gr. I's. Curlin (2007-2008) was on a roll, but lost his final start in the Classic. Ditto for Rachel Alexandra (2009), who finished second in her finale, the Personal Ensign. Zenyatta (2010) was on a 19-race winning streak before it ended in a thrilling finale in the Classic. Havre de Grace (2011) closed out her fabulous career winning her last start, and Wise Dan (2012-2013) won his last five in a row and 14 of his last 15. California Chrome bombed in the Pegasus before retiring, like Arrogate's San Diego, but had gone 7-1-0 in his previous eight. And American Pharoah closed out 2015 winning the Classic.
Arrogate can erase the memories of his last two efforts with a victory in the Breeders' Cup, but the luster of his awesome accomplishments leading up to San Diego will be severely tarnished if he blows three in a row, despite his monstrous record bankroll built on unreal purses in Dubai and the Pegasus World Cup.
STILL SEARCHING - I still haven't been able to find a list anywhere that reveals if any broodmare has ever produced four millionaires, like Live Oak Plantation's Win Approval. World Approval's latest score in the Gr. I Fourstardave boosted his bank account to $1,443,763, and he appears to be far from ready to hang it up. He can pass the first of his siblings, Revved Up ($1,548,653) after another race or two, then he'll go after Za Approval ($1,904,666) and Miesques Approval ($2,648,879), although the latter may prove to be quite a difficult chore, unless there's a Breeder's Cup race or two on tap.
CASH IS FLOWING - While the Powerball has reached unreal proportions once again, possibly making another billionaire if it isn't hit soon, Woodbine's Super High 5 could make someone a millionaire. After nobody hit the wager over the weekend, the pool is up to $967,356.
Recent reports have concluded that the poker boom has been subsiding in the past couple of years, but Florida's pari-mutuel entities belie those conclusions.
For the 12-month period ending with the close of the state's fiscal year on June 30, the total gross receipts came to $147.4 million, with another $9.4 million added for tournament receipts; that comes to $156.9 million. For the previous 12 months, the total of gross receipts plus tournament receipts reached $147.3 million. Doesn't appear that the poker buffs have lost their enthusiasm.
The Jacksonville Kennel Club, which led all venues last year with receipts of $19.5 million, was No. 1 again with receipts of just under $20.6 million. The Palm Beach Kennel Club was second again, showing an increase from $13.1 million to $13.6 million.
The biggest change came in Marion County, where the phony Oxford Downs took in $3,567,149 and crushed the Ocala Jai Alai fronton, which took a severe hit due to the competition and dropped from $2,974,293 to $1,821,745. The fronton formerly accommodated the busloads of players coming up from The Villages, but those players now have their own facility, just minutes away from their homes.
Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs each checked in at more than $4 million, but both were eclipsed by Hialeah Park, which enjoyed gross receipts of more than $7.7 million. Two other dog tracks made the top four, Daytona Beach Kennel Club at more than $12 million and Orange Park Kennel Club in Jacksonville at more than $11 million.
With all the concerns about the quality of education in our schools these days, I always get a kick out of listening to the myriad of mispronunciations that go out over the airwaves. And nowhere are there more than on our favorite racing channel, TVG.
I can't include the incessant bungling of Leparoux because the boobs didn't take French when they were younger. But some of the others, such as inclement, mischievous, mambo, machinations and too many others to list, make one wonder just what the analysts were doing in the classroom when they were supposed to be studying. Handicapping, I guess.
A humorous new addition popped up in the ninth race at Finger Lakes today. The 9 horse was a New York-bred named Traipse in Utopia, not surprisingly, by Utopia out of Traipse. The TVG newbie, whose voice I had never heard before - I think his name is Scott - handicapped the race for us and called the horse Trap-see. Bingo - another name to add to the extensive bungled list. I wondered if Scott would pay attention to the track announcer and come back with the right pronunciation when it was over.
And presto! The announcer let us know that No. 9 was Traps in Utopia. Oh well.
A little while later, in mentioning a horse at Presque Isle named Blichton, after our own little horse community, he called it "Blinton." When Blichton made a good run through the stretch to win the race at 6-1, the announcer called him "Blickton," and that's when Scott changed his call to Blickton, too. Better than Blinton, I guess.
THREE STAKES-PLACED RUNNERS - Brethren didn't get a winner in four chances in Saturday's stakes races, but Pleasant Acres' freshman son of Distorted Humor did come away with three stakes-placed runners. Dunk finished second in the $100,000 Dr. Fager Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Awesome Mass did likewise in the $100,000 Desert Vixen. Both the colt and the filly were well-backed at the windows, so that was somewhat disappointing. However, there was a good reason - the winners, Phantom Ro (by 2 3/4 lengths) and Go Astray (by 4 3/4), were overpowering. Go Astray is by Northwest Stud's Gone Astray, who had Three Rules win all three colt and gelding divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes last year, and who is not taking prisoners so far this year.
The third stakes-placed runner for Brethren was Feisty Embrace, who went off at 7-1 in the $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies and closed well to be third although never a threat to win it. However, her strong run through the stretch was impressive enough to make us believe she will get better as the races get longer.
WHERE ARE THE ENTRIES? - A couple of years ago, I complained in this space that the Blood-Horse was short-changing its breeders on their expensive stallion pages by not including all of a stallion's entrants under the column head "upcoming entries." I received a response a short while later from Eric Mitchell, then editor of the Blood-Horse. Eric explained that only the better races - stakes, handicaps, allowances, starters, etc. - were represented in the column, since breeders didn't want to publicize horses who were competing in the cheap claimers.
The practice continues today and it's very disconcerting to anybody who wants to know every horse who's running by a certain stallion each day. And to blow open Eric's explanation, EVERY WINNER a stallion has, no matter how cheap the race, is listed under "recent results," right next to upcoming entries. How can a horse be too cheap so as to be excluded from the upcoming entries list, and then make it on recent results? Yul Brynner would have said 'it's a puzzlement.'
THE OWNERS COUNT! - And, not to let the FTBOA's Wire-To-Wire magazine off the hook, I cannot for the life of me understand how the charts from Gulfstream Park - and Tampa Bay Downs when it's open - list the winner's pedigree, trainer and breeder under the chart and leave out the owner? It makes no sense.
And, if the answer to the dilemma is that it's a matter of space, I offer this. There would be plenty more space if, on the page titled "Florida Stallion Progeny for (Monday) . . ." they would actually list progeny from Florida stallions, instead of including many stallions who stood in Ocala during the days of the dinosaurs but who have since moved on to other pastures. It wouldn't be quite as bad if the entries listed were old Florida-breds, but THEY AREN'T!
In today's entries, for example, Milwaukee Brew, who hasn't been here since the St. Louis Browns were in the American League, is listed as having Strike Me Again in the eighth at Fort Erie, and he's an Ontario-bred. I can't even remember how long it's been since Invisible Ink was here, and he has Pennsylvania-bred Invisible in the fourth at Presque Isle. It's the same for runners by Chapel Royal, Lite the Fuse, One Nice Cat, Shakespeare, Sligo Bay, Songandaprayer and Trust N Luck. All long gone, all listed with runners from other states.
To the bigwigs at Wire-To-Wire: Nobody needs to peruse the progeny of a stallion from yesteryear who were bred somewhere else after the stallion departed. Get rid of them, then you can add the owners of Gulfstream's winners.
Pleasant Acres Stallions' Brethren has a chance to make a huge move upwards on the freshman sire lists tomorrow with no less than four entrants scheduled to contest three stakes races.
Dunk and Tip Sheet, both owned and bred by Arindel, are entered in the field of eight for the $100,000 Dr. Fager Stakes in the first round of the Florida Sire Stakes series. Dunk broke his maiden by 8 3/4 lengths on July 15, getting 5 1/2 furlongs in an excellent 1:04.82. He has talented Emisael Jaramillo in the saddle. Tip Sheet won on July 6 with five furlongs in :59.49 and has Aby Medina aboard.
In the $100,000 Desert Vixen, the companion race for fillies, Awesome Mass should be favored off her 11 3/4-length score on July 20, in which she raced five furlongs in :57.18, just four-fifths of a second off the track record. Jaramillo is aboard the filly. There are eight set to go in the six-furlong test.
At Louisiana Downs, Feisty Embrace has Colby Hernandez aboard for the $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Louisiana-bred filly owned and bred by Matalona Thoroughbreds broke her maiden at Evangeline Downs on June 16, becoming Brethren's first winner.
The total "credits in" and net slot revenue for South Florida's eight racinos reached new heights for the 2016-2017 fiscal year that ended on June 30. But as they say, looks can be deceiving.
The credits in for the recently concluded period totaled more than $8.432 billion, a modest increase when compared to the previous record of $8.237 billion from the year before. However, the 2015-2016 fiscal year included the figures for Dania Jai Alai beginning six months into the session - Dania re-opened in January after a lengthy hiatus due to extensive renovations.
Without Dania's increase of $239 million due to its extra six months of play, the other seven were actually down slightly as a group for the first time since Hialeah became the last to enter the arena in August of 2013. Aside from Dania, only Calder Racino and Hialeah Park showed gains in wagering - perennial leader Pompano Park, Gulfstream Park, Hollywood dogs (Mardi Gras), Flagler dogs and Miami Jai Alai were down.
Calder's credits in jumped from $991 million to $1.1 billion and slots revenue before taxes came to $78.1 million as opposed to $74.8 million the year before. Hialeah's credits went from $1.17 million to $1.24 million, and its slots revenue from $68.3 million to $73.6 million. Miami Jai Alai's credits in downturn was minimal, from $1.141 million to $1.138, but its revenue jumped because there were less winners.
Gulfstream's revenue was down a little more than $2 million, from $48 million to $45.6 million, and Hollywood followed suit as the two continue to suffer due to their locations, just minutes apart.
Once again, the state was the biggest winner, with the racinos donating a record $192,239,320 to the coffers, and, in return, the Tallahasseeans allowing fake news quarter horse "tracks" to prosper at the expense of the legitimate entities.
(Next: the poker rooms).
The First District Court of Appeal earlier this week concluded that Florida breeders have a legal right to challenge the provisions of an annual plan that outlines the receipts and distribution of breeders' awards funds. In so doing, the court overturned a 2016 decision by Administrative Law Judge Bruce McKibben, who had ruled that Belinda Kitos' Southern Cross Farm had no legal standing to challenge any provisions of the plan submitted by the FTBOA as administrator of the awards program to the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
The Blood-Horse.com account of the situation drew a great many comments from horsemen, pro and con, although many more of the opinions stated were in favor of Mrs. Kitos and her attorney, David Romanik. But it's not the question of legality I want to address here, but the comments made by someone who signed on with the name "concerned Florida horseman."
"David Romanik is a self-serving attorney who is using Mrs. Kitos to sue the only organization that is looking out for the best interests of the breeders in Florida," concerned Florida horseman said. "He is a crook that is strong arming his way into a regulated industry (Gaming) that is incredibly hard to get into. The multitude of lawsuits that Mr. Romanik has filed on behalf of Mrs. Kitos and his other clients against the FTBOA have been proven to be frivolous and without merit and are costing the breeders many thousands of dollars."
First of all, let it be known that nobody "uses" Belinda Kitos. Second, it is apparent that CFH knows little about David Romanik's background or he (or she) would never have written the above nonsense. For the record, David's father, Leonard, was the attorney for Gulfstream Park in all the years when it was owned first by James Donn Sr. and then by James Donn Jr., and David was right there working alongside his father.
Later, David worked in an important legal and supervisory capacity for both John Brunetti at Hialeah Park and Frank Stronach at Gulfstream. Along the way, he has participated in the writing and implementing of a great many of the pari-mutuel statutes currently on the books in Florida. He knows the laws backwards and forward, and that is why he was able to keep going on this issue and get it overturned by the First District Court.
Going one step further, from the racing and breeding side, David purchased Caltech from the late David Goldman and all the son of Explosive Bid accomplished was to become a multiple graded stakes-winner in the 1980s, capturing the Gr. I Washington D. C. International and the Gr. III Lawrence Realization, while earning $726,944. Caltech led every step of the way into the stretch before tiring late to finish fifth in the 1989 Breeders' Cup Turf at Gulfstream.
So, it is ludicrous for CFH to call Romanik a crook and trying to strong arm his way into a regulated industry . . . he has been a major part of this industry for more than four decades. This isn't Trump and the stupidity of his name-calling and fake news. CFH needs to get his facts straight before making a fool of himself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Florida's pari-mutuel fiscal year is 10 days from winding up, and it turns out that the casinos down south will experience more than just a minor increase in several major categories.
In the last fiscal year, total "credits in" for the eight facilities reached more than $8.2 billion; through May 31 of this year the number is nearly $7.8 billion. With more than $700 million a month currently being generated, this will be a record year again, somewhere around $8.5 billion. The highest previous total for any one month was $795 million last year, this time around $800 million was reached three times, in October, December and March.
Last year, the state's 35 percent tax generated $187.9 million in revenues - this year taxes will exceed $192 million. That's good news because the state's regulation of the pari-mutuel industry has been so outstanding that we now have additional phony quarter horse racing at once-revered Hialeah Park, and the state should be rewarded. Among the many items that are swirling around in various gaming bills in Tallahassee is one that would reduce the tax on each facility to 25 percent. They should pass that one by itself as long as the fatheads are sitting around and doing nothing at all on the other changes.
PLEASANT MILESTONES - Two more Pleasant Acres freshman stallions now have their first winners. Brethren was represented by Feisty Embrace at Evangeline Downs on June 16, and Poseidon's Warrior by Firenze Fire at Monmouth Park on the 18th. Both came in maiden specials.
Feisty Embrace went off at 1/2 and won by a length in 1:00.02 for the five furlongs. She had finished second in her previous start and now has earnings of $20,800. Firenze Fire sat second in the early going at Monmouth and was a ton the best with Antonio Gallardo in the stretch, getting five furlongs in :58.37 and earning $21,600. Nearing the wire, track announcer Frank Mirahmadi bellowed, "Firenze Fire wins from here to Florida."
With all the attention paid to the Triple Crown and other graded races all around the country, the interesting scenarios at smaller tracks, featuring the lesser lights, mostly go unnoticed. But not for the bettors who frequent TVG daily.
One of those races was the second at Finger Lakes on Monday. It was a $20,000 maiden claimer with several first-timers, including Poppy's Salsa, a 3-year-old son of Get Away Farm's Two Step Salsa. The colt had four workouts listed, three at three furlongs and one at four, and none were anything special. Nothing to make anyone sit up and take notice. Poppy was 6-1 in the morning line.
Most bettors aren't paying attention to the TV when a race ends and the morning line pops up for the next race at that track. After all, there's usually 20 to 25 minutes before the next post time and plenty of time to check out the odds. On this occasion, TVG analyst Rich Perloff did notice the first flash, and casually mentioned that Poppy's Salsa was 3/5. Handicappers who do pay attention to the first flash - like me - then watched to see what transpired thereafter.
In Poppy's Salsa's case, his odds began to slowly drift up until the field was about to enter the gate, and he was 5-1. If there was anything special somebody knew about this colt, they had made their play early.
When the gate opened, Poppy bolted to the lead with Gerald Almodovar, and continued in front until the turn when he was joined by King of Night, a 5/2 proposition owned and bred by Live Oak Plantation. The pair went head-and-head down the lane, and at one point King of Night forged ahead by a neck. But Poppy wasn't finished - he battled back gamely and they crossed the line so close together the announcer couldn't separate them. And, a final look at the board showed Poppy was now 15-1. Incredible.
The judges took an eternity studying the photos and finally, and rightfully, decided it was a heater. So Two Step Salsa had another winner (No. 27 this year), as did Charlotte Weber's Live Oak. Poppy's Salsa paid $13.40, $13.20 and $7.80, and the early bird bettor (or bettors) had the last laugh. (Along with anybody else who paid attention to that telling first flash).
THIS ONE'S CORFU - Bridlewood Farm's Corfu became the fourth Florida freshman sire to have a winner when I'm Corfu broke his maiden at Presque Isle Downs on Tuesday in his fourth start. The gelding bred by Donna Burnham had finished second in his previous start and was sent off as the 1/2 favorite as part of an entry with stablemate Chateau, both owned and trained by Wayne Rice.
Ronnie Allen Jr. shot I'm Corfu to the lead in the five-furlong maiden special and the gelding never looked back, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths and stopping the clock in :58.19. Chateau came on for second, 4 1/4 lengths clear of the third-place finisher, so Rice picked up two checks. He had purchased I'm Corfu for a bargain $3,500 at the OBS January sale and the gelding has now earned $24,282.
There are 13 Florida first-year sires and Corfu joined Currency Swap, Prospective and Treasure Beach in the one-win column.
Following are some indisputable facts about Tapwrit.
1. He sold for $1.2 million to Bridlewood Farm, Robert LaPenta and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners at the 2016 Saratoga sale.
2. His Belmont victory boosted his earnings to $1,143,902, so one more race and they're out as far as the price is concerned.
3. He's 4-1-0 in 8 starts and has won two stakes other than the Belmont - the Gr. II Tampa Bay Derby and Pulpit - and finished second in the Gr. III Sam F. Davis.
4. He's the third son of Tapit to win the Belmont in the last four years.
5. The Malones weren't able to be there for the Belmont, but Bridlewood manager George Isaacs looked really suave at the trophy presentation sporting another of his stylish straw hats.
6. There are two sons of Tapit standing in Ocala - Woodford's He's had Enough and Hartley/DeRenzo's Rattlesnake Bridge. Tapwrit has already earned more than those two combined.
7. What if Robert LaPenta and the many entities represented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, neither of which owns a farm standing stallions, I don't think, told John and Leslie Malone they could stand Tapwrit at Bridlewood when his racing career ends, at least for a couple of years, like Mr. Prospector, Stormy Atlantic, Successful Appeal, Yes It's True, Northern Afleet and more recently, Kantharos, etc. It would have to be listed under the headline Always Dreaming, but what a boost it would be to the Florida breeding industry.
It won't happen, of course, for several reasons, two of which are obvious. First is that the colt appears to be of such a caliber he could go on to win many millions more and that would take him out of the Florida mix. Second is that he would stand for a stud fee too high for the area to support. There are only two stallions in Ocala with fees as high as $10,000. It's been quite a while since there was a high-priced stallion here, possibly not since Codex, and before him In Reality.
