Saturday, May 04, 2013


Careful, Don’t Rip Those Futures Pool 1 Exacta Tickets


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 4, 2013--When longshot Golden Soul came roaring home for place behind the impressive Orb--and an equally impressive Joel Rosario and Shug McGaughey--Pool 1 Futures players were witnessing an All Others-All Others Futures exacta. Neither Orb nor Golden Soul were among the 23 listed 3-year-olds.

So how would the payoff be determined? Has there ever been a 24-24 exacta? Of course, the answer is no, so this sent us to the posted rules which, regarding this issue, are as follows:

The Kentucky Derby/Oaks Futures Exacta described herein is to be conducted consistent with established and approved Official Rules for the Derby and Oaks Futures Wager. Futures pools are distinguished by the general characteristic that selections of (wagers on) runners which for any reason are ultimately non-starters in the designated Kentucky Derby and/or Kentucky Oaks events are not subject to refunds (return of monies wagered thereon).1.

Futures Exacta Rules.1.1. “Futures Exacta” requires selection of the first two finishers in exact order in the event on which the pool is based. “Futures Exacta” will be conducted in a manner consistent with the approved wagering pool known as “Exacta” as defined in KHRC rules and/or the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.1.2.

“Futures Exacta” pools may be conducted with a minimum of three (3) and a maximum of 24 betting interests. Such betting interests must include one (1) interest defined as “Mutuel Field” (or “All Others”) representing all runners not otherwise named as specific betting interests. By way of example, a Kentucky Derby “Futures Exacta” pool with 24 betting interests will contain 23 named runners and one (1) “Mutuel Field” interest.1.3.

All runners in the Mutuel Field of the “Futures Exacta” shall be treated as a “Coupled Entry” for the purposes of determining winning tickets and payouts. (In the event multiple Mutuel Field runners finish in positions affecting the determination of winning tickets and payouts, the calculation of the $2 payout will be conducted in a manner consistent with the approved method for “Coupled Entries” as contained in KHRC rules and/or the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

By way of example, with #24 representing the Mutuel Field/All Others, a finish of 1/24/24/24/3 would result in an exacta payout to holders of a 1/24 ticket; a finish of 24/24/24/9 would result in an exacta payout to holders of a 24/9 ticket.) 1.4.


According to the middle section highlighted in bold italics, the Futures Exacta would be paid on the first and third finishers; Orb and Revolutionary, returning $102.20 per $2 wager. As stated in the rules, the All Others-All Others finish is treated as if the first two finishers were members of a coupled entry. Seems fair enough--unless you needed Revolutionary for trifecta purposes!

[There are three Futures pools; results will vary]*

Race 10: Back on the turf which apparently has gotten so boggy that Shug McGaughey decided that Point of Entry will not participate, as he was scratched about a half hour ago. That should leave the proceedings to Horse of the Year Wise Dan--providing he handles the soft going. His best weapon is his tactical speed, always helpful on wet ground.

Race 9: Back on the sloppy track and no shortage of speed in the G2 Churchill Downs Sprint and speed horses will have an edge. Under the conditions, it appears that Delauney is the speed of the speed; find out in eight minutes.

Race 8: Back on the grass for the Distaff Turf Mile with the track downgraded to yielding. After the scratch of morningline favorite Marketing Mix, it appears that Hungry Island, Daisy Devine and Stephanie's Kitten are the best prepard to handle the conditions. Aubby K showed her affinity for the wet and answered the stretch challengers after stalking Jamaican Smoke's hot pace throughout.

These three are the betting choices with a little more than 20 minutes to post, and the crowd has settled on Hungry Island. They're probably right.

Consecutive 11-1 shots: Longshot parade continues on Derby day as the wet course helped Berlino Di Tiger hold on, as the old pro Chamerlain Bridge came flying late. The 9-year-old gelding was in front on the gallop-out shortly after the pair hit the wire.

Race 7: Back on the main track and the first sloppy track of the day, as if the rail weren't hard enough to overcome going seven-eighths. Still, taking Jamaican Smoke to, well,smoke'm in the first Grade 1 of the day, the Humana Distaff.

Break up the McPeek barn, another win in the fifth giving him three on the day; great rating by Victor Lebron, the soft pace too much for Code West to overcome--but he did come flying to save the exacta players and the race might be a good prep for the Belmont, his intended purpose.

Race 6: We'll see how the showers have effected the turf, this being the second grass race of the day. This is a tough race, the G3 Churchill Downs Turf Sprint which Regally Ready won two years ago; why not again? He's 3-for-3 on this course and Asmussen is 21% effective with second-off-the-layup runners.

Two straight for McPeek/Leparoux team who stayed out of trouble setting soft pace outside of Old Time Hockey. Screenplay got roughed up at the start; The Pizza Man nearly went down in midstretch. Course acted firm but it had to be a little slick on the surface--probably helped the speed.

Great view of stewards inquiry process. Incidentally, they did excellent work in yesterday's rough-house Alysheba. In a bit of a tough call, they had it exactly right.

