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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 18, 2021– It was, from morning to late night, one of those Box of Chocolate days of racing. Not only didn’t fans know what they were going to get but didn’t often get what was expected.

The day…er morning…began with one of the most impressive efforts in a European classic.

If, indeed, Irish Derby winner Hurricane Lane is to run back in next week’s prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes punters have to wonder if his Irish Derby’s Category 5 performance left anything in the tank.

The sophomore son of Frankel roared home through deep stretch winning in full stride while ridden out to the finish.

In the end, it was a mere prelude to the Godolphin/Appleby Grade 1 sweep as Anthiqa and Summer Romance finished 1-2, again, in an American Grade 1, adding the 9-furlong Diana to their most recent Just A Game mile. The connections think that the winner is getting stronger and wiser with each start; scary.

DAY 3: Prior to the Diana, Saratoga staged the 105 year old Sanford which newly minted Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher won for the eighth time with Wit, undefeated in two ultra impressive performances.

Wit, a son of Practical Joke, of course, is no precocious baby. In fact, he’s slow to begin, but when the rider asks in earnest, he delivers turn moves rarely seen in juveniles.

Time will tell whether Wit’s an accomplished miler one-turn type, or whether he is more. Seems scopey enough to think there’s more development there. I rarely, if ever, put Spa juveniles together in the same sentence with Kentucky Derby but may make an exception here.

Put another way by jockey Irad Ortiz: β€œHe’s a nice horse. For a 2-year-old, that was very impressive.” As for the slow starts, eventually “he’ll figure that out,” added Ortiz, a scary thought for the rest of the division.

Sunday’s feature is the 5-1/2 furlong grassy Coronation Cup Stakes. At the price, we’re taking Illegal Smile (9-2) to win at 4-1 or greater and boxing an exacta with Goin’ Good (5-2). [Coronation Cup has been taken off the grass–Goin’ Good now looms a prohibitive favorite]…

Steve Asmussen tripled Saturday, leaving him 16 wins short of Dale Baird’s 9,445 career victories. Considering that Asmussen has not won a preponderance of his races at Mountaineer Park, as did the legendary Baird who led that meet 15 times, the feat would be even more remarkable.

Noteworthy Stable Mail Potential: Neuro won the opener but War Smoke was probably best: Broke slowly 2 to 3 lengths, raced behind horses 3-4 at the turn in this 5.5 maiden allowances on turf, angled into the 6-path entering the lane and roared down the center of the track; won’t be a maiden for long…

New Mott acquisition Baby Yoda, bet from the bell, broke like a shot, rated comfortably while showing excellent speed throughout under a light pull, drew off as much the best. Mott excitedly ran out onto the track to meet the colt; methinks he likes this guy, who won with speed in reserve.

Love and Money was entirely too fresh and lost all good chance as a run-off going down the backside, virtually leaving nothing in the tank. Three-year-old filly deserves another chance. Third Draft suffered through a no-chance very-wide-throughout trip and still finished well enough to win in an excellent performance.

Interesting maiden allowances in the 5th for juvenile colts: Well bet Chattalot, for Asmussen/Santana, ran to his sales works and showed some class to win debut gamely after stalking three-wide throughout; had a right to hang but didn’t; stakes bound… Carpe All Day was a hickory game second despite remaining on incorrect lead to the post and Seal Beach got jammed up, appeared to resent the kickback, raced greenly after recovering and was resolute enough to gain the show; note.

Portfolio Company got Chad off the duck, juvenile turf router bet from the bell and winning beneath extremely confident Irad handling. James Aloysius had an eventful journey while racing quite greenly and finished very well for place.

To Whip Or Not To Whip, Back In The News

First the big Haskell stuff: The fact there’s a chance that a three-year-old could be elevated in two Grade 1s, not to mention it’s the Kentucky Derby and Haskell.

