WHETHER IT’S FOOTBALL OR HORSE RACING, THE PLAYOFF SEASON HAS ARRIVED

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL — How can a sports fan not love this time of year, especially Saturday, the first day of playoffs for America’s favorite pastime and what was once America’s favorite pastime way back in the day.

It is the best of times for newly minted three-year-old racehorses with championship aspirations and the worst of times for an NFL dynasty. There’s no joy in Foxboro today let’s get this out of the way now:

Tom Brady will return and re-up with the Pats, who will supply him with the re-tooling needed on the offensive side of the ball. There must be an impact running back out there somewhere but healthy offensive lineman might be harder to find. But as one dynasty ends, another continues.

In racing’s glamour division all is fine thus far. Independence Hall overcame adversity and became an early, serious Derby contender in Wednesday’s Jerome Stakes. Saturday produced two more three-year-old stakes; one featuring a wow performance, the other a wow stretch battle.

In California, a colt named Authentic ran off the screen, no small feat considering he doesn’t yet know how to run. Leading throughout in soft SoCal fractions, he began to gawk around before he entered the straight. It was his second lifetime start and first around two turns.

It was sick watching Authentic widen his advantage just as Mr. Miyagi might have instructed–side to side, but not how Mr. Baffert might have drawn it up: “I’m just glad Drayden [Van Dyck] didn’t fall off.”

The nuts and bolts of the Sham Stakes were these: After a soft half-mile in 47.94, Authentic was 2-1/2 to the good after three-quarters on a mile in 1:12.18 and he widened to 7-3/4s at the end of a mile in 1:37.57.

All this while ducking in badly at the eighth and sixteenth poles, at once in hand but ridden some in deep stretch for safety and a learning experience for both horse and rider.

“I might have to put a blinker on him or something,” Bob Baffert admitted on TVG post-race. Baffert probably will add them then take them off for the Arkansas or Santa Anita Derby, right?

Meanwhile, Baffert’s other colt, Azul Coast, ran on well for place. After a bit of a bobbling break, he saved ground, fought his way off the fence in upper stretch, and clearly out-finished the competition in a rather good placing.

Well regarded Taishan broke a beat slow, was untenably three-wide into the first turn and never really picked it up after that. Richard Baltas’ colt is—and must be—better than that if he wants to remain on the trail for long. Then that’s why there are playoffs: Ability is one thing, execution another.

There was plenty of execution on display in South Florida. With overmatched Smash Factor setting an unsustainable pace, Paco Lopez stalked from a distance aboard As Seen On TV, keeping Tyler Gaffalione in the pocket aboard odds-on favorite Chance It.

The race was won and lost approaching the quarter pole, Lopez loomed up alongside the tiring leader while Gaffalione shot up the fence. The battle was joined as the leaders pulled away from the competition, setting the table for a memorable, drama-laden fetlock-to-fetlock drive.

“I thought he was beat at the eighth pole, I really did,” said Saffie Joseph Jr. who had just saddled his third stakes winner of the afternoon. “He switched leads and just dug in for that something extra. That’s the heart of a champion.

“I’m glad we had him tight enough to belly down, and he’s going to move forward from the run. He’s going to get much better from this race.”

Added Gaffalione, who completed a riding triple on the day, “I think he’s only going to keep improving, especially off that kind of [98 day] layoff. To fight like that it really shows the kind of heart he has. He’ll run all day, he’s just a big, long-striding colt.”

Joseph wasn’t the only one who thought his horse was beaten. In mid-stretch As Seen On TV surged to a narrow lead, Chance It countered,  As Seen On TV retook a narrow advantage until Chance It jumped over to his [incorrect] left lead, providing that little extra burst at the end.

Chance It survived a frivolous trainer’s objection before the result was made official. Solo Volante was a solid-rally third in his dirt debut after two impressive turf wins to launch his career. He should be a factor as the distances increase.

Solo Volante will get that chance in either of the next two Florida Derby preps; the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, which Joseph indicated are on his radar for Chance It providing he comes out of the ‘Macho Man’ well.

