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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


And, so, we begin our 2020 Belmont Stakes sojourn with an apology to the good people of Augusta and our friends at CBS–so long as they keep their social distance.

Since my first Belmont, which was held in Queens, not Nassau County, and I was a senior at St. John’s, I watched it from section 3P at Aqueduct with Paris and a couple of his brothers from Alpha Phi Delta.

I was a free agent, never pledged for anything except as a member of the Thoroughbred Racing Fraternity, Corona Chapter.

“There goes Quadrangle,” shouted Doug to Paris peering through his binoculars.

Legendary Manny Ycaza was so great at stealing marathons with middle-moves back then. And we all cashed, knowing that Northern Dancer’s foot issues compromised his training during that week in 1964, and didn’t think Hill Rise was all that.

I only missed four live Belmonts until yesterday, which makes it five. But aside from Secretariat, Slew and Affirmed and Alydar, the Belmont also was about being gutted when Desormeaux pulled up Big Brown.

But then came the building-shaking roar of 100,000 when American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought, and yesterday’s images from the 152nd renewal of the Belmont Stakes, that will live in the mind’s eye forever.

As the horses were leaving the paddock, NBC host Mike Tirico was referencing past Belmont days, and how yesterday’s was starkly different.

The camera work was superb, leading the horses as they entered the tunnel, following them into the enclosure, the pan view of Tiz the Law and the glass background with its view of the first floor clubhouse, a walk I’ve made–I don’t know–30 times?

Now I’m 76 and I cry anytime they open a new Publix in my South Florida neighborhood, where there’s talk of changing the name of the town in live in: Plantation. And the whole world knows why.

So here was Tirico, and the New York-bred, and Sinatra, and the wide pan of the iconic Manhattan skyline, and a car-less Times Square, and the watch parties from Manhattan and Saratoga and a suburb of Atlanta, horses parading over the sand and loam of Elmont.

Then, along with a big-finish crescendo from Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, the wide pan shot of an empty grandstand from an infield camera, an overview that circled the Statue of Liberty, dissolving into an overhead of the Belmont grounds looking south.

Now it was capturing young Reylu Gutierrez, lowering his mask to say hey, just so damned happy and privileged for an opportunity to ride a no-hoper in the Belmont Stakes because it’s not just about winning a race. It’s about being there.

But nobody was, except for the immediately family of equine athletes, those essentially devoted 24/7/365 thankful for the privilege of tending to one of God’s most wondrous creations, whose outsides are so good for our insides, as Churchill said.

But before all those wonderful scenes came Andrew Cuomo, America’s Governor, who grew up in the shadow of two New York racetracks, taking pride in his brave and loyal citizens who are surviving yet another Ground Zero moment.

Maybe he’ll actually present a Belmont trophy one day, in the manner of how the Governors of Maryland and Kentucky celebrate their biggest horse racing events.

But thank you Governor, for praising NYRA for the work it’s done since resuming racing and being proud that New York hosted the first major sporting event held in the U.S. during pandemics past, present and future. Talk about a marathon.

Now it’s HRI’s turn to thank every-man syndicate manager Jack Knowlton and his merry band of New York-breds, who opened up his family to America on national television, thankful for his blessed 17-year journey that won him a personal Triple Crown.

And to thank to old-school Barclay Tagg, who for decades has quietly applied hall-of-fame skills without portfolio because he never was into self-promoting, never owned an otherwordly win percentage.

And I was thankful for Tagg’s thankfulness for his long time assistant and partner, Robin Smullen, saying she can tell you things about Tiz the Law’s training that others can only imagine.

Tagg, who once once said of their relationship, “we went to dinner and she never left,” which says as much about him as it does her. And he thanked himself, for staying alive long enough to get another one like Funny Cide; the same, only different.

And for the things the trainer said about Manny Franco, a young talent who arrived on the national scene on a sunny Saturday in June taking one-minute, forty-six and fifty-three-hundredths of a second to do so, trailing only the arrival of the summer equinox by a few minutes.

