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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 22, 2022 – On balance and as usual, the Preakness Stakes proved to be the most predictably formful of the Triple Crown series.

Much of the 20-horse chaff was separated two weeks ago in Louisville, leaving the Crown’s second jewel to the best of the Derby survivors.

And the fresh faces, let’s not forget those fresh faces, especially those whose connections have been there and have done it.

Enter Chad Brown, birthday boy Seth Klarman, and a Preakness maiden breaker, Jose Ortiz.

Ortiz’s inexperience with Preakness victory, and his inexperienced Preakness mount, Early Voting, didn’t show. Ortiz voted early, on the lower first turn, and didn’t need to vote again, much less often.

The one decisive move into the first turn won Preakness-147 right there. He allowed an overly excited speedster, Armagnac, to take the lead on the first turn.

In doing so, Ortiz was able to back off the longshot and allowed his horse to set a rather easy tempo for this level while providing a more than willing target.

When ready, Ortiz pushed the button and Early Voting was gone. Four lifetime starts, three wins, including a Grade 3 victory, a Grade 2 placing, and now a Grade 1 score in a Classic.

Now maybe some of the amateurs can stop denigrating this year’s Wood Memorial where Early Voting finished second in one of the fastest preps of the season, especially those final three rapidly run furlongs.

It was not as if Early Voting didn’t stay the trip that day, it was more the fact that Mo Donegal went and got him. And it took all of Joel Rosario’s skill and strength to do so.

Unfortunately for Rosario, things did not go as well in Baltimore as they did in Queens.

Race favorite Epicenter broke cleanly but for some reason lacked his usual tactical speed, the team finding themselves farther back than usual, especially considering a reasonably lazy early pace.

Lacking position, Rosario had a decision to make and he made the right one, deciding the save ground.

The bad news is that his closest rival pinned him to the fence at a critical juncture at headstretch.

Rosario had no choice but to roll the dice on the fence, the only opening he had, and grind his way forward.

But Epicenter is not a grinder, he’s a tactical speedster with kick. By the time he gathered his best momentum, Early Voting kicked clear by a landslide margin.

And he needed every bit of that real estate to stave off the favorite who has yet to run a bad race, his career debut notwithstanding.

The winner was fresh and it showed; the runnerup was good, but wasn’t as sharp as he is normally, it happens. Perhaps the spacing mattered, perhaps it didn’t.

For the exacta finishers, they likely will wind up on a collision course. Both outfits will covet the Travers.

We’d expect Early Voting to use the Jim Dandy to get there. We’d expect that Epicenter could use the Haskell. He may need time and still needs a Grade 1 that has proven elusive.

He’s come close in two classics. His reputation is still secure.

Secret Oath could have had better luck first time by the stands. And maybe the task proved too tall after her decisive Oaks victory.

Now perhaps Simplification will get a little R & R. God knows he’s earned that, having missed no dances this year.

Creative Minister’s stock is on the rise. The $150,000 gamble paid off and his show finished produced a small profit, relatively speaking, but he is now Classic’s placed. Priceless.

This is a very good group of three-year-old’s. The Triple Crown has one final stop to make three weeks hence.

Then the long summer and fall campaigns can begin. The Preakness was supposed to establish the divisional leader.

All it did was add a new shooter to the mix.

What happens if Todd Pletcher decides to run Nest, and win his second Belmont Stakes with a filly?

What if Brown has no choice but to run his Preakness winner against his Derby show finisher? Which one is more talented, Zandon or Early Voting?

And what if Rich Strike turns out to be more than a historical aberration? Then what?

this column is live and will take days to complete

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⚠ Before you comment

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23 Responses

  1. Enjoyed reading the topsy-turvey year summation John, but I think Rosario was caught a little short on his effort out of the gate today. Asmussen said the instructions to Rosario were “try to be away from there cleanly and let them adjust around him. But he didn’t get away clean and he just buried him from there.” From my view this was the second consecutive race where EPI was the best horse entered. Two in a row where he finishes second. Sure looks like Epi will be my selection once again three weeks out. Maybe many will give up on him in the Belmont, but I’m thinking Bet Twice running down the Belmont stretch in his year as runner up. By the fall races, Epi will indeed emerge as the best of his class.

    1. McD,
      We’re still waiting for a Derby Winner from a Fairgrounds multiple prep winner. Maybe the additional sixteenth of a mile in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby aren’t beneficial to Triple Crown candidates after all. A winner has yet to come out of the 1-3/16 m UAE Derby as well. I’m surprised Asmussen didn’t run Epi at Oaklawn where history would have been on his side.

      It may turn out that synthetic is the easiest on preppers.

