Saturday, June 14, 2014
Coburn, Espinoza Easy Prey for Critics
LOS ANGELES, June 9, 2014--To many observing the 2014 Triple Crown series, the Belmont Stakes wound up a bigger and better show than the Kentucky Derby, and a more rewarding handicapping challenge to boot.
Sadly, another Crown desired was another Crown denied, and sportsmanship took a hit in the process.
Indeed the owners of California Chrome had been providing a view of racing as the Sport of Peasants, but the initial pleasantry was replaced by futility and frustration that fueled a co-owner's unflattering allegations that the fight wasn't a fair one.
Steve Coburn's remarks set a new standard for the “sore loser,” eclipsing the shock value of Barry Irwin's “sore winner” statement following Animal Kingdom's Derby victory.
And to think it took the “fickle finger of fate” to expose this side of Coburn by failing to follow the script of phenomenally good fortune to which he felt entitled.
Coburn has since apologized but the damage to racing, to the Chrome fan experience, and to the remaining connections, has been done. Still, his message was not without merit.
Chrome's conquerors all had four or five weeks rest going compared to the Preakness winner’s three. It was also his third race in five weeks and fourth in nine weeks.
Coburn's demand that only horses that ran in the first two legs of the Triple Crown should qualify for the third and final one is unworkable and more than unreasonable.
Only 14 of 20 Derby runners could contest the Preakness, anyway, and how many that already had run three races in five or six weeks could add a fourth run over an eight or nine week period without suffering possibly debilitating long term effects?
If there is no move to alter spacing between legs AND provide a bonus for horses participating in all legs, answer possibility might be to restrict the Belmont to three-year-olds that have previously run at least twice in graded stakes, particularly at 9 furlongs during a five-week interval beginning Kentucky Oaks Day.
Rachel Alexandra and Rags to Riches would have fit that scenario, the latter beating Curlin. (Now there's a breeding match worth exploring)!
The NYRA could move the Dwyer to the Sunday following the Derby and the Peter Pan to the Sunday after the Preakness, thereby creating tow qualifying paths to the Belmont Stakes that provides a race over the track in addition to a bonus for participation.
The problem is that each Belmont starter this year ran on Lasix which dehydrates them and requires longer rest between starts to reach a suitable energy level.
We can keep running these amazing animals into the ground to satisfy trainers—as opposed to horsemen--but only a hypocrite would claim they were doing what's best for the horse.
The Coburn debacle didn't deter the jockey’s critics from making their self-appointed rounds. In my opinion the race was lost when ‘Chrome’ veered sharply out of the starting gate and slammed severely into Matterhorn, suffering a minor injury in the process.
But many others disagreed, blaming double Triple-Crown-losing rider Victor Espinoza, a dubious distinction he shares with Kent Desormeaux.
Andy Beyer, stating nothing we haven’t heard before
said that Espinoza committed a “gross tactical error.”
While his justification for that conclusion was certainly entertaining, it was hardly enlightening given the brutal bumping at the break and Espinoza’s own description that the colt was “empty,” also acting uncharacteristically quiet in the paddock by several trusted sources.
Beyer's buddy and fellow handicapping author, Steve Davidowitz
, less elegantly echoed that assessment with “... it can be argued that Espinoza strategically contributed to the horse's defeat.” Maybe, maybe not.
More objective opinions
were available from ex-jockey Eddie Delahoussaye and trainer Bob Baffert, whose triple Triple-Crown-misses (including one each with both Espinoza and Desormeaux) possesses a truer understanding of what's involved.
Baffert absolved Espinoza’s tactics, saying “[rival jockeys] were going to get him; they were going to go after him,” he said. “I think the horse didn’t respond [because] he didn’t have the horse. That’s why the Triple Crown is so hard; it wears on the horse. The horse was a little flat, but you don’t know that [until the race starts].”'
Said Delahoussaye, “...I know when a horse gets cut like he did at the beginning of the race, because of the adrenalin they don’t feel it as much. But once they start relaxing, they’ll feel it. It was just bad racing luck. Victor couldn’t have done anything.”
Conversely, money-rider par excellence Joel Rosario not only won the Belmont, but also the 12-furlong Brooklyn that same day. John Velazquez (who many consider “the ultimate jockey change”) replaced Rosario on Ride on Curlin but he performed as if he were totally exhausted and finished last.
Hopefully, all will have other opportunities to succeed in the Triple Crown’s final leg, and that includes bettors and critics.
Written by Indulto
Friday, May 30, 2014
Whales Disproportionately Dictate Betting Policy
LOS ANGELES, CA, May 29, 2014—Recreational bettors and industry management were both taught an important lesson last Sunday when a smart, well-heeled horseplayer boosted the entire Gulfstream Rainbow Six pool of $6,678,939 while other whales were simply watching and waiting.