In the language of the day, Tiz the Law was awesome. Yes, I know, you could not have designed a trip any more perfectly, but would be to miss the bigger point: It’s about the horse and the rider knew where the credit was due.

We’ll get to the X’s and O’s of a day that was highlighted by many brilliant performances and attracted more than $67 million worth of interest. But now there’s a Father’s Day to celebrate and an Empire Jackpot to conquer.

For those who did not enjoy the 2020 Belmont Stakes experience, it doesn’t matter how much money you bet on any given day: You don’t get it about Thoroughbred racing and, sadly, you likely never will.

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

58 Responses

  1. Other than the stakes races ending up so chalky, I have no complaints about yesterday. Great races, Tiz validated his standing as the best horse in the division currently in training, and the coming out party of perhaps a future HOFer in the Acorn.

    Juxtaposed with the horrible events of 2020 and the lockdown sports seems to be stuck in for the rest of the year given the relentlessness of the Covid 19 outbreak, it felt good to enjoy a Belmont card. And I was glad to see the Met Mile off the undercard; it is a race that deserves its own spotlight. It deserves its own day as a headliner again.

    1. Doc, I think all true Met Mile fans agree: It deserves it’s own day in the spot ]light with supporting stakes around it. Write on!

      And save time for a pandemic prayer; projections getting worse, not better.

      1. I think given the weather, the date being the unofficial start of the summer, and the fact that it leads to a short work week, Met Mile Day on Memorial Day was probably my favorite day of the year at the track. If not that day, the Saturday before it, since I was in anticipation of 3 days of racing.

  2. John, so beautifully stated! What a day of racing, and I’m so glad it was Belmont that could provide it as it’s my favorite track. While professional sports are haggling over money or other issues, one of the oldest sports in the world took center stage, and while it wasn’t the same without the roar of the crowd, it provided a much needed distraction.

    I saw your response in the last blog. Hah, I didn’t really expect Max Player to hit the board, but I did feel that he was not going to be the same horse as we saw in February based on Linda’s comments. He was truly the Mystery horse, and while he was still green, he ran a fantastic race. His closing kick is potent – and he did it against much better horses. He’s going to be fun to follow. I can’t say enough about how good of a job Linda did with this colt. If you saw his debut, he was literally all over the place. I wasn’t sure he even wanted to be a racehorse, lol.

    Tiz is so formidable because he doesn’t have any flaws. That’s not to say he can’t be beaten, by no means, it’s just that he doesn’t have significant quirks or foibles that can be exploited. It’s funny that he’s a grizzled vet with all of 6 starts under his belt, lol. I believe Honor A.P. is a tremendous talent who hasn’t even come close to reaching his potential, but I’m not going to predict that he’ll beat Tiz – or that Tiz will beat him. I just hope they’ll stay healthy!

    1. Bets, Per usual, look forward to your comments, whether we agree or or. Your remarks and observations here are generally spot on and it’s easy to see you love the game. Indeed, Max closed fast in a fast race, he and Joel seem to make a perfect match. Indeed, no chinks in TTL’s armor and HAP owns all the potential in the world. Right, just stay healthy!

      1. Thanks, John ! Without baseball to preoccupy my time, I’m able to focus more on horse racing, which has been nice (though I miss my favorite sport a lot, sigh). I’ve promised myself that when Belmont reopens to the fans, that I will make a point to go – it’s been a few years, which is way too long.

        Joel did a terrific job, and I’d love to see him stay on Max Player (but Dylan Davis had the toughest job in getting this colt to run, so serious kudos to him).

  3. JP,
    It was fun to once again read your analysis for a track that I follow.

    Hopefully we’ve heard the last of the Cuomo hates racing tirades. His address at the start of the telecast was most encouraging.

