Sunday, January 13, 2013
Old School Meets New School in Winners’ Circle
HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., January 13, 2013—A colleague reminded me after the running of Sunday’s Hal’s Hope, that Csaba is named for Hungarian painter Markus Csaba, who only has seen the horse run once according to friend, co-owner Bruce Hollander.
If the present win streak continues, you could write this down: The connections of the four-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt will do their absolute best to make certain the two-legged Csaba will never see his namesake run live again.
Csaba (pronounced cha-buh) in racetrack parlance translates to throw-back; a stone-cold running iron horse. After all, how many modern-day horses at the highest levels have run 17 times two weeks into their four-year-old year?
Csaba the throwback is trained by Phil Gleaves, a bit of a throwback himself, having been Woody Stephens’ premier exercise rider back in the day, Derby-Belmont winning Swale and all the rest.
“Woody said when they’re good, run’em,” Gleaves reminded reporters in the winner circle. And if the same scribers paid attention before the race, they would have heard another Woodyism from Gleaves regarding turn-backs: “Woody made a habit of doing that over the years.”
And, so, the Hungarian inspired Csaba was a turn-back and a throwback, shortening up in distance from his Harlan’s Holiday victory over the track at 1-1/16 miles to yesterday’s Grade 3 one-turn mile.
The four-year-old, said Gleaves “is one of the only Kitten’s Joy who doesn’t like turf, thank God he likes dirt.” And he doesn’t just like it, he loves
The Hal’s Hope was his four consecutive win, winning the Tropical Park Derby and G3 Fred Hooper Handicap at Calder before shipping eight miles across South Florida.
If would have been his fifth stakes victory in his last seven starts if it were not for the length of Quick Wit’s dirtiest of noses in Saratoga’s G2 Hall of Fame, a race taken off the turf and run over a sloppy main track.
The Hal’s Hope was Csaba’s third race in the last 44 days, and he’s run at least once every month since July. Gleaves, however, was quick to deflect credit for Sunday’s victory.
“I thought he’d be laying close and going easier but the fractions were solid, obviously. My first impression as that I thought he was kind of struggling down the backside.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to Luis Saez. He’s a brilliant rider. He’s one of the best riders in the country. He’s going to take New York by storm.”
“When we came to the three-eighths, I didn’t think we’d win,” Saez said. But coming down the stretch I saw a little hole on the inside and went for it. When I asked him, he gave me everything.”
Saez, who has dominated the Calder riding colony in recent years, is currently in a battle for leading rider at Gulfstream. Csaba gave him his fourth winner of the afternoon, putting him one up on Javier Castellano, 33-to-32. He is expected to move his tack to New York at the conclusion of the Gulf meet.
As for Csaba, his 18th start could come in the G1 Donn Handicap, February 9. “That’s the next logical spot. The owners and I will have to look at it,” said Gleaves.
That’s 27 days from now, for Csaba, a mini-vacation.
There aren’t many 20-year-old sports professionals, Olympians notwithstanding, that have five years of successful international experience.
Not the case for Italian riding champion Christian Demuro who rode his first American winner, favored Holdin Bullets in Gulfstream’s second race.
He will hang his tack here for the better part of the next two months, and no less than agent-to-the-stars, Ron Anderson, will book his mounts.
Starting at age 16, he’s already ridden in Japan and Dubai--not for the faint of heart or talent—and this year set a record in his native Italy with 264 winners.
Born to the saddle, his brother Mirco, a five-time champion himself, upset the Dubai World Cup in 2011 with longshot Victoire Pisa.
Young Christian looked like an American rider than the long-ironed Euros and his seat is fairly tight and compact. He drove his winner home using a right-handled whip, so switching sticks will be a lesson for another day.
Written by John Pricci
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Big Balloons at the Beach
HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., January 12, 2013—If the speed boys will tell you anything, it is this is the time of the year when age matters. All the buzz, of course are for two-year-olds turning three, but three turning four is no less significant.
Call it the maturity angle or anything you wish but you need to pay attention. And, personally speaking, we think it also relates to four-year-old geldings turning five. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Mucho Mas Macho, a recently turned four-year-old gelding
chose the appropriate moment to raise his game, the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale Handicap, getting up the last jump to beat his four-year-old peer, Tiz Sardonic Joe, by a neck.
Five-year-old Big Blue Kitten, jammed up behind a wall of horses into the lane, squeezed through a narrow opening, steadied briefly, resurged between rivals a second time, but all that effort found him wanting by 1-1/4 lengths at the post.
Favored Nikki’s Sandcastle, a little dull and quiet in the walking ring, essential ran to his looks but did well to finish fourth, a head farther back, his bid to become the meet’s only three-time winner foiled.
But if you believe Big Blue Kitten had it tough, here’s the Equibase footnote on Barclay Tagg’s runner: “Sky Blazer…wanted to pick up the pace heading into the turn, lacked racing room, settled back a bit, angled out, blocked behind horses upper stretch, steadied slightly, slipped through tight quarters, and flattened out in late strides.”
Virtual stable, please.
This added up to plenty of balloons, the winner, who last out was a good second in the G2, 1-1/2 miles McKnight at Calder at 39-1, got even for his fans by scoring at 41.60 to the dollar, topping a $1,322 Exacta and a $1 Superfecta worth $16,548.
The MacDiarmida is up next for the Macho Uno gelding. It was a very good day for the Calder-based veteran trainer, a very emotional Henry Collazzo. He was ridden to the minute by Juan Leyva. It’s unlikely the crowd will ignore him next time,
And there will be plenty of big balloons up for grabs in Sunday’s Rainbow Six, which has gone un-hit by a single winner since Christmas time, leaving a carryover of over $201,000.