“Today is great,” admitted an emotional 29-year-old horseman. “This is the one I needed… If he got beat, I wouldn’t sleep. I don’t want to call him a champion because he has to earn it, but that’s the quality of a horse that becomes a champion.”

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14 Responses

  1. JP, Bratty (Tom Brady) is of no concern to any fan who is WEARY of the Pats. My sources in Boston say his home is on the market. May or may not be true but even Bobby Orr and Bryan Trottier were traded. Turn the page. Gretzky went on a retirement tour with stops in St. Louis and NY w/Rangers. His last goal ever was as a blue shirt at MSG. My selection for Super Bowl: The Purple People Eaters of MN. You don’t go into N’Orleans and get that one and then lose. Daughter went to college in St. Paul so may be a jaundiced pick. Nice people out there, ‘tho (Minnesota Nice).

  2. C, Agree with all the above and interesting tidbit about pending home sale and, of course, I know nothing about the win it-all-without-BB scenario. Just as a human nature kind of thing; I thought win it and leave; lose in Wildcard round and have some motivation for next yea; running back and shoring up OL just seems like no-brainer.

    Funny, never minded the Steelers or Niners dynasties. Dallas was, of course, extremely annoying but Pats, #11 notwithstanding, personally very hard to root for…

    Funny you mention Minnesota; I know about the nice people there but as a scant NFL watcher during regular season, I had this cliche impression of big and lumbering. These guys are big, but FAST! Great story about the new coach.

    Tough test next weekend for sure. Meanwhile, I’ve never seen Saints play as poorly as yesterday. Full disclosure: had small winter book Super Bowl bet on Saints. Just love everything about NOLA; atmosphere, food, music and Brees.

  3. Seems to me that the ‘Brady Situation’ can be compared to Lebron James`s before he went to Los Angeles. Winning Hall of Famer looking for ,maybe , a change of $cenery for a year or two but TB has been in Boston ,his only NFL stop, for many yrs unlike some other ‘mer$enary’ prima donna. Will he stay or finally get the hand$ome short term that he deserves from Kraft and company ? Media mouthpieces will chew on this until they`ll get tired of ruminating it ,after all only a few don`t have a theory on it,,it`s also $exy to fantasize about a handsome millionaire married to one of this Universe`s most attractive,richest models with a family,image and aura that not even Hollywood [ his next stop a la Lebron ? ] can invent. Like some other older QBs,Rivers,Brees,Manning,,, is it strange that many of us will spend time to theorize,gossip really,about millionaire athletes who wont have much in common with most of us,if not ‘awl’ of us. ‘Counting other people`s money’ in sports is comparable to my 80 plus yr old Mom trying to tell me about her ‘story,favorite soap program. Always wondered why many of us do not revere ,admire other millionaires,impresarios who made their investments grow and glow the hard,smart way. Making some $ 30-40 milllion$ a year playing a sport is beyond comprehension ,yes, even you Rinaldo,Messi and wonder how some of my past,juvenile years` ‘heroes’ would get paid today,say Frank Robinson,Nolan Ryan,Wilt Chamberlain and even my Yankee x a short Espresso,Rocky Colavito earn today. Watching my monthly cable bill of over $ 210 reminds me that we have a paw into these exaggerated salarie$ .Lived in Boston,my coldest winter ever,great sport town,great location, by the Station similar to Penn in NYC, winning here and there unlike NYC which is definitely the worst big metro sports town area even if the Yankee and Islander organizations try to win unlike all the others whose owners keep on making the same mistakes[ bad trades,hires,trades,etc ] ,worse than a continual long shot player,burning money ,while distancing fans year after year. Will Tom Brady do this or that ? What would i do in his place?,,,,, Extend my famiglia with my beautiful wife`s blessings and joy whether it will be in Boston or on West Coast area where i may already have a compound waiting for me.Not every one can cease playing like MJ did on top of the world..but Tom and his family are darn close and happier.Who would not be in his shoes, close to Ms Bundchen and her kids,smiles x the rest of our lives? Enjoy your health and,,, Luck. Your future commercials, guest spots,books,speeches,board memberships will continue to overcompensate your life.Let`s admit it,We all envy you,lucky S.O. B. [ Son Of Brady! },,and nothing that you`ll do will change our lives,let be realistic ! ,,ps; My intent was to compare Horse racing with Football [ PPs,jockey-QB changes,trainer-coach patterns, whether conditions,home,away turf,tracks,tougher,softer competition, baed start,early-late pace,,,’middle move,ie half time changes,etc. Maybe some other time,after all today is the 12 th day after Xmas,a traditional holiday if I still were a ‘good catholic boy’. PPS; Can Seattle be any more fortunate ? Definitely,they deserve a loss; enough breaks for them ,already !

