"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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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Money Maker Moreno and Other Memories

Los Angeles, April 22, 2015--Although I'm usually turned off when owners name their horses after themselves, the name of last year's Whitney winner never bothered me because it always reminds me of the lovely and talented Rita Moreno, of whom I'm a big fan.

So when Moreno the horse won the Charles Town Classic, I had a vision of Moreno the actress/dancer doing the Charleston. Absent the real thing, I offer HRI readers this video which definitely captured the experience.

What amazes me about Moreno is the frequency with which he has been underrated only to finish first or second, often rewarding his supporters with inflated vertical exotic payoffs.

That might not have occurred last Saturday had the over-hyped Shared Belief been able to apply his ability. It was unfortunate racing luck that the 3-10 favorite sustained an injury, a little more serious than was originally believed.

It wasn't the emotional drain many associate with Bernardini's Preakness victory at Barbaro's tragic expense, but rather was a ringing reminder that races are lost when least expected, the reasons too numerous to count.

There is no such thing as a sure thing, obviously. Even Secretariat had his issues, with the letter “W,” as in Wood, Whitney and Woodward.

My approach, then, is try to be prepared for the unexpected while attempting to leverage the expected. It's great when it works out, but it can be a long way between waterholes.

What I wasn't prepared for on Saturday was the unannounced $2.00 minimum on tickets containing dime super combinations, which HRI’s executive editor referenced earlier this week.

When I key multiple horses on top, doing so well beforehand, I usually break the ticket down into multiple tickets with one key so that I can cancel easily later if I change my mind, without having to resubmit a revised play just before post time.

Slow late-wagering response on the Internet often makes it impossible to revise or submit saved wagers. (Can we have more bandwidth, please)!

When a $1.80 bet was refused, I assumed Dime Supers weren't available, just like 50-Cent Trifectas. I didn't have time to pursue the matter further so I just played the top two slots as exactas.

Parenthetically, I wound up hitting two $1.00 Exactas because I also make standard saver-exacta boxes of the best previous race survivors.

Moreno helped foil a favorite for me again, just as he did when finishing second in the 2013 Travers. Since that race, he has rewarded his backers from both sides of the exacta with some regularity – often when he competed against a rival previously:

$156.50 - Travers - Will Take Charge-Moreno (Jim Dandy)
$10.50 - PA Derby - Will Take Charge-Moreno (Travers)
$191.25 - Suburban – Zivo-Moreno
$78.75 - Whitney – Moreno-Itsmyluckyday
$11.40 - Woodward – Itsmyluckyday-Moreno (Whitney)
$5.40 - Santa Anita Handicap – Shared Belief-Moreno (BC Classic)
$165.90 - Charles Town Classic – Moreno-Imperative (Santa Anita H’cap)

Whereas Dime Supers were my primary weapon last year, I've been frustrated this year by an increasing number of situations where I had the top two finishers but wound up with third and fourth reversed, using ALL on the 4th line.

But I'll always wonder whether--if I thought I could have--I would have expanded that $6.00 exacta box into a Dime Super play using ALL in the two bottom slots for $25.20, pulling off a $1,900.00 score.

Instead, I'll have to settle for learning what it is about Charles Town that makes Imperative want to dance.

Closing Down Your Golden Gate; NoCal Racing There It Goes

When I last visited Golden Gate Fields in the mid-1970s, I saw Diabolo beat eventual Belmont winner Avatar in the California Derby. That’s when the race had more significance than it has today.

The track was built on a landfill in the San Francisco Bay and there were more seagulls than horseplayers in attendance those days. Since, the quality of Northern California racing, along with interest in it, has eroded, a process that began even prior to the closing of Bay Meadows.

One could argue that the remainder of the stakes schedule isn't likely to attract higher-profile SoCal horses to any greater extent than does California Racing Fairs.

The last vestige of major league racing there now is the Grade III El Camino Derby because of its inclusion among qualifying Kentucky Derby preps.

So it was hardly surprising when representatives of The Stronach Group announced they were considering closing the track at a recent meeting of the California Horse Racing Board.

What precipitated the announcement was TSG's desire to deny racing dates to Stockton which no longer hosts a County Fair.

