"Players Up" blogger Indulto is a retired computer programming residing in SoCal and has been betting Thoroughbreds since the days of Kelso, cashing his first ticket at Saratoga while in college.

Indulto is well known in racing's cyber world as a participant on the Ragozin Sheets message board, the PaceAdvantage Forum, Paulick Report, and has made important contributions to the industry's audience as an HRI Readers Blog contributor.

Indulto was active in the formation of the Horseplayers Association of North America and with former HANA colleagues worked on the Players' Boycott of California racing when takeout rates were increased by the legislature there.

Taking his nickname from the King Ranch color-bearer of the 1960s, Indulto now devotes his time to advocate for the recreational player and hobbyist, but prefers lower takeout rates for all rather than subsidized rebates for the few.

Indulto supports the creation of a centralized racing authority to establish uniform rules for racing and wagering and for those standards to be enforced consistently.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Weak-Eyed Worrier Becomes Winning Weekend Warrior

LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2016--I finally bit the bullet and opened a second on-line wagering account.

I was forced into action because not only has DRF Bets long been unable to deliver the Churchill Downs signal but also because the live video streaming suddenly stopped working properly.

According to DRF bets Customer Service, my DSL Internet service was now too slow to meet the minimum XpressBet platform bandwidth requirements--despite having operated correctly only one week before.

Watch and wager had become wager and wait for replays elsewhere.

I was further motivated by TVG's sign-up bonus, matching one's initial deposit up to $150, provided the full amount is wagered within 15 days of opening the account.

Indeed, that happy circumstance encouraged more frequent use of all entries in the third slot of superfectas when using them in the fourth slot seemed justified during the final rounds of Derby qualifiers earlier this month.

But another factor had bolstered bolder betting and it was just the prescription to heal my latest affliction, newly identified as “Derby Deprivation.”

I have learned that both wagering platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. TVG seems to make more efficient use of their displays for bettors with normal vision.

However, vertical exotic-ticket construction can be a challenge for low-vision bettors who may find the matrix of slotted selection boxes for the entrants too small.

Even after one adapts to this situation, the mouse pointer must be positioned perfectly in order to insert or remove a check mark.

Verifying that changes had been made likewise was difficult within the box in the adjoining ticket summary display that doesn't always show selections for each individual slot on a separate line.

Imagine my anguish upon learning I had inadvertently left out a horse in the third slot of what should have been a winning superfecta!

One might think that since there's a box to check atop each slot column, allowing for selecting ALL horses for one slot, perhaps there could also be a box at the right of each row in order to select ALL slots.

What makes the most sense to me would be to optionally enable filling out ALL boxes to the right when clicking on an empty slot box for any horse, thus including all lower slots.

The slot selection grid is presented in a separate window and I was unable to zoom there independently from the main window. Nor was I able to automatically get both windows back simultaneously after switching over to past-performance or result-charts viewing.

On the other hand, the XpressBet platform makes it easier for me to enter superfecta plays because it only permits entering one slot at a time.

(Note that this requires clicking on a highly-visible number immediately next to the horse's name rather than an empty box in a compressed grid).

The resulting ticket summary always displays selected program numbers for each slot on separate lines, simplifying the verification process considerably.

In fairness, the latter was what I had become accustomed to, and the stress of my mistake-prone early experiences lessened as I gained familiarity with the new environment.

However, the time it takes to process a confirmed play takes longer which impacts my ability to play multiple tracks.

I'm currently in the process of acquiring more bandwidth to support simultaneous use of both environments and SKYPE, too, that I may communicate with my old cronies on Derby Day. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out.

As it turned out, I qualified for the bonus predominantly by playing dime supers in the Derby preps and handicap-division stakes on those under-cards.

I was rewarded for my liberated use of the ALL button, or boxes, in three of the preps. It didn't help in the Wood or Lexington, but singling horse-for-course Brody's Cause in the Bluegrass and using two Tapit colts on top in the Arkansas Derby over logical horses made for a couple of really nice days.

(I would have had winning supers in the Santa Anita Derby and Oaklawn Handicap without the additional investment, but then so did plenty of other horseplayers.

What I momentarily considered--but quickly abandoned--was the possibility of playing dime supers in the 8-horse Wood Memorial, boxing ALL beneath Outwork for a “mere” $21.00.

With “impossible” longshot Trojan Nation finishing second, the Super paid $583.70. The tiny field and the mud said go, but good past-performance records of both Shagaf and Adventist made it a no-go.

The good news is that this weak-eyed worrier is now a winning weekend warrior having turned initial amount risked over multiple times. I eagerly await the on-line assault on Derby Day at the Downs.