    Exacta-wheeled the Hollendorfer-to-Motion trainee, Kanthaka , up and down in the Jaipur and almost caught the brass ring. Used the proceeds for a similar play on Mott’s Modernist to no avail, but still enjoyed Tiz The Law’s expected victory.

    The NBC TV presentation was a welcome change to the ADW track feed.

    1. Yes, their usual network quality presentation we’ve come to expect… I like the fact that there’s more racing on TV these days but the scattershot programming on tap delays have shot me out on some occasions and, sorry NYRA, there’s no FS-2 in my SoFla market–not a good one to lose, lots of old NY players down here–duh!

  4. The Belmont for this year was what it was:

    If Tiz The Law does win the Derby and Preakness, this Triple Crown will have one BIG asterisk on it UNLESS NYRA runs a rescheduled Wood Memorial on October 24 at The Belmont’s traditional 1 1/2 Mile distance and Tiz The Law ALSO won THAT RACE. NYRA should run a rescheduled Wood on 10/24 anyway even if it upsets Breeders’ Cup officials and even if it were simply a symbolic gesture to those who felt NYRA should have run The Belmont at it’s traditional distance. Too many political factors I went to in the prior Belmont blog were why NYRA was forced to run The Belmont as it was.

    That said, I would not only do such with the Wood this year, I’d be looking to beginning in 2021 bring back The Lawrence Realization, which actually USED to be the last big-money race of the year in the sport exclusively for three year olds at its old distance of 1 5/8 Miles on the dirt (many remember it as a grass race for three year olds but prior to 1970 it was on dirt and horses like Buckpasser and Damascus won it). This I would do as a $600,000 race in late October and have it be an alternative to running in the Breeders’ Cup for three year olds that I suspect in most years with such would serve a similar role the Canadian International at Woodbine does with grass horses: Get horses never looking at The Breeders’ Cup but still nonetheless getting a solid field. This is a race that can be a solid Grade 2 that with few opportunities for stayers let alone three year olds this I think would get a full field in most years, especially grass horses who raced in the Turf Triple that might take a shot on dirt at that distance. .

    1. I get your love for the Wood, Walt, but it would prove nothing and I think would attract G2 type horses. It will be fall; meet and beat the elders. After BCup, there’s the big Thanksgiving weekend in NY, then the opening of prime time Santa Anita. That’s certainly enough to hold my interest. The asterisk* ?? Bring it, it’s 2020!

    2. Geez, Walt, you’re older than me?

      Never knew “The Lawrence,” when it was a dirt, don’t think so anyway. Do recall now the distance was a mile and five-eighths, good job…

      1. I’m not older than you:

        I used to have a copy of Tom Ainslie’s 1969 “Handicappers Handbook” that among other races in the book included past performances and charts from the entire fabled Woodward program at Aqueduct on Sept. 30, 1967. That Woodward is STILL arguably the biggest non-Triple Crown race of the past 60+ years. I saw in that Buckpasser winning the Lawrence Realization in 1966 at 1 5/8 Miles on dirt and then read up on how before 1970 it was a dirt race at 1 5/8 Miles. I’d be returning that race to THAT and that being the last big-money race for three year olds. I would use a rescheduled Wood this year both as a symbolic gesture and to establish that for future years.

  5. John: Glad that you mentioned that your first Belmont was at the Big A during the 60s renovation. Its rather amusing that we had son many complaints about this year’s one-turn race. Do you have any recollection about whether or not people were complaining about the THREE-turn Belmonts at Aqueduct? Probably not because the only method for complaining, in the 60s, was by using the proverbial Soap Box on the corner of Rockaway Blvd & 114th St.
    Anyway, you mentioned a prominent historical figure above, to wit, Prime Minister Churchill. Its rarely observed but Sir Winston has an interesting connection to the Belmont Stakes. Prior to Tiz the Law’s coronation, the last NY-bred to win the Belmont was Forester in 1882, at the old Jerome Park, in the Bronx. The “Jerome” who built that track was Leonard Jerome, and it was financed by August Belmont Sr.
    Mr. Jerome was Sir Winston’s grandfather. John, you have to wonder why the television networks never even mention Churchill’s family connections to the Belmont? Its a very important part of the story of not just the Belmont but the history of thoroughbred racing in New York.

