Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Honoring Easy Goer

(CHICAGO, IL – June 16, 2010) If you’ve been keeping track of where Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are headed, you’ll note two upcoming races at Saratoga that have captured the imagination of horse racing fans who wish that the two superstars would meet.

One is the 1-1/8 mile Ruffian Handicap on August 1 that is named after the ill-fated filly that died in a match race at Belmont. The other is the 1-1/4 Personal Ensign Stakes on August 29 that is named after the undefeated winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

NYRA has named many of its most important stakes races after historic horses. Among those of note are the Man O’ War, Sword Dancer, Forego, Kelso and Cigar. This year, albeit just a $75,000 purse, the Curlin Stakes, named after a colt that raced five times and won only three times in the State, will be run for the first time.

Given these circumstances, why isn’t there a graded stakes race named after Easy Goer? Woodbine waited decades before honoring Northern Dancer, Canada’s greatest runner, with a race. Horse racing has never seen a horse as accomplished in competition at New York tracks as the son of Alydar. It’s Easy Goer’s turn now.

Easy Goer was defeated only once in 15 starts on Empire State soil. That loss came in the Metropolitan Handicap against the eventual Eclipse Award-winning Horse of Year Criminal Type and the crack sprinter Housebuster. He raced to nine Grade 1 victories at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga and won the Whitney Handicap and Travers Stakes in back-to-back starts as a 3-year-old. That’s enough to be remembered, wouldn’t you imagine?

Written by Vic Zast

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Kevin A. Burke’s “Comment of the Week”

The following is a complete reading of the comment submitted by Kevin A. Burke to last week's column. You can read all the comments written last week by accessing "Counting on a Skyscraper, the Belmont Comes Up Short" under the section titled "Most recent entries" at the right-hand side of any of Vic Zast's columns.

There are some changes that need to be addressed by NYRA before the next Triple Crown Series / Belmont Stakes is upon us:

# 1- Eliminate the Detention Barn.
Trainer Nick Zito stated after the race;
“He (Ice Box) was ready to go the last couple of days. But I guess he left his race somewhere”.

Mr. Zito is to politically astute to risk retribution from NYRA in placing blame on the prop they have in place, (the Detention Barn). He also has the class to not offer up excuses after
a race. His meaning though is obvious. The truth of the issue is that Ice Box was not the only horse on this day that left his race in the Detention Barn, affected adversely by this singular institution invented by NYRA.

The Detention Barn does nothing but harm to the horse. It does serve as a SOP to the uninformed that NYRA is proactive in controlling prerace drug abuse and/or prohibited actions by stable personnel. It does not work, post race Testing Barn Yes, Detention Barn No.

It is a very lucrative deal for the track vet. Only the track vet administers Lasix, (.85 cents worth of drug, at $20.00 a pop). You will never have the track vet complain about the extreme heat & humidity, the dusty bedding, the constant confusion and noise in strange surroundings, the repeated use of stalls by different horses every day, etc. All this and more is endured by the horse for six or more hours prior to race.

Much has been made of the fact that Drosselmyer and Fly Down had a race over the track which benefited both horses. I do not dispute that it was a help, even though the Big Sandy was a different track on these race days. The real advantage given to the horses was that both had to suffer the detention barn previously, and therefore were familiar with all it’s absurdity.

# 2- NYRA must join with Pimlico and Churchill in finding a sponsor for the Triple Crown Series. A monetary reward based on participation and placement in each of these races must be offered as an enticement for horses to compete in all three races. This is a Series. There might not be a Triple Crown Winner each year, but there can be a Series Win, Place, Show, Participation, reward.

# 3- Again NYRA, Pimlico, and Churchill must find one broadcast distribution outlet for the series. Continuity is important. They each have there race, but without the other, that is all they have, a race. Together is the series, and that is what gives it the importance. My suggestion is to just each split 33% apiece each race day, or 50% for the Race Day Track and 25% for the other two. (33% is the fairer deal to all).

# 4- NYRA needs to find a Theme Song that relates to the Belmont Stakes Day Experience. The publicity department must go to work on this now. They experimented, it didn’t work, fine. At least there was effort shown. Now go back to the drawing board, the idea was right, the result was wrong. Do not give up the idea, just find a solution that does work. There is a song out there.

Suggestion: A contest on original submissions might work. (It would draw attention both inside and outside the racing world). A music committee
could pick the top three to five songs which would then be placed on the NYRA website. Then
let the people vote. (Have some of the American Idol Winners Record and Sing the demonstration songs). Talk about generating some positive publicity. Hey, all of this could even help expand the fan base, it will not detract.

Well, there is my two cents for the moment, as always, enjoy your writing, thank you for enduring my own.

Written by Vic Zast

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Friday, June 11, 2010

BC to Avoid Competition that Arlington Can’t

(CHICAGO, IL – June 11, 2010) Arlington Park would be a good place to be today if you want to buy a horse. Eight of the nine races will be offering claiming possibilities. You could halter a runner for as little as $5000, and nobody interested in doing the same will be there to interfere with your intentions.

The concrete walls of Dick Duchossois’s massive grandstand will echo like an empty canyon this afternoon. There’s so much going on in the Windy City that going to the horse races – these horse races – will be last on the minds of Chicagoans.

Beginning at 9:00 am, there’s the televised first game of the World Cup soccer tournament. At 10:30 am, over one million people are expected to line the streets in the Loop for the Stanley Cup championship parade. At 1:05 pm, Randy Wells takes to the mound for the Cubs against the White Sox in the first of three inter-league games between the cross-town rivals. By the way, how do you think he’ll do after celebrating until 3:00 am in a bar with some Blackhawks?

