Sunday, March 10, 2013
A Smile Is a Thin Disguise
LOS ANGELES, March 8, 2013--It appears there might be at least one prep race added to Churchill Down's list of Kentucky Derby qualifying events for 2014. If you're thinking it will be the Illinois Derby, think again!
With the recent release its 2013 stakes schedule, Calder Race Course announced that the ungraded Calder Derby would be moved from grass to dirt, from 8.5 to 9 furlongs, and from a purse of $100K to $250K.
It will be run a week earlier on April 6 - the same day as the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial. That was also the day the Grade III Illinois Derby used to be run before CDI eliminated them from the KY Derby Trail.
But wait - how can an ungraded stakes race be put on a par with these two traditional Grade I stalwarts? No problem - it's CDI, not the American Graded Stakes Committee, that determines the currency of eligibility; now distributed in points among the top four finishers in designated races.
And, despite its contraction of qualifying contests, CDI was careful to set a precedent by assigning 10 eligibility points to the winner of the ungraded, one-mile Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park, which is not a CDI property...yet.
If CDI wants to use one of its own properties to host a qualifier in stead of a rival organization's property, that's their prerogative. Nobody with a real shot to get into this year's Kentucky Derby is likely to run in the revised Calder event, but this move will prevent Hawthorne from reclaiming its abdicated slot. Machiavelli would have been proud!
Hawthorne could still fit the IL Derby into Arkansas Derby day the following week if CDI would let them back in.
What's more likely, however, is that CDI will attempt to get that date for Hawthorne rival, Arlington Park, Arlington opens this year on the day before KY Derby day, but has long had its eye on expanded spring dates.
The KY Derby is no longer just the gateway to the Triple Crown, CDI has become its gate keeper as well. It's been said that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."
With three CDI properties hosting preps worth 100 points to the winner, CDI would indeed realize its objective of being "in control of the Derby." Imagine if they decide to make those races invitational!
It appears the press is finally starting to look into the situation with this DRF column
by Marcus Hersch who called the omission of the IL Derby from the Derby points system "curious."
"Churchill Downs is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., as is Arlington, and Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois is CDI's largest shareholder. Duchossois and Arlington have steadfastly maintained they played no part in the Illinois Derby's exclusion from Churchill's new Road to the Kentucky Derby system. Carey professes to believe that version of events. Many, though, see the linkage as all too obvious, an effort to make Chicago a one-track town."
Hersch described Hawthorne president, Tim Carey's first reaction:
'Carey said when Churchill revealed its new system in June, it caught Hawthorne off guard. Carey's first call went to Duchossois, not Churchill." As soon as the thing was announced, I picked up the phone and called him," Carey said. "He said he was not aware of it. He said he had just found out about it himself. I took him at his word."'
Later, Hersch revealed a more convincing view of that relationship:
'... Arlington has regularly called into question Hawthorne's financial viability during annual racing dates awards meetings with the Illinois Racing Board. "Publicly they have said at hearings that they need us, and in the same breath, they try to put us out of business," Carey said.'
Regarding Carey's subsequent IL Derby purse hike and calendar switch, Hersch wrote:
"To some, those moves invite comparison to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Hawthorne's financial status has become tenuous."
"Hawthorne's response to the Illinois Derby has not gone unquestioned. Many Hawthorne-based horsemen scoff at the notion of a Preakness prep, suggesting the same horses would show up if $250,000 had been carved from the purse instead of added to it."
I have this vision of Tim Carey harmonizing the following with the Eagles:
“…My oh my, you sure know how to arrange things
You set it up so well with no appeal
On the other side of town a track is waiting
With location and dates no one could steal…”
= = = = =
I ran across two very interesting comments in response to
Jay Hovdey’s article
on the new Derby points system.
Comment by juliuso
What everyone seems to be missing with the new points system, is that this system will reward the most talented horses and trainers that are willing to take on an aggressive series of challenges before they even get to compete in the Big Race. Building a reputation as a 3 year old BEFORE reaching the big stage is good for the sport. This will expose more "great horses" as opposed to one hit wonders that got the perfect setup to wine one big race and then off to the breeding shed. There is no reason why a top class horse should not be getting 4-5 top class races under his/her belt as a 2 year old, and then 4-5 top class races as a 3 year old before going for the "classics".
What the sport needs is champion warriors, where fans can follow the progress and victories over many races, and where Superstars earn their stripes beating allcomers instead of vanquishing one field of runners on a good day.