The Rainbow Six jackpot is paid out only if there is a single winner. The bet costs 10-Cents. Meanwhile, several winners collected over $20,000 sans jackpot. And the 50-Cent Pick 5 returned more than $109,000.
First post Sunday is 12:45 pm.
Bets n’ Pieces:
Kudos to trainer Chris Block
who reached a career milestone by upsetting the second race with the appropriately named All for Thee
, out-bobbing odds-on Fantasy of Flight
at the wire. Midwest-based, Block’s mom and dad were on hand to witness the event…
The Rainbow Six began with an inscrutable maiden allowance for three-year-olds on turf, and it was won by a horse that might have a bright future. His name is Jack Milton
and was impressive breaking maiden for the Pletcher-Velazquez
Stalking the pace while racing wide throughout, Jack Milton kicked away from the speedy Sweet Mike
then had little difficulty holding debuting War Dancer
safe, another first-timer. This colt was from the Ken McPeek
barn and was neglected at 35-1, as sons of War Front
finishing 1-2. Despite favorable whispers, the Pletcher sophomore went into the gate at 7-2….
is not known for his success with debut types but it’s clear that he couldn’t help but win at first asking with debuting three-year-old filly Calistoga
, which went to the front and improved her position beneath Joel Rosario
. Speed was very strong Friday but not so on today’s card, making her effort that much more impressive.
, from the Holy Bull
, she was bet early and often but blew out to 9-2 at post time. She won by 5-1/2 lengths over Iroquois Girl,
who finished seven in front of odds-on favorite Bliss
. Calistoga appeared relaxed as she went her half-mile in :45.44 and completed six furlongs in 1:09.77.
Written by John Pricci
Monday, December 31, 2012
Tampa Stewards Fail to Serve Betting Public
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, December 30, 2012—Just when you think that you’re out, as the saying goes, they pull you back in.
Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs, I experienced one of those Abbott and Costello moments, only the apt paraphrase is more like: “They’re Off, You Lose.” “No, Wait a Minute; You Won.” “No, You Won, But, I’m Sorry, You Lose.”
For some reason that is unclear to these experienced eyes, the final race of the day, one that completed the Late 5, Pick 4 and Pick 5 sequences, was taken off the turf and rescheduled to the main track.
Three races already had been run on the grass, yet, off the turf came the finale. Even if it were the last race, it was the best one on the card, a nice allowance race featuring three year old fillies.
It was an event that was good enough to attract the favorite from the New York-based barn John Terranova, and also an uncoupled pair from the powerful grass outfit of Graham Motion.
Viewed on my 48-inch high definition television monitor, three previous grass races appeared to go without incident. The seventh race at 1-1/16 miles, run an hour before the rescheduled event, featured a winner that raced wide throughout, with his winning momentum carrying old pro Vanquisher six wide at headstretch.
The horse he defeated was a game, come-again runnerup, Themanmythnlegend, who re-rallied along the inside to briefly loom a potential upsetter.
Did I mention that between the seventh and ninth race, it never rained?
This same scenario played itself out at Gulfstream Park last winter, only it poured prior to the running of their finale. The race came off the turf and, after a bevy of scratches, the payoffs were based on the remaining entrants.
Predictably, the incident became a public relations nightmare and might have become the impetus of Florida racing law regarding rescheduled turf races being changed this summer.
Following a precedent set in New York several years ago, Florida races rescheduled to another surface after betting has closed, such as Sunday’s Tampa Bay finale, will be designated an “ALL” race for those holding tickets on sequential wagers.
Short of issuing a multi-race wagering bet slip that allows for “alternate” selections in the event of late scratches and/or surface switches, deeming rescheduled races an ALL is a fair and equitable solution.
Following the eighth race, my partner and I were alive to four horses in the Pick 5 finale, offering will-pay possibilities, with rounding, of $1,400, 600, 500 and 6,000. The straight odds on those runners, respectively, were 3-1, 3-1, 6-5 and 12-1.
Since we were alive with four horses, we would have four winning “ALL” tickets in the Pick 5 regardless of the result. Langcita moved to the lead at headstretch and held off the rally off the poor starting, much-the-best favored runnerup, Pelipa.
Motion and Terranova finished 1-2. Our $1,400 possibility beat our $500 possibility by 1-1/4 lengths.
Before we knew for certain what the rule was in this situation, I said to my partner I’d just as well take my chances rather than settle for an “ALL” if that were the case. Instead of $1,400, we collected $153 four times. You can do the math.
I also said at the time that this race never should have been rescheduled to the main track. No one wants to put jockeys in harm’s way; no one. But the Tampa stewards should have trusted their own expertise and visual evidence and done what was best to serve the betting public.
The running times of the three previous grass races appeared in line with the quality of the horses, neither aberrantly slow or fast. There was no discernible bias favoring a particular running style.
Tampa boasts one of the deepest jock’s rooms in the country in terms of sheer numbers. If riders didn’t want to ride, replacements were readily available.
I’m sure there will be a predictable explanation forthcoming deeming the rescheduling a necessity. But barring something truly unusual, the explanation will ring hollow here. Today’s stewards put the wishes of horsemen and management before those of the betting public they are paid to serve.
The “ALL” provision protected the public; the stewards should have served them.
The state of Florida did the right thing by amending racing rules governing rescheduled turf races this summer. It’s too bad that today’s racing officials too often fail to take responsibility, own the moment, and do likewise.
Written by John Pricci