Golden Gate loses money because its racing product can't attract enough handle to be profitable, either on-track or off. If Jerry Hollendorfer decided to relocate his stable elsewhere, they might have to shut racing down immediately.

The main incentive to close, however, like Hollywood Park’s back in the day, is the value of the location of the land occupied by the track.

It sure sounds as if the Stronach Squeeze placed on Calder is about to head west. Maybe the seagulls will save NoCal racing from a horde of locusts. It will certainly require a higher power than the CHRB.

Written by Indulto

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Will Fortune Finally Smile on Advocate Upstart Violette?

Though April fouls
Have come your way
You've got the points
To run in May

So keep campaigning
And have no regrets
Because Upstart will start
For horseman Violette

LOS ANGELES, April 9, 2015--New York Thoroughbred Horsemen Association President, New York Racing Association Board member, and 2015 Kentucky Derby contender-qualifying trainer, Rick Violette, Jr., is leaving the Sunshine State – and its apparent disdain for snowbirding New Yorkers – as potentially a newly-minted horseplayer advocate.

It may turn out that horseplayer advocate is a be too optimistic, but Violette's apparent concern for racing's customers was quoted in a text to HRI’s executive editor John Pricci and later at Daily Racing Form: '"It's disappointing that as hard as [president] Tim Ritvo and [general manager] P.J. Campo are working to raise the standard of Gulfstream racing they will not be successful as long as they have the incompetence in the judge's stand and the maintenance of their racetrack," Violette said. "Nobody should feel confident with those people overseeing the racing product, especially the horse player."'

While Violette's remarks in the wake of a double dose of disqualification dispensing from both sides of the same offense may not merit induction into the Sportsman’s Hall of Shame, they do speak for having greater transparency and competency in the future.

When I wondered why Upstart had not been pointed for the Wood Memorial instead of the Florida Derby, considering he had been bred in New York and was being trained by such a visibly well-connected conditioner, it was suggested that getting the horse qualified with five weeks rest going into the Triple Crown series was putting the horse ahead of politics.

Perhaps, but the last TC winners did so on three weeks rest or less. Seattle Slew wintered in Florida and returned North to win the Wood only two weeks away from the Derby, after winning the Flamingo at Hialeah 14 days earlier. Like Secretariat, he swept all TC legs over a 5-week period after two weeks rest.

Big Red’s three preps were all in New York, including a loss in the Wood. Affirmed, who wintered in California, won his Crown following his victory in the Hollywood Derby three weeks earlier, after winning the Santa Anita Derby 14 days before.

I acknowledge this is not the 1970s, but the Wood still provides four weeks rest; which is all Upstart needed between the Holy Bull, which he won, and the Fountain of Youth, in which he finished first. Interestingly, Upstart won his first two races as a 2-year-old within a 10-day period, even if that was meant to be his foundation going into the Champagne later in the fall.

Some might consider it hypocritical for the highest-profile advocate of winter racing in New York to be training his Derby contender in more hospitable weather, even if excusable under such exceptional circumstances.

And recall that in 2014 Violette did take the NY-bred Samraat through Aqueduct's Withers-Gotham-Wood sequence to the Derby, where he was nosed-out for fourth by Wicked Strong, who also ended Samraat's unbeaten streak in the Wood. The man obviously knows something about consistency.

It takes a cold heart to fault him for pursuing a path less chilling.

Some might regard any failure to continue helping the home team present the largest, most competitive field possible for one of its most important events under more temperate conditions as a lapse in loyalty. For those so inclined, they must be enjoying the fact he was frozen out of first in two big spots.

New York loyalists look forward to Upstart's return for the Belmont Stakes. Indeed, the local boy could still become a conquering hero in addition to being a wandering one.

The chances of any horse winning the Triple Crown in 2015 seem very slim as the competition appears to be stronger among this year's sophomores than in recent years but Upstart still is as likely a candidate as any of his rivals.

Like the last three Triple Crown winners, his foundation includes the Champagne. Like Affirmed, he finished second in the Champagne and then had one more start as a 2-year-old before wintering in warmer climes.

The surface at Gulfstream this year has tested stamina rather than support speed. Upstart has run well whenever and wherever he has been asked to perform, and he might have prevailed each time with fewer obstacles to overcome. It would help if his "what doesn't kill me only makes me stronger" quality were better balanced against his penchant for attracting adversity.