In the continued absence of dime supers on Derby day, I'll focus on trifectas, although I might take a shot with a dollar Super--ouch!-- keying this year's highest point qualifier, Gun Runner, over a box of, say, five contenders underneath.

Whatever I decide to do, I will be sure to use a magnifying glass before doing so.

Written by Indulto

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Who’s Your Daddy?

LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2016—Inquiring minds want to know as Kentucky Derby preps seem to have turned into soirees for sons of sires with stud fees in the stratosphere.

The Louisiana Derby was contested by three offspring of Uncle Mo, two by Bernardini, and two by Candy Ride, sire of the winning Gun Runner. Earlier that day, a son of Tapit named Lani won the U.A.E. Derby via Dubai.

The previous weekend, Cupid took Rebel Stakes, another son of Tapit, beating three other in the process. Tapit's present stud fee of $300,000 would appear no obstacle to the proliferation of his bloodlines.

The Florida Derby matched the most heralded sons of Uncle Mo and Tapit to date, Nyquist and Mohaymen, respectively, in the most widely anticipated Kentucky Derby eligibility-enabling event of 2016.

Uncle Mo's stud fee is currently "only" $75,000 but it too will skyrocket, helped by Nyquist’s comprehensive Grade 1 victory, his fourth.

Bill Finley summarized the situation this way:

"There has been a major shift over the last few years when it comes to which sires are being bred to the most mares and, therefore, dominating the foal crop. The high-end sires have never been more popular. Everyone, it seems, wants to breed to them, not flinching one bit at their six-figure stud fees."

Other North American-based six-figure-fee daddies besides Tapit include Medaglia d'Oro ($150k), Pioneer of the Nile ($125K), Bernardini ($100K), Curlin ($100K), Distorted Humor ($100K), Kitten's Joy ($100K) and Speightstown ($100K).

Dropping a notch, upper five-figure fellows in addition to Uncle Mo are Malibu Moon ($95K), Giant's Causeway ($85K), Awesome Again ($75K), Super Saver ($65K), Candy Ride ($60K), Ghostzapper ($60K) and Tiznow ($60K).

Since Gun Runner became this year's first 150+ eligibility points winner--as were the last three Derby Winners--Candy Ride appears to be this year's bargain.

However, his son Twirling Candy ($15K), sire of San Felipe winner Danzing Candy could fight for that distinction should Danzing Candy succeed at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Of course, the reigning ultimate breeding bargain has is Lucky Pulpit ($7.5K), sire of California Chrome -- the comeback kid of 2016 and then some. His second straight graded stakes victory in the much sought-after Dubai World Cup, coming after last year’s place finish, has returned him to center stage in advance of his own stud career at stud, penciled in for post-Breeders' Cup Classic.

Indeed, the opportunity for California Chrome to also avenge his third place finish in the 2014 Classic will be awaited anxiously by any serious fan of the sport and maybe some not-so-serious, too.

Meanwhile, speculation on his next start has already begun. When interviewed in Dubai, owner Perry Martin mentioned the potential $12 Million race at Gulfstream Park being put together by Frank Stronach. I presume he was referring to Stronach's Pegasus project; purchased shares in a portion of the day's pari-mutuel handle by the connections of entrants in that race.

Despite his willingness to participate in such an enterprise, I hope Martin isn't holding his breath waiting for that arrangement to come to fruition.

The NYRA could step into the breach here and showcase a second Horse of the Year campaign for racing's resurgent superstar. The G2 Brooklyn is one possibility in place, giving Chrome a chance to avenge his 12-furlong Belmont Stakes defeat.

But the chances of his leaving California, site of the Pacific Classic and BC Classic, —even if a large bonus were tied to, say, a Brooklyn-Classic sweep or some other seven-figure incentive, seems like a longshot.

Tapit-sired 2014 Triple-Crown-upsetter Tonalist entered stud this year with a fee of $30,000. Regardless of his initial fee, California Chrome likely will still need his share of quality mares to prove his worth at stud.

Parenthetically, that could be tricky if 2015 Triple-Crown-winner American Pharoah is able to emulate Uncle Mo's meteoric rise in popularity and the success of the sires mentioned above continues unabated.

However good Chrome may yet prove to be on the track, the flip side of the coin is that Derby and Preakness winners Smarty Jones and Big Brown, as well as Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex have been unable to reproduce runners that attained their lofty heights.

Written by Indulto

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Stakes Scheduling for 2016 and Beyond?

LOS ANGELES, January 4, 2016—With the exception of Keeneland, tracks hosting Kentucky Derby qualifying preps have already announced their 2016 graded stakes schedules through April.