    1. Fram, it actually was T Durkin who wised me up to the Jerome/Churchill connection a while back. The game has a remarkable history!

      And BTW, you’re exactly right, as I was thinking back writing yesterday, counting the poles in my mind and then thinking, of course, that Belmont had to be a three-turner, with no complaints or asterisks.

      And the Ycaza reference? Finally remember the race. It was the Lawrence Realization on grass that seemed like a hundred turns. “Yaka-Zac” stole one with a brilliant middle move from well back to the lead, and holding them off at the end. Don’t remember the horse…

    1. Thank you Michael, a Father’s Day labor of love. And it didn’t take long to finish. That’s what happens when you believe in what you have to say, and they usually turn out good, so thanks again…

      1. John, that was an outstanding column. Yes, our politics are vastly different, but I appreciate great writing, from a fabulous journalist, when I see it.

        I’m also asking WMC to remain as an HRI commentator. Yes, he can over-do some of his arguments, but don’t we all ??? I’ll say what he neglected to and offer you hearty congratulations on your Saturday Pick 4 wager at Belmont. That’s the way the game is played !!!

        My main point here today is that we all play and enjoy the game of thoroughbred racing for a variety of reasons. I have friends that bet exclusively on turf races. No dirt or synthetic for these guys. They bet like a skilled surgeon. Another makes 95% + of his wagers to Show. Show ??? My Show-betting buddy wins on nearly every trip to the track or breaks even because he goes the full day without making a wager. That’s true discipline. Watch the man take away their cash, It’s a true work of art.

        I’ll say to WMC and anyone else willing to listen: If you don’t like Stakes Races, simply skip them. Dislike tracks that operate casinos ??? Wager elsewhere. You don’t like that every runner gets paid in a stakes event ??? Neither do I. Turn the page and find a winner somewhere. When a horse runs a hole in the wind and shatters a track record, give him or her credit for doing something that’s never happened. That’s called a great performance, if not greatness itself. OK, so the winner paid $2.60 ??? Maybe you had the cold Exacta, cold Double, or just skipped the race and had a cold Fosters. That works, too.

        Yes, we all like, love and, I admit, even hate, pari-mutuel wagering on our 4-legged friends. But, most importantly, ask any of your colleagues (those that collect regularly, anyway): “How do you win at this game.” You’ll be surprised by the universe of answers – and may even choose to follow in their footsteps on some of your wagers.

  6. Being reasonable, Richard, so anti-2020 of you (insert smiley face here) !
    Thanks for the kind words, must say I enjoyed writing it as much as you seemed to enjoy reading it.
    Must have been some kind of Father’s Day vibe…

    1. Thanks, John.

      I just cancelled my hotel reservation for the opening weekend at Saratoga. I’m convinced that the Spa meet begins without fans. Maybe conditions will change and we’ll be allowed in sometime in August. Whatever happens, at the old Union Avenue racetrack this Summer, we’ll just have to get used to it. We’ve got plenty of practice for the unusual in thoroughbred racing this season. A nine Furlong, one-turn Belmont to lead off the Triple Crown ??? Never, ever would have thought so – and it turned out to be quite a superb race, too.

  7. Have not heard either way on the subject, Rich. Probably prudent on your part; there will be plenty of weekends left. Since I moved permanently from Saratoga five years ago, I have always targeted Whitney weekend myself. What with Belmont et al, haven’t had time to take a good look at stakes schedule. Now perhaps I can… Sadly, very much doubt I will be scheduling a trip in 2020.