Ocala hasn't had a Belmont winner standing since Sarava (he won in 2002) and three decades earlier it was Peter Kissel's Pass Catcher, who won in 1971 and stood at October House Farm. Needles, of course, was the first. But Sarava was a one-hit wonder, wasn't well-received, and didn't last long in Florida.
Hey, it was just a thought.
RAINBOW RISES - The Rainbow 6 jackpot has reached $842,532 heading into today's Gulfstream program. If there isn't a single winner today, bettors will have three days to keep trying before there's a mandatory payout on Saturday. If it reaches Saturday intact, the pool will be gigantic - again.
GOOD PROSPECTS - Ocala Stud's Prospective became the third Florida freshman sire to get a winner when Happy River scored in a $25,000 maiden claimer at Gulstream on Friday. Bred by Robert Shoukry, the filly raced five furlongs in 1:00.64 under Emisael Jaramillo and won by nearly four lengths, earning a check for $14,400.
Driving down the entrance lane to Hialeah Park in late February of 1970 amid the beauteous palms and grass and flowers and wondering, "Where has this been all my life?"
Walking into the press box and being stopped by lovely Eve Dolan, who wanted to know what I was doing there. She was skeptical of my claim that I was the new racing writer for the Ft. Lauderdale News, until veteran New York-Florida handicapper Sam Engelberg came over and bailed me out.
Looking out the press box window and marveling at the Queen of Thoroughbred Racing - the track, the trees, the flowers, the lake, the island, the flamingos, and the Seminole Indian sitting in his canoe waiting for the seventh race, and wondering, "Where has this been all my life?"
Watching the keeper of the canoe paddle over to stir up those beautiful pink birds, who then waltzed their way over and around the grounds while the PA system wafted the haunting strains of "The Flight of the Flamingos."
Sitting in at a meeting at my new newspaper, the Miami Herald, and listening to a reporter telling us that he had been on a fishing trip with the Florida Supreme Court justices, and they related that instead of Hialeah keeping the January-February "middle dates" year after year, followed by Gulfstream, they were now going to let the two tracks rotate the dates.
Calling the New York-based trainers to get their reaction to the dates switch, and Allen Jerkens, Lucien Laurin, Johnny Campo, Woody Stephens, John Parisella, Eddie Neloy and John Nerud all expressing their surprise, and dissatisfaction.
In one column, printing all the letters that had arrived that week - all knocking Hialeah for its high prices for valet parking, seating, food, the clubhouse, etc., and having to go to the paper after the races to explain why I had so angered Herald publisher John S. Knight, owner of the Fourth Estate stable, who brought his Palm Beach buddies to watch the races every day in his box at his favorite track.
Having to go to the paper for explanations once again after Art Grace of the Miami News had a long preview story pertaining to the debut of the $200,000 Keeneland yearling, Mr. Prospector, and I didn't write about it. I did write about it after Mr. P broke his maiden that day.
Walking into the jocks' room one day and having Alberto Ramos give me a horse coming up in a couple of races with Don Brumfield aboard. I headed back to the press box and on the way bumped into Carl Rosen (owner of Chris Evert) and New York Yankees' centerfielder Bobby Murcer and marked the horse on their program. Brumfield brought him home at $34 and I made a nice score - Rosen and Murcer told me later they didn't bet on him.
Talking to Lucien Laurin on the phone and him telling me, in that wonderful French accent, about a nice colt he had ready to start named River Reach. Fortunately for me, I read a piece in the Racing Form the same day and changed the name to Riva Ridge.
Booking a $2 win bet from the late Joe Hirsch on Head of the River in the Everglades when I knew Riva Ridge couldn't lose. Head of the River did beat Riva and paid $19, but unbeknownst to Joe I had snuck over to the window and bet the $2.
Looking out at the winner's circle to get a glimpse of 13-year-old guest Brooke Shields, and wondering why she was allowed to defy the state rule that you had to be at least 18 to enter a pari-mutuel facility.
Seeing three of the great ones of the sport, Seattle Slew, Alydar and Spectacular Bid, win the Flamingo in successive years, 1977-79.
Driving to Hialeah with Max Hugel and David Goldman for the 2001 Flamingo, won by Frank Stronach's Thunder Blitz, not having an inkling that it would be the last time the race would be run.
I could go on for a month.
Now comes the news that John Brunetti has tainted the memory and history of the Queen by turning his previously legal quarter horse meeting into a farce, like Gretna, and Hamilton Downs, and Oxford before him. Reports from down south have Hialeah running two programs of eight races a day, using a makeshift starting gate, someone yelling "go" to start the races, and fields of two being acceptable. The "crowd" for the opener on May 31 is said to have been less than a dozen.
Equibase no longer carries the entries and results, and TVG no longer carries the races.
Track exec John Brunetti Jr. was quoted as saying the change was made to reduce the track's racing costs. The same racing that allows Hialeah to have a casino and a poker room.
For the record, that casino's slot machines netted $$68.3 million in the fiscal year 2015-2016, less the $23.9 million to the state, or a profit of $44.4 million. Through April of this cycle, the casino net is $60.7 million, with $21.2 million going to the state, a profit of $39.5 million. When the figures for May and June are added, it looks as though Hialeah's take will exceed that of last year.
As for the poker room, the first 10 months of this fiscal year have produced a revenue of $5.4 million.
Ergo, JJB Jr.'s explanation about having to reduce costs is a joke.
The blame for this fiasco can be laid right at the doorstep of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. There is no direction and no leadership as far as pari-mutuels are concerned and the only way the twisted state of affairs is going to be resolved is when the governor appoints a State Racing Commission, comprised of individuals who know and understand thoroughbreds, quarter horses, jai alai, dogs and standardbreds.
And, 47 years after I first walked into the Hialeah press box, I wonder, "How did it all come down to this?"
The biggest surprise emanating from Gulfstream Park yesterday was not that nobody hit the Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot again, but that Tyler Gaffalione's mount in the second race - Rey Astray - paid $15.40.
Getting a price on the talented young son of former rider Steve Gaffalione and grandson of former rider Bob Gaffglione has become quite difficult, especially since the northern jockeys have headed north for their summer engagements. Tyler rode four more winners yesterday and now has 72 for the current meeting, 20 ahead of his nearest competitor, Edgard Zayas. It's another 18 back to third-place Emisail Jaramillo, who has 34.
To show the respect the bettors have for Tyler, seven of the nine horses he rode went off favored, so he doesn't win them all. Aside from his four victories, he had three seconds, a third and a fourth. His owners do get everything out of a horse when Tyler is aboard. He has ridden in 240 races, so he's winning at a gaudy 30 percent. He also has 39 seconds and 43 thirds, an in-the-money percentage of 64. He leads the jockey colony at Gulfstream in every category, by a mile.
By the way, the Rainbow jackpot is up to $556,055, so another millionaire could be crowned shortly.
GRATIFYING SCORE - I always find it intriguing to follow the early careers of horses that bring big prices at the sales, although there are so many these days it's difficult to do so. One showed up at Finger Lakes earlier this week, a 3-year-old filly named Gratifying bred in Kentucky by Atlanta real estate entrepreneur Peter Blum, who has been doing it for about five decades.
Gratifying, a daughter of Bodemeister, was an RNA at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2015. She showed up again at the OBS March 2-year-old sale in 2016 in the consignment of Ocala horseman Paul Sharp and she went for $200,000 to Gold Square LLC. Sent to the track, the filly finished fourth and sixth in two tries at Parx, fifth in a race at Aqueduct and ninth at Belmont Park. She earned all of $5,360 in the four attempts.
Next stop - Finger Lakes. Running in a maiden special upstate, Gratifying took to the sloppy track under Joshua Navarro, galloped behind the pack down the backstretch, went four wide on the turn and jogged home by 6 1/2 lengths. She paid $2.50 and collected a check for $11,400. She's now earned $16,760 for Gold Star, a long way from her purchase price, but it will be interesting to see if this was the wake-up call she needed.
As racing heads into June, this year's 2-year-olds have been competing for a couple of months and seven of Florida's 13 freshman sires have had at least one runner. Two of them have come up with a winner, Tigerbeach scoring at Indiana Grand for Pleasant Acres Stallions' Treasure Beach, and R Paper Chaser visiting the winner's circle at Gulfstream Park for Woodford Thoroughbreds' Currency Swap. Tigerbeach had prepped for his win by finishing second at Churchill Downs.
Oddly enough, Woodford's Soldat is the leader on the money list even though he has yet to have a winner. He does have one on the verge, Pete Marwick, who has a third at Keeneland and a second at Belmont Park on his tab and $24,470 in the bank. Anthony's Cross (Pleasant Acres) has Yeehaw, who finished second at Gulfstream, and Bridlewood Farm's Corfu has I'm Corfu, with a second by one-half length at Presque Isle. Brethren, another from Pleasant Acres, had Feisty Embrace finish second at Evangeline Downs.
Perhaps the ratio of mares bred compared to 2-year-olds registered for these seven gives us a little insight as to why there are so many short fields at every track. Soldat was bred to 124 mares and has 87 registered foals, or 70 percent. Treasure Beach's number are 101-65, or 64 percent, same as Currency Swap (47-30). The other four are all in the range of 57 percent down to 51 percent. When taking into account other problems facing many of the registered foals that keeps them out of play, it's easy to see why the short fields are so plentiful.
CHASING RAINBOWS AGAIN - The Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot at Gulfstream has reached the exciting stage once again after there was more than one winning ticket on Monday's program. The holiday pool was $205,464, and those with six winners each collected $3,715. When racing resumes on Thursday, the carryover will be a juicy $513,873.
Red-hot Tyler Gaffalione rode four winners on the Monday card, Edgard Zayas rode three and Marcos Meneses two. That's nine of the 11 races. It's difficult to leave Tyler or Edgard off any exotic tickets because they win the most races. In the Pick 6, there were four payoffs under $10, plus Meneses' $19.80 to lead it off, and Jocelyne Gomez's $34.80 in the fourth. But Tyler brought home one winner at $4 and one at $3.40 and no doubt there were many singles in those races, allowing bettors to stretch out the ticket in the others.
FLAMINGOS ARE BACK - Quarter horse racing returns to Hialeah Park tomorrow for its obligatory 20-day meeting. The Flamingo track will be open Wednesdays through Sundays through June 25.
I have tried and failed to find a list of broodmares who have produced the most million-dollar earners, assuming there is one somewhere. But is it possible that Charlotte Weber's Win Approval is the all-time leader in that category?
When World Approval won the Gr. II, $250,000 Longine Dixie Stakes just prior to the Preakness, he went over the $1 million mark in earnings, becoming the fourth millionaire for the daughter of With Approval, who produced 10 foals in all during her career in the Live Oak Plantation breeding shed. World Approval, a foal of 2012, is the last of the 10, and his 2 1/4-length victory Saturday was a thing of beauty. But Julien Leparoux often rides stakes-winners to perfection.
The 5-year-old gelding is now 8-2-4 in 20 starts with earnings of $1,103,763 and his stakes record is impressive: competing in 16 stakes, 11 of them graded, he has compiled six victories, two seconds, three thirds and three fourths. Trainer Mark Casse gave him a rest of 5 1/2 months, and in his return on April 2, World Approval came back to win the EG Vodka Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs on the Florida Cup program, so he's 2-for-2 this year.
Win Approval's other millionaires are Miesques Approval ($2,648,879), Revved Up ($1,548,653) and Za Approval ($1,904,666). She has produced four other winners, one foal who didn't win in four starts, and one who never raced. The nine who did have now won 68 races, led by Revved Up, who won 20 times, and Miesques Approval and Winabull, who won 12 times each.
The way World Approval is performing, all those numbers should rise this season.
FRENCHIE STILL GIVING - The tale of Ocala advertising exec Kathy Taylor's rescue of nine horses from the busted Eddie Martin Stable South in 2010 has been chronicled here often. Seven years later, the exploits of the son of Shakespeare that she bred from one of the rescued mares continue to balloon.
After selling eight of the rescuees for a ham sandwich each, Kathy bred the Storm Bird mare Cent Nouvelles to Shakespeare and French Quarter was born. Kathy raised him, and two years later, the fiesty colt didn't reach his reserve at OBS and he was sold privately to Canadian owner Howard Walton. French Quarter began racing at Woodbine in the summer and Gulfstream in the winter, although the winter forays have not been nearly as frequent.
A few months ago, Gulfstream trainer David Fawkes claimed Frenchie for $62,500 and has since raced him three times. The third came on Saturday in the $100,000 Big Drama Stakes and Frenchie was competitive, as he usually is, finishing third in a tough field of 10 sprinters. He is closing in on $300,000 in career earnings.
From Kathy's point of view, the claim was a blessing - a blessing known as breeder's awards. Since his return to Florida in December, Frenchie has raced six times for the two barns, with two victories, a second and two thirds (both in $100,000 stakes). In his Gulfstream career, he has four firsts, two seconds and three thirds in 13 starts. That equates to nine breeder's awards of varying denominations and goes a long way to taking the sting out of what it cost to care for the original nine in 2010 and 2011.
And, like World Approval, Frenchie is still going strong.
When California Chrome was dominating the 3-year-old ranks a few years back, co-owner Perry Martin dismissed the Triple Crown rules by advocating that if a horse didn't start in the Kentucky Derby, he shouldn't be allowed to contest the Preakness. He didn't think it was fair that the Derby winner was forced to come back in two weeks, while a bunch of rested horses could ship in to try to derail him. It never occurred to him that that was the beauty of the Triple Crown. It isn't for sissies.
If Martin's idea had been implemented, five of the 10 entrants for Saturday's Preakness would be ineligible (Multiplier, Senior Investment, Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money and Term of Art). We would be faced with Always Dreaming facing Derby runner-up Lookin at Lee, fourth-place Classic Empire, seventh place Gunnevera and 11th place Hence. And, while it still might have been a competitive race in that instance, who needs it. It would have been a monumental bust for the fans, for TV and for the history of the race itself.
Can anybody beat Always Dreaming, who is 4/5 on the morning line? Maybe. Lookin at Lee closed a ton in Louisville and he'll only have half the traffic to negotiate this time. If Classic Empire gets a good trip, who knows just how good he is? Maybe better than Always Dreaming. Gunnevera will also have less traffic to overcome with his late kick and Hence had all kinds of problems on Derby day so we can't really evaluate him.
Of the newcomers, Conquest Mo Money might be the most interesting. First, he's the only one in the field who wasn't bred in Kentucky- he's a New Yorker. Second, his auction sheet is mind-boggling. Sold for $180,000 as a yearling at Saratoga in 2015, then for $8,500 at Keeneland November in 2016. What? And, with three victories and two seconds in five starts, including seconds in the Gr. III Sunland Derby and Gr. I Arkansas Derby, the son of Uncle Mo has earned $508,900.
Multiplier, winner of the Illinois Derby, was purchased for $62,000 at Keeneland November, then was RNA'd twice, including at OBS April.
Term of Art, bred by Ocala's Mandy Pope, owner of Whisper Hill Farm, has started nine times and was seventh in the Santa Anita Derby in his last. He was a $220,000 purchase at Keeneland September in 2015.
Cloud Computing, a $200,000 Keeneland September product, finished third in the Gr. II Wood Memorial and second in the Gr. III Gotham.
Senior Investment has made eight starts, and won the Gr. III Stonestreet Lexington Stakes, but was seventh in the Louisiana Derby. He was a $95,000 purchase at Keeneland September.
Always Dreaming's effort in the Derby makes him look to be much the best. But looks can be deceiving.
NEARING A MILESTONE - Three Rules will be trying to get closer to the million-dollar mark in the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes in the seventh race on the Preakness program. The son of Northwest Stud's Gone Astray is back to where he shines - at six furlongs - after showing he's not a distance horse, at least not at this stage of his career. He drew the No. 1 post in a field of nine with Luis Saez and is 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Recruiting Ready is 8/5 with Horacio Karamanos.
A few decades ago, the late Red Buttons got a great deal of mileage out of a recurring TV schtick; he'd put his hand over his ear and declare, "Strange things are happening."
Red would have loved the 2-year-old race at Gulfstream Park last Friday - a bunch of first-timers plus one who had started, appropriately named Rocky Strange, and he was the 6/5 favorite based on a lone third-place finish.
One of the first-timers was Uncle Runt, a gelding by First Dude owned and bred by Rory and Gay Miller's Flying Finish Farm in Ocala. First Dude has been a remarkable sire since arriving at Double Diamond Farm in time for the 2012 breeding season. His $5.5 million in earnings leads all the sires from the same year, and he's not only Florida's leading third-crop sire this season, he's second on the general sire list behind deceased Wildcat Heir. In short, he's been terrific.
That's why it's hard to understand how the bettors allowed Uncle Runt to go off at $104.10-1 in his debut. The gelding had three listed workouts, a 49.80 breezing from the gate for four furlongs on April 9 (best of 8 works), a 51 breezing on April 29 (second of 8), and a 38.40 breezing on May 6 (first of 3), six days before his first race. All the works came at the Ocala Horse Complex and a sharp handicapper would have noted that two of the works were bullets.
So the combination of First Dude and Uncle Runt's works weren't enough to get people to jump on board and they paid for it. With Jose Garcia aboard, the gelding rushed into the lead and just kept going, reaching the wire 1 1/4 lengths in front and paying $210.20, $31.40 and $14.20. Assuming that 99 percent of owners bet on their horses, especially the first time out, the Millers no doubt enjoyed a great trip to Hallandale Beach. The winner's check was $34,000 and the breeder's award is still to come.
Runner-up in the race was Bal Harbour, named after the glitzy shopping area located not far from Gulfstream and owned by Hialeah Park's John J. Brunetti. Bal Harbour collected $8,400 for second.
First Dude already has piled up more than $1.3 million in progeny earnings in 2017, with 41 winners, and it's only May. It will be interesting to see if the upcoming Dude 2-year-olds receive a warmer welcome at the windows.
So far, seven of Florida's freshman sires of 2017 have had at least one runner. There have been 14 runners in all, and only Woodford Thoroughbreds' Currency Swap has had a winner. The son of High Cotton is represented by R Paper Chaser, who broke his maiden in his debut at Gulfstream Park on May 10, getting 4 1/2 furlongs in :51.74, just three-fifths of a second off the track record.
R Paper Chaser earned $19,600 for the effort and has his sire in first place on the frosh sire list. But Currency Swap has just 30 registered 2-year-olds in this crop, and several of the others have many more, so it's going to be a struggle for Currency Swap to maintain his early lead as the season develops.
Woodford also has the early second-place sire in the War Front stallion Soldat, who already has four runners. His Pete Marwick finished third at Keeneland on April 26 and collected a check of $4,470.
