Saturday was not a red letter day for form unless, of course, you’re Chad Brown, Saratoga’s new training record holder with 43 meet wins.

And he’s not done yet, having 13 horses entered today and tomorrow. On Saturday Brown saddled three winners just up the road from his native Mechanicville and another at the Jersey Shore with G3 Violet winner Elysea’s World.

Good to see Gary Contessa in the winners’ circle after the Grade 1 Spinaway with Sippican Harbor (16-1) for long-time patron Lee Pokoik, while in the headlining Woodward, Winstar Farm’s out-of-this-world’s 2018 continued with Yoshida (7-1).

Becoming the second horse in a week to become a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt [Catholic Boy], the Winstar/Bill Mott team made successful dirt debuts in back to back years, having won 2017’s Jim Dandy Stakes with Good Samaritan.

Favorites fared no better on the Left Coast. Brill (7-10) was flat in the Del Mar Debutante and Simon Callaghan, who has a clever hand with young fillies, got it done with Ballafina (2-1).

Cambodia (4-5) failed to repeat her victory in last year’s G2 John C. Mabee Stakes but Jerry Hollendorfer made amends for Brill with Vasilinka (4-1). The brilliant Flavien Prat rode both stakes winners.

Found form at the unlikeliest venues; Kentucky Downs, where quality is high and the competition fierce, not to mention that on its 2018 opening program, the former Dueling Grounds had 139 horses enter 10 races.

But will happen when allowances races are carded for with purses as high as $145,000 four stakes for an aggregate $1.8 million concluded the program. The four stakes were won by Shug McGaughey, Wesley Ward, Mike Maker and Christophe Clement.

The 50-Cent all-stakes Pick 4 returned a paltry $49.80 with short-priced favorites winning three, the “outlier” at 3-1. Given a 14% takeout on both the Pick 4 and Pick 5, those pools attracted over $230,000 and $93,000, respectively.

Interestingly, two of the winners, Henley’s Joy and Miss Technicality were entered and declared from two Saratoga stakes this week, while the other winners, On Leave and Bound for Nowhere, last exited races from Saratoga and Royal Ascot. Heady stuff.

Kentucky Downs had its second-highest betting day in track history. Saturday's opening program of the five-day race meet handled more than $6.2 million from all sources.

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL? A fortnight ago a handful of analysts wondered aloud whether the 60-day maximum suspension given jockey Tony Maragh by the Gulfstream stewards for “failure to persevere” with his mount to win was too harsh.

The rest of the sports world probably thought it wasn’t stern enough considering that not trying your best to finish first is tampering with a sporting event—by definition a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 224, “scheming in commerce.”

Having no legal expertise, I have no idea what was right or just. But what has me wondering is context and privilege. Tony Maragh is by no means a household racetrack name. Kent Desormeaux, however, is a Hall of Famer.

The result of both their recent rides came out the same way for the betting public who were cheated by both jockeys’ flouting the rules of racing to give the public a fair shake by riding a race to its conclusion.

Given all appearances, it must have seemed the finish line couldn’t come fast enough for Maragh; for Desormeaux not soon enough because, with his runnerup perceptibly secure, it was OK to finish up with stylish nonchalance.

What was and is galling was the SoCal stewards kicking the administrative can down to the front door of the California Horse Racing Board for what, further review? To make a call they apparently were afraid to make?

Instead of assessing a penalty for Desormeaux’s oft-abused tack of not riding horses out completely for minor money positions, the stewards referred the rider’s latest transgression to the California Horse Racing Board.

Unlike Maragh, Desormeaux did not fail to persevere with suspicious intent, as video of Maragh’s ride on Musical Heart strongly suggests. But for horseplayers, the result was virtually the same.

Adding insult to injury, the stewards said their “informal hearing” did not concern Desormeaux’s continued indifference for his lackadaisical, overconfident handling in these situations but rather to review his use of the whip in upper stretch.

The fact that Take a Leap was clearly second best but lost the place to late running Room to Finish by the length of a fingernail because of Desormeaux’s overconfident judgment is completely unacceptable.

If I were a singular error in judgment, OK, stuff happens. But when it’s part of a regular pattern that is a matter of public record, this incident demands that a message similar to Maragh’s penalty be sent.

