Tuesday, May 17, 2016
A Dubious Challenge to the Dubai World Cup
LOS ANGELES, May 16, 2016—A post-Derby announcement of a revised plan to unseat Dubai as the world's richest Thoroughbred horse race has piqued interest across the Internet.
Two factors are responsible: The first has to do with the novel strategy on how to fund the event, the second because it’s the brainchild of Frank Stronach, arguably the most powerful individual in North American racing.
The original "Pegasus World Championship," proposal called for a 10-furlong race with a $12 million purse to be held at either Santa Anita or Gulfstream Park, perhaps in rotation. Obviously both are Stronach properties.
In essence, 12 shares would be sold at $1 million each to investors who then can not only enter the race but also share in ancillary revenues generated by the event.
It's most recent reincarnation embraces Gulfstream--with far lower seating capacity--and the distance will be nine furlongs which unlike the longer race comes with a much shorter run to the first turn.
How would you like to put up a million bucks and draw the 11 or 12 hole?
Intended or not, this is a shot across the bow of the Dubai World Cup, but there are other factors worth noting, too.
The Donn Handicap is a Grade 1 event, of course, but recently won't be confused with what brand-obsessed individuals have termed a “Super Grade 1.”
The Pegasus World Cup may be due in part by the Donn's drop-off in quality since Invasor won the event in 2007. Further, the decline in field size recently may also indicate that the event has lost some of its appeal or because of a glut of alternative spots available .
Then there is the matter of how meaningful graded stakes are for any event whose eligibility is determined by ownership rather than performance.
Generating irritation in the name of innovation seems to be the effect this latest version of Stronach's vision to wrest bragging rights away from a rival, even one a half world away.
We're thinking what would prevent Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum from saying: “I’ll see your $12 million and raise you three, or eight million more?"
Stronach's $200 million renovation of Gulfstream Park has accentuated by the relocation from Austria a $30 million, 11-story, 715-ton statue of a winged horse defeating a dragon in an adjoining park.
However, is that as impressive as the Sheikh's $1.25 billion replacement of an entire racetrack, a huge five-story structure replete with a grandstand spanning five furlongs? Both seem monuments to excess.
Interestingly, neither man bets his money on horse races. Betting is not allowed in the UAE and Stronach was quoted as saying here "I’m pretty lucky with everything I do but I don’t bet."
Perhaps this accounts for the takeout differential that exists between Gulfstream and Santa Anita and business is bearing this out this difference; Gulfstream has been enjoying significant growth in recent years while Santa Anita has been struggling with its less friendly takeout rates.
Should the Pegasus World Cup actually fly, there will be more of racing’s 1% who would be willing to form an "elite dirty dozen,” so to speak, shutting the stall door on owners of legitimate contenders but can’t enter because they don’t have a loose million dollars to spare.
"Rather than worry about conflicts, DRF's Jay Hovdey argued, Jay Hovdey
[put] " the race right in Dubai’s face in terms of both distance and date. …,"
while also noting …"The Santa Anita Handicap in early March already was suffering from its 20-year proximity to the Dubai World Cup. Surrounded now by a $12 million pot on one side and a $10 million race on the other, the Handicap could shrivel away to nothing ..."
Additionally, Hovdey pointed out that "The Pegasus World Cup is ... theoretically funded by a dozen million-dollar antes for the 12 proposed starters...” "but that actual starters need not be named right away and the 12 starting positions can be syndicated, resold, or creatively monetized in ways that neither the racetrack nor the Florida racing authorities have yet to imagine."
What effect will all this have on transparency and integrity? Will all relationships and financial arrangements be made public? Would it be possible to determine the potential existence of an unworthy stablemate that might be employed strictly as a rabbit?
My guess is that Florida regulators and/or horsemen were considered to be a lesser obstacle than their California counterparts. Indeed, the Looney Tunes nature of the California Horse Racing Board proceedings always raises the question "what's up, Doc? Do you think Pegasus really will take flight?"
Written by Indulto
Monday, April 25, 2016
Weak-Eyed Worrier Becomes Winning Weekend Warrior
LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2016--I finally bit the bullet and opened a second on-line wagering account.