In third place is Pleasant Acres' Treasure Beach, whose Tigerbeach finished fourth at Keeneland on April 26 and earned $2,235, then came back and finished third at Churchill Downs on May 12 and banked another $5,600. Next comes Bridlewood Farm's Corfu, who has also raced twice and has posted a pair of fifths, good for $2,682.
Pleasant Acres' Anthony's Cross has one runner, Seminole Charlie, who finished fourth at Gulfstream on May 3 and earned $2,000. Two other Pleasant Acres stallions, Brethren and Poseidon's Warrior, have had nothing significant as yet.
FIRST SW FOR OVERDRIVEN - Last year's freshman sire race was somewhat boring, mainlybecause the lsit of stallions was so small, and only Ocala Stud's Overdriven and Woodford's Biondetti accomplished much. Biondetti led Overdriven in earnings and number of winners, but that has turned around so far this year. Overdriven leads in earnings - $486,627 to $292,389 - and in winners, 17 to 14. Now, Ocala Stud's stallion has added the first stakes-winner for either.
Arms Runner won the $101,690 Desert Code Stakes at Santa Anita by 1 1/2 lengths with an apparent liking for the downhill 6 1/2-furlong turf course. Norberto Arroyo Jr. had him geared down the final sixteenth of a mile. Arms Runner was purchased for $525,000 at the OBS March sale last year, and he's now 2-for-2 down the hill for Rockingham Ranch.
We all are aware that the sport is dying, the older players are leaving us and no new players are being invented. I quote other outlets here regarding the subject about twice a year. So it turns out that wagering on the Kentucky Derby surpassed $200 million for the first time ever - $209.2 million to be exact. That's 9% higher than last year's $192.6 million and 8% higher than the previous record of $194.3 million set in 2015, the year of American Pharoah. The race was so wide open going in it's possible that a great many of the people who have left us came back for just one more crack at it.
Even with the rain and cold that began prior to Saturday and severely hampered the attendance on Oaks Friday, 158,070 showed up to watch Always Dreaming win his fourth in a row and appear to be much the best of the group he faced. Of course, the mud had a lot to do with the strung-out field, as mud so often does, with the horse who finished 19th, State of Honor, so far behind they wouldn't have been able to find him with binoculars. The 20th horse, Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE Derby, apparently didn't care for his trip across the Atlantic, and refused to run for his Godolphin interests.
And, who knows how close Classic Empire might have been at the end if he hadn't been mugged from all sides leaving the gate and losing all chance. That Julien Leparoux was able to get him home fourth was a great tribute to the French rider whose name is mispronounced by 99% of racing's analysts and announcers. It gave me a warm feeling when the jockeys were introducing themselves on NBC before the race to hear Julien say "Le----paroux," instead of Lay-paroux or Leppa-roux. But the mispronouncers probably weren't paying attention. Classic Empire's trainer, Ocalan Mark Casse, says his colt is 90% sure to go to Pimlico for the Preakness.
On another note, reports are that the Derby telecast viewership was the largest since 1889, according to Nielsen, an average of 16.5 million, peaking at 19.1 million from 6:45 to 7 p. m. when the race was being run and then dissected. That time frame resulted in a peak of 17.9 million for both 2015 and 2016 (Nyquist).
I have never believed in those Nielsen numbers because they have no way of taking into account the number of players who are watching on TV at racetracks around the continent, in OTB parlors, and in the various casinos. Adding in those people would make the percentages significantly higher.
The top markets listed by Nielsen were (1) Louisville, (2) Ft. Myers, (3) Cincinnati, (4) Buffalo, (5) Knoxville, (6) Dayton, (7) Pittsburgh, (8) Cleveland, (9) Richmond, and (10) West Palm Beach. Seems to be an odd collection, especially without New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in the mix.
Even though the final wagering numbers for the Kentucky Derby are umpteen times higher than the advance totals from Friday, those early wagers usually mirror very closely who winds up being who at 6:45 p. m. on Saturday. Based on yesterday's wagering, that might not be true today.
Linemaker Mike Battaglia had Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire at 4-1 overnight, followed by Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming and Sam F. Davis winner McCraken at 5-1 and Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry at 6-1. He also had Louisiana Derby winner Girvin, Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley and Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevera at 15-1 and Blue Grass winner Irap at 20-1.
Here's what the first returns look like: Classic Empire and Irish War Cry are both 7-1, Always Dreaming is at 11-1, Gormley and Girvin at 15-1, Gunnevera at 17-1, McCraken at 25-1, and Irap at 30-1.
Then, there are a couple of real surprises. Battle of Midway, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up, is 14-1 - he's 30-1 on Battaglia's line. And Practical Joke, runner-up in both the Blue Grass and Fountain of Youth, is 14-1; his line is 20-1.
There's been a lot of talk that the pace might not be as swift as the deep closers would like and that will compromise their chances. Phfooey. Battle of Midway went past the six furlongs in 1:10.4 on the pace at Santa Anita, and Fast and Accurate was a length off a 1:10.1 in the Spiral at Turfway. Always Dreaming and State of Honor were both stalking a 1:10.3 in the Florida Derby and Irap has been just off the pace in several races where 1:10 and change popped up on the teletimer. Irish War Cry likes to be very close to the early leaders, as does Gormley. There will be no lack of pace in this edition.
The "favorites" will all come down a few points before they get in the gate this evening and it will be interesting to see just who becomes THE favorite, and at what price. I have always maintained that the best bet on the first Saturday in May was an exacta box using five horses because even the favorite and second choice 1-2 often pay off well. And there are the days when one can make a big score, such as Animal Kingdom and Nehro, who combined to elate their backers (me included) at $329.80 in 2011, or when Super Saver (the second choice at 8-1) and Ice Box (the co-fifth choice at 11-1) clicked to the tune of $152.40 in 2010. Even California Chrome, the 5/2 favorite two years ago, and Firing Line, the fourth choice at 9-1, paid $72.60. The exacta prices can make your day.
The only negative today will come after the race when the neophytes on the 6 o'clock news begin the two-week obligatory speculation about a possible Triple Crown. A positive is we'll hear Larry Collmus pronouncing Leparoux correctly.
MILLIONAIRE'S ROW - A few Florida-breds have a chance to become millionaires on today's Churchill Downs undercard. El Kabeir ($921,557) goes in the $500,000, Gr. II Churchill Downs Stakes (race 10), and World Approval ($953,763) and Enterprising ($774,040) in the $500,000, Gr. I Woodford Reserve Classic (race 11).
ALSO - There are no less than 18 runners on the Churchill Downs program who sold at OBS, including Derby horses Fast and Accurate (sold for $85,000, has earned $340,362), Untrapped (sold for $125,000, has earned $259,658), and Irap (sold for $300,000, has earned $772,600).
CELEBRATE WITH CAMPBELL'S SOUP - Ocala's Mark Casse has nine runners on the program, including six for Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation. The Campbell's soup exec has Salute With Honor in the second race, Souper Fly Over in the fourth, Awesome Slew in the 10th (Gr. II Churchill Downs Stakes), World Approval in the 11th (Gr. I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic), Casses Story in the 13th, and Souper Wish in the 14th. Total purse money for the six races is $1,258,000. Wonder how many times Charlotte will opt to go to the paddock to watch one being saddled? There's no wondering how many times she'll visit the mutuel windows - all six.
BEST DERBY DAY NAME - The winner of that category is Sir Dudley Digges, in the fifth race.
Whenever someone pulls down a nice Rainbow Pick 6 jackpot at Gulfstream Park, there's always a good story following concerning how much the ticket cost, the number of players involved, how the horses were picked, etc. Last Thursday, the jackpot was hit again on a single ticket, and it paid a juicy $180,853.
There were only eight races that day, so the first race in the Pick 6 was No. 3, which was won by Overdriven Cat, bred by Ocala's Beth Bayer, and the price was $4. Everybody was still in the mix.
It became a little more complicated after that, but not out of reach for most, with the next four winners paying $21, $10.40, $18 and $8.80. A couple of the wins were very close and if the second-place finishers had won, there would have been many more live tickets going into the finale.
A 3-year-old Gone Astray filly named Dixie Grits foiled all the hopefuls except one, leading all the way and paying $53.40. Bred by Sara Lynn Yutani and her daughter, Marti Haught, who owns the Tack Shack just north of OBS on Airport Road in Ocala, Dixie Grits was on just the one ticket, good for the $180,853 payout.
On TVG, analyst Paul LoDuca received a phone call from a friend in New York who told the former ballplayer that he had the ticket, purchased at the Nassau OTB, which is the name of the slots parlor opened at Aqueduct recently and the cause of much concern among horsemen. But the really interesting facet of the call was that LoDuca's friend told him he hit it with a 40-cent ticket. He had two horses in the third race, followed by singles in the fourth through eighth.
That is some serious handicapping, to go along with a great deal of luck.
WAS PUTIN INVOLVED? - Speaking of TVG, and the many things about it that infuriate me as a long-time bettor and one who watches the races on TV more than most, here's an incident that occurred on Friday. Back on March 24, I bet on a horse at Gulfstream named Golden Decision, ridden by Luca Panici. The 3-year-old colt by Skipshot was making a strong late move on the grass when he got murdered from all sides in the stretch. He finished fourth.
I made a little note of the incident and was ready on April 20 when he returned, this time with Magomet A. Kappushev aboard. (That is not a joke). It was then I noticed that the owner was Rasul Korkmazov and the breeder/trainer was Mikhail Yanakov.
Although I am a strict jockey follower, I wasn't going to let this guy go because Russia was intervening in horse racing, too. So I bet him to show. What I found out was that Magomet A. Kappushev is either one of the worst riders I've ever seen, or one of the best at setting up a horse for his next try. He had Golden Decision all over the racetrack, at odds of 13-1, and I wondered where he got his license.
Just eight days later, my horse shows up again and Magomet is still his rider. He was about 8-1 in the morning line and I figured I'd better try again, just in case. I bet $3 to win, $4 to place and $20 to show. On the first flash of the board, Golden Decision was 2-1 and I thought, "Here we go." He started drifting up until he got to 5-1 as they were nearing the gate. When they were on their way, he was suddenly 2-1 again, and when they hit the line, he was 3-1. But that's not the only point of this tale.
Magomet put my horse on the lead and did everything possible to keep him there. However, he got tired late and two others passed him in the last sixteenth, on his outside. But I noticed as they were nearing the wire that the horse inside mine checked somewhat and had to take back. Golden Decision finished third; at least I was going to get my show bet cashed. I hoped.
I waited patiently to hear if there was an inquiry or objection, or both, but the sharp analysts on TVG never said a word. They were too busy praising Keeneland, and interviewing a trainer, airing commercials, and just plain blabbering. I waited many minutes for the results crawl across the bottom to go from Gulfstream 4 to Gulfstream 5 but it wasn't happening. I knew the stewards had to be watching the stretch run, but nobody said a thing.
A long time later, Gulfstream 5 reared its ugly head and sure enough, my horse was not listed in third place. I had to check the charts later to learn he had been disqualified and placed fifth. The TVGers still have not mentioned it. I understand they love to interview Todd Pletcher and Jerry Hollendorfer and Dale Romans and many others, and crow about Caton Bredar making her paddock picks, but this network was born and is supported because of horseplayers making wagers.
My first order of business concerning TVG is to watch races and it should be theirs, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Word from Gulfstream Park is that there were a great many disgruntled people cashing Pick 6 tickets after the last race on Saturday. The disgruntles didn't understand how they could hit six winners in a row and collect a measly $89 and change for their troubles. Which means, of course, that they didn't understand how the Rainbow Pick 6 works.
Here's a quick course. There was $1,045,673 wagered into the Pick 6 on Saturday as bettors were looking to make the big score - a single ticket on six winners that would grab the carryover of nearly $2 million, plus Saturday's pool. First, we have to account for the takeout - I'm not sure what it is, but let's use 20 percent, it really doesn't matter that much for this exercise.
After the takeout, which reduced the pool to $850,000-plus, the figure is now reduced by 30 percent, since only 70 percent is paid out to winning bettors when there is more than one winning ticket. That means the pool to be distributed was somewhere between $560,000 and $600,000. Sounds like a lot, but not when you study the succession of winners.
The eventual payoffs took a hit right from the start when Farz (Jose Lezcano) and Lukes Alley (Luis Saez) finished in a dead heat in the ninth race. That immediately cut the payoffs in half because they had to pay out twice as many tickets than they would have if there had been just one nose on the wire. That was followed by Celestine, who paid $2.60 under Jose Ortiz, and literally knocked very few tickets out of the mix.
It didn't get much better in the 11th race, where Joel Rosario brought Salty home at $4, and most every ticket was still alive. Dover Cliffs, at $4.40, won the 12th with Ortiz, then players got some slight relief from the string of favorites with Sadler's Joy ($9.40) in the 13th, with Julien Leparoux.
When Always Dreaming won the Florida Derby and paid $7.40, it helped the payoff somewhat, because with even-money Gunnevera winning under John Velazquez, the $89 would have been cut in half again. Imagine the wails if the price had gone up under $50.
Aside from the obvious, the short-priced winners, the most popular riders at the track (other than Javier Castellano) were aboard - Leparoux, Velazquez, Ortiz, Rosario, Saez and Lezcano. There were no 7-pound bug boys or 3 percent riders involved. Dividing the pool by the payoff of $89, there were somewhere around 6,500 winning tickets, give or take.
Fast Forward to Sunday, when it was all to be given away, and betting reached a phenomenal $7.336 million, contributing to a Saturday-Sunday all-sources handle of more than $48.792 million, more than $8 million greater than last year. Derby Day handle surpassed $30.614 million, second highest in Florida Derby history, which spans 66 years. The Pick 6 winning tickets were each worth $48,881 and nobody can be upset about that. I think.
MARE WINS LIVE OAK APPROVAL - When Revved Up was born at Live Oak Stud Farm in 1998, no doubt Charlotte Weber never imagined she would still be enjoying the exploits of his dam, Win Approval, some 19 years later. But when World Approval captured the $100,000 EG Vodka Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs yesterday, the 5-year-old gelding moved closer to becoming the fourth millionaire out of 10 babies produced by the daughter of With Approval.
With Julien Leparoux aboard, World Approval outclassed the field in the 1 1/8-mile race over the turf course, raising his record to 7-2-4 in 19 starts and his earnings to $953,763. It was his first start since October, and he's now 2-for-2 at Tampa. In his last six races of 2016, the son of Northern Afleet competed in Gr. I company at Woodbine, Arlington Park, Monmouth Park, Belmont Park and Churchill Downs. He won the United Nations at Monmouth, was second in the Turf Classic at Churchill, and third in the Manhattan at Belmont and Northern Dancer across the border.
When he gets his next good paycheck, World Approval will move into the millionaire's mansion along with Miesque's Approval (41-12-10-5, $2,648,879), Za Approval (34-9-9-4, $1,904,666) and Revved Up (43-20-9-1, $1,548,653). All told, Win Approval's runners have won 71 races and earned $7,338,208. Eight of the 10 have have visited the winner's circle at least once and just one, Highest Approval, didn't race. World Approval, at the age of five, has a chance to significantly increase all the numbers if trainer Mark Casse can keep him healthy.
more to come -
Back in 2011, when Ocala's Martin Stables South went bust and horses of various denominations were being rescued off the farm by concerned neighbors, Kathy Taylor and her daughter Andi wound up with nine of them on their five acres-plus called Capstone. The first order of business was to feed the five starving mares, three 2-year-olds and one 3-year-old, then sell them for a ham sandwich before the ladies were eaten out of house and home.
Kathy bred the mares to stallions whose seasons were donated by clients of her advertising business, and, in time, all had new homes ranging from Florida to a couple of time zones to the west. There was one foal, though, that Kathy kept. He was a fiesty one from day one, by Shakespeare out of the Storm Bird mare Cent Nouvelles, and Andi literally pulled him from the womb the night he was born.
They raised the little guy for two years, then entered him in the 2012 OBS January sale, but he didn't bring his reserve and they wound up selling him privately to Canadian owner Howard Walton, who races at Woodbine in the summer and Gulfstream Park in the winter. Now a gelding, French Quarter turned out to be a solid addition to the Walton barn, compiling a record of 7-5-3 in 33 starts and earning $243,726 before being claimed out of his last race at Gulfstream a few weeks ago for $62,500 by trainer David Fawkes.
Of his 33 races, 22 came at Woodbine and 11 at Gulfstream and it appears Frenchie likes the southern racing strip better than the all-weather up north - he won four times over it, including the last two this season, along with a second and a third. That's six breeder's awards for Kathy, and with the recent increase in the percentages doled out by the FTBOA, the last two were blockbusters of $5,400 each. That probably just about got Kathy even for her costs of five years ago.
Now Frenchie is in the Fawkes barn, and David is a year-round Florida resident, which has Kathy more than elated. And tomorrow, Frenchie is entered in the $100,000 Sir Shackleton Stakes at seven furlongs, a distance at which he has never won. He has one victory at five furlongs, five at six furlongs and one at 6 1/2. But he has the services of talented youngster Nik Juarez, who was aboard for his last two scores and appears to fit Frenchie like a glove.
It's only the second time the gelding has been in a stakes race - he finished fifth in the $125,000 Jacques Cartier at Woodbine last April and collected $1,925. Morning line-maker Ron Nicoletti has him pegged as the choice at 3-1, and Kathy and Andi hope Ron is on the mark.
And what happened to some of the other rescued equines from five years ago? Ifoundmy Mojo, one of the 2-year-olds, started 48 times in the mid-west and compiled a record of 13-9-5 with earnings of $222,510. In 2013, the gelded son of Spanish Steps ranked 53rd in the country by number of winning races - six. The 3-year-old filly in the group was named California Quick, and she went 4-5-1 in 15 starts and collected $61,497. Hojas, a half-brother to Ifoundmy Mojo by Two Step Salsa, bred by Kathy, is now six and sports a record of 3-3-3 in 15 starts with earnings of $36,696. After a long layoff, he recently returned to the workout tabs at Los Alamitos and should be racing again shortly.
Kathy will also have a second major interest tomorrow in the $1 million Florida Derby with the Gone Astray colt Three Rules, who is leaving right next to favored Gunnevera on the outside and attempting to show co-owner/trainer Bert Pilcher he's good enough to shoot for the Run for the Roses. Gone Astray stands at Northwest Stud, one of Kathy's clients.