Dan Borislow, previously on racing fan radar as the owner of Toccet, told the Daily Racing Form
'he spent $15,206.40 to win the jackpot. He fashioned two nearly identical tickets using the "all" button in five of the Rainbow Six races. He played four horses in the sixth race, two on each ticket, …' costing $7,603.20 apiece for a payoff exceeding 438-1.
Luck was also on his side, however, as despite having the last race covered, his unique-ticket winner barely beat a carryover-preserving 2nd place finisher by a nostril.
Borislow also provided several noteworthy revelations:
"I've probably played the Rainbow Six about six or seven times over the past several months ..."
"I handicapped the races and liked one race in particular, the sixth. When I made out the original ticket, it cost $3,600. So instead of playing a regular ticket, I just decided to take an all in the five other races."
"I’ve probably been one of the bigger horse bettors in the country over the last 15 years."
"I guess if you work at something long enough, eventually you should get it right."
Inferring from the above that seven prior "regular" plays hadn't hit to the cumulative tune of $25,000, elevating his play by a factor of five for the last chance prior to a mandatory payout actually makes a lot of sense for someone playing with monopoly money. I wonder how long it will take Borislow to churn those multiple millions?
What is assumed but hasn't been revealed is whether a portion of those bets were being returned as rebates, which could have amounted to about $4,000 from all that action from subsidized bettors. What should be clear now, though, is that – with rare exceptions – this wager is simply a funnel for transferring funds from the pockets of small bankroll bettors into those with comparatively huge bankrolls.
A truly equitable People's Pick Six might have a 10-20 cent minimum, no consolations, and a seeded jackpot to start. Takeout should be low enough to preclude rebating. Management might consider a mandatory payout the first Saturday after the jackpot reaches $1,000,000.
What surprised me were all the negative comments that followed the announcement of this one-man betting coup. It takes one hell of a handicapper to accurately predict chaos and it takes one hell of a horseplayer to manage it once identified. Players like Borislow have the wherewithal to do it all on their own; most need partners.
The industry is missing the boat by not enabling partnerships outside the "Players Pool" that can distribute tax liability to individuals based on their specific contribution to the total wager. This is another way to level the playing field for small bankroll bettors while reaping the benefit of the resulting higher collective handle.
Does anybody think Borislow is any less deserving of accolades than the ultimate little guy, Graham Stone, who had the lone winning combination for the 2003 Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six
with an $8 ticket?
Coming on the heels of the "Fix Six" scandal of 2002, Stone was forced to undergo vetting by Breeders’ Cup to establish the legitimacy of his play (and perhaps prove he wasn't a time traveler). Stone played the three Richard Mandella-trained winners, with a horse ridden by Jerry Bailey, with a pick by Andy Beyer, and a selection of his own.
I can't knock any strategy that utilizes knowledge of the game -- especially one proven to have worked -- but I suspect very few others could apply it successfully. If Gulfstream doesn't make some changes, however, Borislow clones will be cropping up with regularity.
That would be good for Gulfstream, a track that purports to be customer friendly but, like any American track, or corporation for that matter, is a slave to the bottom line. As such, it’s unreasonable to expect them to alienate their whales for the benefit of rank and file bettors.
I’ve noticed several comments that perhaps Gulfstream management should have funded two plays with all combinations on each of the final days leading up to the mandatory payout in order to guarantee it wouldn't be hit ahead of time.
Also, some opined that Borislow's score was proof of management's integrity, but how could we know whether or not such fraudulent pool manipulation did occur?
Greater transparency in this regard should augment earlier reforms driven by the Rainbow Six. Ideally, all states should uniformly outlaw such practice with very serious consequences for offenders.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is already vetting cashers of tickets using "ALL" in more than three legs in order to discourage money laundering. If so, they should also be checking possible jackpot payout avoidance.
I am not among those for whom the missed opportunity for attacking the long-awaited mandatory payout left a bad taste. As far as I'm concerned, Borislaw performed a public service in exposing yet another weakness in a wager that some thought had the potential to create a holiday on which the action world would focus its gaze on horse racing.
Written by Indulto
Monday, May 19, 2014
On Making the Triple Crown Even Better
LOS ANGELES, May 18, 2014—Along with considerably more competition than he faced in the Preakness with fresh and ready-to-pounce rivals in the June 7 Belmont Stakes, California Chrome's destiny awaits him in New York, pending stewards’ approval on whether he will be permitted to race with his customary nasal strip.
[Ed. note] On the recommendation of Dr. Scott Palmer, the NYRA unanimously agreed to allow the colt to race with a nasal strip in the Belmont Stakes. All Thoroughbreds in New York State no longer will be banned from wearing the apparatus that aids a horse to breathe. Palmer said that "it is not performance enhancing."
If permitted to start, NYRA will get its coveted Triple Crown attempt after all. The new cast assembled to derail Chrome’s bid for superstardom over the weekend was particularly underwhelming this year as 16 of the 19 Derby runners said no to Maryland’s hospitality.
Parenthetically, four of Chrome’s 18 Derby rivals were trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher’s Preakness pass-over has become the rule rather than the exception, but he is not alone in this thinking.
