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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL –Sometimes, cogent quotes from the Trainer-Speak Media Handbook gets a little old: “We’ve liked him from the start…” “She’s doing very well and we expect her to run big this weekend…” “We’ll let the horse tell us when to run next…”

Well, it wasn’t so much that Mucho Gusto told Bob Baffert to run in the Pegasus World Cup, he yelled, like horses sometimes do, a whinny that could be heard from Arcadia to Hallandale Beach.

And so it came to pass that the newly turned four-year-old drew into the race as the first alternate then blew the 4th Pegasus World Cup Invitational wide open as he made his winning sweep into the Gulfstream Park straight.

Of course, Baffert had lots of help–from competition that never materialized. First, Maximum Security, who held him at bay on a sultry afternoon on the Jersey Shore last summer, opted for a shot at 20 million bloody dollars in the Arabian desert next month.

Then Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun To Run contracted a bad case of the hives, indicating at the very least a high level of stress or other issues, requiring dulling doses of antibiotics–not the way to go into a big race.

That, probably more than anything, was the reason Irad Ortiz Jr. jumped off the Dirt Mile winner weeks in advance in favor of Mucho Gusto. Perhaps Mr. Baffert had his ear very close to the ground, too, possibly both.

Of course, the mucho grande defection was star-crossed Omaha Beach. A filling in his right hind ankle was discovered during the enhanced protocol process and ultimately the decision to scratch, on the advice of Dr. Larry Bramlage, was, as Hall of Famer Richard Mandella said, “a no-brainer.”

Ortiz, who collected a second consecutive Eclipse Award as Outstanding Jockey less than 48 hours earlier, gave a future Hall of Fame ride.

A strong warm-up, a sharp break away from post #8–important going this trip at Gulfstream–Ortiz saved ground thereafter, tipped out at headstretch and his mount drew off with authority.

Probably not since the old D-Wayne-Off-the-Plane days has there been a ship-in trainer as prolific as Bob Baffert. This would be, say, as opposed to John Sadler who, until he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic two years ago, was notoriously unproductive outside the state of California.

Sadler started Higher Power, one of the race’s few Grade 1 winners going into the race. Off favored at 5-2, the Californian was enjoying a perfect stalking trip until nearing the half-mile pole where he began to falter badly. Higher Power finished last of 10.

Mr. Freeze, ridden far too aggressively to reach the front, was pressured on the pace throughout but held very determinedly for place as old pro War Story came flying home late and. while never a win threat, was a terrific third.

Zulu Alpha Trips Out, and Draws Out, to Win Pegasus Turf

Or maybe we should say that Tyler Gaffalione won the Pegasus Turf with an able assist from his gelded seven-year-old partner and prolific grass teacher Mike Maker, ‘Zulu’ earning his first career Grade 1. Geldings are known for getting better with age and this one certainly has.

But this brings us back to Gaffalione who gained national prominence last year winning the Preakness Stakes with War of Will, among other significant victories, then the Davie native returns home the next year to win Gulfstream’s richest non-Breeders’ Cup turf race.

As everyone knows, trips, primarily ground saving trips, win grass races but trip assessment often occur in the eyes of the beholder:

“Just a great horse,” Maker said: “I thought he got unlucky in the Breeders’ Cup or he might have gotten a bigger slice.” Indeed, it’s difficult making up late ground at Santa Anita when six wide at headstretch. “I was hoping [Tyler] would get out. But he saved all the ground and got lucky.”

The young riding star saw it a bit differently: “The speed set up in front of us and I was able to let my horse settle, Gaffalione explained. “They just kept opening up and I didn’t see any reason to go around them so we just stayed on the fence. He really exploded down in there.” He sure did.

Nine Stakes, Six Graded, Produce Near Record Pegasus Day Handle

Handle can be a flawed metric when measuring business success; it’s about net revenue, right? Well, what price is a successful event worth? Getting a young crowd compared to racing’s older demographics, and an attractive well-dressed bunch compared to any non-event racing day. Priceless?

We left the Gulfstream a few minutes after 7 pm and young people were filing into the grounds for the woke entertainment. Anyway, business was brisk. Saturday’s handle of $41.8 million lost by a nose to the $41.9 all-time Pegasus Day record.

Year over year, handle was up $4 million+ from 2019’s rain-soaked program. And dare we say the record would have fallen if the results were a bit more formful, resulting in better churn?

There were four single-digit winners and one favorite on the 12-race card, a Todd Pletcher first-time starter with a big future named Market Analysis. The remaining mutuels were $24.60, 11.80, 13.00, 15.40, 12.60, 74.60, and 25.60.

Pot of Gold Must Be Dispersed Today

After not producing an entire-pool winner for 41 consecutive days, the Rainbow 6, with today’s jackpot carryover of $3.6 million is likely to produce a total Pick 6 pool exceeding $15 million. Multiple winners of Saturday’s sequence each collected a massive $390K.