When Keeneland announced its Spring 2015 schedule, they caught some by surprise by moving both of its points-awarding preps up one week; scheduling the Bluegrass Stakes on the same day as the Wood Memorial, and the Santa Anita Derby and the Lexington Stakes on Arkansas Derby Saturday.

Interestingly, it was a least-rested/last-tested Kentucky Derby starter that ended the Triple Crown drought so Keeneland's move had no apparent effect on the process.

Neither did its switch back to natural dirt, as was also the case for Meydan’s UAE Derby. The only remaining sophomore preps on a synthetic surface are the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.

The emergence of a Triple Crown champion seems to have some tracks thinking about playing the latest version of musical scheduling, altering the number of weeks between their preps and the Derby.

The El Camino moves up a month to join the Rebel Stakes at seven weeks pre-Louisville; the Spiral moves up a week to join the Florida Derby at five weeks out.

Repositioning the Louisiana Derby forces the Fair Ground's to alter their series, as the LeComte and Risen Star are now 12 and 16 weeks, respectively, from May’s first Saturday.

Perhaps Fair Grounds has finally recognized the futility of going head to head with the Florida Derby, or even running on the same weekend.

The UAE Derby doesn't present a similar challenge as the Meydan races will be over well before the Fair Grounds preps begin. Parenthetically, the latter's handle for the day should improve dramatically, even if wagers from DRF Bets customers continue being denied.

The Southwest Stakes, Gotham and Withers each move back a week to nine, 12 and 14 weeks pre-Derby, respectively, the latter conjoined with the Holy Bull thereby eliminating one of two gaps in the present prep schedule.

Maybe the El Camino Real is being moved to augment the national TV coverage of the Rebel which Oaklawn Park is now heralding as a prime stop on the route of Triple Crown champions.

In the older dirt male division, meanwhile, schedule altering seems to have become a tradition at winter race meets. Some are a function of policy that mandates divisional participation on closing day after offering local preps for both sexes.

Traditionally, and especially in recent years, Santa Anita and Gulfstream have served as the winter showcase for the best older males. Curious that despite common ownership that there wouldn’t be more cooperative scheduling that might result in larger fields and handle at both venues.

Santa Anita has the Grade 2 San Pasqual on the same day Gulfstream presents the G3 Hal's Hope. Likewise, the G2 San Antonio goes against the G1 Donn four weeks later.

The next objective for top divisional performers is usually one of the following: the G2 Gulfstream Park Handicap four weeks later; the $1 million G1 Santa Anita Handicap the week after that, or the $10 million G1 Dubai World Cup two weeks after the Big ‘Cap.

New Orleans Handicap, anyone?

The G2 Oaklawn Handicap comes three weeks later followed by the $1.25 million G2 Charles Town Classic the week after. The last three runnings of the CTC have been won by Santa Anita Handicap starters.

Where’s the synergy there? Where’s the synergy between the Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Handicaps?

Fair Ground's G3 Mineshaft and Oaklawn's G3 Razorback are the local preps for the New Orleans and Oaklawn Handicaps, five and four weeks prior to their respective targets. The former is now run two weeks before the Santa Anita Handicap, the latter two weeks after.

Last year, Keeneland offered the G3 Ben Ali the same day as the Oaklawn Handicap. Churchill Downs scheduled the G2 Alysheba the week after Aqueduct’s G3 Excelsior--and a day before Belmont's G3 Westchester.

This year Santa Anita moved the G3 Tokyo City Cup from the same day as the Skip Away to the day after.

Had Santa Anita moved that 12-furlong race to Derby Day, in place of the 8.5-furlong G3 Precisionist, the timing would be better for its starters wanting to run back in the Brooklyn Handicap five weeks on the Belmont undercard.

Santa Anita and Gulfstream, like New York and Kentucky, must find ways to enable as many top older dirt males to compete against each other as much as possible while having a shot at two Grade 1s along the way.

One scenario would involve running the San Pasqual on opening day four weeks prior to the San Antonio and eight weeks before the Donn. The Big ‘Cap then would come four weeks after that.

If the Gulfstream Park Handicap remains at one mile, those runners could target the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap, using the Hal's Hope and Fred Hooper as other stepping stones.

Santa Anita Handicap runners could still turn back to nine furlongs in the Oaklawn Handicap or Charles Town Classic. Accordingly, The Stronach Group might consider expense reimbursements to the connections of any win or place finisher in a graded stakes at any Stronach track to run back in any of their subsequent Grade 1 events.

We realize tracks will continue to schedule races in their own best interests and those of the local horsemen who support them. This is as it should be.

But synergistic scheduling that benefits the entire sport would reflect well on those that make racing as good as it can get, thus attracting the best horses possible in subsequent years. Fans and bettors would love it, too. All-for-one is good-for-all.

Written by Indulto

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