Monday, June 10, 2013
Chasing the Dream Is What Really Matters
ELMONT, NY, June 10, 2013—I don’t know why but at no point during the 2013 Triple Crown run did I experience some sense of urgency about how it would all turn out. I was content to allow it to wash over me.
I like 3-year-old racing for the excitement it brings to the sport, the good betting opportunities it affords, and the teachable moments about the process that helps to understand the contestants.
I like the fact that repetition and experience informs the process to better understand the practitioners themselves. I’ve trained hundreds of horses on this word processors over the years and never have lost a race.
I never won one, either, but I’m seldom in doubt. For some reason, But this Triple Crown season was different. It wasn’t gee whiz, wide-eyed business as usual.
But from the day after Orb’s Kentucky Derby to the day after Palace Malice’s Belmont Stakes, I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a Triple Crown chase more.
Then it hit me: This was about a Triple Crown won by people, with horses in a supporting role. It was a chase that looked promising for a while but once again did not produce an equine with true charisma, much less one for the ages.
After seeing how this year’s series was received, racing’s decline due to a perceived unpopularity with the public might have more to do with mainstream media apathy than the notion that horses have become irrelevant.
Every year, the Triple Crown, whether the quest is lost or won, is an event that celebrates a sport’s history, making it possible to revere the past the way sports fans embrace Ruth’s Yankees, Lombardi’s Packers, Russell’s Celtics or ‘Rocket’ Richard’s Canadiens.
What made this Triple Crown run so enjoyable for so many is because it celebrated all that came before, what it is now, and how it portends for the future.
Time’s baton was passed, from Derby to Preakness to Belmont, endlessly through time, from the steadfast Wheatley domain, to Triple Crown-dominant Calumet, to ground-breaking Dogwood, racing’s original syndicator.
The 2013 chase also celebrated horsemanship in all its disparate forms; from Kentucky-bred trainer indentured to a family dynasty to a renaissance trainer with special vision to forever turn a sport into big business, to a protégé that would take the original model and raise it to levels unknown.
Watching Shug McGaughey realize his dream and enjoy the entire process despite the disappointments that followed was to see a good man who gets it, that a Kentucky Derby victory is a blessing, more than enough to last a lifetime.
Seeing his rider, a young Joel Rosario win the two biggest prizes in the world in a span of five weeks, become one of the sport’s best human athletes was a revelation immersed in the knowledge that he’s still learning.
Watching Wayne Lukas, a revolutionary who forever changed the way the game is played break a record for Triple Crown victories lent historical perspective to the 2013 chase.
Watching 50-year-old Gary Stevens, out of the competitive saddle for seven years, put on a riding clinic to win the Triple Crown’s middle jewel then seeing him celebrate on the gallop-out befits a time capsule moment.
Watching Todd Pletcher, who has raised his mentor’s game several notches on his way to becoming the sport’s most prolific winner, tweak Palace Malice’s development with the skill of an old school master to turn a talented underachiever into a classic winner was the kind of moment fans can only hope to see again.
Seeing Mike Smith, no youngster himself, work out a perfect trip aboard a horse he helped run off to lose America’s Race decisively, only to return and guide that same horse to victory in the champion’s test.
Finally, enjoying Cot Campbell, the man who made it possible for 40 men to own one horse instead of the other way around, enjoy the moment, as he watched the fruits of his labor succeed was the stuff smiles are made of.
Every one of these 2013 Triple Crown winners are old enough, wise enough, and secure enough to know that what they achieved is a blessing that few people get to experience.
There was no Triple Crown to celebrate this year. But to see the process unfold and enjoy the satisfaction derived by some of the game’s best and brightest, will have to do until the next history maker comes along. Until then, what happened in the Triple Crown 2013 was plenty good enough.
Written by John Pricci
Monday, May 27, 2013
Horse of the Year Wise Dan Deserving of Higher Profile
SARATOGA SPRINGS, MAY 27, 2013—It must be a sign of elongating teeth that I cannot recall if it was the late, great Charles Hatton, or the late, great Joe Hirsch, who would rattle off a list of Thoroughbreds that made the running of a particular race especially memorable.
“The previous winners of [big race here] read like a roll of drums,” they would write. If either were alive today, some of the names they might drop in advance of the storied Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the Met Mile, would be as follows:
Kelso, Carry Back, Gun Bow, Buckpasser, Forego (a horse so nice he won it twice), as did Gulch.
And they might have followed those up with underappreciated Criminal Type, the brilliant Ghostzapper, and a pair of super-fast three-year-olds; Holy Bull and Conquistador Cielo--a winner of the Met Mile five days before stretching out his noted speed the mile and a half of the Belmont Stakes.
Well, there are no Derby-aged runners in the Memorial Day renewal and probably--no disrespect intended--only one, Flat Out, has won a true world class event, even if it only took place in Elmont.