Saturday, five members in the 10-horse Pegasus would have taken down the pool if True Timber, Higher Power, War Story, Tenfold or Bodexpress had won.

No one in the press box could ever recall when a massive carryover would have gone to a lone winner holding a ticket that including the favorite in the finale.

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30 Responses

  1. Nice of you to give Tyler credit. Red Sea opened up and he went on to the win. But you’re right, he had to be in position to take the shortest route to the wire. And the horse was a former claimer. John Henry was also. Owner a horseplayer who hit with this one on this day.

    1. Was thinking of Calvin Borel` s win on the rail in the 2009 Kentucky Derby with Mine that Bird as T.Gaffalione got through the courageous female horse. Some jocks ` styles remain the same even after many yrs of riding. Borel and Gaffalione like to use,save horses on the rail even when the inside could be dead or anti bias. Think of a big name jock and ,more than likely,his/her style comes to mind [ Bailey,Rosario,Samyn,Venezia,Migliore,Julie Krone,Mike Smith.J.Velazquez.].

  2. Was happy for Mr. Hui for all those factors you mention, don’t know the man.

    The interesting thing about Tyler ride– I’ll ask when I see him– is I think he was looking to follow Irad who came off the rail directly in front of him.

    Irad tipped out and Tyler might have seen the mare drift just wide enough into the lane that he made an instant decision to dart down in there. ‘Zulu’ did the rest– in a big way!

  3. GP very fortunate there were TWO winners Saturday in the Rainbow.
    Just imagine if only one, handle Sunday would have paled in comparison.

    One bone I have to pick, on mandatory payout days only, pay a consolation for 5 of 6.
    My buddy put in a $120 ticket on Sunday and had all but the $75 winner, and received zilch.
    How many more people were unlucky in one race?
    Make the customers feel better about their efforts by paying out a consolation.
    People would have it as many times as the number of horses they used, in the race they missed.
    In Frank’s case that would have been three – probably enough consos to at least get his money back.

  4. Den,
    I sympathize. Even the lottery, the worst bet in the world of gambling, has lesser payoffs for those who don’t sweep the card.

    In a related issue, I said before the final race Saturday that if the Rainbow 6 were hit, that would have been a bigger story than the Pegasus. Is this what racing has become?

    To answer my own question, YES.

    Maybe instead of hanging pictures of famous horses and the silks of their owners, they should hang up the faces of the winners of bets like the Rainbow 6, just as they do in casinos.

  5. Pretty funny TJ, a picture of winning Rainbow Six tickets…

    Den, was standing with a colleague waiting to go into the paddock for the Pegasus when Tim Ritvo approached us and said: “There are five singles alive [listed in the column above]. If any of these horses win it could cost us 20-million tomorrow.”

    The one that came closest to a single winner was show finisher War Story.

    Totally agree about Pick 5 consolation on mandatory payout days when there’s a seven-figure hangover available. These bets suck money from bettor’s pockets; that’s why they’re promoted so heavily, TVG being the most guilty.

    Tracks play to the greed factor but seldom think about keeping the bettors liquid. It’s no longer the ’80s; greed isn’t good.

  6. Happy to read the agreement on having a consolation payout on the big mandatory payout days. Wonder if you asked GP if they would consider doing that.

    The Jackpots are a story unto themselves, how about the two tickets on Mucho Gusto.
    Each one cost the other one the entire jackpot, which was several million dollars.
    They still received a huge amount, to most people, but maybe 10% of what they could have if the other ticket wasn’t played.

    Tom might have something with publicising Jackpot hits.

    But, talk about removing money from circulation – a single winner in California for over 700k and the bet was made in Brazil. Think that money ever finds it’s way back?

  7. The bet was placed in Brazil and s said to have been a $4500 ticket, which resulted in one winner, on the P6 at Santa Anita. The winner was not at the track.

    (In case it was confusing that I wrote above that the winner was in California.)

  8. I have found the above comments on the Rainbow bet amusing. Did any of you actually bet the Rainbow and collect any dough?

    Is handicapping dead? Is it worthwhile to spend time on the past performances? Do you really need the past performances? Think the people (notice I didn’t write horseplayer or handicapper, Alice) who bet the P5 & P6 take the time to study the PPs? Isn’t selecting favorite numbers just as financially rewarding, perhaps more so? Consider Pegasus day at Gulfstream: twelve races, and the betting favorite one only one race of the twelve – the 4th! Most of the favorites didn’t even finish in the money. What’s going on? How can the wagering public be so wrong race after race? Yesterday I made six win bets at my favorite track, Philly. None hit the board! What’s going on?

    Right now I’m looking at an unopened Daily Racing Form for today’s Philly races. I’m afraid to open it. Watching MSNBC and waiting for The Thing (Alice’s cat) to come around the corner with yesterday’s DRF rolled up in my paw.