  8. The Whitney weekend has always been my favorite time at Saratoga, John. Most years, I’ll be up there for opening weekend, the Whitney and, hopefully, one more time before the tremendous show closes. I can’t imagine watching Spa races on July 16 from anyplace other than my lawn chairs in the Saratoga backyard. Why it’s unimaginable for me, Framarco, Denny and countless other HRI regulars to not be on hand when the upstate action starts . . . Hoping that we can all go back to The Old Spa in 2021, if not this season.

  9. ” You can take your butt
    Outta New York but Never New York Outta You “. I have witness this sensation for many years,in over a dozen states,from California to Texas,from Florida to the Carolinas and Ohio. We usually mention relatives,foods,birthdays,beach outings and especially us,men who grew up with Shea stadium,Nassau Coliseum,Yankee ,the,Roosevelt raceway and ol Belmont within a few minutes from anywhere ,from Brooklyn to Babylon.Was it because we spent our adventurous,adolescent time of joy ,fun there?? Of course! Our first car,dates,back seat romance,going to games and tracks,too. Not bragging,of course,but I doubt if any one of us would have traded it for any other place Anywhere,even Malibu,unless I came from a rich,spoiled upbringing instead of having to earn my $ for a car by working part or full time after school hours..not only that but at 19 I bought my father,Matteo,his first car,a 1970 Chevy Nova.Until then he was walking to walk and it was not a pretty sight,esp.when it would be raining or being another cold winter on Long Island.It was only a couple miles,he never complained but as the older of 7 immigrant children I,and my mom,knew better. The first time I entered an OTB office was when they opened one up a couple of stores next to our new pizza joint,in Copiague,off Sunrise Highway. I watched the DDobule payoffs and bet on Angel Cordero who opened up at 12/1,,minutes later he went down to 8,,7. Anyway he won the last race of the day paying less than $10.Since then I have paid attention to DD$ and Exacta probables something which is not being shown on these Television Games programs and I wonder WHY? WHY?.Again,to me that partial info is More important than the Odds.Thanks x your indelible,fun memories about many things which will never be again.Now,let us all sing ” Yesterday” either Frank Sinatra’ s version or the Beatles’.

    1. For that particular song, probably choose the Beetles version. Thanks for your memories. Think I miss most–know I miss most–are the energy and the people in around NYC, what’s that 20-25 million of them?

    2. Getting a little sloppy again there, sawbuck, nearing shredding territory Just sayin’, take a little more care, please…

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and got out a winner in the last with a $33 mutuel.

    Sorry for not posting here, it was pretty much a last minute decision. If I posted earlier, probably would have went elsewhere.

    Thanks for some old memories JP amd love that you had the Pick 4 for everybody on here.

    1. As I stated before somewhere, the HRI Faithful had one coming, the fact it was a Belmont day made it, for me at least, a special reason to be pleased. Thanks…

  11. So, I should congratulate Mr. Pricci, a noted professional handicapper and turf columnist, for winning a pick four when six of the seven blue bloods he listed in his prerace analysis of the pick four ran in the eleventh race and six of the eight he listed ran in the twelfth? Where’s the handicapping skill when a ‘capper uses six horses in two races of a pick four? No way! When a horseplayer uses one or two blue bloods per race and wins a pick four then I will be the first to applaud him/her.

    Remember that Mr. Pricci listed seven initially in the eleventh race and eight in the twelfth – again, where’s the handicapping? Pure luck delivered the pick four to Mr. Pricci.

    1. Try again, WMC. Not pure luck. Quality picking – even if you don’t agree with going deep in any Pick 4 leg. Look at the result – a $427 return on an $18 investment. Besides, you could have taken the two singles to start the sequence, played the DD and collected $13 for every deuce.

      There’s not only one way to play the game. When you walk away a winner – at any time – credit the man for the play.