CD, Race 4: Wide open maiden scramble will need tote board assessment and paddock observation...and that might not help all that much. Too bad, would like to be alive in DD to Code West, who found an easier spot than today's 11th and feature event. He's a layover on figures in Race 5.

CD, Race 3: Just saw why speed is always dangerous--he said facetiously. But McPeek sure had that boy wound up. No excuses for Slan Abhaile.

Screenplay looks solid in first turf race of the day, although crowd goes for The Pizza Man early. Can't blame them for that.

CD, Race 2: Top of the ticket looks like #2 & #8; #8 looked great in paddock and has better draw.

#5, uncoupled Romans, back at his winning distance. Liked this colt in Fla., then disappointed.

Sorry, late checking in. Track still fast; anticipate formful opener.

As it turns out, too much Rosario.

***

In the opener at Churchill Downs, Apropos, given his most recent effort, is a deserving favorite and will be very hard beat, still we must try.

Jan's Perfect Star's debut puts him right in the hunt for this (fast track please) and Honey Hues is bred nicely for the wet track.

We'll be back as 10:30 a.m. post time draws near...

*Addition made 050513 at 7:55 a.m.

Written by John Pricci

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


“Baffert-Gate,” Just Another Sad Chapter


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 16, 2013—The news from California is very bad on several levels, disheartening to those who love the game and love the animals and unnerving, too, considering how it’s all juxtaposed to what Derby week media coverage might bring.

In relation to the Lasix issue which has to this point only tangential implications with respect to the heart attacks polemic at Southern California racetracks, HRI has counseled that public perception matters and that the industry should pro-act before another tragedy shuts the whole thing down.

Then I remembered: There is no industry per se, just states that permit parimutuel horse racing for which they get a piece of the action. The only thing any national racing organizations do is create jobs for themselves, wielding no influence and having no impact on how day-to-day racing business is conducted.

Until the “me” portion of the industry turns into the “we” portion of the program, there will be continued adherence to the status quo, the reason why all these chickens have been coming home to roost in greater number lately.

In the wake of doom-and-gloom, I prefer a proactive response to the cover-up but it’s clear that I and other like-minded people are the clear cut minority. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

As to the spate in cardiac related deaths over the past few years in California, no one can truly offer a valid opinion until more facts are known. Unfortunately, I have no confidence that more facts will be forthcoming. I have seen these PPs before.

Thoroughbred racing, like other big businesses and politicians, knows how to play the wait ’em-out-till-they-forget game, indeed proving that some of the people can be fooled some of the time.

Whatever the cause of these sudden equine deaths, whoever the culprit, this was not what Hall of Fame California horseman Ron McAnally meant when he said of the Thoroughbred race horse that “they give their lives for our pleasure.”

Those words were spoken in the emotional wake of the Go for Wand tragedy on a Breeders’ Cup afternoon at Belmont Park when, in the often crude language of the racetrack, one equine put so much heat on a rival that it would buckle under pressure.

Parenthetically, it was no different with Ruffian, or with Eight Belles, also females that tried so hard that their limbs couldn’t hold them. But unlike those examples, five of seven cardiac-related deaths from one barn came during training hours, not during the stress of play-for-pay action.

It may be impolitic to judge without having all the facts but it would be irresponsible and inappropriate not to speculate based on circumstances. From where we sit, these cardiac related deaths are a possible indictment of not only individuals but the whole way the game is administered. It’s a problem that stretches far beyond the California state line.

Empirical information is damning. Whether the number of deaths spiked the last several years are irrelevant: There were 20 two years ago, 19 last year and 17 this year, likely higher because 2013 cardiac deaths will not be listed until the fiscal year ends.

For openers, why this data is not made public as soon as the cause of death is determined is a failed administrative policy. Whether or not Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is too big to fail may be a matter for the state to decide.

The industry cannot allow these deaths to go without consequence and it is unknown whether anyone in California racing circles has the courage to go wherever the findings might take them. To this point, the California Horse Racing Board at best has acted questionably.

Horse racing doesn’t want government involvement but its devotion to the status quo will someday end the game as we know it because people outside the sport will call on the feds to shut it down.

Common sense dictates that seven cardiac-related deaths from one barn in 18 months, five during training hours, is way beyond the pale. Horsemen interviewed by myself and others are warily suspicious to say the least, their observations going beyond the usual competitive jealousy. The animal is at the heartbeat of this way of life.

What is problematic has been the public deference shown toward Mr. Baffert by CHRB members one day before--through a public relations firm and on the advice of counsel-- he would issue the ill-considered “personally troubling” statement.

The fact that Commissioner Bo Derek reportedly would allow herself to be seen publicly with the trainer just before a CHRB meeting that was to review this matter was ill-advised at best. The idea that Chairman David Israel would be seen publicly with the target of an inquiry in his clubhouse box is thoughtless, arrogant or both.

And to have Dr. Rick Arthur walk back his remarks of the previous day regarding a “spike” in the number of cardiac deaths might be the most egregious insult to anyone’s intelligence with interest in this matter.

Further, what were trace elements of rat poison, reportedly not the same kind used by the tracks to combat rodent problems, doing in the stricken horses that died showing disparate symptoms that led to the cardiac-related deaths? Is blood doping an issue?