Comment by Marshall Lowe in reply to juliuso
What YOU seem to be missing is that Churchill Downs Inc. is rewarding their tracks, punishing others and would, in fact, have eliminated many past dery winners. Also, how does this 'system' keep one-hit wonders out? Ever heard of King of David? Won the Ark Derby and finished up the track. How about Brilliant Speed (Blue Grass winner), or Midnight Interlude (Santa Anita Derby). Boy, these horses sure were warriors, weren't they? This point BS is just that, and I defy you to come up with a cogent explanation why it is not.
juliuso is very convincing, but the new system doesn't just retain the "Win-and-You're-In" component, it expands it. To promote his "Warrior" concept, there cannot be such a discrepancy in points among preps, and each starter should have to be competitive in more than one 3YO prep. In my opinion, points accumulated should inversely determine post position draw order, and a point minimum might help eliminate the obstacle presented by the inside post position.
Marshall Lowe’s counterexamples are too simplistic. Animal Kingdom got in based on a single race and won. Bodemeister got in the way King David did, and he might have been a Triple Crown winner under different circumstances. Sometimes it'll work and sometimes it won't.
Written by Indulto
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
‘A’ Is for Athlete
LOS ANGELES March 2, 2013—Were you aware that jockeys whose first names begin with “J” and “R” currently dominate the Sport of Kings in North America? Perusing the Equibase Jockey Standings the other day, I happened to notice that the first names of the top 6 ranked jockeys were Javier, John, Jose, Rafael, Rosie, and Joel.
Think that’s a coincidence? The 10 top jocks of 2012 were Ramon, Javier, John, Rafael, Joel, Jose, Julien, Rosie, Joseph, and Junior. In 2011, the top 6 were Ramon, John, Javier, Joel, Rafael, and Julien.
In 2010, Ramon led the way again over John and Joel, but the 4th slot was Garrett’s who previously beat out Ramon in 2009. Robby filled out the top 8 in 2010 and the top 9 in 2009 after Rajiv.
Whatever the initials, these are extraordinary pilots, not simply passengers.
“R” is for remarkable. Ramon Dominguez’s recent injury may have taken him out of this year’s running, but only after he led all jockeys in earnings for 3 straight years (2010-2012).
“G” is for great in the case of Garrett Gomez who actually topped the standings for 4 consecutive years (2006-2009), which is why he’s on the ballot for induction into racing’s Hall of Fame, in his first year of eligibility.
He should be a shoe-in -- a sure thing given his daunting display of character that showed him recovering from substance abuse to reach the pinnacle of his profession.
Still another “J,” Jerry Bailey, was 3rd in 2005, 5th in 2004, after also finishing on top 3 times in succession (2001-2003) following his 2nd place finish in 2000. This Hall-of-Fame rider also closed out his career strongly after struggling with alcoholism.
The foremost current “J” is Hall-of-Famer, John Velazquez, who finished first twice in a row (2004-2005). As Jockey Guild President, he led their recovery from the Gertmanian fleecing, yet he also faced public wrath and scrutiny for his controversial role in the Life At Ten (LAT) fiasco.
But JR is today’s most sought-after jockey – at least in the type of races he’s willing to ride. Unlike Ramon, for example, claiming races are seldom the source of earnings responsible for his ranking.
That Breeders’ Cup misstep involving LAT replaced Big Brown’s blown Belmont Stakes as the broadest bettor buster since Secretariat in stakes races starting with “W,” i.e., the Wood, Whitney, and Woodward.
That aggravatingly aborted Triple Crown attempt brings us to another Hall-of-Fame rider, Kent Desormeaux, who held the 3rd slot in 2008 and the 4th slot in 2009, but slipped to 15th in 2010, 52nd in 2011, 99th in 2012, and currently is 326th. A NY Times article documenting Kent’s battles with the breathalyzer is linked to from his own website.
The point here is that even the most successful jockeys have frequently had to overcome adversity beyond the expected risk to life and limb. Some have come back stronger than ever, and some continue to struggle. The Internet has eliminated struggling in private, while broadening the audience for public criticism.
Many whose on-track experiences were enhanced by Desormeaux’s dominance at Santa Anita during his heyday there remember an amazing athlete whose infectious smile always accompanied him on his way to the saddling area and then to the post parade.
Most of us are distressed if not depressed by the downward spiraling of his personal and professional lives, and are rooting for his recovery and career resurgence.
Riding at the current Gulfstream Park meet, he ranks 39th while John, Javier, and Joel round out the top 3. With 1 win in 57 starts, Kent’s name is seldom seen in Gulfstream results charts, although he did have as many as three mounts last Sunday and this Saturday.
Last Saturday, he rode twice, once for one-time benefactor, Bill Mott, but the duo finished last at 5-1. These days the mounts on Mott’s multiple stakes winners mostly go to Joel who seems to have also inherited Kent’s mounts from Dale Romans’ barn.