Paco Lopez extremely lucky after being thrown from a stumbling Midnight Bourbon in that it could have been much worse, especially since he was nicked by a trailer. The head-bob exacta finishers, Hot Rod Charlie and runnerup Mandaloun, both gave terrific efforts in racehorse time.

And credit ‘Bourbon’s’ athleticism in that he was able to protect himself from serious injury and appeared to gallop back soundly. But the big takeaway on social media was all about the no-whip rule at Monmouth Park.

It is totally reasonable to assume that had Flavien Prat been allowed to straighten his mount with the help of a left-handed crop he might have been able to correct a veering in Hot Rod Charlie, avoiding both the contact and subsequent disqualification.

But that’s what it is; an assumption. A crop might have helped but the result is not guaranteed. Horses lug in under left-handed urging every day. The idea that he would have been corrected is not knowable. Personally, we appreciated the no-nonsense, no-brainer, automatic DQ did not take 20 minutes to adjudicate.

I’m one of those observers who do not see a obvious difference between races run this year and all the decades past. Monmouth is still Monmouth. I do buy into that whips are missed most getting out of the gate, especially the need-the-lead types that require quarter-horsing and perhaps in incidences such as yesterday’s. But…

I feel the same way about whips as I do the Lasix ban. Trainers have to adjust their training regimens to compensate and so do riders not bearing crops. As far as finishing races without whipping and slashing, riders need to study Joel Rosario race rides and learn how to finish with heels and hands.

I argued on Twitter that running free of race-day medication and riding crops is more about what the sport was intended to be: horse racing. No doubt it will be a process, but the world is not perfect. Indeed, the world, including this small part of it, is as far from perfect as one can stray.

Day 2… Sometimes the good guys win. Twice. Jim Bond started the 2021 Spa meet the way started–and finished in 2020, winning with three of ever 10 starters. Giacosa was perfectly ridden by Luis Saez, a comfortable stalk from close range before setting sail.

The 007 filly was a bit lucky considering how unlucky the favorite was. Chocolate Cookie stumbled at the break, sat far behind a slow pace, and still came running as the pace was heating up. Tough to beat a poor start and the race shape. Next time…

As it turns out, the Bond family had a day, winning the G3 Forbidden Apple with New York-bred Rinaldi. Brilliantly rated on the engine–Saez again–the connections got lucky when speedster Flying Scotsman was a program scratch, leaving Rinaldi potentially loose on the lead. And that’s the way it played out.

Runnerup Value Proposition veered in badly through the lane when it appeared he might mount a serious challenge. Behind the winner, Chad Brown horses finished 2-3-4, both Delaware and Scared Life being compromised by the tepid pace.

Opening Day There were some impressive runs and several next-time trip runners that demand attention. Check it for yourselves:

Juvenile filly Microbiome was a never-in debut debut winner by 5-1/2 on 1:05.60 while the other division was won by Echo Zulu by the exact same margin but needed only 1:04.69 to stop the timer beneath a supremely confident Ricardo Santana Jr.

Steve Asmussen needs 19 more winners to enter Dale Baird rarified air and, by the way, how about them Gun Runner’s?

Check out show finisher Outfoxed and Treason’s turf trip in the third. Speaking of grass, check out winning Five Alarm Robin and wide-tripping Two Cent Tootsie. Need to see the Bourbon Thunder horror from post 11 in the seventh event.

Golden Pal is back–with a vengeance. Turned out he had the Quick Call bunch at his mercy. He looked a picture, ran a blinder, as Ward’s Euro friends might say, and finished well in hand, in 1.02.99, 3 lengths the best of it. It will take a heck of a Euro to beat this guy.

There were other fillies in the Schuylerville who showed impressive speed winning on debut, as did Pretty Birdie, who made them look slow after she popped out of there immediately and established control with her speed.

She, too, appeared a winner in upper stretch but stayed on her left lead and was tired at the end. Norm Casse promised she would be better in the Spinaway, a man with a plan and confidence in his filly. She’s by Bird Song from Bird Sense, a Whitney production all the way, a perfect cap on the day.