      1. I, Asmussen said earlier this year that he loves the spacing and distance progression of the Fair Grounds program. And stuff just happens. Rich Strike was best on the day and there were extenuating circumstances in Baltimore… pace, trip, etc. Like McD, confident he will get his Grade 1 before the clock strikes midnight 2023.

        1. JP,
          More likely midnight will bring a coachman switch to take Epicinderella to the Belmont ball.

          Even great jockeys don’t fit all horses. Unlike O’Neil who keeps using Prat on Hot Rod Charlie, Asmussen seems no longer willing to suffer even a short losing streak under the same rider. Rosario may join Santana in Asmussen’s doghouse.

          I’ll be rooting for Epicenter to save the current Triple Crown format by winning the Belmont following competitive performances in both prior legs. Would that be enough to wrest the 3YO championship from the Derby winner?

          Of course they could always change “My Old Kentucky Home” to “Skip To My Lou.” LOL

          With apologies to those who regard both above songs as racist:

          Too much early speed, skip the Derby
          Two weeks is too soon, skip the Preakness
          Twelve furlongs is too far, skip the Belmont
          Skip to the Haskell, My Darlin’

          Can’t ride the same jock, a new jock’ll do
          Can’t find a new jock, what’ll I do?
          Bobby in the ointment, shoo fly shoo
          Skip to the farm, My Darlin’

  2. I completely understand where you’re coming from, McD. Several points:

    In terms of the Derby, I think the best horse won. Epicenter was far enough away from the insane pace and Joel made no mistakes in my view. Considering Rich Strike’s stretch run, I can’t deny the winner as being the best horse. Just one main’s opinion…

    As for Preakness, EPI broke cleanly enough but had no “pop” after the break. Ultimately, the wide draw didn’t help him. Rosario had to decide, go on with it and get caught very wide, or take back. He did the latter.

    The lack of pace hurt. From his position, the best chance Rosario had was to save ground–just like he did winning the Wood. He was following a live horse on the turn, but CM, was in no hurry at that point.

    Approaching headstretch Rosario was looking for an option, but Alvarado had him pinned in, and kept him there.

    EPI grinded his way forward on the inside but his usual burst of stretch speed was lacking.

    I will catch up with the quotes today but, personally don’t think he’s a cinch to even run in the Belmont, unless SA said otherwise.. EPI can earn redemption in the “Midsummer Derby,” beating one or both Chads, and all the rest of the late bloomers.

    EPI ran a “winning race” in the Derby but was second. The pace, the trip, and the better horse on the day beat him in Baltimore. It happens. That’s why races are not run on paper.

  3. JP it’s time to change the Triple Crown schedule. No ifs ands or buts. When NBC Triple Crown host Mike Tirico is upset Rich Strike was not in Baltimore to run in the Preakness. That’s the last straw for me. I know you advocated for a change in Triple Crown schedule 5 years ago. The time is now to change the spacing of the races. Keep Derby first Saturday in May
    move Preakness to Memorial Day weekend, finish off the Belmont July 4th. It’s better for the horses, will make sweeping all 3 races more difficult and will keep sports fans engaged in racing longer.
    It’s a WIN, WIN, WIN all around.

  4. Welcome to Sunday morning Quarterbacking full of IF s,Maybes,Couldas Shouldas….Get that Pulitzer ready ! ( Yawn! )

    1. You know what JG. Make a comment, pro or con, but these potshots are waste of time and contribute nothing.

      This site is for people who love to wager and/or love the game. Spending the day discussing a 147-year-old classic is exactly the right thing for an entire audience.

      Personally, your repetitious recalling of your bets won or lost money is important only to you, not anyone else without some context. #PredictablyBoring

      I have edited, corrected punctuation, and in some cases deleted your comments. I, and others, I tired of the BS. Why don’t you simply find someplace else to troll?

      1. At least,as a “Long time,white hair handicapper” pick a good winner once in a while instead of making up excuses or getting away from the [losing] topics at hand! Of ALL of you experts Only Mike Welsch,besides moi,a private,spot better, picked the right combo,exacta and triple,besides the gimmicky Superfecta, Why should Anyone read,follow,your semi empty page with specters of the past ,showing names of people who NO Longer are paying attention to you? What do you have to profitably offer? “It`s Only Words ” the Bee Gees sang as you dribble,babble from one week to another..Good deal, continuing your ability to waste time,yours and of those who find your little dark corner of ineptitude. “I used to handicap for Newsday’ ..Big Friggin deal,What are you achieving now? Spreading knowledge? Ahahahah! Blissful ! Goodbye!

        1. Just for the record, we had the exacta in reverse order; check the Preakness Pick 4 page again.

          Like we said, go troll somewhere else.



