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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Lots has been made about the amount of early speed in this highly competitive edition of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, properly so. But can anyone really run with Knocks Go early?

Most horsemen and handicappers agree; it probably can’t be done.

So what do the other speeds do? For one, Johnny Velazquez stated he is going to the front and will not take Medina Spirit of of his game. Hot Rod Charlie has some tactical gas and gets blinkers and is fresh; will he be close to the lead? And you know Art Collector will be. So what to do?

The logical thing is to hope that someone will apply pressure at some point and soften him up; something no one’s been able to do in his last three runs which he won by a collective 18-1/4 lengths making all the pace. Or maybe he won’t get the mile and a quarter trip?

Of just maybe Travers winner Essential Quality is the best dirt horse in America who is classy enough, gritty, enough, fast enough and game enough to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, by any means necessary. And that’s how we’re playing it. Essential Quality to win and keying him in superfectas with ‘Art’, ‘Charlie’, ‘Knicks’, Max Player and Tripoli.


I won’t have to go into much detail? Below is an example of the only thing we got right yesterday which was cut and pasted from our Breeders’ Cup analysis available yesterday online via Pay Pal:

Win Bet Value: 1-Modern Games (5-1) to win at 9-2 or greater.

Exotics Horses: 2-Albahr (6-1), 3-Dakota Gold (8-1), 11-Grafton Street (15-1), 4-Tiz the Bomb (8-1), 6-Mackinnon (8-1)”

You know the rest: Modern Games won handily but was running for purse money only, which was fair and according to California rule regarding wrongfully scratched horses–that he be reinstated in the race after being prematurely and wrongfully withdrawn on the advice of an attending veterinarian.

Albahr, thankfully, was not seriously injured. The same re legendary rider Frankie Dettori.

With Albahr’s absence, and with Modern Games running for purse only, the order of finish in the superfecta was: Tiz the Bomb (7.60-1), Mackinnon 6.30-1), Grafton Street 22.80), and Dakota Gold (2.70-1). The Dime Super returned $501.49.

Of course, it would have paid less had Modern Games, around 5-2 at post time if memory serves, would have been, what, halved? That would have been OK, especially compared to zero.

Why didn’t I make a four-horse Super box for $2.40? It never occurred to me–and one doesn’t approach the wager in that fashion, anyway.

Here’s one more irony, which didn’t didn’t cost money. The horse who officially finished first, Tiz the Bomb, broke through the gate and ran off a bit faster and farther than Modern Games did yesterday.

And the veterinarian interviewed on NBC was a little disingenuous in his response: Modern Games did not break through the gate; the stall door was opened by an assistant starter so that the horse could escape possibly harm.

The noise you hear are horseplayers turning the page to Saturday’s entries.


Breeders’ Cup races are subject to CHRB rules, including Rule 1974 B which states:

“If a horse is removed from the wagering pool due to a totalizator error, or due to any other error, and neither the trainer nor the owner is at fault, the horse shall start in the race as a non-wagering interest for the purse only and shall be disregarded for pari-mutuel purposes.”

The decisions leading up to today’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf were made under the authority of the CHRB. Please refer to the advisory put out by the CHRB earlier this evening for additional details and direct any further questions directly to them.

We thank the CHRB for their thorough review of this situation, and we regret the impact this has had on the betting public.

The health and safety of our equine and human athletes is our top priority and we are thankful for the safety of all involved.

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31 Responses

  1. This Friday’s s 10 the race at Delmar’ s Breeder’ s Cup day proves once again that SNAFU is still here,there and everywhere in horse racing. ” When is a scratch a winner,non winner in a DD,Exacta,Triple or whichever ever gimmick one is playing ? ” It depends on who owns the horse” ?Just follow the $,and ” It is what it is ” . Make up the rules depending on who ‘ s dealing the cards. Let us call a spade a spade :this is B S ! Did not bet the race but it is a farce Anyway ! Got the Pizza Bianca triple a few times. Yes, I like it with Ricotta ,parsley,mozzarella and garlic oil ,well done,of course !🍕 On days like these,horseracing does Not need such controversies !