  9. Wendell, some valid questions. I’ve been telling my betting buddies it’s no longer horse racing, it’s trainer handicapping, rider handicapping. When things will turn around–in time–after raceday medication is gone, hopefully, but like we said, it will take time.

    For the record, I bet $32.80 into the Rainbow 6: Four winners, a second and third. Return? Zero. That’s why it’s called gambling. People have left the game and the people I talk to, all racetrack veterans, are talking about that possibility. Great time to be a breeder or 1% owner; for everybody else, not so much.

    1. While I agree to a certain extent it has become trainer and jockey handicapping. I have also noticed, that if you hang in there with your own handicapping you can still be successful. Hard to do,but when you beat the name jockey’s and trainers you will get paid. Case in point there was a MSW race at Tampa about two weeks ago,Brown has a 1/2 shot that on paper was no better than second choice. A horse who looked 1/2 on paper won and paid $7.00 and change. The 3rd choice in the race ran 2nd and the exacta was $45.00. There are bets like this every week and of course you do get beat by the name guys,.but you also can beat them often enough to show a profit on these types of bets.

    2. Online I saw Runhappy mating costs 25k. This sounds like a bargain. JP, can this be correct? Runhappy, sponsor to the world. Everywhere yo look you see his name. It’s a riot.

  10. Last October I started using a handful of jockeys as the tiebreaker. By late November I was killing ’em. Thought I was on my way to my own private island. Come January, jockeys I liked couldn’t find the finish line. I went back to ‘capping the races pretty much ignoring who was up. Now using my own money for the daily pastrami with two pickles sandwich and a Foster’s – they don’t taste as good anymore.

    The problem for me is I won’t be around when drugs are eliminated. As long as casino dole is funding most purses at just about all racetracks, there is no incentive for track management to change anything; geez, the top tier tracks also operate ADW hubs; they could careless about revenue from takeout.

  11. In fact, high takeout enable ADWs to give rebates to whales at the expense of everyone else. Works just like the rest of the country does.

    And you’re right about another thing. No money spends better than won money; guess that applies to taste buds, too.

    That’s why I’ll never give up the game; always something new to learn.

  12. Den, no surprise the winner wasn’t at the track. Nearly nine of every 10 dollars bet is off-track these days…

  13. WMC,
    I feel the way you do about handicapping.
    Analytics have taken over as the key to finding winners.

    Won the other night playing a couple of Hong Kong races.
    Picked out two horses on looks alone, then listened to what the experts had to say.
    Played to Win, plus the OMNI. Hit both when my horses ran 1 3…
    Wish we had that bet here.
    Late money drove my winner from 11/1 to 9/2 in the last minute.
    Happens everywhere.

  14. Aaron, you are right, patience is the key. I guess the problem is a little personal with me.

    Thanks to the people at Laurel Park and Tampa Bay, we’re including analysis based on trips which bettors can feel free to agree or disagree–that’s the game, right?

    Anyway, Laurel prefers I choose “the best race” on the card to highlight their emphasis to bring quality racing to their track; so we showcase and try to select a winner–or a beatable favorite if that video somehow underscores my point.

    At Tampa, they want to promote the fact that larger northern-based stables that winter in Florida support their program because of a main track that plays fair most days, compared to ground-saving, speed-advantaged GP, and their terrific turf course where even low to mid-level claimers race as good horses do.

    What I’m saying is my “handicapping” opportunities are limited work-wide, as compared to a day at the track when their time is your own. But 25% barns are the same at any venue; you always have them to beat. Cue the Lovin’ Spoonful

    (Do you believe in magic?)

  15. Den, love the OMNI option. Payouts smaller, yes, but you’ll never get split in the exacta again!

  16. C, this can be true. Mattress Mack has spent a small fortune, promoting every event in sight to get the horse off. Giving out bonuses for winning certain races and an attractive stud fee, super cheap by today’s standards.

    Now Runhappy did compete without Lasix, it’s true, and he proved his brilliance on high profile occasions. He was tremendous but I don’t know if I would put him in a true “great” pantheon. Just an opinion.