  4. Enjoyed, and chuckled, through your posting, Mr. Romano. The cable bill, not to mention all the Tom Brady shirts worn with pride by young’uns up here, and you’re right, we helped create this monster. Not just TB, mind you, but you’re correct about all the attention his “next move” has generated. My recently deceased father (102) used to watch Pats games because of Brady. He was a New Yorker and not a big fan of football. I asked him why he did this. He said to me, “he seems like a nice fellow.” Charmed life, as you point out, seems to be correct and a lot of talent. You mentioned some of your favorites so I’ll throw in one of mine: Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. Oakland Raider QB who impressed the heck out of me as a kid. He passed away as well but I really thought he was a cool cat.

    1. Thanks ! Sport ‘heroes’ come and go through generations ,I guess like the Hollywood ‘stars’ of yesteryear when many would almost automatically go to a cinema just because a certain actor/actress was in it. I found it to hard,repulsive ‘Revere’ both actors,athletes,,or even ‘religious symbols’,role models,, ,My Nonno, grandpa was it along with my dad. Only once did I buy an article for my son when he was a pre-teen to teen, a signed ball by Nolan Ryan and at this moment still,,do not know if he ever signed it with his own hand ! Shoes,shirt and other paraphernalia? Not even when I was a young, avid hockey fan. To think how many million$ of $ many athletes make with their images-symbols[ poor,slave like ,manufactured sneakers for $ 1000`s ?? ] make me think what kind of consumers we have been and will be.,,almost as bad as some abstract ‘paintings’ signed by a particular ‘artist’ who finish that scribbler of a piece in his sleep ,with his feet or,, never mind. Almost as ‘valuable’ as gold but that`s another matter. Stabler was playing when football was different with his Oakland team scaring many opponents,including the Jets` Joe Willie Namath,New York Mets.. what a year that was,,, !!.Crap,that`s 50 yrs ago !! Bye.

      1. Yes, Ricky Gervais scorched earth comment (s) at Golden Globes Sunday night spoke to that very point. Not saying I am a fan of Ricky but it was kinda cool to hear him express his thoughts on the disparity between workers who actually assemble the products in some far off land and the CEO’s (and actors) who are royally compensated. He even went after, jokingly, the Hollywood Foreign Press who put the Globes together. The association’s president, Lorenzo Soria, appeared briefly onstage and playfully swatted back, “Ricky, you keep saying this is your last year hosting. For God’s sake, please put it in writing (NYT).” I once purchased a signed black and white photo of Bobby Orr in a mall. Always wondered if he signed it. Remember a bumper sticker in Boston during his glory days with Bruins that said, “God Bless Orr Country.” Then he was traded! If Bobby Orr can be traded so can Tom Brady. Would love to hear your thoughts on Bitcoin, ha, ha.

  5. Any reader out there got a ‘best bet’ for today? Fifty years ago the ability to gamble on the ponies was the main attraction; and, I still believe the ability to gamble on them is the sole attraction. Have ya’all stopped gambling and now find reminiscing the panacea.