SHOOTING FOR THE MOON - The Rainbow Pick 6 reached $1,543,677 for today's Gulfstream program, and if it's not hit, it will jump to more than $2 million for the Florida Derby card. There are 14 races slated, including eight stakes, and the mutuel handle will be somewhere in the stratosphere, with huge guarantees in some of the major exotics. If the Rainbow isn't hit today or tomorrow, it will be given away on Sunday.
There remain just four days for someone to become an instant millionaire - again - by solving Gulfstream's Rainbow Pick 6 on a day when nobody else can. There were multiple winners on Sunday, each hitting for $885, the 23rd consecutive day without a single winner. The carryover leaped to $1,354,776 after $479,499 was bet into the pool.
If no single winner emerges through Saturday, there will be a mandatory payout on Sunday, April 2, and the pool will reach enormous proportions, especially since Saturday is Florida Derby day, when there will be nine stakes in all worth $2.45 million. Betting will be astronomical. Of course, that all hinges on whether somebody gets lucky between Wednesday and Saturday. The $6 million bonanza won by the late Dan Borislow is still fresh in the minds of all Gulfstream's regular Pick 6 players.
Tyler Gaffalione reached the 500 victory mark on Sunday and it's hard to think of any jockey who accomplished the feat more quickly. The 22-year-old who grew up in Davie rode his first winner at Gulfstream in mid-2014 and his positive impact on the local scene has been unquestionably as great as any rider in recent memory. On Saturday, he won the Gr. III, $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park aboard Fast and Accurate, who could be a supplemental nominee for that big race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Yesterday, Tyler won the fourth race on More Front ($10) for victory No. 500, then added Extravagant Kid ($31.60) in the eighth and Budding ($4.40) in the 11th to boost his total to 502 in a hurry. He has 61 wins at the current meeting, and he tries as hard on 20-1 shots as he does on favorites, with much success.
Tyler certainly has every reason to be as accomplished as he is. His father, Steve Gaffalione, rode successfully in Miami for years, and his grandfather, Bob Gaffglione, was a stalwart at Calder, Gulfstream and Hialeah in the 70s and 80s, especially with his success aboard the fabulous filly Hickory Gray. The reason for the different spelling of the last name is due to a birth certificate glitch when dad Steve was born and it was never changed.
Several years ago, noted turf columnist Andy Beyer wrote a long piece about one of the worst "bad beats" of all time. It concerned a person (or persons) who lost out on a huge fortune in a Rainbow pick 6 because a late scratch switched more tickets onto the favorite in the race and instead of having the lone winning ticket, he (or they) merely ended up sharing a consolation prize.
Add yesterday's Rainbow at Gulfstream Park to the list of bad beats of all time.
The pick 6 was sailing along thusly heading into the final race: Halloween Horror won the eighth and paid $11.20, followed by Cape Force ($13.40), Classic Cotton ($26), Distinta ($25.80), and Chivalrous ($10.60). Heading into the 13th race, there were 28 live tickets, but only the five horse, Starship Zorro, had a lone ticket on him and it was going to be worth more than a million bucks. Analyst Caton Bredar informed the TVG audience of this fact just as the horses were going to the gate.
Starship Zorro was 11-1 at post time, due to the fact that he had lost eight in a row since his last victory at Gulfstream West back in November. He did have a couple of thirds.
Emisael Jaramillo hustled Starship Zorro out quickly and he settled into a comfortable third in the mile and one-sixteenth race on the grass. The 7-year-old son of Giant's Causeway remained in striking position all through the backstretch, and coming to the turn Jaramillo let him loose and Starship Zorro took the lead easily, opening up by a couple of lengths. The owner(s) of the lone ticket had to be jumping out of their skin.
Starship Zorro was still digging in gamely down the lane, but 7/2 shot Hidden Vow, an 8-year-old New York-bred gelding with Luis Saez aboard, was rolling down the outside. The two went head-and-head in the final 100 yards and at the wire, it was Hidden Vow who prevailed in a head bob.
The pick 6 payoff to those alive with Hidden Vow was $38,321, and we can't know if those buried by the bad beat had one of those tickets or not. Hopefully, they did, and received some small consolation. But even if they did, they won't soon (if ever) get over this 'bad beat.'
The carryover into today's card is $765,299, and by the time the wagering ends the pool will again be well over $1 million. There was $410,662 bet into it yesterday. The bad beat victims will probably try again, assuming their hearts can stand it.
(Gulfstream enjoyed another big day at the windows, with the all-sources handle reaching $15,549,019).
When Bridlewood Farm manager George Isaacs asked owner John Malone if he was going to come to Tampa Bay Downs to watch their $1.2 million purchase, Tapwrit, compete in the Tampa Bay Derby, the boss said, simply, if the colt runs well, he would come for that other Derby in Louisville.
Tapwrit ran well, alright, making one of the most stunning moves ever seen in these parts on the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, a move that reminded some of Arazi when he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in what seems like eons ago. The 3-year-old son of Tapit lagged behind early in the field of 10 and when Tapwrit went wide under Jose Ortiz turning for home, he inhaled the leaders in what seemed like a matter of seconds and was comfortably in front when they straightened out in the stretch. He won by 4 1/2 lengths and his clocking of 1:42.36 broke the stakes record of 1:42.82 set by Destin in winning the race last year.
Tapwrit was a $1.2 million purchase at the 2015 Saratoga sale and was a collaborative effort of Bridlewood, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and long-time owner Robert La Penta. When the colt finished a distant 10th in his career debut at Saratoga last September, many eyebrows were raised, considering the price. But Tapwrit went to Gulfstream West in November and broke his maiden at seven furlongs, then added the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park before finishing a fast-closing second to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis. He now has more than enough points to be eligible for the Run for the Roses, and John Malone, reputedly the largest owner of acreage in the United States, will be there. As will George Isaacs, who has worn a smart-looking fedora to both the Tampa races, and will no doubt continue to be fashionable in Louisville.
SUPREME EFFORT - In 1996, Hank Steinbrenner bred the stakes-winning Kinsman Stud Farm broodmare Spinning Round to Seeking the Gold and the resultant foal turned out to be a dream supreme. In fact, that's what they named the filly, Dream Supreme, and she went on to become a multiple graded stakes-winner, compiling a record of 9-2-2 in 16 starts. Among her victories she numbered the Gr. I Test, Gr. I Ballerina, Gr. III Gallant Bloom, Gr. II Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap, Gr. II Humana Distaff Handicap and Gr. III Princess Rooney Handicap. All told, Dream Supreme competed in 13 straight graded stakes, winning six, finishing second in two, third in two and fourth in two. She earned $1,007,680.
In the sixth race on the Tampa Bay Downs Derby program Saturday, the eighth of Dream Supreme's 10 foals turned up racing in the colors of Lanes End Racing and Kinsman Stable. The 5-year-old is named Gold Shield, by Medaglia d'Oro, and he came into the optional claimer on the turf with a record of 2-3-2 in 12 starts and earnings of $136,005. He had been racing in New York for most of last year and won at Belmont Park on the grass in May, which was his last visit to the winner's circle. Idle since Oct. 6, Gold Shield drew the 10 post for trainer Shug McGaughey with rider John Velazquez, who had been aboard for the victory in May.
And the talented veteran did it again, giving Gold Shield his third victory, and adding $15,500 to his bank account.
THE OLD COLLEGE TRY - Two races later, millionaire Stanford made his second start of the year in the $100,000 Challenger and not only overwhelmed the opposition, but broke the track record for a mile and one-sixteenth that McCraken had set a few weeks earlier in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. The 5-year-old by Malibu Moon was clocked in 1:41.75, again under Velazquez, while posting his sixth career victory and surpassing the $1.3 million mark in earnings. Stanford had been sitting on the tote board at 1/5 for much of the wagering, but "soared" to 1/2 by post time and paid $3. Many felt like it was a steal.
There wasn't a parking spot to be found when the first race at Tampa went off Saturday, and the crowd of 10,079 wagered $865,204 on-track. The total all-sources handle reached $12,123,021. But the two major Frank Stronach tracks stole the day, as Santa Anita's total was $18,379,346, and Gulfstream Park's $15,460,422. Aqueduct took a back seat with a handle of $8,287,237, while Oaklawn Park wound up a tad under $4 million.
WHO WOULDA THUNK IT? - In one of the biggest disgraces in the continuing downturn of the former St. Pete Times, now the Tampa Bay Times, there wasn't one advance word about the track's major attraction in the Saturday paper. This, despite the many thousands of bucks TBD spends on advertising. Word around the track is that the once-revered paper, which for some unknown reason bought the Tampa Tribune and before that spent a reported $20 million to name the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning "the St. Petersburg Times Forum," is in deep trouble.
If thoroughbred racing emulated the other major sports and added ear-splitting music to the fare during live action, they could have had the 1974 Bachman-Turner Overdrive smash hit "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" blaring from all speakers as today's first race was being run at Turf Paradise.
Among the entrants in the $5,000 claimer at five furlongs was one "Bullseye," a gelded son of Perfect Mandate out of Ms Hearts N Arrows, bred in California by Old English Rancho and Berumen. What makes this tale so worthy of BTO's No. 1 song is that Bullseye is nine years old, and he was making his first career start for owner/trainer W. R. Whitehouse.
When Whitehouse happened upon Bullseye only he and the breeders know and I'm sure we'll soon find out, but we do know the gelding was entered in the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association's Northern California Yearling Sale in 2009. He didn't bring his reserve, and was listed as a $9,200 RNA.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago. Bullseye begins working at Turf Paradise and has five morning trials on his tab, the best one being his last, a 49-flat from the gate, 19th best of 32 that day. Not earth-shattering.
The gelding drew the No. 1 post for his debut with Ronald Richard as his rider. When the windows opened for the race, Bullseye took a pretty good monetary hit early, and was sitting at even money for a while. He began drifting up slowly thereafter, but when Richard settled him in the gate, Bullseye suddenly reared and his jock jumped off, while the horse turned sideways and stuck one leg over the side of the gate.
The assistant starter got him squared away quickly, while the vet gave him the okay. Richard hopped back on, and when they sprung the latch, the price was 4-1. Bullseye broke a tad slow, but Richard quickly sent him up on the inside to take over the lead, with the No. 2 horse, 2-1 second choice Coulson, just to his flank. Bullseye continued on the lead and the pair opened up daylight on the field, but at the top of the stretch, Bullseye opened up daylight on Coulson and the gelding roared away to score by nearly seven widening lengths. It was the stuff of which legends are made.
Bullseye paid $10.20, $5.60 and $3.40 and no doubt those in the know who bet all that early money made a pretty good score. As for Whitehouse, the first-place check was only $3,828 but maybe he made that much on his wagers. The next question is: how long will it be before we see Bullseye again?
After a highly successful run that began a decade ago, it appears that the South Florida racinos may have reached their apex. Seven months into the fiscal year, it looks like most of the slots venues are going to experience a slight downturn, with the possible exception of Calder and Hialeah Park. With five months remaining, however, it's not etched in stone, but a major upturn doesn't seem realistic.
Statistics supplied by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering list Calder ahead of last year, although not by much, even after its takeout was lowered from an outrageous 9.11 to an outrageous 9.05. Same for Hialeah Park, although John Brunetti kept his takeout at a reasonable 6.51.
Pompano Park, the perennial leader down south, is about on pace to equal last year's projections, with a minor takeout increase from 9.02 to 9.03, also in the outrageous category. Miami Jai Alai is down slightly despite raising its takeout from 6.20 to 6.42, and Flagler dogs is down a bit despite raising its takeout from 6.13 to 6.47. Gulfstream is still down after lowering its takeout from 7.61 to 7.09 and Hollywood dogs is down after raising its takeout from 8.05 to 8.41. Dania Jai Alai is still in deep trouble, and always will be, as it sits between Pompano, Hollywood and Gulfstream, and within a stone's throw of Hard Rock.
To complicate the problem, FTBOA lobbyist Matt Bryan reported in a recent Wire-to-Wire article that knucklehead senator Bill Galvano has introduced a bill that's in committee that would allow slots in eight more counties in the state, and two more in the South Florida area. I will assume that some Vegas interests are pushing Galvano in his quest. Just what Miami needs, two more casinos to take revenue away from the rest. Good move, Bill.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
From time to time, the success of the Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct has been chronicled here for the purposes of assessing its impact on the purses at Saratoga, Belmont Park and the Big A. Yesterday looked to be a good time to address the latest update. Guess what to my wandering eyes did appear? Somewhere along the way - last October - the New York scenario changed drastically, and I've been trying to sort out the details with little success.
Here's the scoop. The first thing I noticed was that the Big A casino was sailing along toward another record year as of the Oct. 8 figures, which was 28 weeks into the fiscal year. The weekly "credits played" varied from a low of $365,409,003 for the week ending June 25, to the high of $425,598,771 for the week ending April 2, which was the first week of the fiscal year.
However, for the week ending Oct. 15, the figure tumbled slightly to $357,838,894, and the next week it went into freefall at $257,017,432. A quick check below that showed that the figures remained below $300 million right through Feb. 4. A little detective work followed, and I stumbled upon another chart, labeled "Nassau OTB at Resorts World Casino," and the first week of figures listed was through Oct. 15. Aha. Only $16,439,404, but enough to see why the Big A casino dropped that week.
After that 16 more weeks of figures, from a low of $108,216,130 to a high of $128,192,171. Obviously, that's why the Big A casino's numbers plummeted. I guess I missed any announcement in October of what was transpiring, so I started to dig. Was this a new casino? I found an article from Newsday dated Oct. 5 with the headline "NY gaming commission approves Nassau $26M casino deal."
What followed was a dizzying review of the terms of the deal, citing so many different figures it made my head spin, but all designed to help bail out Nassau OTB, which apparently has several branches. Nowhere, however, did it explain where the Nassau OTB figures were coming from. What physical plant were players going to in order to give Nassau OTB its own page in the lottery section, along with the casinos at the Big A, Saratoga, Batavia, Vernon Downs and the other New York casinos?
The original Resorts World Casino and the Nassau OTB Casino have different phone numbers. I tried both, and the same message, in the same voice, answers both. "All representatives are currently busy with other customers," the voice said. Surprise. It told me to hold on, and someone would be with me shortly. Shortly turned into hours as I made repeated calls to both. So I tried the New York Gaming Commission, and a young lady told me someone would get back to me. That was at mid-day yesterday. I'm hoping it will be in this lifetime.
By the way, the Big A casino's credits played was at $15.2 billion through Feb. 4 and there are seven weeks remaining to the fiscal year. Last year's record was $20.4 billion. They won't come close. Nassau OTB has credits played of $1.8 billion thus far.
Maybe there will be some further explanation today.
3 P. M. today - I finally had someone answer the phone at Resorts World Casino New York. A very nice young lady had no idea what I was talking about. She couldn't even refer me to someone else, or she didn't want to.
The Florida freshman sire list for 2017 is now up on this site, and it reveals several interesting facts, including that three of the stallions were bred to more than 100 mares.
As of now, there are 14 stallions listed and Pleasant Acres has the most in the running for leading freshman with five, including two with blockbuster books - Treasure Beach (101) and Poseidon's Warrior (90). Then come Brethren (67), Anthony's Cross (35) and Beau Choix (17).
Woodford Thoroughbreds will deature two frosh sires, Soldat, who leads the books with 124 mares bred, and Currency Swap (47).
Northwest Stud has a pair of newbies with pretty good books - Duke of Mischief (57) and Wrote (50), while Ocala Stud has just one, Prospective, who has a big chance to be the Florida leader with 113 mares bred.
The three farms with just one freshman are Bridlewood (Corfu, 55), Journeyman Stud (Winslow Homer, 53), and Hartley/DeRenzo (Rattlesnake Bridge, 64).
Based on the number of frosh sires, and the good-sized books they bred, this will be the most contentious race for Florida in the past several years. The sire's sires include two Tapits, two Malibu Moons, a Distorted Humor, a Galileo, a Speightstown, an Indian Charlie, an Elusive Quality, a High Cotton, a Graeme Hall, a War Front, an Unbridled's Song and a High Chaparral. That's an impressive list in itself.
A pair of 3-year-olds will be in the spotlight tomorrow at Gulfstream Park, one who will be closely followed by the entire racing community because the sophomore debut of the last juvenile champion is always viewed with great interest, and the other to determine if Florida's best from the previous year is going to progress and become competitive on a national level.
Classic Empire, the 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and subsequent 2-year-old champ, makes his debut for trainer Mark Casse and owner John Oxley in the Gr. II, $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes at a mile and one-sixteenth. The son of Pioneerof the Nile, a $475,000 Keeneland September yearling, hasn't started since his neck victory in the Juvenile at Santa Anita, and he's been brought along slowly by Casse, with a 1:00.75 five-furlong drill at Palm Meadows his fastest work so far. Classic Empire won four of his five starts at two, and earned $1,485,000.
The only race Classic Empire lost can be easily forgiven. In the Gr. I Hopeful at Saratoga, in his third start, the colt wheeled at the break and lost rider Irad Ortiz, and Practical Joke went on to win. He had revenge in the Juvenile, where Practical Joke finished third. Classic Empire has drawn the 3 post with Julien Leparoux, who is still trying to find a TV analyst who can pronounce his name correctly.
Florida's great bay hope is Three Rules, the son of Northwest Stud's Gone Astray who won his first five starts at two, including four stakes, highlighted by a sweep of the Florida Sire trilogy in which nobody got close to him. But Three Rules bombed in the Breeders' Cup, sitting close to the early pace but having nothing left when the real running began. It was almost a mirror image of the performance turned in by California Chrome against Arrogate last week in the Pegasus World Cup.
Trainer and co-owner Bert Pilcher is bypassing the Holy Bull with Three Rules in favor of the Gr. II, $200,000 Swale Stakes, which will be contested at seven furlongs, seven races earlier. Cornelio Velasquez will be aboard the colt, who is 7/5 on the morning line. As opposed to Classic Empire, Pilcher has let his colt run in his morning drills, and Three Rules has posted four bullet works, a 34.10 for three furlongs, 47.20 for four furlongs, and 58.72 and 58.95 for five. No excuses here that he isn't ready for his return.
The Holy Bull and Swale are two of five stakes slated for another stellar Gulfstream program, and, although the handle won't approach last week's record $40-plus million, it should draw the most attention around the continent for handicappers who love to bet on stakes and turf races contested in the sunshine. The other three stakes are the $200,000, Gr. II Forward Gal for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; the $100,000, Gr. III Sweetest Chant for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on the grass, and the $100,000 Kitten's Joy for 3-year-olds at a mile on the grass, which, naturally, has drawn Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Cat, who is 5-1 on the line.