Just as no chief executive is above the rule of law, no jockey, no matter how talented, is above the rules of racing. Shame on the SoCal stewards who, like Congress, failed to do its duty. Let’s see how racing’s judiciary adjudicates the matter.

NEW YORK HORSEMEN RECOGNIZE CLASS WHEN THEY SEE IT

It’s hard to imagine a person more worthy of recognition than trainer Pat Kelly, winner of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association 2018 “EquiStar” award, so we won’t bother to try.


Pat Kelly is, of course, the oldest of three of Hall of Famer Thomas J. Kelly’s sons, followed by Larry, current general manager of renowned Payson Park Training Center and Gunnevera’s private chauffeur, and Tim, the NYRA Clerk of Scales.

Pat has spent four decades on the backstretch of NYRA tracks. Back in the day, when Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown were wee lads, Kelly was developing the careers of Solar Splendor and Sultry Song, Christiecat Token Dance and Riskaverse among other major winners.

But perhaps he saved his best “big horse” for last after taking over the training of legendary gelding Evening Attire from brother Tim, which he managed for “Pop” and T.J’s longtime friend and partners, Joe and Mary Grant.

A foal of 1998, the dappled gray won 15 of 69 races in a 10-year career, 11 stakes including the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The hardest of knockers earned nearly $3 million the hard way, with 25 more in-the-money placings.

However, it is Pat’s humanity that is honored now, recognition for his passion, dedication to the Thoroughbred race horse, and for is generous spirit toward all people who toil on the backstretch.

“There are few people on the New York backstretch who have earned the universal love and respect of the racetrack community,” NYTHA Executive Director Andy Belfiore said in that organization’s press release.

“Pat Kelly is a wonderful person who puts so many people before himself,” added NYTHA Vice President Tina Bond, owner and wife of trainer H. James Bond. “I can’t think of a better candidate for this award.”

“It’s a real community back here, our own little world, and we have to take care of our people,” Kelly said when informed of the honor. “It’s important for the workers to know that their efforts are recognized and rewarded.

“And, of course, it really is all about the horses, for all of us… This is a labor of love for everybody back here who spend so much time every day doing what we do,” Kelly said.

FORMER DEDICATED HORSEPLAYER'S FRIEND CONTINUES TO SPEAK OUT

I thought perhaps I was the only one to notice, that I’m too cynical, then I received a personal email. This was sent to others in the Thoroughbred industry but I’m not sure it will get an airing anywhere else.

When I read about the Sports Wagering Symposium to be held at Keeneland SEP 6, I noticed the names of many speakers from various organizations with bona fides. There was the NTRA lobbyist and representatives from the American Gaming Association and FanDuel/TVG.

And a Monmouth Park VEEP; an NBA VEEP; the Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader; a consultant from Sportech; and a VEEP from The Stronach Group

I’m thinking wasn’t there room one professional odds maker, a professional or even recreational gambler--if not for advice then just listen in case the betting conversation goes sideways? I was not alone.

The following is direct testimony from a one-time significant horseplayer by the name of Dennis Dotson. Here was his email, edited only for brevity and context:

“I quit this industry in 2002 after 40 years. I play poker now. I am not alone. I do not even watch the Big 3 on TV anymore.

“I do check out the industry news for progress (wrong word?) occasionally getting emails like the one below. I see everything wrong with the industry there. Again.

“Those not repped [cq] should have huge hope for "real positive" change. NOT! (Ed. note, comments and proposals and follow).

“10% across the board on "ALL" wagers. Stop cheating players out of their change immediately (no breakage). Drug free races that start on time with final odds already displayed. Cheaters banned for life nationally & inter-nationally.

“All tracks available via "ALL" venues. Autonomous decision makers for questionable actions during a race that are qualified to judge. Free or extremely low priced handicapping info…

“…Forty years + 60 years before that. All negative & backwards from the player's view. I have maybe 5 to 20 years left, Lord willing. I have zero faith that assemblies like this one will make even one of the changes below.

“…From love to hate. Not an untrue statement. My birthday today. Going to do a little mowing & play a bunch of poker at 5:00 pm. God help & keep us all. He knows this bunch will not do a thing for anyone but themselves.”

[Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2018 10:30 AM to .]

And now I’m wondering if anyone would care to provide Mr. Dotson and other former and present horseplayers an explanation.