I was forced into action because not only has DRF Bets long been unable to deliver the Churchill Downs signal but also because the live video streaming suddenly stopped working properly.
According to DRF bets Customer Service, my DSL Internet service was now too slow to meet the minimum XpressBet platform bandwidth requirements--despite having operated correctly only one week before.
Watch and wager had become wager and wait for replays elsewhere.
I was further motivated by TVG's sign-up bonus, matching one's initial deposit up to $150, provided the full amount is wagered within 15 days of opening the account.
Indeed, that happy circumstance encouraged more frequent use of all entries in the third slot of superfectas when using them in the fourth slot seemed justified during the final rounds of Derby qualifiers earlier this month.
But another factor had bolstered bolder betting and it was just the prescription to heal my latest affliction, newly identified as “Derby Deprivation.”
I have learned that both wagering platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. TVG seems to make more efficient use of their displays for bettors with normal vision.
However, vertical exotic-ticket construction can be a challenge for low-vision bettors who may find the matrix of slotted selection boxes for the entrants too small.
Even after one adapts to this situation, the mouse pointer must be positioned perfectly in order to insert or remove a check mark.
Verifying that changes had been made likewise was difficult within the box in the adjoining ticket summary display that doesn't always show selections for each individual slot on a separate line.
Imagine my anguish upon learning I had inadvertently left out a horse in the third slot of what should have been a winning superfecta!
One might think that since there's a box to check atop each slot column, allowing for selecting ALL horses for one slot, perhaps there could also be a box at the right of each row in order to select ALL slots.
What makes the most sense to me would be to optionally enable filling out ALL boxes to the right when clicking on an empty slot box for any horse, thus including all lower slots.
The slot selection grid is presented in a separate window and I was unable to zoom there independently from the main window. Nor was I able to automatically get both windows back simultaneously after switching over to past-performance or result-charts viewing.
On the other hand, the XpressBet platform makes it easier for me to enter superfecta plays because it only permits entering one slot at a time.
(Note that this requires clicking on a highly-visible number immediately next to the horse's name rather than an empty box in a compressed grid).
The resulting ticket summary always displays selected program numbers for each slot on separate lines, simplifying the verification process considerably.
In fairness, the latter was what I had become accustomed to, and the stress of my mistake-prone early experiences lessened as I gained familiarity with the new environment.
However, the time it takes to process a confirmed play takes longer which impacts my ability to play multiple tracks.
I'm currently in the process of acquiring more bandwidth to support simultaneous use of both environments and SKYPE, too, that I may communicate with my old cronies on Derby Day. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out.
As it turned out, I qualified for the bonus predominantly by playing dime supers in the Derby preps and handicap-division stakes on those under-cards.
I was rewarded for my liberated use of the ALL button, or boxes, in three of the preps. It didn't help in the Wood or Lexington, but singling horse-for-course Brody's Cause in the Bluegrass and using two Tapit colts on top in the Arkansas Derby over logical horses made for a couple of really nice days.
(I would have had winning supers in the Santa Anita Derby and Oaklawn Handicap without the additional investment, but then so did plenty of other horseplayers.
What I momentarily considered--but quickly abandoned--was the possibility of playing dime supers in the 8-horse Wood Memorial, boxing ALL beneath Outwork for a “mere” $21.00.
With “impossible” longshot Trojan Nation finishing second, the Super paid $583.70. The tiny field and the mud said go, but good past-performance records of both Shagaf and Adventist made it a no-go.
The good news is that this weak-eyed worrier is now a winning weekend warrior having turned initial amount risked over multiple times. I eagerly await the on-line assault on Derby Day at the Downs.
In the continued absence of dime supers on Derby day, I'll focus on trifectas, although I might take a shot with a dollar Super--ouch!-- keying this year's highest point qualifier, Gun Runner, over a box of, say, five contenders underneath.
Whatever I decide to do, I will be sure to use a magnifying glass before doing so.
Written by Indulto
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Who’s Your Daddy?
LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2016—Inquiring minds want to know as Kentucky Derby preps seem to have turned into soirees for sons of sires with stud fees in the stratosphere.
The Louisiana Derby was contested by three offspring of Uncle Mo, two by Bernardini, and two by Candy Ride, sire of the winning Gun Runner. Earlier that day, a son of Tapit named Lani won the U.A.E. Derby via Dubai.
The previous weekend, Cupid took Rebel Stakes, another son of Tapit, beating three other in the process. Tapit's present stud fee of $300,000 would appear no obstacle to the proliferation of his bloodlines.
The Florida Derby matched the most heralded sons of Uncle Mo and Tapit to date, Nyquist and Mohaymen, respectively, in the most widely anticipated Kentucky Derby eligibility-enabling event of 2016.
Uncle Mo's stud fee is currently "only" $75,000 but it too will skyrocket, helped by Nyquist’s comprehensive Grade 1 victory, his fourth.
Bill Finley summarized the situation this way:
"There has been a major shift over the last few years when it comes to which sires are being bred to the most mares and, therefore, dominating the foal crop. The high-end sires have never been more popular. Everyone, it seems, wants to breed to them, not flinching one bit at their six-figure stud fees."
Other North American-based six-figure-fee daddies besides Tapit include Medaglia d'Oro ($150k), Pioneer of the Nile ($125K), Bernardini ($100K), Curlin ($100K), Distorted Humor ($100K), Kitten's Joy ($100K) and Speightstown ($100K).
Dropping a notch, upper five-figure fellows in addition to Uncle Mo are Malibu Moon ($95K), Giant's Causeway ($85K), Awesome Again ($75K), Super Saver ($65K), Candy Ride ($60K), Ghostzapper ($60K) and Tiznow ($60K).
Since Gun Runner became this year's first 150+ eligibility points winner--as were the last three Derby Winners--Candy Ride appears to be this year's bargain.
However, his son Twirling Candy ($15K), sire of San Felipe winner Danzing Candy could fight for that distinction should Danzing Candy succeed at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Of course, the reigning ultimate breeding bargain has is Lucky Pulpit ($7.5K), sire of California Chrome -- the comeback kid of 2016 and then some. His second straight graded stakes victory in the much sought-after Dubai World Cup, coming after last year’s place finish, has returned him to center stage in advance of his own stud career at stud, penciled in for post-Breeders' Cup Classic.
Indeed, the opportunity for California Chrome to also avenge his third place finish in the 2014 Classic will be awaited anxiously by any serious fan of the sport and maybe some not-so-serious, too.
Meanwhile, speculation on his next start has already begun. When interviewed in Dubai, owner Perry Martin mentioned the potential $12 Million race at Gulfstream Park being put together by Frank Stronach. I presume he was referring to Stronach's Pegasus project; purchased shares in a portion of the day's pari-mutuel handle by the connections of entrants in that race.
Despite his willingness to participate in such an enterprise, I hope Martin isn't holding his breath waiting for that arrangement to come to fruition.
The NYRA could step into the breach here and showcase a second Horse of the Year campaign for racing's resurgent superstar. The G2 Brooklyn is one possibility in place, giving Chrome a chance to avenge his 12-furlong Belmont Stakes defeat.
But the chances of his leaving California, site of the Pacific Classic and BC Classic, —even if a large bonus were tied to, say, a Brooklyn-Classic sweep or some other seven-figure incentive, seems like a longshot.
Tapit-sired 2014 Triple-Crown-upsetter Tonalist entered stud this year with a fee of $30,000. Regardless of his initial fee, California Chrome likely will still need his share of quality mares to prove his worth at stud.
Parenthetically, that could be tricky if 2015 Triple-Crown-winner American Pharoah is able to emulate Uncle Mo's meteoric rise in popularity and the success of the sires mentioned above continues unabated.
However good Chrome may yet prove to be on the track, the flip side of the coin is that Derby and Preakness winners Smarty Jones and Big Brown, as well as Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex have been unable to reproduce runners that attained their lofty heights.
Written by Indulto