      1. Great minds, Richard. Discussed the DD with my buddy from New Hampshire. $13 for the DD sure beat the parlay. Think that even with the mare winning the first half at 2-1, the Jaipur looked a 3-horse race on paper, so DD players easily could have gone elsewhere.

        I bet the mare straight and played the DD to win enough to cover the P4 and vertical Belmont plays. It’s nice when things work out.

        Father’s Day was one of the worst days I’ve had betting. Anybody want to read about it? Don’t get me wrong, lost but $38 on the day, but that’s not the whole story. Maybe I’ll write it for next Sunday, it might be cathartic…

    2. For over 30 yrs I have Not told anyone How to play , bet, invest with Their $ X the simple reason that Nobody Tells me How to bet or what to bet With my Moolah ,bread , Green!Same with stocks, options, land or business investments. It would be presumptuous, arrogant and asinine. If anyone is interested in Your 2 cents they might ask you IF they think that your reply Is worth Anything.Players,gamblers and investors of any type and level Want to lose, win Their Way. It is their satisfaction, pride to do it their, my, Way, as Sinatra and others kept on singing. If anyone is happy with their R O I, whose place is it X Anyone Else to criticize,comment,and Complain? Jealousy, Envy, Derision? Shame on you to ruminate the same shtick. Give it a break, give us a break! Look hard at your friendly mirror, X God’s sake! PS, I got a $ 44 pick yesterday after losing four races. Should I explain it how? No! None of Your bizwacks ! Tell me something new, Interesting, entertaining, worthwhile.. 🐶

      1. JGR, you missed the point, too – much like WMC.

        I wouldn’t tell you how to bet but would offer my strategy, if you asked. I watch as some of my friends do the same things over and over again and lose time after time. Isn’t that the definition for a lunatic ??? When they complain that they can’t win, then I do provide advice, as needed. For example, if you bet every race, I will contend that you won’t win long-term. Show some discretion, a little patience, have the play come to you. There’s no harm in skipping races and waiting on others where you have a top opinion.

        John’s winning Belmont Pick 4 from Saturday is the perfect example in how to capture “their” gold. First 2 legs are singles. Play the Double and turn Tiz the Law, a 4-5 shot to win into a $13 winner with the DD. Double covers other exotic plays, essentially giving you a free ride to potentially make a nice score, with Rolling DD’s, Pick 3 or Pick 4.

  12. I’m a slow learner. It appears that $10 and J.G. own the same style of commentary and might be the same person. Careless mistakes, punctuation, etc. etc.

    HRI will be taking a closer look in the future when there’s time. The only solution would be deletion.

    In the future, will respond to only serious takes from racing fans that are on point. Being the hall monitor costs me and mine money and I won’t have it…

  13. John: Some interesting news is leaking out tonight. There is ample hearsay that both Gov Murphy, in Jersey, and Gov Beshear, in Kentucky, will be allowing fans to attend the races at Monmouth and Churchill, respectively. It might be a fools errand, but, if the Haskell and the Derby have thousands of fans congregating at those tracks, then perhaps Gov Cuomo can consider permitting fans to attend at the track on Union Ave? In that regard, maybe someone can ask Gov Andy of Kentucky to call our Gov Andy, and ask him why he would be against appropriately distanced patrons, sitting in their favorite folding chairs, in Saratoga’s spacious backyard? Inquiring minds would like to know ASAP, without risking their deposits on long-held hotel accommodations.

    PS- I am still waiting for Ticketmaster to issue refunds for this year’s Belmont tickets, etc. The cancellation was announced about a month ago, and the race has been completed. Do you have any connections, at NYRA, to provide some info as to why the refunds have not been issued? Thank you for your response.

    1. Fram, you heard correctly–at least as far as New Jersey is concerned. Dennis Drazin announced yesterday that Monmouth will be open to fans on July 2 up to 25% of capacity in specified areas. Was unable to find out more but will effort that…

  14. “How do you win in this game” Mr. Moore inquired above. Simply by watching the beauty of it all. Even the quiet simplicity 0f the silence of
    the morning workouts are a treasure to witness. Sure betting is always fun, but that is secondary to what really draws me to Belmont.