  6. There’s more handicapping than ever before on HRI, with more to come. If people want to reminisce and conduct themselves respectfully toward each other and the HRI audience, we are happy to provide that platform.
    #LiveAndLetLive

  7. ‘ Ability to gamble’ ? You mean people should ‘gamble’ the same way [that you might do ] ? It`s a very subjective thing ! When,where,why applies here too,besides in journalistic terms . You must believe that each person who makes a bet,Any kind of bet,from $.10 to $ 100’s,$ 1000`s does it x similar reasons.You must also believe that everyone reads the Drf and all other ways to check various input information,stats,workouts,PP`s,angles,etc. the same way that you or i might do.Anyone can make a bet,,or play Lotto,daily # s, or even go to a buffet..’Ability’,word with many meanings and we all have to choose what it means and when. To be able to do something,like saying ‘I Can’ but according to my experience not everyone CAN,just a minority,a silent one. Have seen people automatically bet on ML odds,jockey,trainers ‘being due’ to win,only bet outside,wide closers who were within a certain number of lengths behind the winner, ones who placed on their last race,consensus of public picks,including Pricci, and so forth. The choices to bet,gamble that specific way,method are as infinite as the excuses to make them after the results of a race,bet. With the over saturation of simulcasts,from tiny tracks in the middle of nowhere[ Nebraska,West Virginia,Arizona,,] to the main half dozen or so respected tracks the choices are as unlimited as the ‘reasons’ on why to bet them. Geez,now i can even bet at my favorite adult drinks joint , even if i do not imbibe when i`m deciphering and selecting my final choices,bets. Many past friends used to say that they only Wanted to Bet on a Sure thing[ bet] like if If It Were Possible i`d Need Their $$ ! ” Taxes and Death” is not running or playing today,well Not that i know of.. Some of us are ONLY Spot Bettors,awaiting for the proper situation whether it`s Flat Racing,Harness,Football or Basketball just like the way i approach a Buffet Table or an available non smoking,slim ,tall ,attractive woman,otherwise i wont be interested; not worthy of a gamble.Not for me. Going to a betting parlor ‘just because’ wont ever be a good reason for many,,Not anymore. I got plenty of adult beverages at home and a big wide yard,away from smells,noises,coughs,sneezes and more excuses. Gotta be Selective ! O a regular day i rarely bet on more than 4-5 races from the main two tracks,ie,Gulfstream,Aquaduct,Churchill and usually,automatically skip the first couple of races to get the right ‘feeling’ for the better,later races and leaving the last,usually cheap bottom claimer out. [ a friend of mine yrs ago told me that he only bet the best jockey on the last race,WP and in DD..Wonder if there`s such a stat. Pricci ,any thought on that ‘angle’ ? His reason was the unless he had a chance a ‘big name’ jock would not bother being among those second rate,part time,a la cart jockeys at the end of the day. Never had a tab on that, besides,many times it`s difficult to discern who really is a top jockey among these anonymous caballeros. “Sole attraction” ? You mean that you still believe that the ‘Game Of Kings’ is more popular than the Real ‘King of the Game’ ,Football ? ,,This time of the year? Bet $$ has been going up in tracks,just like it has in Football,mainly thanks to more state with legal gambling like New Jersey racking up Million$ month after month while Gov.Cuomo and others are hedging their bets on it,,losing $$ by the truck load that could be used for more improvements ,positions[esp. for party members,friends,connections,lobbyists,you know,the way Suffolk and Nassau OTBs went down the drain..[Ahahah!].

  8. The main attraction for the past 30 yrs or so has NOT been the Sport of Kings but the NFL,the Real King of all Sports . Bettors have a few days[ 3-7.or more ] to make their minds about a bet and Not a few minutes. In horse racing less people are betting more $ even if there are $.10 bets available in most joints. Geez,i can even bet in a local adult beverage place if i wanted to although i never drink while discerning which bet to make. I hate loitering ,smells,noises ,fake laughs… besides owning a good selection of wines, and other beverages so that joint wont see me as a probable patron.,but it`s there for anyone who wants to make a bet,,at any cost.Nobody is stopping anybody else from doing it if that ‘hitch’ comes across.. Now,That`s Gambling,,with a drink in hand and a ‘ hunch’ from a female Mixologist,barista who keeps on pouring your glasses while your mind gets foggier and your Credit Card gets lighter. “Do what you like ” [ Blind Faith,1969 circa]

