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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Saratoga Springs, August 12, 2022 — I remember when Churchill Downs announced that they would dedicate a day to renewing the Arlington Million, there was much hand wringing and harrumphing.

“How dare they; first be responsible for killing Thoroughbred racing in Chicago, then taking its signature event and turn it into just another corporate payday.”

And I’m thinking, hey, we live in the real world. Besides, keeping Thoroughbred tradition alive is never a bad idea. And they’re bringing the Beverley D along with it. Cool. Let’s celebrate John Henry, Manila, Paradise Creek, Gio Ponti, and even The Bart. Why not?

I got my answer when I first spotted the PPs earlier this week: the mile and an eighth Arlington Million! Now I’m the curmudgeon, thinking history’s dust bin would have been more appropriate.

Then, it’s 2022, a time when democracy and even the truth have taken a beaten. Everything has been cheapened, except the price of goods and services, of course. So why not racing tradition?

The mile and a quarter trip is what excited fans and horsemen in the beginning. But now we race to breed, not the way it was meant to be, putting the horse in the cart. And let’s make it a relatively easier to attain Grade 1 status, make the race easier to fill, and boost the handle a little.

So here it is, all in its tarnished glory. Run it and they will bet. And, yes, it turns out to be a very good betting race:


DESERVING FAVORITE: Smooth Like Strait (5-2) [classy, ratable speed, Johnny]

EARLY LINE VALUE: Set Piece (4-1) [trip compromised prepping, pointed to Grade 1]

STRAIGHT WAGER: Set Piece to win at 7-2 or greater. Exacta Box: Set Piece, Smooth Like Straight and Santin (3-1). Superfecta Key-Box Set Piece first, second, and third with his two rivals above, and adding Admission Office (10-1), Field Pass (8-1) and Sacred Life (9-2) to the mix.



EARLY LINE VALUE: Family Way (3-1)

STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Family Way to win at 3-1 or greater. Exacta and Trifecta Box: Rougir, Family Way and Lily Pond (5-2). Exacta Key-Box: Family Way with Rougir and Lily Pond

Saratoga’s Special Juveniles

If you care little about racing and Saratoga history, Saturday’s featured events are not for you. You will look at two five horse fields and think, why bother?

Why? To say you were there, if only virtually.

Wasn’t that long ago when the Grade 2 Saratoga Special brought out hordes of youngsters, trying to make a name for themselves. In the era of instant news and replays, three of the five of today’s Special entrants have been already celebrated.

The Skinny: From South Florida comes Super Chow (8-1) received much mutuel play on debut at much mutual praise thereafter. to keep going after an opening gambit of 21-1/5 is going to merit attention. Of course, he’s meeting far superior rivals here than those he trounced on debut.

The main combatants are Damon Mounds (7-5) a winner at Churchill Downs by 12-1/2 lengths, earning a massive performance figure, and Gulfport (4-5), who ran a tad faster in his second start stretching out, crushing the Bashford Manor field by 12 lengths at 1-5.

Did he beat the equivalent talented of Damon Mounds in that stakes? Does it even matter? Both horses are coming in off jaw-dropping scores, and since the Bashford Manor, the Coolmore folks walked up and bought a slice. Enough said. Two runs; two fast wins; a strong, tight line.

Oh, Gulfport comes with the connections that developed into a dual champion. Probably more of the same here.




EXOTICA: Exacta Box Gulfport and Damon Mounds. Trifecta Key: Gulfport over Damon Mounds and price shot, the troubled Valenzan Dan (12-1)


It could not be more appropriate than in a year the wonderful turf mare Tepin was indicted into the Racing Hall of Fame, another mare, Regal Glory (6-5), would be the most responsible for limiting the size on Saturday’s Grade 1. Yes, she’s six now and having the time of her life. She’s never raced in better form.

The Skinny: While she loves a target, it’s hard to identify her style these days; Jose Ortiz rides her with so much confidence he lets her do whatever she likes and when he pushes the button, she’s there. The best thing I can say about her stretch drives is that she just wants it more than her rivals.

Regal Glory’s future arrived this year. Look closely and you might see the making of a future Hall of Fame

But today’s race is no walkover. Bill Mott, who’s won this race four times since the year 2000, will try to win his fifth with Casa Creed (5-2), who was third best in this race last year and enters this off n explosive late finish to win Belmont Park’s 6 furlong Jaipur.

Probably more sprinter than miler, but he hits hard consistently and exits a race that has produced three next-out winners. Couple that with a strong, half-mile breeze and he’s a major player here.