  5. I second Tony Palmisano’s comment on spacing the TC races. As for the Sunday Morning Quarterbacking comment, that is a pitch to simple let pass. Below the belt is all, and uncalled for.

    Sunday it is, let it be.

  6. 9At the end, poem from INDULTO via personal email:0

    More likely midnight will bring a coachman switch to take Epicinderella to the Belmont ball.

    Even great jockeys don’t fit all horses. Unlike O’Neil who keeps using Prat on Hot Rod Charlie, Asmussen seems no longer willing to suffer even a short losing streak under the same rider. Rosario may join Santana in Asmussen’s doghouse.

    I’ll be rooting for Epicenter to save the current Triple Crown format by winning the Belmont following competitive performances in both prior legs. Would that be enough to wrest the 3YO championship from the Derby winner?

    Of course they could always change “My Old Kentucky Home” to “Skip To My Lou.” LOL

    With apologies to those who regard both above songs as racist:

    Too much early speed, skip the Derby
    Two weeks is too soon, skip the Preakness
    Twelve furlongs is too far, skip the Belmont
    Skip to the Haskell, My Darlin’

    Can’t ride the same jock, a new jock’ll do
    Can’t find a new jock, what’ll I do?
    Bobby in the ointment, shoo fly shoo
    Skip to the farm, My Darlin’

  7. With JGR’s last comment in mind, I write, yet again, the following: Thoroughbred racing’s only attraction is the ability to gamble, to make money; the thoroughbred is simply a means to an end like cards to poker, like dice to craps. For decades the so-called ‘sport’ has been promulgated to the public by turf writers who intentionally select stake races and a handful of trainers as their topics of discussion; thus, readers get, year-after-year, basically the same ole’, same ole’ over and over. Yet, day-after-day, numerous races are presented at very modern, excellent facilities that offer the gambler a better opportunity to ‘cash’ than the stake races discussed here at HRI every week.

    What do I care if Rich Strike or Epicenter wins the Belmont Stakes? I don’t! There will be other races at Belmont and across the country on June 11th that will be far easier to handicap. And , I am bored reading here at HRI about the same stake races and the same trainers each week as reported by Mr. Pricci; and the stake races usually have an odds-on favorite or are simply to difficult to ‘cap – easier pick’ins elsewhere!

    For some mysterious reason, Mr. Pricci, when ‘going Gulfstream’ or somewhere, always selects the race with the largest purse or highest class level when numerous times another race on the day’s card has a ‘figure’ plodder at a fair price.

    Never has HRI in my fourteen or fifteen years of occasionally commenting ever emphasized that the ‘game’ is about gambling, about making money, about analyzing a day’s whole race card and find plodders that have an excellent change of winning; it has always been the same stake races and the same handful of trainers and jockeys to ad nauseam.

    Finally, to really degrade the serious horse player, Mr. Pricci is now reverting to exotic wagers (the wagers of the newbie and casual bettor) as if it possible to handicap a thoroughbred to come in second, third, or fourth.

    1. wmc,
      In those 14/15 years, the game has changed as well as those playing it. What data, handicapping techniques, betting strategies, and wagering opportunities that produced profits in the ’60s don’t all still exist and/or aren’t always successful today.

      Then, we only had only 9 puzzles with planned variety to concern ourselves with daily at our local tracks where we were surrounded by many others just as passionate about and engaged in the activity as we were. Today most of us who have gotten older, slower, and stubborner, play alone at our computers with access to hundreds of races, but with little time and diminished capacity to fully analyze even a fraction of them.

      You are entitled to your preferences just as we all are, but your continuous and repetitious complaints haven’t accomplished anything in all these years other than making yourself and others less happy and appreciative of the congenial company and valuable insights we sometimes find here.

      If you want to see discussion here about the races you find most interesting, then initiate those conversations yourself. Don’t expect to receive until you’re willing to give. Picking and betting one’s own winners while weighing the possibilities with enjoyable company, is my concept of what the game is all about.

      Always glad to see you’re still with us.

  8. Mr. Ed: All these years that have passed since HRI was created you have always, with consistency, referred to my comments as repetitious ignoring the fact that the commentary by Mr. Pricci and others were also repetitious – the subject virtually daily always about the annual stake race of the week involving the usual suspects: Pletcher, Baffert, Asmussen, Brown, and maybe Shug.

    After about three years of HRI’s existence, commentators began to disappear; I suspect that they were true horse players who were serious about picking winners and not caught up with the trend to exotic wagering and got tired of the emphasis solely on stake races and a
    handful of trainers. The current crop of commentators appear to me to be small bettors who contribute little to the handle of any race pool.