Friday’s G3 Forbidden Apple features three from Chad Brown going one mile on the inner course and we opted for Sacred Life (3-1) on the distance and class angle.

Post 9 doesn’t help the cause but Rosario should, and Sacred Life has been training purposefully in Saratoga since early June. That price may hold with the Brown favorite, Value Proposition (5-2), breaking from post #3.

Del Mar opens Friday with the overstuffed Oceanside, a great betting race for 3-year-olds going two turns on the grass, and of course Saturday is Haskell by the Sea. All know the major players from the Triple Crown:

Hot Rod Charlie, the very game Belmont runnerup, drew right in the middle of the group and was established 6-5 early line favorite; Derby runnerup is immediately inside the favorite and is 2-1 second choice and Preakness runnerup Midnight Bourbon has drawn post #6 and listed at 9-2.

Haskell analysis forthcoming as well as both graded stakes from the Spa, the Sanford for the juvenile colts and the Diana, the first Grade 1 of Saratoga 2021, a race Brown will try to win for the seventh time.

G3 FORBIDDEN APPLE RED BOARD: Well, indeed, the program scratch of speedy Flying Scotsman left the above Rinaldi loose on the early lead–a clear choice under those circumstances. Hopefully the Faithful made the last minute adjustment. Getting 2-1 on lone speed with Saez from the pole on the sharp-turned inner, despite the longer stretch run, was fair value. It’s been my experience that unless your selection is declared, scratches hurt more than they help. But that’s just me.

This is a live column that will be updated continually. Saratoga Stakes Skinnies every day with a Red Board review after races of note comprise the annual Saratoga Diary, initiated in 1978.

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27 Responses

  1. Pick 3 at Saratoga 2020

    397 winning Pick 3 combinations paid an average of 255.46

    329 regular Pick 3 combinations paid an average of 299.83
    68 consolation Pick 3 combinations paid an average of 40.81

    10 highest paying Pick 3:

    20200814 races 7,8,9 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $5659.00
    20200722 races 6,7,8 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $5098.50
    20200717 races 1,2,3 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $4592.50
    20200729 races 2,3,4 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $3152.00
    20200814 races 8,9,10 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $2339.50
    20200722 races 5,6,7 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $2132.00
    20200813 races 5,6,7 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $2018.50
    20200716 races 4,5,6 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $1825.00
    20200716 races 3,4,5 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $1780.50
    20200906 races 5,6,7 $1.00 Pick 3 paid $1710.00

  2. Dan, per usual, always interesting stuff for the HRI Faithful to look through. Thanks, and have a great Spa!


  3. Just read on the NY Post that NY horse racing legend Harvey Pack died,94. Many stories,memories,ripped tickets and programs… Rip .πŸ˜”πŸ˜”. No wonder that on today’s NYRA telecast they were showing a bit of his past shtick ,images as I was cooking and peeking at the television set.. we can still hear his voice..Rip.

  4. So, I see what i think is an extremely weak and vulnerable favorite in Race 10 yesterday, so I’m looking at 2 horses during the wagering, the #2 and the #5. I don’t have a strong enough opinion on one being any better than the other, so I’m just going to bet $30 win on the one going off as the bigger price. During most of the betting, the #5 has sat between 8/1 and 9/1, and the #2 sits between 10/1 and 12/1. They are starting to load in, and the #2 is at 12/1. So I put my bet in on the 2. The gates spring open, and the first in race posting of the numbers flashes and the #2 is suddenly now 7/1, down from 12/1 when loaded. The 5 is 10/1, and clearly the horse I would have bet had I any idea that the 2 was going to get pounded out of nowhere. The result is irrelevant to this discussion.

    This isn’t a Tuesday night last race win pool at EVD; this is a win pool on opening day at Saratoga, and it still is being manipulated in the gate to where a 12/1 shot goes off at 7/1. Not sure why I even bother

  5. Doc, NYRA’s public position is that they are anti-late batch betting. Problem is there are other ADWs. Until racing compels large betting syndicates to get their bets in before, say, 3 minutes to post, so that the rest of the betting world can make their last minute decisions, nothing will change. I have written about three large bettors I know that have walked away. The industry as a whole will not tamper with the bottom line, period. Greed is not good.