    As for Manny Y, often taken down, but I always felt for my two dollars back in the days of the three turns in Queens, no one ever tried harder for the win than Manny.

    In closing, what draws me to HRI, now that is a question that is right up there with “How do you win at this game”? From the writing of the late Paul Moran, to the 76 year old version of Broadway by way of Loughlin, my admiration for the honesty and integrity of the writing draws me here. The beauty and honesty of it all is all, just like with the subjects both equine and human John scribes regarding.

    1. Thanks, McD.

      My question is really: “How do YOU win at this game???” It is directed at sophisticated players who have dedicated, long-term wagering strategies to achieve their success at the track. For example, WMC avoids most Stakes Races, likes the smaller tracks, plays to Win, cold exotics, doesn’t go deep in any race to secure the winner. That’s perfectly fine with me and it seems to work well enough for him that he’s stood the test of time and keeps coming back for more. My wagering style is very much like WMC’s, with the main exception that I totally appreciate the Stakes Races. As I mentioned, other friends play Turf Races only, another bets to Show – and these handicappers really know what they are doing.

      My late Uncle Bob was the best player by far that I’ve ever watched at the track. He always advised to get the Win bet in first (with a 2-1 minimum) and have the Win proceeds cover your exotic plays. In other words, get paid for every decent-priced winner that you select, catch some Doubles and Exactas and you’ll be OK.

    2. Funny you mention Paul, McD. You know how irascible he was and was not overly generous with praise. Well, I finished writing the piece above, some of the words rising to the occasion, and honestly thought about how Paul might have liked the piece.

      That would have been my fervent wish, anyway. Besides, all writers steal from other good writers. You have probably noted my use of headstretch. Just as the mythical Lou Conova got “the mic throw” from Broadway Danny Rose, I got headstretch from Paulie.

  15. Good Morning Richard,
    I am in total agreement with your singles and doubles approach to wagering, though at times even an even money is playable. Take what they give you at times. I also after wagering on John’s win selections, I will also follow with his Ex Box and KB recommendations. I have also enjoyed and have had success using John’s lower echelon also worthy mentions in the 50 cent tri’s, and even dime SF’s for forty cents or so. We are all entitled to wager however we chose in any given race, just not the right to criticize others for how they might choose to wager. “Scatter” for some, is indeed a prudent investment plan by others, as evidence by John’s latest totebuster score. The reason for my absolute trust in John process by the way is to avoid the more unsavory types behind the veil of medications and nefarious trainer actions.

    For a second, back to the beauty of racing……on every outing to Belmont, for at least one race, I always position myself on the rail at the very top of the entrance into the stretch. While you will not see the finish, or even know the result until peeking at the tote, what you will capture before anyone else at the track is the sense of the electricity and power of the thoroughbred field as the runners launch their assault on attaining victory. The far turn prime time viewing area is actually the only venue at the track where time itself seems to slow. Suggest every fan try it at least once. And bring a grandchild along with you and allow for them to capture the beauty of the thoroughbred.

    If we can bring back the younger generations, maybe we can help save this game. My kids still talk about tossing a football around with Nick Zito at a morning workout 25 years back. The game for me offers so much more than Win, Place, and Show. Even the sense of anticipation when jumping on the parking lot bus to tthe entrances was thrilling, as you just knew, with twenty bucks in your pocket, your horizons were golden. You had a shot at witnessing something special all day long, and you had nine chances to finish first. Riders Up.

  16. McD, now you’re moving me to tears, your kids tossing a football around with a Hall of Fame trainer and something else. Every Florida Derby or Pegasus, knowing that there would be video to study later, I went out to the apron at Gulfstream and watched those events with the crowd. I wanted to “feel” the race.

