"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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Sunday, October 29, 2017

With Win and You’re In, More Is Better

For the benefit of the sport and its loyal fans, should the “Win and You’re In” concept for major events become a “Win TWICE and You’re In” qualifying model?

The reason for this is simple: Multiple prep winners are not only more likely to win the main event and subsequent important races should enjoy a larger audience.

Further, it would avoid rewarding horses that prove to be one-hit wonders which, depending on circumstances, made their bones against smaller and/or vastly weaker competition.

As stated above, horses that have successfully run through a tougher gamut would generate wider fan recognition and popularity in the process--with a more likely chance that legitimate rivalries could be created.

As it stands now, horsemen have myriad choices of preps, which generally result in beating the weakest competition for the biggest purses.

Admittedly, as a wishful owner, the path of least resistance for the big money is extremely tempting for its pragmatism. But I’m a player, not a PLAYER.

I believe a tougher requirement would improve the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, especially with respect to the Classic. So, what to do about the Challenge series for each division that guarantees a slot in the starting gate and pays for entry fees with travel stipends that makes it better for fans and bettors?

I have no argument with recruiting foreign runners for turf routes off single wins because it’s the only way to attract world-class competition in those divisions. But that doesn’t necessarily apply to the Classic, Distaff or Dirt Mile.

The world’s best dirt horses already compete on this continent. Raising the bar to multiple wins (W2AYI), would encourage the owners of more horses to compete more often. The most accomplished runners would be rewarded accordingly.

The selected events have varied, but certain domestic races have served as worthy staples for the Breeders' Cup Challenge, races such as the Stephen Foster, Haskell, Whitney, Pacific Classic, Awesome Again and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

In recent years, the Haskell for three-year-olds has produced two Classic winners; American Pharoah in 2015 and Bayern in 2014. In 2016, Arrogate became the third straight Classic winner for trainer Bob Baffert, but the Travers for 3YOs that he won in legendary fashion wasn’t part of the Challenge series.

A prior staple, the Hollywood Gold Cup, now the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, was dropped for 2017 after no winner of that race ever won the Classic as a Challenge qualifier. The Pacific Classic might one day follow in its footsteps for the same reason. Ponder that.

Only eight horses ran in the 2017 Foster and only seven started in the remaining four Classic Challenge races. Does a single victory in a small field truly merit a free pass to a $6 million payday?

Last year, Arrogate ended the BC Challenge’s four-year streak of producing Classic winners but had to pay his own way again this year after finishing second to stablemate Connected in the Pacific Classic.

And this despite the former’s stellar victories in the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, both of which should be part of an expanded Classic Challenge series that would require two wins for a 100% discount on entry fees and travel stipends. (A single win might still deserve a lesser discount).

The Kentucky Derby uses 35 domestic and 12 foreign races to qualify a 20-horse field. A Breeders’ Cup prep series might require almost as many to qualify 14 starters due to the attrition of three-year-olds that get worn out on the Triple Crown trail.

Using the top four finishers in each Classic Division G1 and G2 race since the 2016 BCC, and then the top four in each stakes contested by each of those, I compiled grids that included 40 potential candidates for such a series.

Only 10 of 40 potential preps had at least 10 starters; seven races had 8 or 9, and 23 preps had 7 or fewer starters. W2AYI could be just the tonic to populate those smaller fields.

Twelve of the top 51 domestic dirt specialists were pre-entered in the 2017 Classic including Gun Runner, Collected, Mubtaahij, and Diversity, who all got free passes. Arguably more accomplished rivals West Coast and Arrogate did not.

And what do we make of two Aidan O’Brien Europeans lacking actual dirt form?

Once horsemen adjust their sights on winning multiple qualifiers, not only is it likely that an entire field of 14 worthy starters would all be significant winners but conceivably multiple ones as well.

Imagine trying to handicap a field with that amount of quality, with its excellent blend of field size and betability?

Written by Indulto

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