Horse racing prospers in areas where there’s little else but horse racing to entertain folks. Perhaps that’s why the Breeders’ Cup will announce today that its end-of-year event will be scheduled for relatively quiet Louisville. Louisvilleans (is that what they call ‘em?) still think horse racing is major league sport and the places which make sense for staging the Breeders’ Cup aren’t available.

The choice of location is a mistake for several reasons. European participants won’t like that the track provides a home team advantage. Those lucky enough to be at Santa Anita the past two autumns won’t find balmy temperatures, majestic views and interesting things to do during their visit. The day (and a little of the previous night) will be all racing, no celebrities, no diversions – boring. But, at least, there won’t be anything else going on to compete for attention.

Written by Vic Zast

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Beginner’s Pluck

(Chicago, IL – June 4, 2010) The real-life character with the alias of Joel Thomas that is written about in the TrackWords column of May 17 entitled "Lessons of Weed Street" has struck again. He’s let ride $1000 of his $2600 in Triple Crown race winnings on tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes. A raw beginner, Thomas bet on only 20 horse races in his life before deciding to gamble $1000 on this year’s Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Thomas is once again employing his “hedge fund” philosophy in search of profits, a technique which one reader called “a sure-fire way to go broke.” Nevertheless, whatever happens Saturday, Thomas will be ahead at least $1600.

Here’s the slate of wagers he’s made at the Mud Bug Off-Track Betting parlor in Chicago:

$50 win bet on Make Music for Me and Game on Dude
$50 across the board bet on Interactif
$40 across the board bet on Make Music for Me, Drosselmeyer and Stay Put
$30 across the board bet on Stately Victor
$20 exacta box on Fly Down, Ice Box and First Dude
$15 exacta box on Ice Box, Stately Victor and First Dude
$15 exacta on Fly Down, Ice Box and Game on Dude

Written by Vic Zast

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to Bet a “Thou” on the Preakness

Preakness Factoids

In the last 37 years, 31 Preakness winners competed in the
Kentucky Derby (84%).
Horses that fit this profile this year are:
Super Saver (winner)
Paddy O’Prado (third)
Lookin at Lucky (sixth)
Dublin (seventh)
Jackson Bend (twelfth)

Fourteen of these 31 Preakness winners (45%) had won the Kentucky Derby. (38% of 37 total Preakness winners.) One horse fits this profile:
Super Saver

Seven of the last 13 Preakness winners won the Kentucky Derby (54%). But the previous eight Preakness winners did not win the Derby (Please note that several heavy favorites lost in upsets.) One horse fits this profile:
Super Saver

Seven of the last 13 Preakness exactas paid under $40 (54%). But five of the last eight Preakness exactas have paid more than $40 (62.5%). The last eight Preakness exactas paid:
2001 - $81.40
2002 - $327.00
2003 - $120.00
2004 - $24.60
2005 - $152.60
2006 - $171.60
2007 - $23.20
2008 – $36.30 (Note: exacta payout was reduced in value because 2-5 heavy favorite won; second place horse was 26-1 longshot)
2009 - $39.20

The average payout for last eight Preakness exactas was $122.00, suggesting that it makes sense to bet a couple of favorites with various longshots hoping to catch the longshot.

My “throw-out” horses with reason why:
Aikenite (still eligible for non-winners of one other than maiden)
Northern Giant (class deficiency)
Yawanna Twist (class deficiency)
Jackson Bend (should be a miler)

My “puzzled over these” horses:
First Dude (he looks on the improve, but might have distance limitations)
Dublin (gets nation’s best jockey, but this race might be too far for him)
Caracordato (his best racing might have occurred in Jan-March)
Schoolyard Dreams (wise guy horse, but no better than third…I think)

My “must include” horses:
Pleasant Prince (was nose shy of best Derby horse, Ice Box, in Fla. Derby)
Paddy O’Prado (ran credible third in the Derby despite troubled trip)

My “horses to beat”:
Super Saver (he had the perfect trip to win the Derby; can he get it again?)
Lookin at Lucky (was terribly unlucky in three losses; finished respectable sixth in the Derby despite horrendous trip)

Betting strategy: (The horses listed are not choices, just examples. Substitute your choices, as preferred.) Bet two or three horses to win, choosing one as your prime choice and the second as your backup (e.g. $200 win on Lookin at Lucky, $100 win on Super Saver); take a stab at a few low-cost trifectas using the two favorites with various longshots (e.g) $5 trifecta Lookin at Lucky, Super Saver with Aikenite, First Dude, Caracartado and Super Saver, Lookin at Lucky with Pleasant Prince, Dublin and Schoolyard Dreams; try two or three medium-priced longshots across the board – win, place and show (e.g. $20 win, place and show on Pleasant Prince; $20 win, place and show on First Dude); combine a couple favorites with longshots in exacta boxes (e.g. $20 exacta box on Super Saver, Lookin at Lucky and Schoolyard Dreams; $20 exacta box on Super Saver, Lookin at Lucky and Paddy O’Prado), try a few exacta boxes using only one favorite (e.g. $10 exacta boxes Lookin at Lucky, Paddy O’Prado and Dublin, $10 exacta boxes Super Saver, Pleasant Prince and First Dude), and then take a flyer with low-cost exactas using your first choice with crazy longshots (e.g. straight $5 exactas – Super Saver with Northern Giant, Lookin at Lucky with Aikenite, Paddy O’ Prado with Schoolyard Dreams, etc.).

Best advice:
Proceed at your own risk. I'm a guy who bets (and wins with) hunch bets.

Written by Vic Zast

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