May fortune finally smile upon him when post positions are drawn in Kentucky. Both man and beast have at least that much coming.

Written by Indulto

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Friday, March 20, 2015

A Quixotic Quest for Quality via Quantity

LOS ANGELES, March 19, 2015--The strategy of saturating selected Saturdays with graded stakes seems to be gaining strength within several racetrack ownership domains.

It appears to be succeeding in increasing the sport's exposure as well as the handle generated on those dates, but it remains to be seen whether interest in betting on thoroughbred races has actually been expanded in the process--and if total overall handle has increased as a result.

Santa Anita Handicap day has traditionally been an exercise in stakes-stacking but with somewhat static results. Approximately 5,000 more people came out to watch Shared Belief demolish a less than stellar field in the Santa Anita Handicap last Saturday than came to see him face off with California Chrome in the San Antonio Handicap four weeks earlier.

But that was still almost 15,000 fewer than the 40,810 who showed up on opening day to see him narrowly defeat an unheralded band of sprinters in the Malibu.

However, this was about 1,000 less than the 27,121 at last year's Big Cap for the anticipated rematch between Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge that turned out to be Game On Dude's finale, too. Both year's all-sources handle was just under $15 million.

This year's festivities featured replays of some famous renewals of the track's signature race, including a colorized version of Seabiscuit's victory over Kayak II. That film documented just how popular racing was in those days with displays of overflowing attendance.

One could conclude from all this that stacking stakes may not be as important as stocking them with competition. The more recent redistribution of racing product wealth is not being conducted cooperatively across competing management spheres which is, of course, not virgin territory.

The resultant reduction in practical opportunities for individual horses to participate in Eclipse Award-determining events has manifested itself once again. The Met Mile is reported Shared Belief's next Grade 1 target which comes three months after Big Cap.

With the 7-furlong Carter and the 10-furlong Dubai World Cup the only G1 options in between, he is expected to prep in the 9-furlong G2 Oaklawn Handicap, although Jerry Hollendorfer walked back that possibility this week. So we shall see.

This situation raises the visibility of some already questionably-placed Grade 1 races. Perhaps the most blatant waste of G1 status is the running of the Malibu at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, rather than at least six days later in the following year when it could exert some influence on divisional championships for older horses and/or sprinters.

Absent the Strub series it once anchored, why continue burying it out of sight of Eclipse voters?

The Hollywood Derby might have also been insignificant in 2014 had California Chrome's connections not used it to experiment with their colt on grass and try to firm up his claim on three-year-old divisional honors; fortunately for them, the strategy worked.

And speaking of the Metropolitan Handicap, moving it to Belmont Day still defies logic for so many. The Met Mile once matched sprinters with routers to provide a springboard from the G1 Carter to the 9-furlong G1 Stephen Foster and/or 10-furlong G2 Suburban Handicaps.

In one fell swoop, NYRA Vice President of Racing Martin Panza eliminated options for Met starters to also participate in the Belmont, Brooklyn, and Stephen Foster. Isn't a champion who raced at multiple venues and distances better for the sport?

The Brooklyn is a natural for a face-off between Belmont Stakes winners. It could join the Breeders' Cup prep path between the Travers and the Classic. Prepping at 12 furlongs for a big purse at 10 furlongs has its precedent, albeit not ideal preparation; Del Mar offers the longer Cougar II Handicap in advance of the Pacific Classic.

That path was successful for synthetic specialist Richard's Kid in successive years.

Remaining outside the box, perhaps the Brooklyn could rematch Breeders’ Cup Classic routers on Thanksgiving Saturday.

Either way, NYRA could offer a variable purse depending on the combined presence of multiple Belmont winners, just like it attracts Breeders’ Cup milers and sprinters to the Cigar Mile.

One might expect the popularity of the Triple Crown for three-year-olds to spawn similar series in other divisions.

Without bonuses, however, there is little incentive to commit to someone else's schedule. Jay Hovdey recently referred to bonuses as a “boondoggle” because winners are required to sweep a series in order to collect.

Hovdey wasn't wrong, especially if the Alysheba-Bet Twice fiasco is the barometer..

Written by Indulto

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