EXOTICA: Exacta Box Regal Glory and Casa Creed, extra ticket with the mare on top.

this column is live through Saturday

Great Friday Appetizer for Saturday’s Grade 1

And when you come to think about it, it’s an appropriate way to start a weekend that has a race named for the Sultan of Saratoga himself, Fourstardave, as its lynchpin. Now a Grade 1 providing entree to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, too.

There are three events on the docket but we’ll take a handicapping look-in on the feature of features, the Evan Shipman Stakes which used to be nine furlongs but that was before the re-emergence of the Wilson Mile chute at, well, a turn and a half.

So a state-bred mile prep, for a Grade 1 mile prep Saturday, for the ultimate mile race run on turf in this country. It’s a bit of stretch, I know. The Shipman is on dirt, but we’ve not been well. It must be the anti-viral program which ended this morning,

Technically, dear diary, it Covid-19 Day Seven, and I’m a relatively free Lone Ranger.

Steve Asmussen saddles the favorite, an early line 9-5 choice with stakes-crazed Joel Rosario in the boot. He’s fresh, the class of the group on paper, and Bankit will be coming late. Count on it. But we’re looking at a Horse for Course that will get the drop on him. And if Tiergan’s (5-2) good enough, he’ll get the money.

He’s certainly sharp enough, having won his last start by 10 out of the Wilson chute for his second Spa win in as many tries, and the gelded old pro has been a hot ticket, claimed from three of his last four races, the last time by Bill Morey, who was laying in wait with 45-large to scoop him up nine days ago.

This is a man who knows what he wants and doesn’t waste any time about it. The barn excels in non-graded stakes and, according to Thoro-Graph’s stats package, he wins at a 27% rate first time off the claim, and is an otherworldly 42 percent with the last 31 horses he’s run back with less than 11-days rest.

I can just see it now: Joel is trying to sneak up the fence from his rail position–and there, right there–Irad cuts him off at the pass, right? He won’t even need the five-pound pull he’s getting from the favorite today.

All this, and the Morrissey and Union Avenue, too. How about dem’ apples?

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41 Responses

  1. John, have an enjoyable and profitable visit to the Spa. As for me, the HRI readers should appreciate the service I am providing. At 1 for 20 in the last 7 racing days, they can immediately eliminate the wagers I post. Any edge counts.

    SAR 2022: 12 for 46, minus $411, minus 45% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 05AUG2022 (Day 17)

    Race 3 – $20 to SHOW on DEVIL OR ANGEL
    Race 5 – $20 to SHOW on MY SWEET STORY
    Race 8 – $20 to WIN on READY TO PERFORM

  2. Every knock is a boost, Dan, no worries from me or the Faithful who understand the handicapping wars…

  3. Whitney card did not disappoint. Can Life is Good carry his speed for 9 furlongs against this Grade 1 field? I don’t see Olympiad or Hot Rod Charlie allowing him set slow early fractions. No easy pace for Life is Good here, I like Mott’s rising star to wear down the odds on favorite late today.

  4. August 6,2022
    The Spa
    9th race
    #1 Matareya (2-5) Stand alone in all your pic-3’s-pic 6’s.
    #3-Elm Drive(8-1)
    #5-November Rein(10-1)
    straight exacta’s underneath(I’m sure there will be a ton pushing the all button)

    10th race
    #4-Olympiad(2-1)- Today he’s the best horse
    #2-Hot Rod Charlie(9-2)-Charlie and Life is good should vie for the lead. Both are hard hitters.
    #5-Happy Saver(8-1)-If it were any other race.gets 6 pounds, Last 2 races came second to Olympiad and Flightline.Grade 1 winner and will probably float up from 8-1. Don’t lose this horse !!!!!!
    #6-Life is Good(6/5)-Everytime he runs a big one he bounce’s. He just ran a hole in the wind in last. Hmmm.

    11th race
    #4-Nation’s Pride(7/2)-Was best last time, Charlie doesn’t run for fun. Sends Buick along.
    #2-Grand Sonata(15-1)-Sneaky good race beaten a length in last against most of these. Absolutely love his pattern. Pletcher/Gaffalione. Make sure you put a little on his nose.
    #6-Annapolis(5/2)-Lightly raced, very fast, the fav every race. good pattern. Short price.
    #8-Sy Dog(12-1)-A tad slow but a good pattern going in and if somebody falters he can get a piece of this.