The advocates of the tired old terms "buried on the rail" and "mired on the inside" took another serious hit yesterday when Arrogate proved once again that the best place to leave from in any distance race is the No. 1 post.
The TV analysts haven't gotten the message yet and even Bob Baffert had his concerns, but the betting public didn't. The bettors ignored the morning lines on Arrogate and California Chrome and made the former 4/5 and the latter 6/5. Like me, the betting public loves the rail.
Granted, California Chrome had the worst of it from No. 12, but Victor Espinoza got the champ away quickly and Chromie was in a good spot as they headed down the backstretch. His failure to accelerate when Arrogate moved toward the lead nearing the turn was a major disappointment. However, nobody was going to beat Arrogate yesterday. His final time of 1:47.61 wasn't too far off the track record for a mile and an eighth - the 1:46.86 that Lea posted in February of 2014. And if anybody had been chasing him in the stretch, racing's new poster boy could have gone faster.
In judging the success of the $12 million Stronach experiment, the place was packed to the rafters, and an astronomical $40,217,924 was wagered on the superior 12-race program, a Gulfstream record. They gave the people everything they love to bet on - seven stakes and seven grass races - and the public responded by sending it in by the bucketful.
There will be an encore of this performance next year, without question.
OBS GETS IN THE ACT - And, speaking of handle, the eight pari-mutuel races conducted on the 11-race OBS Week of Champions program on Tuesday saw a total of $43,261 sent into the mutuel machines. The first seven races were of the quarter horse variety, and the eighth was the $50,000 OBS Sprint for fillies.
Here's a breakdown of the betting on each quarter horse race: 1 - $2,766; 2 - $3,764; 3 - $4,566; 4 - $4,218; 5 - $5,246; 6 - $4,640; 7 - $7,696. The OBS Sprint, naturally, took the most play - $10,365 - broken down thusly: win-place-show- $6,850; exacta - $3,051; and the daily double pool on races 7 and 8 - $464. The rolling daily doubles weren't too popular, lagging far behind the other pools in every race.
The bettors were keyed in pretty well, with the win prices ranging from the low of $2.20 on Silver Wings in the seventh race to the high of $11 on Of Royal Decent in the fourth. Silver Wings paid $2.40 to place and $2.40 to show, which no doubt upset the win players.
The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. will be breaking new ground tomorrow with an unprecedented 11-race program scheduled for its "Week of Champions," highlighted by eight races that feature pari-mutuel wagering.
In the three previous years, wagering has been allowed on just the first two races, the first for quarter horses, the second for thoroughbreds, and including a daily double on the two. This time, there will be wagering on the first seven races, for quarter horses, and the eighth, the six-furlong, $50,000 OBS Sprint Stakes for fillies. There will be win, place and show betting, plus exactas, and rolling daily doubles through the eighth race.
In 2014, just under $16,000 was bet on the two races, and that jumped to more than $21,000 the next year. Last year, the total wagered was $23,532, with win-place-show bets totaling $10,469 on the thoroughbred race, along with $5,892 in exactas. There will be a great deal of interest from all corners concerning tomorrow's betting, not the least of which will come from those who feel that a short pari-mutuel meeting would go over well in Ocala.
After the filly Sprint, the final three races will be the $50,000 OBS Sprint for colts, the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes for fillies, and the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes for colts, the latter two each at a mile and a sixteenth.
Several of the nation's top trainers have horses entered, including Todd Pletcher, Mark Casse, Eddie Plesa Jr., Kiaran McLaughlin and Mike Maker. Among the jockeys, John Velazquez, Julien Leparoux, Paco Lopez, Jose Lezcano, Jose Ortiz, Joe Bravo and Luis Saez are all up from Gulfstream, along with Tampa Bay Downs' leading rider, Daniel Centeno.
All the runners have to have gone through an OBS sale, whether or not they were sold, and many are by out-of-state stallions. Current or former Ocala sires represented are Gone Astray, Biondetti, High Cotton, Crown of Thorns, Circular Quay, Yes It's True, Wildcat Heir, First Dude and Kantharos.
Former long-time Calder race-caller Bobby Neuman will again handle the announcing chores - after a brief respite from a full-time job, he's back again calling races at Golden Gate Fields.
Ocala Stud Farm reported that the first foal sired by The Big Beast was born in Ocala on Jan. 3 - a colt out of the Slew Gin Fizz mare Look to the Stars, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Isitingood. Christy Whitman is the breeder.
The Big Beast won the Gr. I King's Bishop at Saratoga as a 3-year-old and lost the Gr. I Vanderbilt Handicap by a head the next year. He's by former Florida champion freshman sire Yes It's True and was bred to 103 mares in his first book; he stands for $6,000.
Ocala Stud is the unquestioned Florida leader in the stallion department - the addition of Jess's Dream a few weeks ago boosted the farm's total to 14. Jess's Dream has a blockbuster pedigree, by Curlin out of Rachel Alexandra. Rachel Alexandra has one foal to race, Gr. I winner Rachel's Valentina, by Bernardini. Jess's Dream stands for what appears to be a bargain $5,000. The farm's other stallions with runners, High Cotton, Adios Charlie, In Summation and the rest, are all high on the state's sire lists.
WHERE'S THE DOUGH? - Just when you thought that, other than fake racing, everyone seemed to be getting along fairly well in Florida, comes the news that Saturday's Sunshine Millions program at Gulfstream Park will dole out just $600,000 in purse money instead of the originally announced $900,000. That's a big hit to the owners who have entries on the competitive card. Seems there's a big flap of some kind between the FTBOA and the FHBPA and the FTBOA is withholding the extra purse money. This one can't turn out well.
Somebody forgot to tell the people at TVG about the missing $300,000, and during today's telecasts, they continued to use the $900,000 figure along with the wrong amounts on individual races.
GETTING CLOSER - Frank Stronach's brainchild - the Jan. 28 Pegasus World Cup - may or may not turn out to be one of the major positive stories of 2017. It's one of those deals where we won't be able to fully evaluate the ramifications until it's all over. However, the $12 million epic has been the talk of the racing world for months, and the wheeling, dealing, buying, selling, trading and leasing of probable and possible participants has kept everybody guessing and excited at the same time.
The impending battle between Arrogate and California Chrome is great for the game, although there will no doubt be many tears shed as Chromie walks away for the final time. Every member of the ownership team that kept this great horse going should receive an Eclipse Award of Merit for service to the sport above and beyond.
(Sorry for the delay since the last column - had a little bout with pneumonia to take care of).
There's no sense going into the arguments - pro and con - surrounding the disqualification of Masochistic from second place in the Breeders' Cup Sprint because of a positive from a drug taken 68 days prior to the race. However, part of the wording of the ban on trainer Ron Ellis leaves me baffled.
Here's the paragraph that has me confused, and, I will assume, others, too. " It's from the Paulick Report: "Breeders' Cup also said that any horse that has been transferred 'to any other person associated with Mr. Ellis for the purpose of competing in the Breeders' Cup will similarly be prevented from entering and running in the 2017 event.' "
What does that mean? If Ron transfers a horse to another trainer tomorrow and in October the owner wants to enter the BC, he or she is not allowed? Or in February, or March, or April? Or does it mean Ron can't train a horse through the summer and then have it go to another trainer? In any of those cases, why should the owner - and the horse - be penalized because of this ruling against Ron? Will they give the owner back the money he has already put up? Not a chance.
I think the whole thing stinks! Why not sentence Ron to life in prison without parole for this dastardly deed.
And just for the record, Breeders' Cup geniuses, why would you say in the ban "prevented from entering AND RUNNING in 2017. If you've been prevented from entering, of course you can't run!!!
As for the haters who are smelling up the internet with their anti-Ellis vitriol, they're the same people who bash Tiger Woods, and who screamed for Hillary to go to prison although they had no idea why. Trump said it so it must be true. The same Trump who still hasn't produced his tax returns during the longest audit period in the history of the IRS. That is, if it was the IRS who was conducting this phantom audit.
IS IT REAL OR IS IT MEMOREX? - It's been a while since we last explored the reasons why so many believe that the Sport of Kings is dying, and nobody bets anymore and the old players are succumbing to age and no new players are replacing them. The report from Gulfstream the other day about wagering in 2016 must be part of the Fake News coming out of Russia and other nefarious organizations.
The news was simple: a record $1.774 billion was wagered through Gulfstream Park in 2016, a 9 percent increase over the previous record of $1.625 billion the year before. And, a record $1.508 billion was wagered on its live racing in 2016, a 13 percent increase over the previous record of $1.338 billion in 2015.
Since the doom and gloom set won't be able to comprehend why this happened, they came to the right place to find out. Here's the answer: All the people who have been betting on racetracks around the country decided they no longer wanted to bet on those tracks and they're all betting strictly on Gulfstream now. We should be hearing, in the near future, of the imminent closing of Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Del Mar, Santa Anita, Keeneland, Churchill Downs and many others who no longer have a base of players to wager on their races.
Sound stupid? No more stupid than the notion that everybody has abandoned the game for other forms of entertainment.
Gulfstream Park closed out the year with a bang, eclipsing both Aqueduct and Santa Anita in the mutuels department, at the same time unveiling another Todd Pletcher 2-year-old who will quickly be added to many Kentucky Derby 'horses to watch' lists and possibly draw a little attention at the Las Vegas books.
Gulfstream's all-sources handle Saturday was $11,760,283, compared to Aqueduct's just over $9 million and Santa Anita's nearly $9.5 million. On Sunday, Gulfstream followed it up with a handle of $8,347,916.
The Pletcher colt who turned some heads was Battalion Runner, a Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled's Song who went wire-to-wire in a seven-furlong maiden special under Johnny Velazquez, winning in a walk by nearly nine lengths in 1:22.82. His lone previous start had come at Belmont Park back on June 3, when he finished second behind the highly-regarded Super Saver colt, Random Walk, who then went on to finish second in the Gr. III Sanford at Saratoga behind Bitumen. Battalion Runner was sent off at odds of 30 cents to a dollar in his second start, paying $2.60.
From an Ocala standpoint, Niall and Stephanie Brennan had a good day at the Big A Saturday, as their Indian Soldier won a $25,000 claimer by three-quarters of a length. The 3-year-old gelding by Street Boss, owned and bred by the Brennans, went off at 7-1 and collected a check for $18,600.
At Santa Anita the same day, there was a dead heat for first in the $100,00, Gr. III Midnight Lute Stakes between St. Joe Bay and Solid Wager. St. Joe Bay is a 4-year-old gelding (just turned five) by Saint Anddan out of the Honor Glide mare Dream Ride. He was bred at Ocala's Bonnie Heath Farm by Bonnie and Kim Heath, who owned and raced multiple stakes-winner Honor Glide. St. Joe Bay was ridden by veteran Kent Desormeaux, and the pair dead-heated in 1:15.03 for the 5 1/2 furlongs.
BIONDETTI TOP FROSH SIRE - Florida's freshman sire race was a two-horse affair from the beginning and Woodford Thoroughbreds' Biondetti was the leader in both departments that count. The son of Bernardini edged Ocala Stud's Overdriven by number of winners, 10 to 9, and had it a little easier in the progeny earnings department, $400,000 to $335,495.
Just when you thought 2016 could go out without another bizarre tale muddying the waters, comes the news that Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Masochistic will be disqualified, owners Los Pollos Hermanos Racing and Jay Em Ess Stable will have to give up the $255,000 purse, and trainer Ron Ellis, one of the really good guys in racing, will be given a fine and a suspension.
And what is the cause of such great concern that the aforementioned steps have become necessary? Masochistic was found to have traces of the anabolic steroid stanozolol in his system in both blood and urine post-race samples. Now, on the surface, if that steroid is banned, it would seem that any repercussions are justified.
However, as the tale unfolds, it seems (1) that the 6-year-old gelding was given the stanozol treatment 68 DAYS BEFORE THE BREEDERS' CUP, and (2), there were just "low picogram" levels detected. It turns out that the recommended time to administer the steroid is 60 days or more from race day. So Ellis added eight days. What did the guy do wrong?
Then the bigger question arises - what is a picogram? If you look it up, it's one-trillionth of a gram. That's what it says. And if you look at a picture of a gram, it's about the size of the cap on a ballpoint pen. So a picogram is one-trillionth the size of the cap of a ballpoint pen. It has to look like Claude Raines (he was the Invisible Man for those who don't go back that far).
Here's my point, and anyone who has read this column knows I don't pretend to know a thing about the medications that make the game go, other than bute is like an aspirin and lasix helps horses who are bleeders. But I do know this: there isn't a person alive, in the medical field or elsewhere, who can prove to me that a picogram of stanozol given 68 days before a race, that is still lingering in a horse's system, made that horse run any faster in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, or give the owners back their $255,000 and let Ron Ellis go back to training and giving out sound handicapping advice on TVG. How many black eyes can a sport stand? Good horsemen are being victimized by a rule which defies the imagination. But, in Florida, a group can apply for slots and a poker room by running fake horses out of a fake starting gate down a fake racetrack in front of a fake audience. Go figure.
One of the all-time great musicals of the 20th century was "South Pacific," which featured one of the best comedy songs of all time - "There is Nothing like a Dame." This classic immediately came to mind as I read today's Blood-Horse.com piece by Jeremy Balan concerning yesterday's meeting of the California Horse Racing Board Pari-Mutuel and Wagering Committee at Los Alamitos.
If you're too young to remember, it goes like this: "We've got sunlight on the sand, we've got moonlight on the sea. We've got mangos and bananas we can pick right off the trees. We've got volley ball and ping pong and a lot of dandy games. What ain't we got? We ain't got dames!"
What does that have to with the California board? Well, we have leading sire lists, leading owners lists, leading trainers lists, leading jockeys lists, leading breeders lists, reports of mares bred, reports of foals, leading Beyer figures and much more. What ain't we got? We ain't got statistics or charts pertaining to many of the important areas that would make horsemen and players understand certain aspects of the game a little better. One of those areas is Advance Deposit Wagering, which was the main focus of yesterday's meeting, to which ADW operators were invited, according to CHRB chairman Chuck Winner.
Wouldn't you like to know how much of the pari-mutuel takeout every track receives from ADW wagers and how much the ADW operators get? Or how much goes to purses, or to anything else? I know I would. But we never get to see those figures. All we get to hear is that the tracks make much less from ADWs because of what they have to give to the operators, and the operators complaining that they don't get enough for what they do. Nowhere in Balan's piece do we get a clue, and I'm not blaming him because we don't get those numbers from anyone.
Winner asked the ADW operators to come forward and address the group. "There are concerns - with respect to charities, with respect to the board, with respect to other aspects of the industry - what are the ADWS prepared to do?" Winner asked them. "Rather than us dictate what we think you ought to do within your licenses, it would be better if you made some recommendations to us, without telling us why you can't do those things." Nice speech, but do we have any idea what he's talking about?
Brad Blackwell, vice-president of Twin Spires, then had a heated exchange with Winner. "California puts us at a disadvantage by strapping us with so many costs and not enough money to really do what we're able to do. If we were just operating in California, we could not justify that cost. California benefits from the costs we're incurring and we're having to make that up in other places." Again, I'd like to know more about what he's talking about so as to better understand the problems.
Blackwell went on: "When I hear, 'Would we be better off without ADWs? I know for a fact - and this is from a company (Churchill Downs) that owns racetracks, owns a tote company, owns an ADW, owns a handicapping business - I know for a fact that, without ADW, those customers are not coming to a racetrack."
Winner hotly disputed that statement. "You don't know that for a fact," he said. "What you know is, under the circumstances, they're going to the ADW and not going to the racetrack. If there were no ADWs, you don't know for a fact that they wouldn't go to the racetrack."
Players in Ocala know it for a fact. I don't get to Gulfstream anymore because the 4 1/2-hour trip is just too much for my aching bones. I get to Tampa about three times each season because I get invited on certain special days. The rest of the year is spent watching TVG and wagering from an ADW account.
"One of the purposes of ADWs was to create more business for racing - more business for racetracks," Winner said. "That hasn't happened. It's been the opposite. The ADWs have basically cannibalized racetracks and on-track wagering in California."
That statement is certainly not borne out by the facts. The North American handle from 1989 through 1994 was pretty much stuck in neutral at $10 billion-plus, and the advent of ADWs raised the total for nine consecutive years until it hit nearly $16 billion in 2003. It remained in the $15 billion range until the recession began wreaking its havoc in 2008.
One major problem hurting the tracks, according to Thoroughbred Owners of California president Greg Avioli, is the number of people who frequent the tracks and still use their phones to bet. "We get essentially nothing back," He said. That brings up several sticking points. If you deny entrance to people with cell phones, will they still come back? And what about the customer who comes to the track, loses what he has in his pocket, and wants to continue betting via his ADW account? This is a complicated issue and neither side seems to have an answer suitable to both.
Here's another area where we're all in the dark, and the talking heads in New Jersey keep talking and saying nothing that would lead us to believe them. Bart Barden, director of the U. S. exchange (exchange wagering) for Betfair, detailed the "success" of that betting platform at a recent symposium in Tucson. He said that exchange wagering increases churn while bringing new money and players into the game. Right. Cuba Gooding would have a good answer for that myth: "Show me the money."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wonder if Trump has a program to help bail out the die-hard favorite players who lost almost all the electoral votes over two days at the Breeders' Cup? And that's why I love the event so passionately; the possibilities for all kinds of major scores in all the exotics are endless.
Of course, I never got to watch the BC to take advantage of those possibilities for the first time since its inception in 1984. I was involved in a weekend golf event (planned a long time ago) at a famed resort in Palm Harbor, and guess what. The famed resort, whose name I won't mention but they play the Valspar there, uses the magnificent cable system called Brighthouse, which doesn't carry NBC Sports Network or the two TVG channels. So, after each round, I was forced to sit in the restaurant and eat, drink and make merry with the guys. Who would believe that a major resort a straight 20-minute drive from Tampa Bay Downs wouldn't carry racing?
Back to the BC. The Juvenile Fillies got the longshot players off with a bang Saturday when Champagne Room popped home at $69.20. She was followed by Queen's Trust ($18) in the F&M Turf, Drefong ($9.80 third choice) in the Sprint, and Obviously, who was the $9.60 favorite in the Turf Sprint, a race which featured four 6-1 shots.