    But a very capable bloodstock agent I know said the Runhappys they saw were nothing special. That too is opinion, but I trust this person…

    1. Pricci,sometimes you `re too honest to a fault. It`s courageous of you! Could have been another lying,bitching Monday morning QB but you seem to show your cards,restrictions.Gamblers are not known for being gentlemanly sincere,ask most women married/engaged to them,us.. The idea of ‘Jocks/Trainers’ combos reminds me,again,of what`s been going on. and down ,with Harness racing.Look at any track and easily notice the same trainer/jock ‘partnerships’ that keep on being on top of the $ winning list and win %…. Maybe your harness specialist would have a persuasive input on it.Example Yonkers; Bartlett,Brennan,Stratton driving horses by Allard,Banca,Burke and a few others` while most of the rest of catch drivers await for the bread crumbs left by those above mentioned leaders.Will MGM`s ownership,investment of $ 800 millions change anything ? Well,as a former trainer/owner who lost too many $$ and a shopping center in Sufolk County ,L.I. once told me “You Gotta Be in It to make $ but the door is slammed shut .It`a private,exclusive club” . On its heyday was the Meadowlands different ? Of course not !,,It is what it is,, Those guys know each other well.Eat,maybe even,lodge, play,eat,fly, ,travel,bet together.Everyone else is an outsider and that includes most bettors.

    2. Thanks for the update. I think the television spot for Claiborne featuring Runhappy won me over. The horse whinnys and looks like a stud, which he is. Shows the power of advertising. Once sold an album of Petula Clark music. Flopped most places but did very well in NY. Someone told me why: “They’ll buy anything!” or “It’s like selling to Martians!” Had to get clearance at CBS local station to air spot. Very classy older woman reviewed the copy and told me, “You say in your commercial that you get ALL Petula’s number one hits. Can you please document for me what the number one’s were. I told her, “sure, no problem” and went back to my office. Turns out Petula Clark had ONE number one hit: Downtown. Always pays to do your homework, ha, ha. Had to correct before station, WCBS NY, would air.

  17. Honest to a fault? Guilty as charged J.G.

    Then why does this cliche exist: “Never trust an honest man?” Wish I knew.

    Wish I weren’t so “honest.” That way I could run for Red State Senator.

    1. “Never trust an Honest man’ must be used because too many of them don`t have a ‘panza’,that is stomach, not being able to keep anything inside, kind of like most mothers-in -law,or so the image seems to be. Also used in mobsters` terms; “Cannot trust a man without a stomach.” We Have to know,or learn, when to be quiet,,and keep it all inside like most of our mothers have,God Bless them all !

  18. You wrote above, Mr. Pricci, ‘high takeout enable ADWs to give rebates to whales’. Do whales actually exist? One has to have more money than brains to bet substantially money into racetrack pools, particularly when the odds are not fixed. When a bloke bets, say, $2000 on a plodder he/she has given the track from 16% to 26% plus of his bet – gone! Then the bloke no doubt has reduced the odds on the bet he/she made, be it a win bet, a double bet, or whatever. And, if the whale bet combinations where only one ticket can win, the money ‘working’ has been cut dramatically. Thus, facts and common sense indicate that only a fool bets large amounts of money into pools.

    When there are so many gambling options with fix odds out there, like craps, black jack, keno, and sports betting, why would anyone ‘send it in’ on a horse race when by his actions he/she is actually reducing the payoff by the bet made?

  19. Some carryover pools get to be quite large. Whales may “swim” in these kinds of “pools.” Plus, to be considered a “whale” perhaps you need just play with vigor often so the cumulative amounts are large. For example, in movie Casino the guys airplane freebie is “grounded” in order for him to remain in Las Vegas to play some more. His winnings disappear as we, the audience, howl with laughter. They disappear over time and not in a single, whale of a big, bet. He gets to keep the bath towels and soaps and shampoos he took from his comped room, ‘tho. But you’re right, a single super big bet today would drive down the price on a runner and seem to be counterproductive. May have worked in the old days when people actually went to the track in droves. Today, not so much.

    1. JP, I remember going to YR in the early ’70’s and seeing a plaque or photo of Ed Sullivan in the clubhouse. I think he was an owner back then. Crowds were larger than now (understatement) and I guess they were even bigger years before. I know Belmont had massive turnout for American Pharoah but that is an outlier as he was TC bound, and he did it! Any news on owner Zayat would be welcome. I think when you get a horse like this, or Seattle Slew, there is the chance that you’re luck is such it can screw with your head. You read all the time about big pot lottery winners having troubles down the road and these two equine examples are, I think, apt. I know the “Slew Crew” had a parting of the ways and now, it seems, Zayat may have lost ownership of his star runner. Have a feeling baby Pharoah’s will be good ones. Let us know!

  20. C, the Pharoah’s are already proving themselves successfully…

    Sorry, but I have no interest in Zayat. Like Drumpf, he has a long-standing reputation as someone who doesn’t pay his bills.

    1. Understood. Kinda knew that already but you’re right to not delve into that situation. Besides, what you would find would be smoke and mirrors, probably. What I can’t understand is how you could screw up an ownership of American Pharoah. I mean the Hills sued the Taylors for 4.2m and won in Slew unravelling which ain’t hay. It’s a lot of hay and throw in some oats while you’re at it. Plus, Dr. Hill was a veterinarian and he picked Slew out as a yearling. They called young colt “Baby Huey” because of his funny look. He didn’t run funny, ‘tho.

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