    At one time Mr. Pricci was offering a win selection and doing initially very well; then he started losing, then he no longer kept a running total of his balance to date; then he moved into exotic wagering, then his profits went further south. Now, I can’t figure out just what he is suggesting or wagering. Your right, things have changed within the industry and also here at HRI, but Thoroughbred racing has not changed for me. I still purchase the past performance via on-line and I still spend a couple of hours per day looking at the races available around the country. And, I still manage to cash tickets!

    What I have tried to accomplish here at HRI is to inform all that the ‘game’ is about gambling; that all races are the same in appearance and payoff, that only a couple of seconds usually is the difference between a stake race and a cheap claimer, that claiming races are easier to ‘cap, and that all races are exciting especially when your plodder has a chance to win.

    You, and others, have commented that this or that blue blood should be pointed toward this or that stake race; that this or that stake race will be a terrific race. I find myself totally flabbergasted wondering ‘are these guys horse players with a rubber band around a wad’.

    Well anyway, we will never agree on any matter involving horse racing. Fortunately, we do agree on a subject far more important.

  9. wmc,
    Please note that it is your COMPLAINTS that I find repetitious. Your comments can occasionally be quite interesting and/or entertaining.

    The hypocrisy of those who criticize JP’s selections without revealing theirs ahead of time, tarnish their own image a lot more than they do his.

    I don’t know why I expect things to be any friendlier and less chaotic here than in a world beset by war, plague, endangered personal freedom, and political division, but thanks to JP, this site has proven a haven for disgruntled horseplayers. A lesser man couldn’t tolerate the abuse of freedom of expression that he is forced to encounter in providing it.

    1. We do what we can I. I appreciate your perspective. My hope was this would be a place for open dialogue, horseplayers exchanging ideas, disparate or otherwise.

      Sadly, however, it has become a refuge for a handful of the disgruntled. But as you say, why should this be any different from the sad, mad world in which we live?

      We go on because hope is the only alternative for giving in and giving up. Today was a dark day, in far more serious ways than one. #NoWords

  10. Two bucks and two cents from the bleacher seats. I would like to add comment to I’man’s verse regarding “giving”. “It is in the giving that we actually receive the most” is my take on it all. Maybe we could all try it out every now and then. That would certainly present a “positive” change to the comments section.

    If anyone should happen to feel very strongly about a race of any type, on any undercard race or stakes race anywhere, try sharing your view once in a while just for the fun of it. I suspect none of us will overwhelm your payout, as John suspects most of us are smaller gambler types (cheap bastard DNA types) with no need of a rubber band around our wads, lol.

    Regarding “Today was a Dark Day”, I live next door to a “timebomb ready to blow”, ~ 50 year old living with Mom who spent way too many years pumping iron and steroids. He was just out in his front diveway sreaming aloud to the planets above for God only knows what. The NCPD two months back took him away for two or three weeks, but he has now returned once more. I suspect if he had a gun in his possession, many of us in the neighborhood would be at risk. Wish the Repulican Party would abandon the deep rooted partnership with the NRA is all. Something has to change and soon.

    Life is short and for me racing is a recreational diversion that I greatly enjoy. It is not only about the money but the fun of the race itself. Should anyone have a plodder or two on any given card, feel free to share it. My serious wagering is market and bond investing. There I will offer a plodder, just not running tomorrow. DUFRY is the trading synbol. Duty Free at the Airports globally at some point four to six will rip in valuation after covid. Either that or the company will be “claimed” by members of its board of directors. At some point this stock will indeed be running in stakes races. Don’t buy yet, but keep this one on your watch list. I will post in the comments section when I buy in. Waiting patiently….

    Peace Out- McD

    1. A stock to watch, an HRI first! Thanks McD…

      As for the rest Dennis, I thought Sandy Hook was the final straw. But I guess that was not meant to be in a democratic republican that has its roots in genocide of indigenous people, and 400 years of slavery. And it’s now women they are after…

      Saw a stat the other day: Population in the U.S. represents 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet we own over 40% of the world’s guns. Here’s another one: Just this year alone, 134 children under the age of 11 have been murdered.

      It’s only May 25 and there are no words, only shame. Racing a refuge fails me today.


  11. Note: Three or Four, not days or weeks, but months. The consumer is short on discretionary spending money with all the inflation in the system right about now. Gas is only one factor in many. The two dollar window at Twinspires and NYRABETS will be fine, but Retail Credit Card balance debt is rising on all purchases and that will add only add more pressure on the consumer. At some point we will get past this cycle, and retail will find firmer footing. Once airline fares revert lower, and global conflict lessens, world travel will come back in play and airport retail will surge once again. DUFRY stock will rise with all the other boats. Just be patient.

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