And not even would this uber game seven-year-old—"hickory," as those legendary Daily Racing Form writers might have described him--gets racing hearts a-pumping.
Today’s race would have been a perfect spot for defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan to raise his sporting profile but, since he’s a gelding, his connections, primarily owner Morton Fink, thought only of long term big bucks.
Call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. It simply would be better for the industry if owners--who wouldn’t be invested if at first they couldn’t afford it--played the game as if it were a just that and not a business.
A reason not to would be fear of having their gallant gelding exposed as something less than--and there’s been no evidence that's true. It's only a little sad that he’s not treated like the real Horse of the Year deal. At the end of last year, there was talk of a higher profile for Wise Dan, even a 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic run.
Trainer Charlie LoPresti said he wanted to make amends for last year's unlucky Stephen Foster trip: "I would like to win that race," LoPresti recently told Blood Horse.com.
But then this: I'd like to win that race and then do everything I did last year and then make the decision if we get to the Breeders' Cup whether we go in the Mile or the Classic.”
Five days after Wise Dan won the Maker's 46 Mile in his 2013 debut on the grass, becoming the first horse in Keeneland history to win five graded stakes races, LoPresti confirmed that the Foster on Churchill Downs dirt would most likely be the next target. But after winning the Woodford Reserve, the Firecracker became the next target.
Bye-bye Stephen Foster; say hello to Dave, or Bernard Baruch.
For LoPresti and Fink, especially the 84-year-old owner, the successful brother act has been an embarrassment of homebred riches. In addition to Wise Dan, older half-sibling Successful Dan, a prominent handicap player himself, will take his famous kid brother’s place in the Foster.
Neither LoPresti nor Fink needed to run in the Met Mile. They can do as they please, and have, keeping the two separated, planning to get the money with Wise Dan by winning the same races he won last year while Successful Dan tests the waters in the Foster and Whitney, a race he was pointing toward last year until suffering a ligament injury. “We don’t want to have to run them against each other if we can help it,” LoPresti said.
“[Successful Dan] never has had a chance to run in one of these good races other than the Alysheba last year," the trainer continued. "He never got a chance to run in the Whitney [or] in any Breeders' Cup races. [But] right now he's good, and as long as Dr. Bramlage says 'OK'…"
"...Who knows, maybe we would toy with the Woodward at the end of [Saratoga] as a race for Wise Dan, but it all hinges on what Successful Dan does," Lopresti said. "I would love to have a chance to put one in the Classic and one in the grass race again, the Mile. That would be a good thing to have, two horses in the Breeders' Cup."
Wise Dan clinched Horse of the Year honors by winning the Mile and likely would repeat as best in show if he runs the lower profile table again--unless, of course, some three-year-old goes wild and runs his table, beating elders in the process.
The Horse of the Year didn’t need to run in the Met Mile, but easily could have. “Those two races took nothing out of him,” Lopresti said, referring to the Makers 46 Mile and Woodford Reserve.
All those 1s in the past performances look great but what’s more impressive are the names of the races alongside the running lines. That's what keeps the drum rolls beating.
A horse for two Breeders’ Cup races is a nice thing to have. But how much fun would it be to see brothers possibly finish 1-2 in the Classic? The chances of that happening are better than seeing siblings race against each other in some Classic to be named later.
If the horses are healthy, there's no good reason not to try. After all, weren't Kelso and Forego geldings, too?
Written by John Pricci
Saturday, May 04, 2013
Careful, Don’t Rip Those Futures Pool 1 Exacta Tickets
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 4, 2013--When longshot Golden Soul came roaring home for place behind the impressive Orb--and an equally impressive Joel Rosario and Shug McGaughey--Pool 1 Futures players were witnessing an All Others-All Others Futures exacta. Neither Orb nor Golden Soul were among the 23 listed 3-year-olds.
So how would the payoff be determined? Has there ever been a 24-24 exacta? Of course, the answer is no, so this sent us to the posted rules which, regarding this issue, are as follows:
The Kentucky Derby/Oaks Futures Exacta described herein is to be conducted consistent with established and approved Official Rules for the Derby and Oaks Futures Wager. Futures pools are distinguished by the general characteristic that selections of (wagers on) runners which for any reason are ultimately non-starters in the designated Kentucky Derby and/or Kentucky Oaks events are not subject to refunds (return of monies wagered thereon).1.
Futures Exacta Rules.1.1. “Futures Exacta” requires selection of the first two finishers in exact order in the event on which the pool is based. “Futures Exacta” will be conducted in a manner consistent with the approved wagering pool known as “Exacta” as defined in KHRC rules and/or the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.1.2.
