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
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Horse Racing: The Ultimate Escape
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, Christmas Morning, 2012—No visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in this head, apparently not when my day job is so all-consuming.
But I never dream about horse racing, never, needing at least a good night’s sleep to freshen up for the next day--but not so past midnight as Christmas Eve was about to turn into Christmas morning.
I dreamt about a horse, specifically a 3-year-old filly that just happens to be running in Wednesday’s Grade 1 La Brea Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita: the 2011 juvenile filly champion, My Miss Aurelia.
Now I have no special allegiance to the 4-5 early line La Brea favorite, nor to its connections, only admiring her accomplishments from afar, but with a great deal of admiration .
My dream, however, did not take place at a track based at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, the best backdrop in Thoroughbred racing. It was more like the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania, where the race takes place in the mind’s eye.
The race I was watching My Miss Aurelia win definitely was run in the Keystone State, although I can’t be sure whether it was at Penn National, at the foothills of the Blue Mountain range, or at Parx, in the shadow of the Liberty Bell.
How that can be I can’t explain, and that’s not even where the weirdness ends.
I was watching the race with Corey Nakatani, which is strange for two reasons. West Coast-based throughout much of his career, I don’t really have a relationship with him, post-race interviews notwithstanding, not like I do with a few of the New York-based riders.
Of greater import to the connections, it would mean that My Miss Aurelia had a change of riders, since Nakatani is the filly’s regular partner, and I cannot identify her faceless rider in this mythical event.
There’s a third thing, too: The race I was watching was a two-turner, not the seven-eighths sprint distance of the La Brea. I believe that likely two-time champion Royal Delta was in the field—either that or because it was Royal Delta that soiled the filly’s undefeated record in the Ladies Classic.
Anyway, the dream picks up the horses at about the five-furlong pole, and My Miss Aurelia is stalking extremely fast fractions from the middle of the track. It was the kind of trip that often get you beat on one-mile tracks--hung out to dry chasing a fast pace.
The three leaders continued that way to the five-sixteenths pole, where My Miss Aurelia surged up alongside, reaching even turns with the filly closest to the rail soon after straightening away into the stretch.
At that point, where you might expect the “best horse” to grind her way to the front and slowly draw away, she showed a turn of foot that I never before had seen among the tens of thousands of races I’ve watched in my lifetime.
Within a matter of two or three strides, she opened up a five or six-length advantage before reaching midstretch. She continued to draw out, winning by almost a sixteenth of a mile.
Reiterating, it was the most impressive performance I ever saw. Only after I awakened did I recall the 1973 Belmont Stakes. But Secretariat was “merely” powerful; My Miss Aurelia was gliding over the ground, almost flying.
I caught up with Johnny Velazquez and Angel Cordero Jr. walking back to the jock’s room, or racing office, or someplace after the race. I asked Angel if he ever saw anything like that before.
“Didn’t you ever see horses win before?” was the somewhat snarky reply, which of itself is very un-like the personable Hall of Famer.
My sense was that Johnny was aboard one of My Miss Aurelia’s rivals. He talked about when he first realized he was about to lose the race, how everybody knows what a good filly the champ is.
What all this has to do with tomorrow’s La Brea I don’t know, except for some reason I have been thinking more about Santa Anita’s opening this year than I have in season’s past.
Maybe it’s because a proposed new wager, the Score 64, was the subject of the most recent Morning Line blog in which new wagering initiatives for the Santa Anita opener was discussed.
In hindsight, I don’t understand any more about the dream than when I jumped up at 6 AM and quickly wrote the events down before I had forgotten the details, such as they are/were.
Perhaps it’s because Christmas was a little distant this year, less enjoyable in the wake of Newtown. Or maybe I’ve never dreamed about racing before because there never was such a need to escape the new normal of everyday events.
Written by John Pricci