    Listen up folks, this man bet on a $16 winner and he’s angry as hell. Anyone see a problem here?

    1. Tough for us old timers to become accustomed to, but last flashes ain’t what they used to be. Exchange wagering and multiple pools for similar wagers can give players more opportunity to sniff out value, but the multitude of options becomes intimidating when you grew up with the sport having only one pool for each type of wager.

      I was like a kid in a candy shop in Ireland. Private sector bookmakers on the grounds offering various odds for the same bet. 11 to 2, 6 to 1, 13 to 2. I was in my glory when the horse won and I had him at the best price offered.

      In 49 years of betting horse races, I still have not developed the discipline to make wagers in accordance with what I believe will be the outcome of the race, regardless of odds.

      1. Disciplinary Money Management is more difficult to install in ourselves than trying to pick winners.How much should we bet when compared to how much we are winning, losing? ” Due” bets trying to recover the losses ? What about losing streaks,bad breaks,etc ? Percentage of the Active balance seems to be making sense and if the losing streak continues,stop,reflect and be conscious and honest with yourself if it is worth continuing. Cannot bleed to ( debt) death. It’s up to each one of us to be diligent,responsible enough to face the truth.If someone continues to lose,Why continue to feed the addiction? Starve it to death. Use the Gambling money for better uses( food,debts,utilities,gifts and Yes, even donations to needy causes) . If you don’t know your balance sheet You won’t really know how much you should bet. No intuition,” feel,sensation” , just the Facts ! Late money won’t ever stop. It’s one of the juices of betting,no matter which sport,from harness to flats to basketball,boxing….. It reminds me of Roosevelt Raceway,mid 70s, when someone shouted ” Carmine is going ! ” You know the rest as his odds dropped precipitously and he won the race. Multiply that occasion by the hundreds of thousands of times that it has occurred. Is Wall Street any different ? You want to change that,too ? Can’t do it ! Inside information,good or bad, has been here and there,to stay, in most industries,fields,politics and,of course,betting situations .

        1. The part about Doc’s post I don’t get is the use of the word “manipulated”. Are people looking at batches of bets a minute or two before the race, then delaying the merge of the batches into the pool ? If that’s a possible scenario, sounds like grounds for an investigation by the NY State Gaming Commission.

          1. It’s not about “manipulation.” What syndicates do is eliminate the no-hopers in a race and the computer covers the rest of the field proportionately with the goal of getting virtually the same return whatever the result.

        2. Late odds drops have nothing to do with “inside information.” It’s special access to betting pools made possible by high-speed computer batch bets that take advantage of pool inefficiencies with sophisticated algorithms. With rebates in the 10% area, breaking even can make betting syndicates an awful lot of money.

  6. DM,

    Wish I could say re your last observation on personal betting, I could say it’s a good problem to have, but it’s not. You are not alone, everyone struggles with this which makes the game so hard to beat. Obviously, I include myself in this large group.

    Perhaps a betting system from which you do not divert would help. I like the Base Bet + Square Root of the Profits approach for every bet. The better you handicap the more money you make, of course, but this approach keeps the initial bet proportional to your bankroll at all times.

    1. We failed to mention a couple of betting situations where money mgmt is concerned. One it happened to me today. After hitting an early triple of about $ 170 in the next 4 betting races I failed to connect with any winner or place horse which deleted my early profits. What to do next? Just bet the other couple of chosen races to win/place and forget about the exactas ? And what about if,after losing a few races in a row,the next number is an odds/on favorite? I mean that it’s one thing betting a 2/1 and another IF after a win the probable return is less than 40%. Anyway,I bet Rinaldi to WP adding a few ” due ” Dollars on it since it was my last race. He won,wire to wire,,,But if he would have been 4/5 or less I would have skipped the race.. hoping that someone else would have won which does not seem t right way to play.Losing streaks play strange mind games.