  2. Here’s something that horseracing does not need: The same conspiracy theories I heard a half century ago when I first went to the races.

    A rule is a rule; it was the right decision, which cost me a winning day. It happens. I’m sure the people who bet the winner were thrilled to get 7-1.

  3. Confusing and unfortunate ending in yesterday’s final BC race with the scratch of the 1 horse by the stewards. I understand we need to protect the horse and jockeys but clearly this was a snafu scratching the 1 Modern Games. He was clearly the best and tough beat if you bet on him.

    Day one impressions, Cox, Pletcher and Brown horses are not firing. Baffert horses are primed to run as well as Asmussen charges. Classic looks like Hot Rod Charlie, Tripoli and Max Player.

    Euro’s are just better than our grass horses no matter the condition of the grass. Finally, Echo Zulu ran them off their feet. Gun Runner is the new super star sire. Can you say Northern Dancer… I believe he will have type of impact on the breed for the next 20 years.

  4. Lots to unpack. The “snafu” cost me dearly, as above. Damned if I can remember thanking the racing gods when my horse gets put up. What to do? Horseplayers memories longer when they lose than win.

    Think I agree about Brown horses, maybe Cox, too. No one was beat Echo Zulu, a complete freak, but bad Ju Ju, as opposed to Alcibiades effort, so may be right about Cox, too. Not sure about Todd observation. For all three, as for all, these are tough races…

    Loved Gun Runner from the Fair Grounds at 3 forward, just did, and one of those rare horses that developed right in front of your eyes. Agree he’s on his way to becoming star sire; no one-crop wonder.

    All other mega-trainers won; Ward, Appleby, Asmussen, Baffert, and so happy for Christophe, love that man, just so genuine.

    Looking forward to today, though a little guy shy. Tough beat, indeed.
    Sticking with Essential Quality, agree that ‘Charlie’ is super-live.

  5. Yesterday’s final BC race left me with the impression that racing tries to find ways to look bad to the general public. Rules must be followed, I agree. But purse money only status is a complication that alienates potential new fans – and to have a horse removed from the wagering pools in a BC race just as the race is about to be run creates confusion, bewilderment and anger. There are people watching BC races who don’t even know the difference between purse money and wagering money. Will they want to watch another horse race if they got shafted and can’t even understand why ? The horse wins but the people who bet the horse get a refund ? Perhaps a system of consolation purse money payouts can be established for healthy horses who get scratched for unusual reasons.

    All horses running in a race should be included in the wagering pools with no exceptions.

  6. John,
    This is not directed toward you but just a warning to other players. I had live pick 4 and pick 5 wagers and a live double and a super wager going into the 10th at Del Mar. My final leg I had the 1,2,3 which the 1 and 2 were scratched as everyone knows. I have been told by my wagering site that it’s the hosting tracks discretion as to wagers and pay outs.
    Del Mar decided to pro rate the double wager to represent the one runner I had left and refunded the super wager that I had, however; they decided there would be no adjustment on Horizonal Wagers. I find it very curious that they refunded and pro rated the smaller wagers but would not prorate, refund, or give me the 2 next in line favorites to complete my ticket (a pro ration on the ticket reducing it by the 2 runners would have decreased the price of the ticket by 45%). Funny but I think everybody would agree that there are substantially larger sums involved in Horizonals!
    I don’t know if there are conspiracies or not, but Greed and Thievery are alive and well. I have been a horse player for 50 years and I am Done!
    I can day trade Penny Stocks and have a fairer playing field!
    John I have really enjoyed your insights and site but just wanted to give every one a heads up on what happened to me and I’m sure others.
    Good Luck to all, your going to need it!

    1. Will have a lot to say about this in Sunday column, but suffice it to say Michael that I agree with you about the horizontals.