  9. Blind Faith, saw them at MSG and at the end of concert on circular stage a person from audience tried to get up and close to the band members. City cop grabbed and then Ginger Baker went over to the scene with drum stick held high as if to intervene. You are so right about NFL being top dog as for handle. I got to hand it to you, you’re writing style is great and fun to read. Betting “systems” are as old as time itself. Knew a man who kept DRF’s in his desk drawer at his job at an agency. We’re going back more than 50 years now. He thought that a surefire way to riches was to bet the favorite in the feature race in NY to show and only on weekends. My father took the bait and went with him to the old Aqueduct to test out this system of his. I asked my dad if it worked back then. He said that it did for a while until it didn’t, ha, ha. JP, I know I go way off course with postings but thanks for the green light to do this. Get all jacked up on coffee in AM and head straight to HRI!

    1. Well,just like some of us think about horse racing`s best days,1970`s to 1980`s some of us are still partial to that ‘music scene’ whether we went to Fillmore east or the old MSG after having checked the former LIVE Village Voice now not even a shell of what it once was. In Horse racing the same applies for me from the then famous Jockeys,Trainers[ Cordero,Velasquez,Maple,Venezia,Vasquez,,Jerkens,Penna,Lukas,,, and don`t ever forget those ‘ winter bug boys ‘ who became very successful jockeys like Cauthen,Davis and of course the real HOT bug Wesley Ward. Is there such an exciting thing today,both in music or flat racing ? Not to ramble about the past but it ‘aint the same, as too many times people say;’ it is what it is’ and that applies to the comatose dailies,esp from NY,Boston,Philly..Even Pricci`s Newsday was ‘one of Usa`s best papers’ now a shadow of what it was in the 80`s from front page to back cover and its over 60 pages in between,esp. the sport section directed by types like Comerford,Clemente. When i`m in NYC using the subway i`m in the miniscule minority reading a paper in my hands,absorbing what i`m reading. The village voice? Only in the PC,,but nobody knows about it anymore,it is anonymous,ignored like too many other things.PS; Betting systems NEED a Disciplined way to bet,some use ‘Kelly System’ while others double up,and you need more $ for that. I use some incremental ,automatic way and as long as the exacta gimmick lands a $ 16 or more payoff ,i`ll be fine.,, Starting with $ 2 x 2, boxing two main selections and take it from there[ $ 3 x 2,4×2,5×2,,, keeping a tab on $ bet,, But ,as the late Mitchell wrote,Whatever it`s working for you Do Not tell Anyone,,,you wont convince them and why should you,same with Wall Street ‘hot tips’.if you nwin ,you`re lucky,if you lose you`re a “degenerate loser”,, Someday we`l chat about weights on horses. Until next week.. so long ..

  10. JP, Ravens debacle underscores why NFL is the second most difficult sport to predict. The first is horse racing. The Titans look Titanic, ‘tho, and may “sink” everyone on their way to finale. Someone on FAN this morning said the NFL would like a KC/GB Supe because it was the first ever and this is their 100th year. Seahawks could ruin that scenario today in snow country but I know absolutely nothing so don’t take my advice. I gave up sports betting many years ago after taking St. Louis Cardinals minus 1 at home vs. Giant. Game went into OT. Ended a zero/zero tie. I lose. Neil O’Donahue misses chip shot field goal as Dandy Don Meredith starts, “Say goodnight, the party’s over, HE MISSED IT!” That was it for me. The next week O’Donahue nails 50 yarder, naturally…

  11. C, betting lines have gotten a lot tighter, no question, but what happened to the Ravens yesterday IMO, happens commonly. Superior teams coming in off a extra week’s rest can come out flat–and executed poorly. Teams spend two weeks practicing, read that they’re going to the Super Bowl and being only human, that psychological edge disappears.
    The underdog comes in sharp and hungry. Maybe the world’s not ready for Derrick Henry cause he’s a wonderful weapon who helps take time off the clock and someone to game plan for. Unfortunately, you can’t game plan a stiff arm. I can go on but no time. Leave for LA tomorrow on family business; got some game planning of my own to do…

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