Classic Empire ($11) was the second choice in the Juvenile, and Highland Reel ($9.60) was third choice in the Turf. The latter lulled them to sleep on the front end, walking to a seven-length lead on the backstretch, then holding on to win by 1 3/4. He was ridden by Seamus Heffeman, a household name only in his own household.
Finest City ($19.40) then captured the F&M Sprint, followed by Tourist in the Mile at $26.80. Even Arrogate's payoff of $5.40 was only second choice in the Classic behind Chromie in an epic battle.
Nine races, one $9.60 favorite.
It had been no different on Friday, when Oscar Performance ($15.20) won the Juvenile Turf, and Tamarkuz ($25.80) the Dirt Mile as 7/10 Dortmund and Runhappy ran each other into the ground with fractions of :22.45 and :45.37. New Money Honey ($15) took the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the other epic battle ended with third choice Beholder ($8.60) winning the Distaff by a whisker over no-longer-unbeaten Songbird.
To put an exclamation point on the proceedings, Frank Conversation won the last race on the program, the Twilight Derby, and paid $75.80. It may have been on omen.
And finally, to prove once again that people no longer care about racing, Friday's attendance at Santa Anita was 45,763; Saturday's was 72,811. Friday's on-track handle was $7,178,966, off-track was $50,935,934. On Saturday, on-track reached $13,854,721 and off-track $95,201,176. Not too shabby, considering that the younger generation is off somewhere playing games on their phones and tablets and ipads, or whatever it is they're called.
BIG BUCKS FOR BROODMARES - Bridlewood Farm continues to add expensive horseflesh to its broodmare band, haltering the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, in foal to Tapit, for $3.5 million at the Keeneland November sale. Glen Hill Farm took the Tapit mare Cassatt, in foal to Curlin, for $2.5 million.
In scanning the Breeders' Cup entries, one thing becomes painfully clear: Florida-breds, Florida stallions, Florida owners and Florida breeders are quite conspicuous by their near absence. In fact, there are many more entrants represented by stallions who used to stand in Ocala but are now plying their trade elsewhere, such as Congrats, Northern Afleet, Harlington, Cowtown Cat, Put It Back and Successful Appeal.
The first runner with Florida ties goes tomorrow in the Juvenile Turf. Wellabled is a Kentucky-bred colt by Shackleford, and was a $340,000 OBS April purchase for Carolyn Wilson, owner of Bay Tree Farm on highway 225-A. Wellabled is just a head away from being unbeaten in four starts, and he took the Gr. III Arlington-Washington Futurity by 7 3/4 lengths. The three races he has won are by a combined 17 1/4 lengths.
Also on the docket tomorrow in the Juvenile Fillies Turf is Victory to Victory, a 2-year-old Florida-bred owned and bred by Charlotte Weber at Live Oak Plantation. The daughter of Exchange Rate broke her maiden in the Gr. I Natalma at Woodbine in her third start on the grass. Trained by Mark Casse, she has Julien Leparoux in the saddle.
Saturday's Juvenile marks the true test for Shade Tree Thoroughbreds' Three Rules, the unbeaten son of Northwest Stud Farm's sensational second-crop sire Gone Astray who swept the three divisions of Gulfstream Park's Florida Sire Stakes without so much as drawing a breath. He's the leading money-winning 2-year-old in the country with nearly $700,000 in the bank, and has turned around the fortunes of co-owner/breeder Bert Pilcher. Cornelio Velasquez will try to make it six in a row for the colt. The Santa Anita line-maker isn't too thrilled by the Florida efforts of Three Rules, and he's 8-1 in the morning line.
Only three Florida-breds have ever won the Juvenile, the last being Brocco in 1993. Before that, it was Gilded Time in 1992 and Tasso in 1985.
Also in the Juvenile is Term of Art, bred in Kentucky by Ocalan Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, and a $220,000 Keeneland September purchase by Calumet Farm.
Noted and Quoted, a Florida-bred daughter of The Factor bred by Gilbert Campbell at Stonehedge Farm in Williston, will contest the Juvenile Fillies for trainer Bob Baffert with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. The $375,000 OBS March 2-year-old won the Gr. I Chandelier at Santa Anita.
Delta Bluesman, a Florida-bred by Bridlewood Farm's Wagon Limit, is 10-10-7 in 45 career tries, but has won four of his last six outings. The 6-year-old gelding captured the Hall of Fame Stakes at Parx in :57.45 for 5 1/2 furlongs, and the Gr. II Smile Sprint at Gulfstream in 1:08.94 for six.
Finally, there's Florida-bred Pure Sensation, 5-1 in the morning line for the Turf Sprint. The daughter of Zensational comes from the barn of Patricia Generazio, a New Jerseyite but a long-time Florida breeder of exceptional runners. Pure Sensation sports a record of 7-4-2 in 18 starts with earnings of $838,415, and he's on a three-race winning streak. In the Gr. III Jaipur invitational at Belmont Park, at odds of 18-1, he set a course record of 1:06.76 for six furlongs on the grass, and in winning the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational at the same distance, he was clocked in 1:07.10.
Not a huge turnout, but a chance for some glory, nevertheless.
The Florida freshman sire race has heated up this week, with Woodford Thoroughbreds' Biondetti catching up with Ocala Stud's Overdriven via a pair of sharp first-time turf winners at Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. Both stallions now have six winners.
At Santa Anita, Conscripted came from dead last in a $52,000 maiden special at a flat mile on the grass, made a strong run through the stretch, and was up by a nose at the wire, clocked in 1:35.27. The colt bred by Three Lyons Racing and Jeff Heslep went off at 21-1 in his career debut and collected $31,200 for the score.
Clever Girl was equally as impressive in Kentucky, coming from seventh on the backstretch, splitting horses in the stretch, and drawing off to win by three lengths. The filly bred by Woodford was clocked in 1:43.90 for the 1 1/16 miles at odds of 8-1 and earned a check for $32,700 in the $58,000 maiden special. Clever Girl was a $150,000 Keeneland November weanling in 2014.
We would be hard-pressed to find any previous running of the Breeders' Cup Classic with a cast of characters as accomplished as the one coming up at Santa Anita next week. The talented field has won everything racing has to offer, and the combined earnings of the 14 runners - $49,084,202 - has to dwarf anything from the past.
Here's a thumbnail sketch of the participants:
Arrogate: 5-4-0-1, $784,600. Won the Travers by 13 1/2 lengths, defeating Gun Runner, Destin, Creator and Exaggerator in a track record 1:59.36 for the mile and one-quarter and his return since that one has been highly anticipated.
California Chrome: 24-15-3-1, $13,432,650. Racing's all-time money leader is 6-for-6 this year, including the Dubai World Cup, and has been untouchable.
Effinex: 26-9-3-4, $3,247,950. Won the Suburban and Oaklawn Handicap this year, second to American Pharoah in this race in 2015.
Found: 20-6-11-2, $7,250,405. Galileo filly is 9-2-6-1 this year, has a penchant for seconds, won Breeders' Cup Turf last year.
Frosted: 18-6-6-2, $3,912,800. Won the Whitney and the Metropolitan Mile (by 14 1/4 lengths in a spectacular performance), second in 2015 Belmont Stakes to American Pharoah.
Gun Runner: 10-5-1-2, $1,573,300. Won the Louisiana Derby, third in the Travers.
Highland Reel: 18-6-5-1, $5,100,647. Second in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Hoppertunity: 22-6-6-4, $3,562,675. Won Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Keen Ice: 17-2-1-4, $1,827,645. Won memorable 2015 Travers Stakes over Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who went off at 35 cents to a dollar.
Melatonin: 13-5-3-3, $1,218,552. Won Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Nyquist: 11-8-0-1, $5,189,200. 2015 2-year-old champ won 8 in a row, including Kentucky Derby, but lost his luster in last three starts - third in the Preakness, fourth in the Haskell and sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby.
Shaman Ghost: 12-6-1-1, $1,291,811. Queen's Plate winner was Canadian 3-year-old champ last year, won Woodward and Brooklyn this year.
War Story: 14-3-3-2, $399,395. Multiple graded stakes-placed.
Win the Space: 14-3-1-4, $292,572. Multiple graded stakes-placed.
It's a formidable field, and a fitting conclusion to the BC festivities.
With three months gone in the Florida pari-mutuel fiscal year, and six months gone in New York, it appears as though we can unofficially state that the racino boom has reached its apex in both states.
Let's start with Florida. From the time Gulfstream Park opened its slots parlor in November of 2006, the total "credits in" from all eight South Florida venues has increased every fiscal year through the last one which ended on June 30. The total amount sent through the machines at Gulfstream, Calder, Miami Jai Alai, Flagler dog track, Hialeah Park, Pompano Park, Hollywood dog track and Dania Jai Alai for 2015-2016 was a little more than $8.23 billion.
Through Sept. 30, or one quarter into the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the total is $2.01 billion, and projecting that for 12 months means the current-year numbers may not quite reach last year's record. However, with nine months remaining, anything can happen.
In New York, where the fiscal year ends on March 31, last year's contributions to the coffers came to a record $20.4 billion. The last 6 1/2 months have been pretty much on a par with last season, and the credits played number is $11.22 billion. So New York is still on track to beat its record year, but it may be close.
Pompano Park still leads the South Florida venues by a wide margin, followed by Flagler dogs, Hialeah Park, Miami Jai Alai and Calder, in that order. Gulfstream has taken a bigger lead over neighboring Hollywood dogs strictly from the amount of play angle, but its profit margin is much smaller because the dogs have a much larger takeout - 8.20% to Gulfstream's 7.12%. Why people would subject themselves to an extra 1.08% takeout when the two facilities are two minutes apart is beyond comprehension.
As for Dania Jai Alai, sandwiched between the others and with a limited chance for drawing players from the outer areas, play has been dismal since it reopened after spending a ton of cash and time on renovations. Even so, Dania's net slots revenue, less the 35% tax to the state, comes to $3.1 million.
SECOND-CROP SUCCESS - In the past 10 years, there have been precious few Florida stallions who have reached $2 million in progeny earnings as second-crop sires. Before this year, the last ones to achieve that level were With Distinction ($2.7 million) and Pomeroy ($2.1 million) in 2011. The year before, it was the incredible Wildcat Heir ($4.5 million) and Consolidator ($2 million). In 2009, Chapel Royal reached $2.9 million, but all of it came from his two first two crops of Kentuckians.
This year, two more names have been added to the list, Double Diamond Farm's First Dude and Northwest Stud's Gone Astray. Both have a chance to add to their totals in the next 2-plus months, especially with the Breeders' Cup coming up. Gone Astray, of course, will have unbeaten Three Rules in the Juvenile, and all Florida horsemen will be watching that one.
Is it humanly possible that the people behind the scenes at TVG are unaware that we the people who watch the races on a daily or almost daily basis are being driven to insanity by the four advertisements that are repeated about 40 times (just a guess) each day?
Just how many times can a person watch the same ads for Web.com, DealDash.com, Mesothelioma and Betfair Casino before being sent to the nuthouse? Especially the Web.com ads which inform us - about 20 times on each spot - that we can get a website FOR FREE! It wouldn't be quite so bad if it were true, but it's a blatant lie! I know from firsthand experience; before I had the former homepage for this site revamped to how it looks now, I went for the Web.com FREE spiel. It was a disaster.
First of all, the so-called "professional webmaker" didn't know a thing about racing. He asked me a bunch of questions about myself, then began to build a site - in slow motion. He took all my bank information, too, because after one month, they were going to start billing me for hosting , maintenance, etc. - $119.95 a month. That's the "one, low monthly fee" they talk about in the ad.
The professional web.maker procrastinated so much - I called every day to see how he was coming along - that it was almost a month before he finally had something for me to see. It was horrendous, four square boxes with my bio in them, after I specifically told him to follow the outline of the previous site. He also threw in a picture of a horse - I'm pretty sure it was stolen from a Clydesdale ad. And, to add insult to injury, before he got my approval of his work, he took down the old site, put up his new abortion for all to see, and charged my bank account $119.95 for the first month's fee. For this FREE website. That's $1,439.40 a year for the FREE site. "Not fake free, but real free." I canceled the deal immediately and even though they took my money in five seconds, it was more than a week before they returned it.
Viewers should get the idea via just one phrase uttered in the ad by a guy in a black shirt - "before I even paid them a cent." How can you pound FREE down our throats for however many seconds the ad takes, then sneak in, "before I even paid them a cent."
When you go to a restaurant, the appetizer is free, your drink is free, your entree is free, and your dessert is free. That is, until you finish eating and the server brings you the tab. Then, it's no longer free! Same as Web.com.
Fortunately, PM Advertising does have professionals who build good-looking websites and that's who built this one and Golfer. Of course, if I end up in a home due to being bombarded by the four dreaded TVG ads, it won't matter, anyway.
For those who are old enough to remember, the great old comic Red Buttons regularly appeared on various TV variety shows, often employing the same old schtick. He would cover one ear with his hand and utter in feigned amazement: "Strange things are happening."
Red would have been right at home today, before, during and after the running of the third race at Santa Anita. A few minutes before the start of the $50,000 down to $40,000 claiming race at six furlongs, the TVG commentators were stunned as they watched the No. 9 horse, Mt Lienster, sitting on the board at odds of 3-1. The 2-year-old by Field Commission had finished seventh in his lone start at Del Mar on Sept. 2, beaten 11 1/2 lengths with Tyler Baze aboard, at odds of 24-1. The gelding bred by Johanne Everard at Another Episode Farm in Ocala never made a semblance of a move at any time in the race, although he did show a little kick, if that's the right word, by finishing just one length out of fourth, but still 10 lengths from the winner.
The TVGers tried to find anything that would cause Mt Lienster to be bet the way he was - his morning line odds were 20-1. They couldn't find a thing, and when the gate opened, he was down to co-favoritism at 5/2. Kurt Hoover, a pretty astute analyst, watched the betting and said a ton of money had showed up on Mt Lienster in the win pool.
Baze rushed the gelding out of the gate first, then took back to mid-pack, but not too far off the pace. Mt Lienster came five wide on the turn, passed everybody but the other co-favorite early, then ran down his final rival to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths. He paid $7.40, $4.60 and $3.80, the place and show prices being somewhat inflated because he was hammered so hard on the win end only. Owners David Buchanan and Kendall Mann collected the winner's share - $12,945 - and who knows how much at the windows. You can bet the TVG people will go looking to trainer Gary Stute for an answer.
One reason for the score certainly isn't that Field Commission, who stands at Solera Farm in Williston for longtime breeder Ed Seltzer, is on a hot streak. He has just 36 foals of racing age, with 32 of them 2-year-olds, and Mt Lienster became just his fourth winner. In fact, the entire group had earned $94,906 before today.
Strange things are happening, and we can hope the TVG crew can solve the mystery.
The last time a Florida-bred colt won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was in 1993 when Gary Stevens defeated Blumin Affair and Tabasco Cat with Brocco. It marked the third time in the first 10 editions of the race that Florida had walked off with the title, Brocco being preceded by Tasso in 1985 and Gilded Time in 1992. There have been others who were bred by Florida farm owners, such as Answer Lively, by John Franks, and Macho Uno, by Frank Stronach, but they were foaled in Kentucky.
If the 2016 Juvenile were being run this week, the sensational Florida-bred colt Three Rules would probably be the favorite. The son of Gone Astray is a perfect 5-for-5 and nobody is even close to his nearly $700,000 in earnings - or four straight stakes victories, the last coming at Gulfstream Saturday in the $500,000 In Reality.
"He looks 100 percent," owner Bert Pilcher said about the colt he bred with partners Geoff Roy and Tom Fitzgerald. "The race took nothing out of him."
There has been much speculation about the always-present deluge of offers that pour in when a 2-year-old makes a huge early splash. However, "I haven't had anybody actually give a figure," Pilcher said, "because I never let it get that far."
Gone Astray's success has come as no surprise to him, because he knew he had something special from the beginning. "The first time I saw him work a quarter I couldn't talk for 30 seconds," Pilcher said. "He's got everything going for him - his mind, his attitude, everything. He takes care of himself. I can't think of one thing I would change about him.
Pilcher runs Shade Tree Thoroughbreds north of Ocala, the farm that his late father, Hubert, owned and operated for many decades before him housing successful stallions such as Strike the Anvil and Hooched, and where Three Rules was born and raised. Like so many others, there have been tough times, but the $680,640 the colt has earned has more than alleviated the problem.
"He's a dream horse," Pilcher said, knowing there's plenty of room for many more dreams in the future. When Nyquist won the Juvenile last year, he collected $1.1 million for the Reddam Racing Stable.
FROSH RACE HEATS UP - The Florida freshman sire race has taken on a new look. After Ocala Stud's Overdriven took a 5-1 lead over Woodford Thoroughbreds' Biondetti, it appeared as though it was going to be no contest. But Biondetti has quickly added three more winners, the last one being La Zoraya, who paid $134 scoring at Gulfstream last Friday. Even though he trails Overdriven by one winner, Biondetti has jumped into the money lead.
TV IS TOPS - There was an interesting poll taken by the staff at the Paulick Report last week, asking where people watch their races. TV received 41.61 percent of the votes, followed by computer (28.46), on track (13.35), simulcast/OTB (9.72) and phone/tablet (6.87). Of course, if bettors had access to a track not far from their homes, the on-track would be infinitely greater. How many of us would be at Gulfstream or Tampa Bay Downs much more often if we lived closer to either?
Excluding the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup weekends, which provide enough excitement to last racing fans for weeks, before and during, it's possible that what the nation's tracks are providing on Saturday could be the biggest stakes day in the history of the sport. Actually, I just made that up, because I have no idea if it's true - but it very well could be. It's difficult to digest the number of stakes on tap, so many of them graded, and with a myriad of the upper echelon equines scheduled to participate.
Let's start with New York. Belmont Park will feature three Gr. I's, the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (with Flintshire), the $400,000 Beldame and the $350,000 Vosburgh (with sensational Florida-bred X Y Jet). Add to that the Gr. II, $300,000 Gallant Bloom, and the Gr. III, $200,000 Pilgrim on the grass, and we have $1,750,000 worth of races featuring horses who will wind up contesting the Breeders' Cup.
In California, we have five Gr. I's, all with $300,000 on the line - the Frontrunner for 2-year-olds, the Awesome Again (California Chrome and Dortmund return), the Rodeo Drive on the grass, the Zenyatta (Beholder and Stellar Wind face off again), and the Chandelier for 2-year-old fillies (Demigoddess, by First Dude, has drawn post 12). Add to that the ungraded Unzip Me for 3-year-old fillies. There's also the Oak Tree Juvenile being run at Pleasanton.