    Another day, another dollar, Go get dem bad guy’s,
    Vin O’

  5. SAR 2022: 13 for 49, minus $373, minus 38% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 06AUG2022 (Day 18)

    Race 8 – $20 to WIN on SAINT TAPIT
    Race 10 – $20 to WIN on OLYMPIAD
    Race 12 – $20 to SHOW on ACTION JACKSON

  6. SAR 2022: 15 for 52, minus $341, minus 33% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 07AUG2022 (Day 19)

    Race 3 – $20 to WIN on GOODNIGHT OLIVE
    Race 5 – $20 to WIN on WILL BE FAMOUS
    Race 5 – $20 to SHOW on WILL BE FAMOUS

    1. Dan, you’re beginning to turn the corner. Every day a new challenge but confidence is a badly needed alchemy for handicapping success… good job.

      1. John, wishing you a speedy recovery.

        Perhaps I have turned the corner, but 2 for 23 in 8 racing days makes for a deep hole to climb out of. What surprises me is that I am only losing about one-third of the amount I have wagered.

        I do not understand that maneuver Irad Ortiz made in the stretch on Life Is Good. Migliore has some interesting observations about it.

  7. hey john,
    here’s hoping you are feeling a lot better. just get your rest, and you will be okay sooner than you think.
    regards mutuel mitch. we need you well for big travers day card.

  8. Thanks much, Mitch! If up to it, get to break out of jail Wednesday. Don’t feel worse so maybe anti-viral working

    #fingers crossed

    1. My dad took the anti-viral when he got Covid. Definitely helped him a lot, although he kept the Covid cough for a couple of months after Covid cleared his system. Fingers crossed for all the best for you.

  9. Tony, Vin O,

    Junior Alvarado refused to blame the racetrack. No one knows Olympiad the way he does. Hope to speak with Mr Mott. Nobody wins all their races btu very, very rare when his horse does not show up at all. Todd said LIG had to overcome the racetrack. Although he doesn’t usually, seems like a big of a slow deal there; the wet, if anything, helped his guy. So did uber aggressive Irad.

    I concede Nation’s Pride was best on the day, but the wet ground did not help Annapolis at all; quite the opposite we believe…

    1. Looking at the replay a few times, I’m starting to wonder if Irad employed the intimidation tactics out of sheer necessity this time; I am really not sure LIG is interested in 9 or 10f, though the track was pretty obviously deep and tiring. I understand that they see a repeat effort in the BC Mile as a concession of failure, but perhaps the horse has been repeatedly telling Todd and Irad that 8f is enough for him.

      1. It’s a point to consider. Never let them see you sweat, right? Not sure I agree with you but not sure I disagree. But I will always believe the wet track helped him given his significant early pace advantage. WinStar will have a couple of players, and I’m sure they will attempt to max out their opportunities.

    2. (I’m assuming getting 9f at Gulfstream after a nearly 4 month rest and refreshing does in no way indicate that a horse wants 9f).

  10. John, very tough break getting hit with Covid. Just look what’s coming down the road at the Spa once you recover: Fourstardave, Jonathan Sheppard (formerly the New York Turf Writers Steeplechase), Alabama, Personal Ensign, Travers . . . all designed to cheer you up and line your pockets. Plus you’ll find a complete selection of simulcasting available for when you find a $20 claimer somewhere that looks appealing. Get well completely . . . and soon, too !!!

  11. SAR 2022: 16 for 55, minus $374, minus 34% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 10AUG2022 (Day 20)

    Race 5 – $20 to SHOW on WRITEITONTHEICE
    Race 9 – $20 to SHOW on MR. KRINGLE
    Race 10 – $20 to SHOW on REMOTE

      1. 0 for 3 is an appropriate ending to my first half. 16 for 58, minus $434, minus 37% ROI. Amazing that I lost only 37 percent of what I have wagered. Seems like a reasonable entertainment expense from that perspective.

        Wishing everyone a great 2nd half of the Saratoga meet.

        1. Dan, always remember: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping”

          You’ve protected your bankroll through a terrible streak. that’s the positive takeaway.

          Hang in, You do you!

  12. I didn’t see Doc, I was not at the races. Was there an incident in the feature?

    I made a selection, the horse ran third, went to watch the replay and the screen messaged: “Video for this race not available.”

    Tell me what happened, please.

    1. If that happened to you on Race 7, the reason the replay might not be up is that a horse went down after clipping heels with the winner – who was DQd. The horse and jockey (Cancel) both got up and ended up seeming to be fine fortunately, but it was ugly looking in real time.