In an occurrence of the “There’s no situation so bad it can’t get worse” phenomenon, Kent did not travel to Fairgrounds for last Saturday’s Risen Star to be aboard again for the upset win by I’ve Struck a Nerve who is trained by his brother, Keith Desormeaux.
The question as to who decided that horse and jockey should part company after their 14-length loss in the LeComte, has so far been neither asked nor answered. It surely will be by Derby day.
It would be a terrible waste if Kent isn’t in the starting gate for the 2013 Run for the Roses. The three-time Derby-winning talent -- even if tainted by temperament and tragedy -- remains a threat to triumph in any Triple Crown event.
The proven ability to negotiate those particular 10 furlongs -- including last year’s close-up third on a horse whose only victories came on Polytrack – can’t be denied and shouldn’t be ignored.
Written by John Pricci
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
The Roaring Teens
LOS ANGELES, February 10, 2013--Ray Paulick Tweeted, "My old hometown Chicago is nation's #murdercapital w 42 killed in January. Meanwhile, it's illegal to make an ADW horseracing wager there."
Indeed, the impediments to horseplayer confidence within voting distance of the President's residence have set new precedents in 2013.
The crime against horseplayers is their inability to wager on-line because elected representatives failed to renew recently expired ADW legislation during the lame duck session.
It's not quite as bad as it is in Arizona where Internet wagering has already been mowed down by shady characters. However, like Arizona tracks, the Illinois tracks will benefit during this period from increased simulcasting host fees while there is no live racing in the state.
Land of Lincoln lawmakers do not have their crosshairs trained on horseplayers the way the California legislature does. But the Illinois Racing Board (IRB) did a California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) imitation when it allowed Hawthorne Race Course to steal $250K in purse money from its fall meet to try recover from the Illinois Derby mugging at the hands of Churchill Downs.
The crime of the century impacting Illinois racing actually took place in Kentucky. Recently the Chicago Tribune
reported, "Now that Churchill Downs has turned the Illinois Derby into a dead end street on its new Road to the Kentucky Derby series, Hawthorne Race Course is trying to remake it into a superhighway to the Preakness.
Hawthorne has increased the purse of the Chicago circuit's premier main track race for 3-year-olds from $500,000 to $750,000 and will run it April 20, two weeks before the Kentucky Derby and four weeks before the Preakness."
Hawthorne honcho, Tim Carey, said, "... we're looking to get sponsorship so we can increase the purse even more."
During its annual racing dates award meeting
back in September, the IRB shifted several hundred thousand dollars worth of simulcast host commissions from Arlington to Hawthorne. "... Carey testified to the IRB that additional money steered Hawthorne's direction could be used to boost the purse of the Illinois Derby to $750,000 or $1 million, but Carey said after the meeting that no specific plans had been formulated."
Hawthorne was granted 19 more such days (17 at Arlington's expense) as "...the Board appeared miffed at the decision of Churchill Downs to leave the Illinois Derby off Churchill's newly devised points system that qualifies horses for the Kentucky Derby..."
The decision to increase the IL Derby purse was supported by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, "but with a string attached: Hawthorne agreed to reduce purses at its fall meeting by an equal amount and put the money into daily purses at its ... spring meeting." But however they try to spin it, the $250K purse increase comes at the expense of the fall meeting.
I'm on record as being one of those offended by Churchill Down's decision to exclude the IL Derby as a KY Derby qualification race. It was a petty and unnecessary exception to an otherwise sensible strategy that encourages all starters to compete as three-year-olds in open races on dirt and synthetics at a mile and over. More importantly, it funnels most contenders' preparation into a period from 7 to 3 weeks prior to the main event; forcing them to face higher levels of competition in the process.
I believe that this type of purse increase is misuse of funds by Hawthorne. If they want to see a horse come out of the IL Derby and beat the KY Derby winner in the Preakness, then such a horse must actually start in the Preakness. The purse increase accomplishes nothing if nobody goes!
A better strategy might have been to use the money for bonuses (sponsor/insurance paid?) to each IL Derby starter who starts in Preakness, with further incentives for those finishing in the top three.
Even without the purse increase, the IL Derby would still be the most lucrative Preakness prep not called the KY Derby. A "mere" $250K increase wouldn't change that. One can understand Hawthorne's desire to derail the Triple Crown applecart this year, but it's just another example of how the industry cannot cooperate even in an endeavor that should unite it.
In a year that promises to send more competitive performers to the KY Derby, the odds against a horse coming out of the IL Derby winning the Preakness against several KY Derby qualified contestants would seem astronomical.
If Mr. Carey goes ahead with a flawed plan that throws good money after bad, it would effectively reward the vindictive CDI with a double dose of damage to the racing program at Hawthorne.
Written by Indulto