In his press release, Baffert noted that Derek and Arthur “made it clear that nothing I have done has caused any horse I have trained to suffer equine sudden death syndrome.” Clear to whom? If that’s an acquittal then why does he continue to work “with everyone…to find the causes of the unexplained deaths.”

In summary, Baffert’s statement read “I hope that research by the CHRB and its pathologists will discover information helpful to understanding the reasons that I, and many of my colleagues, have had horses suffer this unfortunate fate.”

Yet to date he has failed to submit veterinary records of the deceased horses to researchers performing post-mortem tests on stricken horses because in California there is no requirement to do so.

According to the Paulick Report, California horsemen have opposed an amendment to the necropsy program. Objecting were the Southern California Equine Foundation, representing veterinarians, and the Thoroughbred Owners of California, who would capitulate only to a blind study for fear that specific inquiries would lead to a possible witch hunt.

Alas, when all else fails, obfuscate the real issues by striving for perfection, the enemy of the good.

Written by John Pricci

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013


In the Great Lasix Debate, the HBPA Proves Too Big To Fail


April 9, 2013, South Ozone Park--When it comes to the policy reversal governing the conduct of its 2013 event with respect to the use of raceday Lasix, one can hardly blame the Breeders’ Cup for being pragmatic and reversing field.

After all, hasn’t everyone?

First, the Association of Racing Commissioners cut bait a few years ago on the raceday ban although, to its credit, it did ramp up efforts to establish a uniform set of rules—so long as raceday prohibition of Lasix was not part of the mission.

About the same time, the Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders of America was on board with the view that graded status would be removed from juvenile stakes not run medication free.

It sounded like a good idea at the time but later was jettisoned.

Of course, the GSC determines which races are the country’s most important, giving those events Grade 1 status. Win those races and your stud horse or broodmare is a lot more valuable, virtually overnight.

Last year the Committee was prepared to deny graded standing to any stakes in which raceday Lasix was permitted. A few months later it contracted a case of the never-minds.

The Jockey Club, the organization that verifies all the sport’s equine athletes to be Thoroughbreds, also capitulated, a reversal that was a decisive blow to raceday Lasix abolitionists.

The Jockey Club’s new guidelines define how and when legal therapeutics can be administered; a key element in the uniformity process. The tradeoff was taking the raceday Lasix ban off the current table. The organization remains on record as still supporting the raceday Lasix embargo, but their actions spoke at a much higher volume.

While in no way is any of this comparable, but doesn’t it seem analogous to Congress saying that it recognizes the will of the people [read bettors] but ultimately would filibuster the issue rather than vote a sensible measure into law.

At a Breeders’ Cup board meeting this winter at Gulfstream Park, the raceday Lasix ban began to unravel. The first news to emerge from that summit was that there was no news, until finally it was decided only the juvenile ban would stand and that the Juvenile Sprint was history.

Given the abdication of previously stated goals of the ARCI, TOBA’s Graded Stakes Committee and the Jockey Club, coupled with a threat to boycott the Lasix-free entry box, the Breeders’ Cup cave-in was inevitable.

And if any of the above wasn’t enough, prominent owners threatened to file suit challenging Breeders’ Cup’s authority to change California’s medication policies, while a few high profile trainers lobbied for raceday Lasix with friendly media willing to provide an unchallenged setting.

At that point, the pressure on Breeders’ Cup had reached a boiling point.

The predictable pushback from horsemen and unsuccessful abolitionist lobbying were not the only reasons Breeders’ Cup wilted under the burden of all this weight.

Ultimately, It came down to what it always comes down to in this or any industry; Benjamins. There’s just no time, money or willingness to take the long view of what’s best for the sport, not when the game’s 2% wield all the power and influence.

And it’s a difficult sell given the reality that field size would shrink and handle suffer.

Last year field size and handle for five juvenile races was down by over 20%. Breeders’ Cup economists projected that a total Lasix would cost the company a minimum of $5 million.

That kind of loss for a company whose nominations’ revenue was down significantly, coupled with falling handle, would not be sustainable.

Maybe the Lasix issue is one reason why there’s been a delay in recent years to name future sites in advance. What if Lasix exploded in the same manner anabolic steroids did in the wake of Big Brown’s Belmont?

Resultantly, would states enact their own Lasix bans because of negative publicity and public relations?

Kentucky tried to make progress in this area but was undercut by the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Assn. From that point forward, dominoes began to fall.

There has been pressure from outliers as well. Great Britain is getting into fall action more meaningfully with a new meet in October. Will that siphon runners away from Breeders’ Cup?

And what will prove to be the significance of the strategic partnership between China and Dubai? Recall that Darley representative Oliver Tait resigned from the Breeders’ Cup board due to the Lasix policy change.

Of course, Darley is the nursery of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum who recently lauded the new agreement saying that China will be a great addition to the international racing scene and a major player.

That was around the same time he stated that the UAE conducts the world’s best racing.

Provincial pride notwithstanding, international racing seems to be trending away from America and its “world championships,” mostly because it believes that world class international sport and raceday Lasix are mutually exclusive.

Written by John Pricci

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