At Churchill Downs, the spectacular sprint champ Runhappy returns in the Gr. III, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap at a flat mile, supported by the $175,000 Lukas Classic and the $100,000 Jefferson Cup on the grass.
Laurel Park has a pair of $75,000 sprints, the Politely and the Challedon. Leaving from post 7 in the Challedon is Mylute, owned by Ocala's Gold Mark Farm in partnership with Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm. In Canada, the $125,000 South Ocean is for 2-year-old fillies; Ocala's Gary Boulanger goes from No. 7 with Nineteen Sixteen. The features at Hastings Park in British Columbia are the Gr. III, $100,000 BC Premier's Handicap, the Gr. III, $100,000 Ballerina, and the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes, one for colts and geldings and one for fillies.
Last, but far from least, the stage is set at Gulfstream Park for unbeaten sensation Three Rules, the colt by red-hot Gone Astray who will be looking to add his name to the elite list of colts who have swept the Florida Sire Stakes. Three Rules is 4-for-4 with three stakes victories and he's been all by himself while cruising down the stretch in each race. He'll be a very short price in the $500,000 In Reality at 1 1/16 miles.
The festivities in Hallandale Beach begin in race 2 with the $150,000 Florida Sire Meadow Star for 3-year-old fillies, followed by the $75,000 Armed Forces Stakes for 2-year-olds at a mile on the grass in race 3.
Race 5 is the $75,000 Mr. Steele for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the grass, and race 6 is the $150,000 Foolish Pleasure at a mile on the main track for 3-year-old colts and geldings. It features most of the best of Ocala's young stallions - Gone Astray, Big Drama (2), High Cotton (2), Hear No Evil, Kantharos (who has left for Kentucky) and Awesome of Course. The seventh is the $75,000 Our Dear Peggy for 2-year-old fillies at a mile over the turf course.
The My Dear Girl is race No. 10 and among those shooting for the major shares of the $500,000 purse will be Ocalans Shadybrook Farm, Don Dizney, Bill Rainbow, Sandra Trotter and Curtis Mikkelsen. Curtis, of course, has the unbeaten filly star, Cajun Delta Dawn, the daughter of Kantharos who is also 4-for-4 and looking for a Florida Sire sweep. (Losing Kantharos to Kentucky will be felt for quite a while in Florida). That will be followed by the $75,000 Panama City at a mile on the grass and then the big one, the In Reality.
All around, a magical day for those who wager via TV, computer, phone, tablet and whatever else they have invented for the purpose. What more could anyone ask, other than a having a nearby TV airing the Ryder Cup?
An interesting column appeared in Blood-Horse.com the other day, titled "Handle Decreased 26% at Monmouth Park in 2016." We learned that on-track handle declined 26.6%, total handle was off 26.4%, and attendance off by 9.2%. It didn't help that it rained on Haskell day, when 35,983 showed up, compared to 60,983 last year when American Pharoah was the headliner. It also didn't help that average field size dropped from 8.11 per race to 7.28.
Dennis Drazin, who at one time used to breed many worthwhile runners in Florida, is now an adviser to Darby Development, which operates the track. Dennis had this to say about the season, "Despite the lack of horses, we still recorded numerous accomplishments this year. The entire Monmouth Park team continues to work hard to put on outstanding racing in a fan-friendly environment that is second to none."
Then someone on the Blood-Horse staff felt obligated to add the following: "Among those accomplishments was the advent of exchange wagering. Monmouth was at the forefront to make New Jersey the first in the nation to employ the betting platform." Well, whoop-de-do!
I guess my favorite betting platform didn't go over too well, based on the handle figures. Of course, I could have told the Jerseyites that. Oh, wait a minute, I did, about 50 times. I'll say it one more time but I'm sure it won't be the last, nobody cares about exchange wagering. If they did, it would have exploded at Monmouth where $196,272,397 was wagered over the 57 days of the meeting. If it's such a success, why didn't Monmouth give the Blood-Horse the exchange wagering figures to go along with the others? Could it be because the figures were equal to the handle at poor Zia Park?
Hopefully, when next season begins in Jersey, exchange wagering will be off the table, and hopefully, we'll never hear about it again. As the old song said, "I can dream, can't I?"
THE REST OF THE STORY - I can't even guess how many years it's been since I started touting the 2-year-old sire lists as a great place for the everyday bettor to find a first-timer to make a score on. I think it began three decades ago or so when Charlie DiLibero's Lawmaker had 32 winners in his first crop and they were paying all kinds of prices. Since then, there have been many good examples of Florida sires getting hot at some time during the summer and offering smart betting strategies. Two Step Salsa a few years ago, and Kantharos in 2014 are among that group.
The problem with using the list that includes Kentucky is that there are no disguises involved. Everybody watches Tapits, Uncle Mos, War Fronts and the rest, especially if they're trained by Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert or one of the other big guns. You rarely get one that pays, as Todd Schrupp likes to say on TVG, "big balloons."
The secret is to key on Florida, where a stallion can get hot and the TV guys aren't paying attention. Take Northwest Stud's Gone Astray, for example. With only two crops at the races, the son of Dixie Union has gone over the $1.6 million mark in progeny earnings and we're still in September. His juvenile earnings have topped $750,000, and he has eight 2-year-old winners.
The one who started it all was Carrie, who won at Santa Anita on May 1 and paid $25.40. Another came on Aug.27, when Gone Till Dawn made his debut at Gulfstream Park for owner Ebony L. Maynard. Going by my system, I boxed five horses in a $1 exacta, including Gone Till Dawn. It cost $20. Gone Till Dawn won and paid $49.80 and the $2 exacta came back $289.60. I picked up $144.80.
On Sept. 4, the day after the sensational Gone Astray colt Three Rules won the Affirmed Stakes at Gulfstream, Carlos Olivero brought first-timer Mr. Pinocchio home at a price of $16.60.
Yesterday, however, I blew it. I had been watching TVG for several hours, and was awaiting a Gone Astray first-timer named Heart Astray in the first race at Presque Isle, post time set for 5:35. But I got a call from a friend about going out for dinner, and in my haste to make the 5:15 engagement, I forgot to place my bet before I left home. The late Paul Harvey could have related 'the rest of the story.' Heart Astray won by nearly four lengths and paid $103.20, $32.20 and $17.20. Needless to say, I became ill when I came home and watched the replay.
The moral of the story is this: finding the right first-timer is only the initial part of the equation, you actually have to bet on it, too.
Rich Perloff probably has the toughest job on TVG. While he has an ongoing presence on the weekends when so often there's so much great racing (see Songbird, Nyquist and Exaggerator coming up in a few days), he also has to muddle through the agonizing telecasts by himself on Mondays and Tuesdays when he fields such questions from the viewing audience as: "Can a jockey be considered great if he doesn't win that much, or even not at all?" I kid you not, that one came up yesterday.
But the worst part of Perloff's stay on the worst two racing days of the week is trying to make programs at Parx, Finger Lakes, Fort Erie and Zia Park sound exciting. If there's anybody who hasn't been convinced yet that there's a critical shortage of able race horses in this country, one Monday-Tuesday go-around is all one needs.
Here's a rundown on the performance of the aforementioned tracks over the past two days.
Parx: 62 runners in nine races on Monday (average 6.8), 74 on Tuesday in nine (average 8.2, not bad).
Finger Lakes: 62 runners in nine on Monday (average 6.8), 65 on Tuesday in nine (average 7.2).
Fort Erie: 55 runners in eight on Tuesday (average 6.8).
Zia Park: 64 runners on Tuesday in nine (average 7.1).
It's never been disputed that short fields cause drastic cuts in handle, and mutuel wagering over the two days was disastrous. On Monday at Parx, on-track handle was a miniscule $40,507, and we don't know what all-sources handle was because Equibase got it hopelessly wrong by showing a figure of $1,219. On Tuesday, the numbers were $53,578 and $1,272,787. It's difficult to comprehend how the track can continue to function efficiently. It must be like walking around in a cemetery at midnight.
Finger Lakes is no better, except that the upstate New York purses are miniscule compared to those in Pennsylvania, despite the presence of a very successful racino. On Monday, the Finger Lakes all-sources handle was $1,306,513; no on-track handle was given, which usually means it's too embarrassing to divulge. On Tuesday, it was $1,221,914.
At Fort Erie on Tuesday, the all-sources handle was $847,862, which was monstrous compared to the debacle they call Zia Park, in New Mexico. At Zia, they aren't shy about revealing attendance - it was 194. I would guess that the on-track handle was an all-time record low for any track, anywhere, but Zia may have had some lower. The number was $16,106. I assume they save a ton on mutuel clerks and concessionaires by having just one of each. There was also an ITW figure - $3,820, and an ISW figure - $337,490.
The announcement that the amazing Kantharos would be leaving Ocala Stud Farm and headed to Hill 'n' Dale in Lexington comes as no surprise to horsemen who have been around Marion County for any length of time. Since the son of Lion Heart is owned by Stonestreet's Barbara Banke, and not Ocala Stud, it was inevitable, just as it was several decades ago when Mr. Prospector and In Reality left town, although the latter occurred near the end of his sterling career. Mr. Prospector, however, was just beginning, and went on to become one of the premier sires ever to stand in the U. S.
Kantharos came from a sparse freshman crop in Florida, but it wouldn't have mattered. His numbers have been spectacular and have held up for three seasons, beginning with 2014 when his first-crop runners earned $868,968, and continuing into his second season, when he reached $1,780,874. He's right at about $3 million already this year, second on the Florida general sire list, and his final total by Dec. 31 could be anything. That, despite the fact that he has just 79 runners, while the other four of the top five in Florida have more than 100. Deceased Wildcat Heir is the unquestioned leader, but he has 211 at the track.
The list of stallions who have been "made" in Florida and left for other lands is long - it includes Congrats, Northern Afleet, Yes It's True, Macho Uno, Stormy Atlantic and Successful Appeal, all of whom continue to remain prominent on the top 75 chart listed in Blood-Horse.
Like all of those listed, Florida breeders are going to miss Kantharos. So will this column.
COME ON ALREADY! - They're still waiting for someone in Pennsylvania to push a button and allow for the dispersal of the more than $6 million in breeders and stallion awards that horsemen have been waiting for since March. What a colossal joke!
NOT A RACE - Ocala Stud's Overdriven added to his lead in the all-but-over frosh sire race in Florida when Boot N Loot scored at Gulfstream Park last week. The gelding bred by Tony Everard became winner No. 5 for his sire, going wire-to-wire under Edgard Zayas and winning by four lengths. No other sire on the list has more than one winner.
Disqualifications often fuel heated debates, with those betting on the horse taken down usually getting very vocal about how they were discriminated against. Sometimes, of course, a dq is so blatant, nobody can say a nasty word about the stewards.
But, we have to remember it's not just the bettors who are affected by the dqs. The owners who get taken down lose a portion of their winnings, the trainers lose a portion of their 10 percent, as do the jockeys. And don't forget about the records of the horses.
Last Wednesday, I witnessed a strange dq in the 10th race at Gulfstream Park, not because I think they took down a horse who didn't deserve it, but because the stewards didn't go far enough in sorting out the entire incident.
They were racing 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf course, and in the stretch, Salutation, with Manny Aguilar, and Louie's Baby Boy, with Eddie Castro, were battling for the lead, with Conquest Goinggone, and Tyler Gaffalione, trying to catch them on the outside. Suddenly, Cornelio Velasquez came flying down outside of Conquest Goinggone, and as he was about to sweep by all three leaders, Saluation swerved to the right repeatedly and slammed Louie's Baby Boy, who was forced outward just as Terry's Charm came by. Aside from Louie's Baby Boy getting destroyed, Gaffalione had to stand up on Conquest Goinggone so as not to be crushed between Louie and Terry, and in so doing, he not only lost his irons, he lost fourth place to Matanzas Inlet, who was coming up on the inside.
Terry's Charm went on to win the race, Salutation held on to second, Louie's Baby Boy was third, Matanzas Inlet fourth and Conquest Goinggone limped home fifth with Tyler still searching for his irons.
The red signs all lit up, and soon the stewards rendered their decision - Salutation was disqualified from second and placed third. Since Terry's Charm won, and Matanzas Inlet came late and was nowhere near the others, it seemed like a just decision. But was it? The only ones with a legitimate beef were all the connections of Conquest. Here are the paydays each received: Terry's Charm, $21,600; Louie's Baby Boy, $7,200; Salutation, $3,240; Matanzas Inlet, $1,440; and Conquest Goinggone a measly $360, which all the rest of the finishers also got.
First of all, if not for the infraction, Conquest would have finished no worse than fourth, so he would have collected $1,440. That's more than a thousand bucks than he got. And he might have had enough left to pass a horse or two late. The real question is, how could the stewards not drop Salutation behind Conquest since the foul against him was so blatant? I would imagine his people are wondering the same thing.
Finally, it would have changed the order of finish drastically as far as the mutuel payoffs are concerned, and that is a major concern.
IT'S ALL OVER-DRIVEN - What there was of the Florida freshman sire race this season is all but over. Ocala Stud's Overdriven picked up his fourth winner on Sept. 2 when Over Limit won at Woodbine, going wire-to-wire and scoring by three-quarters of a length in his second start. The gelding bred by Ocala Stud raced six furlongs in 1:11.24. Over Limit had won his first try, too, but was disqualified and placed second.
Biondetti is the only other freshman with a chance to catch Overdriven, but the Woodford stallion has just one winner, and 17 have started.
The solution to the problem in Pennsylvania concerning the withholding of millions of dollars in breeders and stallion awards is too simple. FIRE ALL THE WEENIES ON THE PENNSYLVANIA HORSE RACING COMMISSION.
So, there's some problem with the way the statute is worded, and the bozos on the commission have been holding up the payments for months. The amount of cash the breeders are being screwed out of is roughly $6 million. Breeders have told the governor, the commission and legislators they are being forced out of business. I will bet that not one person among those three groups have been living without a paycheck since March, which is when the payments were suspended.
It has been reported that legislation that would have fixed the language in a new law died in committee. The House indicated it's working on a compromise that one legislator said will be addressed when lawmakers reconvene in September. That will be about six months too late for the guys who are feeling the crunch.
As I said before, it's so simple, really. Fire all the guys (and gals) without guts who won't release the funds. Then pay the breeders, and everyone can worry about the repercussions after the horses have eaten and the breeders have paid their bills and employees. Do we have to get Donald Trump involved in this boondoggle? Why is it that bureaucrats and the like get to rule the people who matter no matter how stupid the people in power are?
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding told the breeders the department wants to restore the payments, "but we can't ignore the words in the law." I'll bet Redding went to Bern's Steakhouse in Pennsylvania for dinner sometime this week, if they have the brains to have built a Bern's in Pennsylvania. I doubt it. Probably eats at the Quaker Oats Diner.
Here's a quick fix to the problem. Let all the people who are involved in withholding the payments lend money to the breeders and stallion owners and reimburse them on the day the awards become available.
I don't remember just when it happened, probably about 15 years ago or so when Churchill Downs began allowing owners/trainers to pick their own post positions for the Kentucky Derby. And nobody wanted the No. 1 post, the position that, through the years, has won more races at more tracks than any other, by far.
As soon as the trainers began expressing their disdain for No. 1, the TV types picked up on it in a hurry and started to apply it to all races at all tracks. The phrases most often heard were - and are - "mired down on the inside," and "bogged down on the rail." Me? I love the rail. Day after day, I watch the races on TVG and cash many bets on the No. 1 horses who get perfect trips at distances of a mile or more, especially on the grass. Rafael Bejarano, Joel Rosario, Javier Castellano and many more come flying down the stretch to nail the pacesetter(s), so often with the big red one on the saddlecloth. In the old days, Jerry Bailey and Pat Day were masters at it.
The "mired" and "bogged" comments have become everyday observations on TVG these days, by all the analysts but more by the pretty young ladies, it seems. They have apparently never bothered to check the post position stats at any racetracks, or they would see how well the No. 1 post fares. Did I mention that I love the No. 1 post?
Prior to the Pacific Classic, the well-regarded website Horse Racing Nation had a pre-race assessment of the race and the headline "Nightmare Draw" was very prominent. "Chrome must overcome an unfavorable draw," they wrote, "as well as two formidable foes in Beholder and Dortmund." It was correct to call the latter pair formidable foes, but the nightmare draw comment was absurd. Chromie proved that in a hurry, winning by a furlong in 2:00.13 for the 1 1/4 miles, not far off Candy Ride's track record of 1:59.11. But Victor Espinoza had CC in cruise control from the sixteenth pole home or he might have come close to the record.
(Across the country, Songbird crushed the field in the Alabama, winning by seven in 2:03 flat, with the Racing Form comment "Kept to task." Scott Hazelton on TVG must have been watching a different race, saying she was "geared down" or she could have run it two minutes flat. Scott, that's 15 lengths, in case you didn't know. Chromie was geared down, Songbird was not).
The bettors who pounded CC at the windows must have been unaware of the nightmare draw, because he went off at 3/5. At one time he was 1/5.
If you aren't prone to paying attention, watch your next distance race and see how well the No. 1 horse gets position going to the first turn while the outside horses are fanned wide and wider. Not in all cases, of course, but often enough to make it a significant factor in the running of a race.
One final thought. Watch the head-on as the horses are about to leave the gate and you just might notice nobody leaves from the No. 1 gate anymore. They move them all out - in a big field the 1 horse might start from No. 2, and in shorter fields he might go from No. 3 or 4. There are no "rail" horses anymore. Did I mention I have a great affection for the rail?
After Za Approval was retired from racing this week and came home to Live Oak Plantation, owner Charlotte Weber said, "Za Approval is yet another extraordinary member of a family that has been especially gratifying to Live Oak." Quite an understatement!
The 8-year-old multiple graded stakes-winning gelding performed admirably for six years, posting a record of 9-9-4 in 34 starts while earning $1,394,66, and he's one of 10 foals produced by the sensational With Approval mare Win Approval.Among his exploits, Za Approval finished second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita. `
Based on her record, there was no way anybody could forecast the incredible success Win Approval would enjoy in the breeding shed - she went 2-4-1 in 16 starts and earned just $57,210. But she struck gold in her first attempt, producing Revved Up, a gelded son of Live Oak's own millionaire stallion, Sultry Song. Revved Up, born in 1998, rolled up an awesome record of 20-9-1 in 43 starts, earned $1,548,653, and is also enjoying the casual life at Live Oak at the age of 18.