With the Tonalist unable to make into the Louisville starting gate, for example, Christophe Clement never gave the Preakness a second thought. Having the Belmont as the ultimate goal, Clement pragmatically chose lesser rivals, an extra week’s rest, and a race over the track rather than run in the Triple Crown’s second leg.
Without change, this example and others like it will continue to be the rule, not the exception, and the series will not be all that it can be in the future. No sport in the modern era has resisted schedule change like racing has.
This is not a new problem for Pimlico or the modern Triple Crown series. Even raising the purse didn’t change things dramatically. And Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, spoke up and said he would approach the other.
Triple Crown tracks to discuss what has become the game’s spacing issues.
I was unfamiliar with Chuckas before his interview with John Scheinman but his plan for "spreading out" the Triple Crown certainly had a familiar ring. Wrote Scheinman: "Blood Horse
"Chuckas said he will work toward a schedule that has the Kentucky Derby retain its position on the first Saturday in May, while the Preakness would be moved to the first weekend in June and the Belmont Stakes to the first weekend in July."
One might have first read about a similar proposal here at HRI in 2009 when executive editor John Pricci wrote in "http://www.horseraceinsider.com/On-The-Line/comments/06122009-altering-triple-crown-schedule-gaining-momentum/#comments"
target="_new">this blog, "a Triple Crown of longer duration not only better serves the horse but makes promotional sense by keeping the series alive longer. The distances and venues should remain the same …
“The Kentucky Derby has secured its traditional place on the first Saturday in May… We originally proposed that the Preakness be run on the first Saturday in June. This makes it more likely that the Derby horses would run back in the Preakness, thus improving series continuity while raising the profile of racing’s glamour division with mainstream fans…
“A Memorial Day weekend [schedule], which would allow a minimum of 3-½ weeks between the first two legs--likely closer to four if that weekend stretches into the first Saturday in June…
“And what could be a more fitting conclusion to this uniquely American series than a Belmont Stakes on the 4th of July…?
“Wouldn’t the accomplishment be even greater if the Derby and/or Preakness winner had to defeat a larger number of contiguous rivals…?
“Find a sponsor and bring back a participation and winner’s bonus… Even mainstream media is getting into the act on this. ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde has adopted the Triple Crown holiday scenario …"
[Ed. Note: Forde wrote about it again this year].
Chukas's remarks followed those stated by Stuart Janney III a day or two earlier which were reported in the Baltimore Sun
"If Janney had his way, the Derby would take place the first Saturday in May as always but the Preakness would be moved back to Memorial Day weekend, and the Belmont would be a month after that, which would reflect a more normal running schedule for top 3-year-olds."
"I think it would help training patterns because trainers now are more comfortable giving horses a bit more time trying to produce what they would hope would be a peak effort," [Janney] said.
"And I don't think at this point they're comfortable running in the Preakness the way they have been in the past. What you are seeing again this year is that a lot of trainers just skip the Preakness and run the Belmont because they think they get an advantage having the horse rested for that period of time. Certainly, that's [Todd] Pletcher's strategy."
One might suspect this idea now could gain the support of Frank Stronach who has made a career out of thinking outside the box. It will be interesting to see whether the new NYRA and Team Cuomo are willing to cooperate.
Unfortunately, one can envision a scenario in which California Chrome comes through and becomes the long-awaited 12th horse in history to sweep the triad. How ironic would that be: a Triple Crown winner that could inhibit rather than inspire industry cooperation?
My own preference is for four weeks between legs; long enough to provide adequate rest but not too long to seriously impact the national schedule in an overly-dramatic fashion.
In my view, a Memorial Day-Independence Day Triple Crown schedule would not only weaken focus on the proceedings but would also remove two of racing's prime exposure opportunities for other divisions, particularly the handicap division with familiar names from prior years' Triple Crown events.
Racing needs more big days to promote itself, not fewer. How ironic, too, that the new $8 million Belmont Stakes day schedule denies promotional opportunities on other big Belmont Saturdays.
Given California Chrome’s quest, the storied Metropolitan Mile and the Race of the Year, featuring the Breeders’ Cup Distaff rematch among champion Beholder vs Princess of Sylmar vs Close Hatches are already mainstream media afterthoughts. Attractions have become distractions.
An aside: Perhaps someday there will be a national graded stakes schedule that provides optimal exposure of past and younger equine stars with optimal spacing between divisional events. Imagine the best facing the best in full fields on a regular basis. What a concept.
Presently, the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup allow for big days at a single venue are the best things racing has. But optimizing big days that comprise big races at multiple venues could provide shared promotional opportunities and costs by offering affordably-low-takeout horizontals such as a 50-Cent National Pick 5.
But for something like that to occur, confrontation and consuming self-interest would have to give way to cooperation and compromise, admittedly a very tall order. A sensible lengthening of the Triple Crown, making the series stronger, not weaker, would be an excellent place to start.
Written by Indulto