  7. I lucked out.
    I had the 4 to win in the 10th and am alive to two horses in the Turf today.

    I also had the Ryan Moore earlier on the card that won at 30:1

    Let’s see if my good fortunes can carry over to today. Lol

  8. November 7,2021

    4th race-box the 3,4,5
    5th race-Lieutenant Dan(6-1)
    6th race- box the 1,3 and bet the 1 @ 7/2 or more
    7th race- 6/1 with the 1,6,7,8
    8th race- Jackies Warrior (best bet)
    9th race- Mo Forza(5-1)
    10th race- Clairiere(12-1) with the 1,9
    11th race- Walton Street with the 1,5,8
    12th race-Hot Rod Charlie, Essential Quality box with the 1 and 9.
    Let’s go get the bad guys, See you in January for the start of derby preps. Happy Holidays to all. Vin O’

  9. Minus 72 on the Friday card. At least I was not affected by that fiasco of a last race. Saved from suffering a very bad day by the performance of Corniche. Difficult today (and yesterday), as it should be, since these are the best horses in the world. Here’s my idea on what to do with $500 for fun and amusement purposes. Best of luck to all.

    100 to WIN on GAMINE

    40 to SHOW on KIMARI

    100 to WIN on LIFE IS GOOD

    20 to SHOW on MY SISTER NAT


    20 to SHOW on MOTHER EARTH

    40 to SHOW on CLAIRIERE

    20 to SHOW on YIBIR

    40 to PLACE on KNICKS GO

  10. Good execution Dan. Tough SHOW beat on Clairiere, from looming a winner to losing a show photo, ouch…

    1. Minus 78 for the 14 races. Yes, Clairiere was a tough beat because a 3rd probably would have flipped me into the plus column. Allow me to rationalize, a loss of 78 dollars can be regarded as an entertainment expense when you’re wagering 800 dollars. I appreciate the compliment on my execution, but it could have been better. In racing, bets that go 8 for 18 should make money.

      Tremendous performance by Knicks Go.

      Who had the best day ? The Japanese guy in the purple hat.

      1. I lost more than $78, fortunately avoiding total disaster when I hit every pool in the F & M Turf, but overall had perhaps the worst BC ever as a public handicapper. It happens. As the great Dick Jerardi said to me when Zenyatta failed to get up in the only defeat of her career, “that’s what keeps us coming back.

  11. HOY Knicks Go, incredibly awesome performance against a very deep Classic field, nothing else to say mike drop….

  12. Just remember John,how many handicappers were involved in the 2 worse debacles in parimutuel betting. Short of a fixed race,it can’t be much worse. You’ve been around a while and you’ii whether the storm. Continued good health and luck.

    1. And what are the chances I’d be directly affected by both? Ah, the travails of life as a horseplayer. But you know, now that sports betting is legal in 27 states, while should an inadvertent defensive jump offsides where no contact is made and the line resets himself before the snap should keep a drive alive on a three- or fourth and short situation, especially in the red zone? The problem is that the rule breakers are human as are the officials who hold them accountably. Just sayin’

  13. Heard a rumor today that jockeys Joel Rosario and Johnny Velasquez, who are both represented by jockeys Agent Ron Andersen had already discussed not challenging each other in a speed dual. Despite what Velasquez had said repeatedly during the week, that he was sending Medina Spirit to challenge Knicks Go.
    Sure looks like Medina was never hustled to lead. Now we have to factor in jockeys intentions in our handicapping? Armed with this new information I just watched the Classic again. In deed Medina was never ridden hard early. Once Knicks Go got the jump he is clearly faster out of the gate, looks to me like Velasquez was riding not to win but to finish second.

    1. “Heard a rumor”, “somebody said”, “do you know about” and my favorite “THEY must be betting him”.

      Cherished memories of Suffolk Downs. Brings a tear to my eye.

    2. Just another crazy rule in horse racing. An agent can collude with 2 top riders in the biggest race of the year,but a married couple has to be an entry in NY.

      1. Aaron, interesting sidebar re the 1-2 Agent Finish in the Classic. I addressed it further below, and I take your point.

        1. John,
          There are some things in racing that make no sense.Recently,I think an agent became allowed to have two journeyman jockeys. For many years,I thought they were allowed to have one journeyman and one apprentice. I don’t know why they changed the rule or was that never the case ? Another rule that hurts an agent who is not connected. Hard for a newer agent to break in.

          1. Thought I answered this but perhaps on Twitter not here.

            Agents have been allowed to carry two journeymen for some time, a practice that began in California a long time ago but became more commonplace virtually everywhere by 2014–and an agent can carry as many as three, presumably the third being an apprentice.