Of Win Approval's 10 foals, only one, the 2007 product Highest Approval, didn't make it to the races. Of the nine who did race, only Victorious Won (2010) didn't make it to the winner's circle. She went 0-1-0 in four starts and earned $12,647.
Win Approval's second foal, Miesque's Approval, born in 1999, was her biggest money-winner. The son of Miesque's Son put $2,648,879 into the Live Oak bank account on a record of 12-10-5 in 41 starts and provided inhabitants of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s Director's Room with one of its funnier moments in January of 2006. After he won the Sunshine Millions Turf at odds of 48-1 and paid $99.60, Charlotte Weber made a quick trip to the cashier's window, came back to the room with a fat wad of bills in her hand and proclaimed to all within earshot, "Good, now I have money to buy dinner tonight!"
Miesque's Approval went on that year to win the Gr. II Maker's Mark, the Gr. II Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Gr. III Red Bank, then capped it off with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile, earning $1.9 million for the year. The only millionaire son of Win Approval who isn't a gelding, Miesque's Approval now stands in South Africa.
Win Approval's last foal is World Approval, now four, who has posted a record of 6-2-3 in 16 starts and is getting better with every race. After winning the Gr. I United Nations at Monmouth Park last month, he's earned $863,450, and barring injury, will soon join his half-brothers in the millionaire category.
Win Approval's other winners are Winabull (46 starts, 14-6-4, $145,852), Siteofawinner (60 starts, 7-8-6, $59,880), Magnificent Approval (9 starts, 1-1-0, $43,626) and Winning Doe (8 starts, 1-0-0, $20,242).
All told, Win Approval's runners have made 261 starts, with 80 victories, a winning percentage of 30.6. They also have 45 seconds and 23 thirds, for a total of 148 times in the money, a percentage of 56.7. The group has combined for earnings of $6,737,895. And World Approval still has plenty of time to boost all those numbers.
So Finger Lakes has canceled tomorrow's program due to a shortage of available horses. Now, we all can understand having a shortage of horses as being a viable reason for a cancellation, it's why there's a shortage that comes into question.
The answer, no doubt, lies in the purse structure at the upstate New York track. Last Saturday, for eight races, the total purses offered came to a miniscule $84,300. There was one starter allowance and seven claimers, mostly of the $5,000 variety, and those races each had a purse of $9,000. Horsemen cannot exist on purses of $9,000 a race. Anywhere. Not at today's prices for vets, farriers, feed, vanning, etc.
How can a track with a successful racino possibly be paying out the way Finger Lakes does, one might ask? I can't explain it, not knowing the deal Finger Lakes has with the state. I have always assumed it's the same as the Aqueduct casino - 7.5% of the "net win" goes for purses. For the 2105-2016 fiscal year, which ended the last week of March, Finger Lakes Gaming and Race Track had a "credits played" of $1.78 billion. The net win was $131.5 million. Taking 7.5% for purses, that's just under $10 million.
Since Finger Lakes runs for 155 days, let's take nine races a day times 155; that's 1,395 races for the meeting. Allowing $7,000 per race and the almost-$10 million is accounted for. In these calculations, each race could be enhanced by an average of $7,000, leading to the question the great Dick Young used to ask in his New York Daily News column, "What's going on here?"
MUSICAL ANNOUNCERS - Pete Aiello's first announcing job in Florida came at Hialeah Park for the quarter horses a few years back, when he was also the track's marketing director. Pete is now at Gulfstream Park and he has become very good at what he does. The announcing booths at major venues around the country have taken on a new look what with the retirement of Tom Durkin and the semi-retirement of Trevor Denman. Larry Collmus, now full-time in New York, is the premier race-caller in the country and deservedly so. (He knows how to pronounce Leparoux).
Frank Mirahmadi has hooked up with Monmouth Park and he does a superior job, too. Vic Stauffer is the newbie at Oaklawn Park and Vic is good as long as he doesn't let his ego get in the way. I'm not thrilled with Michael Wrona at Santa Anita - he sounds like a Denman imitation, but not quite as good. I thought Mirahmadi was a better fit.
Gulfstream Park's Florida Sire Stakes - Round 1 - was an overwhelming success on several fronts. On a day when Saratoga ruled the roost with five stakes on its 11-race card, including the Gr. I Whitney and Gr. I Test, which led to an all-sources handle of $29,335,235, Gulfstream had a couple of things of its own to crow about.
First was its all-sources handle of $7,768,426, and second was the continuing emergence of the Gone Astray 2-year-old Three Rules as a major force in the juvenile ranks. In his first two starts, Three Rules won a maiden race by 3 1/2 lengths in :58.2, then captured the $75,000 Birdonthewire Stakes by five with 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.2. Yesterday, he annihilated eight rivals in the $200,000 Dr. Fager Stakes and he did it in style, drawing off by seven in the stretch and putting up a 1:09:49 on the teletimer for the six furlongs. That is a serious clocking for any 2-year-old at this time of year under any circumstances.
Gone Astray stands at Northwest Stud Farm in Ocala on the land that once was the place where Fred Hooper bred and raised a slew of stakes-winners, including three-time Eclipse Award-winning Susan's Girl and Sprint Champion Precisionist. The stallion by Dixie Union enjoyed an excellent freshman season with earnings of $632,781 last year, but 2016 is proving to be exceptional. After Three Rules' stunning performance, plus a few others yesterday, Gone Astray has 29 winners, moved up to be the second-leading second-crop sire in Florida behind First Dude, the No. 9 second-crop sire in the country, and the No. 8 sire on the Florida general sire list despite the fact that he has only one crop and several 2-year-olds currently racing.
Gone Astray also was buoyed by Shakakan's fourth-place finish in the $150,000 Three Ring Stakes - she collected $9,000 -Savanna's Smile breaking her maiden in the seventh race in her second start and earning $12,800, and Natalie La Rose winning the eighth race at Monmouth Park, good for another $9,519. The latter filly has now won four of eight starts and earned more than $53,000. All the solid efforts brought Gone Astray's seasonal earnings to $1,124,500, with the promise of loftier results ahead.
As if the Gone Astray success didn't spread enough joy around Northwest Stud, one of its other stallions, United States, was the recipient of a third-place finish by U S Diva in the $200,000 Desert Vixen, which was won by Cajun Delta Dawn, a daughter of Ocala Stud Farm's red-hot Kantharos. U S Diva rallied from way back at odds of 30-1 and paid $10.20 to show in just her second start. She won in her debut at five furlongs, and now must be considered a threat for the upcoming Susan's Girl, which goes at seven furlongs.
Remember in the January article in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald when Mary Ellen Klas and Jeremy Wallace brutalized thoroughbred racing and felt compelled to add near the end of a long dissertation, "And there's one other thing nobody is talking about, slots are declining, too?" Well, Florida's fiscal year ended recently and proved once again that they know not what they speak.
The total amount of play at South Florida's eight racinos has slowly edged upwards since Gulfstream Park became the first of its kind to begin operations in November of 2006. In the fiscal year from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, a record $7,979,515,006 was dumped into some 7,000 to 8,000 machines available for play. In the recently-ended fiscal year, that number jumped to $8,237,416,807. For the sake of those who are mathematically challenged, the second number is about $257 million more than the first. And for the benefit of the Klas/Wallace combo, it means slots are not declining, too.
Last year, the facilities combined for a net slots revenue of $521,670,974, with $182,584,841 going to the state for taxes in return for all the wonderful work the people in Tallahassee do for the pari-mutuel industry. This year, those numbers climbed to $537,077,173 and $187,977,011.
Pompano Park continues to lead the league by a mile, with $1,854,138,727 in play, and revenue of $143,082,238. With $50,078,783 subtracted for taxes, the harness track wound up with a cool $93 million or so to do whatever it is one does with $93 million. Pompano's bottom line is aided greatly by its outrageous takeout rate of 9.02%, eclipsed in the south only by the 9.11% raked in by Churchill Downs/Calder. That rate is responsible for the fact that Calder ranks only fifth among the eight racinos in total play, yet comes in third with net revenue of $74,820,811 before taxes.
Flagler dogs has the lowest takeout rate of all - 6.13% - yet was second in total play with $1,400,210,746 and revenue of more than $83 million.
Hialeah Park's John Brunetti is doing well, too, and he needs it due to all the money he is losing on the quarter horse meetings. Hialeah has one of the best takeout rates - 6.51% - and its net revenue is $68,311,309. After taxes, John has about $44 million to help him try to lure thoroughbred racing back to the Flamingo track. And wouldn't it be nice if Gulfstream let John have the two-month Calder period for a boutique meeting while they allow the Hallandale Beach track to recover from the previous 10 months of pounding on both dirt and turf.
Gulfstream is in sixth place in both categories, with just under $800 million in play and $48,035,102 in revenue. With $16,812,286 going to the state, there's $31.2 million left for purses and the like.
In days of old, before computers took over newsrooms all over the U. S., there was a simple chain of events played out before every columnist's words reached the public. The writer put his or her words on a piece of paper using an old-fashioned typewriter, the paper was placed in a box in a room that housed several proofreaders known as rim men, and those bodies read the copy, wrote a headline and made all the necessary changes, if any, mostly of the typo variety.
Computers changed all that, and today's writers, for the most part, have nobody to check out their typos, misinformation, or the like. That's why the Associated Press stories we read in today's dailies contain so many mistakes, like so often leaving out the words to, in or at. I'm lucky in that respect - even though I try to re-read my columns once or twice, I still miss some errant words or thoughts here and there. But I have a long-time friend, Andy Klein, who lives in Hot Springs and emails me every time he spots those errant words.
What does this have to do with anything? I just wanted to relate one of the funnier errors I found this week on the monthly newsletter sent out by the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA), a group that performs a great service to us all while acting as the Ralph Nader of the sport. Nobody looks after the fortunes of the downtrodden horseplayer like HANA.
In the July newsletter, the HANAians were preparing their betting constituents for the Saratoga meeting by printing several lists of statistics for past meetings to help handicappers with the one that began last Friday. One of the lists was dedicated to trainer stats, one to jockey stats, etc. Actually, there were two jockey lists that came into play here, there might have been more but I didn't go down that far. One was for 'dirt routes by rider,' the other 'dirt sprints by rider.' I assume that further down there were turf lists, too.
Each list began with the leaders by name with all their stats, until down a little way the jockey's name listed was 'no rider.' For dirt sprints, 'no rider' had 26 mounts with four wins and eight places. For dirt routes, 'no rider' had 25 mounts with five wins and eight places. Quite an achievement.
Now, there can be two explanations for this. One is that 'no rider' actually has a meaning that I have never heard of, or two, when no rider is listed next to a horse's name in the entries, and the public finds out who's on the horse when the track announcer gives the changes before the first race, the computer that arranges the stats doesn't pick up the changes.
In any case, I applaud "no rider" for his excellent percentages, even though he doesn't get that many rides. One other thought: if the reason is that the computer doesn't pick up the changes, then there are - in these two cases - 51 races where the real riders don't get the proper credit for their mounts. Is that possible?
And one final thought. There are many cases where I think 'no rider' could have given my horse a better ride than the guy I had.
Once again, the numbers emanating from upstate New York belie the overstated monthly reports of the demise of the thoroughbred sport.
Saratoga opened last week with 32,980 bodies packed into the quaint little oval far from the madding crowds and the on-track handle was $4,703,479. Added to the ISW figure of $13,059,558, the total handle reached $17,763,037 - on a Friday!
On Saturday, attendance dropped to a mere 30,708 souls who wagered $5,039,481. Add on ISW's $18,397,671 and the big day's total was $23,437,152. Sunday's attendance jumped to 36,126; the on-track handle was $4,367,845 and ISW added $16,674,448 for a total of $21,042,293.
There were no attendance figures listed for Monday and Wednesday (maybe they let 'em in free). Monday's handle numbers were $2,204,854 and $8,877,930, and Wednesday's $2,375,992 and $8,838,886. So, for five days, the combined handle totaled $84,540,144. That's a lot of betting from people who supposedly are leaving the game in favor of other types of more exciting entertainment.
Florida-breds, Florida breeders and Florida stallions all played a role in each of the five days at the Spa and took home a bunch of that Aqueduct casino money, much of it coming in races on the turf.
On Friday, Annie Rocks, a 3-year-old filly bred by Brenda Jones and Silver Oaks Farm, won a $40,000 claimer on the grass by a nose and collected $28,200 for the score. The daughter of A. P. Warrior was claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Later in the day, Market Strength, bred in Florida by Dr. Carolin Von Rosenberg, won a $40,000 maiden claimer on the grass after having finished second at Belmont Park in his last and collected $27,000 for the effort.
SATURDAY - Our Way, a 3-year-old Florida-bred by Tizway, won at a mile on the grass. Bred by Farm III Enterprices, the gelding earned a juicy check of $51,000. Procurement, the first of two Glen Hill Farm products to win during the week, captured a 1 1/16-mile test on the turf by 2 1/2 lengths under Javier Castellano. The 6-year-old gelding by Milwaukee Brew picked up a check for $30,000.
SUNDAY - Majestic Bonnie, a 2-year-old filly by Majestic Warrior, scored by a head in her career debut at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Bred in Kentucky by the Steinbrenners' Kinsman Farm, she paid $26.60 and earned $49,800. Then, of course, the marvelous Songbird romped in the Gr. I Coaching Club of America Oaks, adding $300,000 to her coffers. The champ's dam is Ivanavinalot, the multiple stakes-winning Florida-bred mare raced by Gilbert Campbell and his Stonehedge Farm South.
MONDAY - Pinstripe, a 3-year-old Florida-bred by Ocala Stud Farm's High Cotton, won a $25,000 claimer with 6 furlongs in 1:17.71. Bred by Marion Montanari, the colt who had won his last start at Gulfstream in February paid $4.20, earned $30,000 for the score, and was claimed away from trainer Todd Pletcher by Jason Servis. Animal Appeal, a 4-year-old filly by Leroidesanimaux who had won her last at Belmont, won a $78,000 allowance optional claimer worth $46,800. She was bred in New York by Tony and Elisabeth Everard, owners of New Episode Farm in Ocala. Nice breeder's award coming.
WEDNESDAY - The second Glen Hill Farm-bred, Conscience, won a $14,000 claimer and picked up $16,800 after racing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.45. The 5-year-old Indian Charlie gelding was claimed out of the race.
Horses sold at OBS also made a big impact at the Spa, highlighted by the smart victory of Bitumen in the Gr. III Sanford. The son of Mineshaft scored by 1 3/4 lengths and is now 2-for-2. He was a $280,000 OBS March purchase by Barry Berkelhammer, agent.
A great week for racing and for the Florida breeding industry.
The mystery of Overdriven's first winner has been resolved. The filly Nieve Morena, bred by Darsan Inc., broke her maiden at Quinto Centenario in the Dominican Republic on July 9, giving the Ocala Stud Farm freshman stallion winner No. 1. She was sold at auction to F. N. D. C. C., whoever that is.
Coming on the heels of the discovery, Overdriven picked up his second winner when Drive Sandy Drive, bred by Gail Rice, broke his maiden at Presque Isle Downs yesterday. To say the gelding was overlooked by the betting public in his debut would be an understatement; he went off at 57-1 under Nathan Vickers and paid $117.20. Assuming that all owners and trainers bet on their charges in their first try, the Rice family may have made a monster score, along with picking up a check for $9,000 for the victory.
Drive Sandy Drive came from third place and won by 2 3/4 lengths, clocked in 1:06.10 for 5 1/2 furlongs. He set up some awesome mutuel prices - the $1 exacta paid $469, the $1 trifecta $6,598 and the 10-cent superfecta $1,460.
Ocala Stud Farm's Kantharos enjoyed a sensational season in 2015, his second crop earnings reaching $1,780,874. No other Florida second-cropper even made it to $900,000. But, as good as Kantharos was last year, he's destined to be overshadowed this season by Double Diamond Farm's First Dude.
The son of Stephen Got Even was the leading Florida freshman sire last year with 16 winners and $997,148, buoyed by a registered foal crop of 98. This year, he has another 97 ready to roll, and he's already produced 36 winners from 70 starters and progeny earnings of $1,275,768. With more than 5 1/2 months remaining, and 125 colts and fillies who haven't reached the track yet, he's a cinch to go well over $2 million, a remarkable feat for a Florida stallion. Not close to the late Wildcat Heir, who racked up nearly $4.6 million in 2010, but a special year, anyway. And it's not too late for First Dude to go well beyond that with a little bit of luck.
In a span of 16 days since July 3, First Dude has picked up eight winners, five of them 3-year-old first-timers, plus having the 2-year-old filly Demigoddess finish third in the $125,000 Landaluce Stakes. And only two of the five won at Gulfstream, the other three came at Parx, Presque Isle and Penn National. Three allowance winners came at Belmont Park, Parx and Indiana Grande.
The winner at Penn National only came in a $5,000 claimer, but the effort was so stunning it needs to be noted. Foxy Gator, a 3-year-old bred by Double Diamond, stumbled at the start of a 1 mile and 70-yard maiden race, recovered and went after the leaders, went three wide on the turn, and pulled away under Erika Strunk-Miklos (I had to mention her name), reaching the wire 23 1/4 lengths in front. That's impressive at any level.
But the recent winner who could still prove to be one of the big guns for First Dude this year is Sticksstatelydude, a 3-year-old colt who was bought for $40,000 by a large group which included Greg Burchell, the longtime broodmare manager for Frank Stronach at Adena Springs South. Burchell, who can be seen each year as one of the assistant starters for the Kentucky Derby, moved back to the Bluegrass State several years ago where he and his wife Beth opened a business. When Stickstatelydude went to the races, Greg was the trainer.
The colt raced just three times as a 2-year-old, getting a victory and a second and finishing fourth in the Breeders Futurity. After a minor injury laid him up, he returned on June 19 to finish second at Churchill Downs, with the Burchells still listed on the ownership line, and Greg still listed as trainer. However, when Sticksstatelydude came back at Belmont on July 15, both Burchell references were gone, and Kiaran McLaughlin was listed as trainer. Apparently, Greg and Beth have sold their share in the colt.
Like Foxy Gator, Sticksstatelydude also stumbled at the break at Belmont. But he shot to the lead, held it safely the rest of the way and cruised home by 3 1/4 lengths. Victory in the $77,000 allowance race was worth $46,200. He's now 2-2-0 in five tries with earnings of $138,400, and the best, it appears, is yet to come. Both for him and First Dude.