“Futures Exacta” pools may be conducted with a minimum of three (3) and a maximum of 24 betting interests. Such betting interests must include one (1) interest defined as “Mutuel Field” (or “All Others”) representing all runners not otherwise named as specific betting interests. By way of example, a Kentucky Derby “Futures Exacta” pool with 24 betting interests will contain 23 named runners and one (1) “Mutuel Field” interest.1.3.
All runners in the Mutuel Field of the “Futures Exacta” shall be treated as a “Coupled Entry” for the purposes of determining winning tickets and payouts. (In the event multiple Mutuel Field runners finish in positions affecting the determination of winning tickets and payouts, the calculation of the $2 payout will be conducted in a manner consistent with the approved method for “Coupled Entries” as contained in KHRC rules and/or the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
By way of example, with #24 representing the Mutuel Field/All Others, a finish of 1/24/24/24/3 would result in an exacta payout to holders of a 1/24 ticket; a finish of 24/24/24/9 would result in an exacta payout to holders of a 24/9 ticket.) 1.4.
According to the middle section highlighted in bold italics, the Futures Exacta would be paid on the first and third finishers; Orb and Revolutionary, returning $102.20 per $2 wager. As stated in the rules, the All Others-All Others finish is treated as if the first two finishers were members of a coupled entry. Seems fair enough--unless you needed Revolutionary for trifecta purposes!
[There are three Futures pools; results will vary]*
Race 10: Back on the turf which apparently has gotten so boggy that Shug McGaughey decided that Point of Entry will not participate, as he was scratched about a half hour ago. That should leave the proceedings to Horse of the Year Wise Dan--providing he handles the soft going. His best weapon is his tactical speed, always helpful on wet ground.
Race 9: Back on the sloppy track and no shortage of speed in the G2 Churchill Downs Sprint and speed horses will have an edge. Under the conditions, it appears that Delauney is the speed of the speed; find out in eight minutes.
Race 8: Back on the grass for the Distaff Turf Mile with the track downgraded to yielding. After the scratch of morningline favorite Marketing Mix, it appears that Hungry Island, Daisy Devine and Stephanie's Kitten are the best prepard to handle the conditions. Aubby K showed her affinity for the wet and answered the stretch challengers after stalking Jamaican Smoke's hot pace throughout.
These three are the betting choices with a little more than 20 minutes to post, and the crowd has settled on Hungry Island. They're probably right.
Consecutive 11-1 shots: Longshot parade continues on Derby day as the wet course helped Berlino Di Tiger hold on, as the old pro Chamerlain Bridge came flying late. The 9-year-old gelding was in front on the gallop-out shortly after the pair hit the wire.
Race 7: Back on the main track and the first sloppy track of the day, as if the rail weren't hard enough to overcome going seven-eighths. Still, taking Jamaican Smoke to, well,smoke'm in the first Grade 1 of the day, the Humana Distaff.
Break up the McPeek barn, another win in the fifth giving him three on the day; great rating by Victor Lebron, the soft pace too much for Code West to overcome--but he did come flying to save the exacta players and the race might be a good prep for the Belmont, his intended purpose.
Race 6: We'll see how the showers have effected the turf, this being the second grass race of the day. This is a tough race, the G3 Churchill Downs Turf Sprint which Regally Ready won two years ago; why not again? He's 3-for-3 on this course and Asmussen is 21% effective with second-off-the-layup runners.
Two straight for McPeek/Leparoux team who stayed out of trouble setting soft pace outside of Old Time Hockey. Screenplay got roughed up at the start; The Pizza Man nearly went down in midstretch. Course acted firm but it had to be a little slick on the surface--probably helped the speed.
Great view of stewards inquiry process. Incidentally, they did excellent work in yesterday's rough-house Alysheba. In a bit of a tough call, they had it exactly right.
CD, Race 4: Wide open maiden scramble will need tote board assessment and paddock observation...and that might not help all that much. Too bad, would like to be alive in DD to Code West, who found an easier spot than today's 11th and feature event. He's a layover on figures in Race 5.
CD, Race 3: Just saw why speed is always dangerous--he said facetiously. But McPeek sure had that boy wound up. No excuses for Slan Abhaile.
Screenplay looks solid in first turf race of the day, although crowd goes for The Pizza Man early. Can't blame them for that.
CD, Race 2: Top of the ticket looks like #2 & #8; #8 looked great in paddock and has better draw.
#5, uncoupled Romans, back at his winning distance. Liked this colt in Fla., then disappointed.
Sorry, late checking in. Track still fast; anticipate formful opener.
As it turns out, too much Rosario.
In the opener at Churchill Downs, Apropos, given his most recent effort, is a deserving favorite and will be very hard beat, still we must try.
Jan's Perfect Star's debut puts him right in the hunt for this (fast track please) and Honey Hues is bred nicely for the wet track.
We'll be back as 10:30 a.m. post time draws near...
*Addition made 050513 at 7:55 a.m.
Written by John Pricci