  13. In Race 3, the 5.5f turf sprint, Irad was on the outside horse in an 8 horse field, The gate opens and he comes out and cuts off more than half the field gunning his horse to get to the 2 path. The head on replay is pretty damning, with Irad sort of trying to make it appear like he was just trying to straighten out a horse that veered in on his own, but not really coming off too convincing. He ended up getting beaten, but they left him up for 2nd for some reason. Migliore went off on him after they watched the head on a couple of times and it seemed justified to be that upset. You will want to check out the replays of Race 3 to form your own opinion.

    Side note: I have a feeling that there have been jockeys in the room that have griped about Irad to Migliore off the record since confronting him directly and dealing with Irad holding a grudge sounds like a bad idea for everyone’s safety.

    I have nothing against him otherwise; he is an absolutely elite Hall Of Fame level jockey; probably as good as there is in this country, but he has become super comfortable pushing it past Angel Cordero levels at times.

  14. Dan, I believe your take was on the money. However, I can’t completely hang him on this one. Migliore would know a lot more of what could have been done in this case, and it did appear that Irad could have done more.

    Seemingly, he allowed his mount to cross over several strides before trying to correct him. He did, of course, tugging on the right rein, turning the horses head outward. But it could be argued it was too little and too late.

    I have seen Irad do things willfully and have written about it often. Indeed, I might have been the first to write about last year’s Remsen. I mention that because anyone else reading this might think I condone his race riding tactics. I do not and I will, and have, criticized him.

    But this is a tough call for me because I would have had to be inside his head. Maybe he was doing his best and maybe he was not. I’ll use the football term in regards to my opinion: Inconclusive. I think letting the result stand was the right call.

    In the meanwhile, Paco probably would have gotten days. You are right. Irad is an elite, Hall of Fame jockey, belongs in the conversation with the all-time greats. Migliore is right, too; Irad doesn’t need to do this at virtually any/every opportunity.

    1. Fair enough; I can see a case for giving him some benefit of the doubt. And one more thing in his corner is that he was aboard a 2yo 2nd time starter – any number of things could have gotten in the colt’s head in the leadup to the race. I suspect that Irad took full advantage of a situation where his mount was bearing in anyhow to take his time in getting him leveled off, but lots of incidents out of the gate really are judgement calls. He may very well be the best jockey I have seen in my race watching life, so I really just want to be able to continue seeing him compete and not have something happen on the track to curtail it all.

  15. Your intentions are good sir and agree that he took full advantage of the situation, that’s the unknown known. Indeed, he did take his time, as you noted, and the irony is that generally horses from the extreme outside will run to space–but certainly not in yesterday’s third…

  16. SAR 2022: 16 for 58, minus $434, minus 37% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 11AUG2022 (Day 21)

    Race 4 – $20 to SHOW on BARRAGE
    Race 9 – $20 to WIN on HAVE A GOOD DAY
    Race 9 – $20 to SHOW on HAVE A GOOD DAY

  17. My generosity continues unabated. More selections for you to throw out.

    SAR 2022: 16 for 61, minus $494, minus 40% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 12AUG2022 (Day 22)

    Race 2 – $20 to WIN on RUN UP THE SCORE
    Race 5 – $20 to SHOW on ZUZUDINI
    Race 10 – $20 to WIN on SHE’S A MIA

  18. And Race 7, that horse had no business winning that race. We profiled the bad Irad actions, but on the other hand there is Irad when he is just showing his elite HOF level. That was an absolutely perfect ride. I’ll be looking to beat that one next out.

    1. Guilty as charged. In fact, the Race 10 winner was another perfect turf ride by Irad, at a fat price. Another horse I want to beat next out. Those were riding clinics and the racing luck was there on both when he needed to find room to make his run in the stretch.

  19. It’s been my experience that seams open if you’re patient enough and Irad, like Joel, could easily find jobs as “head waiters.” (I forgot who that term was invented for. Like Arcaro, Shoemaker)?

  20. SAR 2022: 17 for 64, minus $518, minus 40% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 13AUG2022 (Day 23)

    Race 1 – $20 to WIN on I’M VERY BUSY
    Race 4 – $20 to WIN on GULFPORT
    Race 6 – $20 to SHOW on NEURO

  21. SAR 2022: 19 for 67, minus $502, minus 37% ROI

    Wagers for SAR 14AUG2022 (Day 24)

    Race 3 – $20 to SHOW on SHADOLAMO
    Race 4 – $20 to WIN on FIRE SWORD
    Race 6 – $20 to SHOW on TWIN MISCHIEF

  22. So I noticed that David Jacobson has entries on each card from Wed through Friday this week. I had no idea he was coming back.

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