            You are correct; used to be one journeyman, one bug boy before that. I have no problem with that. But isn’t it bad enough that players must deal with super trainers, now super agents, too?

            This became an issue when Tweets showed up saying that Johnny Velazquez rode for second and didn’t challenge Knicks Go as he stated throughout Breeders’ Cup week. Baffert took some of the heat off Johnny because of a “stutter step” at the start.

            The other issue is that Ron Anderson books mount for Joel Rosario and Johnny. Turned into a “cold exacta.”

    3. I won’t and can’t address a rumor but your a veteran turf writer with close contacts inside the industry. Could be, could be not, is my take.

      I will go back and view the Classic yet again. I addressed this in a Saturday night or Sunday am Tweet saying it is common practice for riders who don’t believe they can beat a particular horse in any given race indeed will ride for second in the hopes that the horse to beat stubs his toe.

      Admittedly, the fact that the first two riders are handled by the same agent is a bad look. From day one–and it started in California as I recall–an agent should NOT be allowed to book mounts for two journeyman, especially at the top level. Everyone understands why the agent and the riders do it

      I have hated this rule from day one; a journeyman and apprentice, OK. But two Top 5/Top 10 riders, no. Bad enough there are super trainers, but super agents? The little guy is always up against it in life, that’s reality. But creating virtual monopolies? This looks like another rule that needs changing given this weekend’s events.

  14. ” Gotta Ax” this question : How did Brad Cox become such a Big Race Winning Trainer almost outta nowhere ? Lucky to have gotten good horses from prominent owners or just ‘ Magic’ ? I’m m not totally sold on his ‘ ability’ to win so frequently with horses who came from other trainers’ barns . I won’t say that is the latest lament about De Bonis complaining about Oscar Barrera Jr in the late 70s but would not surprise me if some trainers,owners are having similar thoughts. ” The ball is on your court” .⚾

    1. HISA, it would appear, has much work to be done right from the jump. Of course, this is not a new issue, recalling that shortly after Seabiscuit’s trainer left the employ of Charles Howard, he was suspended one year after his horse(s) tested positive for heroin.

      Empirically, it appears that Breeders’ Cup enhanced protocols–beyond just the Baffert issue–work well. Veteran bettors note this phenomenon every year.

  15. This note was sent to my personal email from Michael Antoniades and is reprinted here with the author’s permission:

    “Good afternoon John,

    “Here is the disconnect. Very quickly, the racing officials on site understood that Modern Games and the connections of that horse rightly deserved a chance to run in the race.

    “The disconnect is that the people who ran the event never considered doing the same fair thing for the bettors, the investors and syndicates that created those giant BC pools that eventually totaled $182,000,000 [ed. note: $15 million in all pools with Modern Games].

    “Clearly, a racing official on-site with gambling expertise (Standard operating procedure at all major events from now on) should have been consulted IMMEDIATELY.

    “Once the gambling official was consulted, the host track could have re- inserted Modern Games back into the wagering, considering that many bettors had a great deal of money riding on Modern Games, who had no reason to be denied a chance to race.

    “There is no doubt that horseplayers got a brutally unfair deal on racing’s biggest stage.

    “The first step to fixing any problem is admitting you have one: > A. Admit it. B. FIX IT.

    “The future of your business depends on it.”

    1. Nothing left to be said.Very well stated. It will be something else next time.The thing to remember is when racing officials make a decision, the low man on the totem pole is the bettors.

  16. Nothing to add Michael given a well reasoned response.

    However, if the horses was re-instated counter to the rule, all parties could have opened themselves up to litigation.

    Vertical players such as myself received refunds, including an otherwise cold superfecta: Modern Games over five horses.

    But Pick Players were moved to the post time favorite. In those situations, people were either spreading their wagers to include highly likely top contenders or use the favorite because they preferred that horse.

    The CHRB Rule is written is a bad one, one which doesn’t consider the player beyond “post time favorite,” The majority of players don’t like the rule for its lack of thought. Can’t blame them: Rule makers took the quick, easy way out.

    Like the man says: FIX IT.

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