  7. Mandaloun will probably win Derby thru medication DQ and now wins Haskell by DQ. Unlike the stewards at Churchill when they took down MAX the stewards at Monmouth acted swiftly, and fairly. Mandaloun is now headed to Saratoga to possibly run in Travers or Penn Mile at Penn National, says Brad Cox. Mandaloun ran a good race and got put up by the stewards. Tough game.

    1. Just like in other sports, they got to call the Foul whether it’s a low claiming race,a high stakes one and ,New York stewards,no matter who’s riding ,training or owning the horse in question! Unlike Saratoga and Yankee Stadium, Monmouth avoided the rain. Another good profitable day at Saratoga while skipping the New Jersey races. Nothing against Monmouth it’s just that I did not feel like continually changing channels since both racetracks keep on ignoring each other .Besides , I was cooking Chicken Parmigiana. That horse that won easily once it got going from last,in a Sprint,was something by accelerating as it did. Tomorrow,my last day with my diary. Ps : am I the only guy who hates seeing Alvarado on 50/1 morning line horses ? At least Lexcano gets some single digit rides,winning a nice chunk of them,no ,not like the Saez and Ortizes of this region,but still,especially on turf, he gives value,even today. Tough competition in this colony even when some top riders switch tracks x a day or weekend like today with Rosario and some others going to ride in Monmouth.πŸ€”

  8. Anyone else wonder why Baffert gets yet another pass, his rights being bypassed and all, while there is no “get out of jail card” to be had for Duttrow, whose entire right to making a living at his life’s craft is simply “shut the door” denied? Just like the inconsistancy with stewards inquiry decisions and rulings by the sports overseers, can’t we find a process that is consistantly fair for all involved. Indirectly, as well, as players and supporters of the game, what about our rights? At the end of the day, I suspect that money in play today will overide most all decisions. Kind of captures the failure points of the sport today.

  9. Today,Sunday ,not a good day to follow with much interest.Just bet the last three races, and nothing else,as follows 8th race: 67,. 9 th : 24 6,and 10 th with the fav 10 plus2467, PK 3 plus exactas and in the last race 10 over 2467,2467 and 35 x fourth and beyond.. Time x a nap.πŸ˜ͺπŸ’€πŸ˜΄

    1. JGR & JRP, My grandsons both thank you for covering the cost of their ice cream cups out in Greenport tonight. I used John’s #4 and JGR’s #10 for the 9th race $5 double ticket. That’s the best part of racing. Moderation in money management, and always spreading some of the good fortune by buying some ice cream for the grandkids when you catch a couple of winners. Thank you both. Used some of the extra to also buy a few balsam wood rubber band powered airplanes that we are going to put together in the AM. You guys kicked the vacation off to a “Goin’ Good” start indeed. Riders Up & Thanks, McD

      1. If I were a greedy addicted gambler I would likely complain that I did not get the straight Superfecta but i will not. Am glad that I only watched the early few minutes of the program ‘ cause besides the dreary day and most mediocre races the Fox network did not show the last couple of races,Unbelievable ! They had other commitments,like Cornhole or Go Gart racing.😁😁😁 ” No Respect” some comic would have said. Not only they continually cut the ‘ show’s between two channels,Fox 1 and Fox 2,but now they even cut the program which is insane,unless they re showing that idiotic,flamboyant,silly entertainment called Wrestling,grappling where nobody bleeds but can resuscitate after being pummeled for minutes…( Please,no betting allowed on that!! πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜‰). And that pantomime is shown almost daily in several networks !?! Go figure ! So,where does live racing belong for the audience,below Cornhole and ‘ minor league rugby’ ?? No respect,just insults! Sorry to read that still,today,some handicappers,like in Albany,use ,” mythical bankroll” during the Spa season. Come,on ,Men use your real $$,like other terrestrial gamblers.Lastly,I noticed that when NYRA guys make picks they are Not called handicappers but TALENT ! Hmn, a losing talent nonetheless..using Mythical moolah !?!? Ahahah ! Ridiculous,but true. In closing,I won’t be taking more of your time and space since I shall be concentrating on ,trying,to make some non mythical profits. Thanks,hoping that you will have believed at least 75 % of the nonsense that I wrote between mistakes,misspellings and facts. Until next time,James G R.

        1. Frankly, that’s a relief, James. I can read through your comments b/c it’s my job, but the typos and shows disrespect for other readers. You do have good things to say, but it should be more straight forward. No one has time to waste these days. Please consider that.
          As far as selections are concerned, be it TV analysts, myself, whomever, you need not take their advance and if they are that terrible, and do have some impact on the odds, you are free to bet against.
          As Frenchy the Clocker always said: “The game ain’t hard and nobody’s barred”

  10. John,
    In about 55 years of watching and betting thoroughbreds, it was a rare occurrence when a top jock caused a horse to lose a Grade 1(Classic and Handicap) race when they were on the best horse that day.
    In my opinion Jockey Prat rode HRC in the Belmont like an apprentice without a clue on how fast he was going, what kind of track he was on, his competition, and the distance he had to cover to win the race.
    Sunday, the same jockey found a new way to take the best horse and lose. This is not an issue of whip or no whip. It is about a Jock who moved into another lane too early and should not have been that close to the horse on the rail. Did he not think before the race that without a whip he may not have control he would normally have with HRC.

    I am not going to let Prat off the hook. He lost the Belmont (in my opinion) by not realizing how fast he was going leaving himself no chance of beating EQ, or any other class runner.
    He lost the Haskell because of his poor judgement.
    Sure this is a rant, but those two races sure wins the prize.
    I think it is time to replace that Jock before he loses again.


  11. Mark, your assessment of the Haskell incident might be correct in that it was a badly executed “race ride.” And, indeed, I didn’t see any attempt to correct to a large degree. Degrees are important in my view.
    What I will agree with is that he should have been mentally prepared for anything that might occur without the safety and purposeful control provided by a crop.
    My “social” argument was that even with a whip, there was no guarantee that the incident would have been avoided.

  12. Hot Rod Charlie is better than Mandaloun but disqualification is justified. Can’t wait to bet Hot Rod Charlie back.

    1. Tony, sounds like you will get your chance in the Pacific Classic. Like me, I know you like this 3YO class. Interesting to see the first serious test by one of the divisional leaders vs. elders. Even though he has high national profile, think value might be available, we shall see…

  13. hello john,
    i worked in nyra press box for a short time, back in 1983 and 1984. dave liftin,
    , sue morris, steve schwartz, and a nice gal named connie were the team i worked with.
    i hung with you and mark berner usually on fridays in the press box. later on i was a new face
    on thoroughbred action with the late great harvey pack. drew mollica was there with harvey the day i was on.
    i moved on from nyra to nassau otb, and was the public address announcer for 31 years. i’m the guy that
    picked up your call from suffolk otb, saying pricci phone, for your radio show. i worked with your boy
    steve matthews many times on radio shows and ky. derby seminars. john, cnl downs is a great track, you should make picks there.
    john, i loved your tribute to the late great harvey pack, it was really touching, thank you for that. mutuel mitch sirotta.

    1. Yes, I recall, good of you to reach out. I love the racing at Colonial. Wrote them once offering to do a trip analysis, a la Tampa Bay, and in the fall, GP, and never received the courtesy of a reply.
      I have some difficulty keeping up to the majors, as it is, but if Colonial thought that video-handicapping coverage would help their exposure, then that–beyond the big races of national interest there– would require some support. I don’t think that’s being unreasonable, time constraints being what they are.
      If your serious, why not forward your query and my response to Colonial Downs? You never know. Thanks for the inquiry.
      Yours in handicapping,

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