    My late, great friend Cary Fotias went with a group of people to the Belmont every year–he would have understood but would have hated the shorter trip this year–and reserved seats close to the top of the stretch because there’s nothing quite like seeing the horses approach “headstretch” then straighten away, because that where the race “begins.”

    To me, it’s the essence of being a fan.

    Finally, here’s my approach and what I know, even though I don’t follow strict guidelines. Once I never forget though is to always bet to win, the cover those cost of exotic play at least. Nothing worse than being right and getting nothing from it.

    The best approach to exactas are cold, not boxed or key-boxed. The reason I do it is three-fold: It is how I choose to make a “place bet” and I believe in putting myself in a situation to get lucky.

    The only thing better than collecting on a win bet is watching your choice run second and actually make more money for being “wrong.” But truth be told?

    According to studies of two professional bettors I knew intimately, you’re bankroll is better off making one-way cold exactas rather than boxing. You’ll lose more often but net more financial gain.

    Ultimately, avoid going on tilt and stay in your own betting lane, risking only what you can afford to lose. It’s called “comfort zone” for a reason.

    But remember above all: Malfunctions notwithstanding; running time is the only absolute truth in the game. Everything else is up for debate.

  17. John / McD: Great commentary here !!!

    May I add that for three decades or more, I ambled down to the far reaches of Saratoga’s Grandstand and watched at least one race per day from behind the Section Y seats. There was no Section Z at the Spa, so “Y” was it. Watch any event from there, especially the 1 3/16 Mile Turf races, and you get to witness the awesome power of the thoroughbred on display. I watched Mary Lou Whitney / Nick Zito’s Birdstone break his Maiden in 2003 in his 6F debut dirt race from back there. Wow !!! Alas, those last 3-4 sections of the Spa Grandstand were converted into the Top of the Stretch premium area in 2018. You can still get a great view of the early stretch run from, say, Section T instead of Y.

    I’m a value bettor myself, so I wouldn’t let a 4-5 shot go to post when I believe that he should be 1-5. My Uncle Bob always said to get the Win bet first and only then look for exotics. I learned an important lesson from one of the smartest handicappers to ever open a Daily Racing Form. Also love to play the NYRA Grand Slam whenever a low-priced favorite looks shaky in one of the first three legs.

    Over many years at Saratoga, I listened and learned from the experts at Harvey Pack’s Paddock Club – first outside near the Racing Secretary’s Office and then after it moved to the old Carousel area. John can certainly attest had Harvey had many quality people offering wisdom (and that includes JP himself). Harvey’s “stories” were timeless and will be cherished forever.

    1. Those were the days my friend and, like most wise asses, thought they would never end.

      The Carousel was an improvement, of course, but those days behind the old paddock with Harvey is what I miss the most.

      1. Without a doubt, John, that backyard location for Harvey and his guests was the tops. Green bench seating, if I recall correctly. Not a whole heck of a lot of room in there but arrive early, take a seat and watch the action unfold. Biggest problem with the Carousel location was the sound system. It was tough to hear everything, there was lots of feedback, just really a tough chore to follow along at times. But Harvey would spin that old tale about the guy who went up and back to Saratoga on the bus each racing day from NYC . . . and you forgot about most every other care in the world. You can complete that bus story, if you wish . . . or I’ll drop by later to do so.

  18. Thanks John, I will start getting back to the cold exacta wager more often. I normally wager 2x on the cold ex straight and then 1x on the reverse.

    I messed up on yesterday’s FRA at Tampa however. I never looked at the entries. Simply wagered on your take. All good, but I wagered on Hey Griff in his last out, and would have played him again had I only looked. Paid $19. “Hey Griff” is my 15 month old grandson’s name.
    I must say Hey Griff thirty times a day. Lol.

    A quick Griff story…I had Griff and his just turned five big brother over picking raspberries in the yard yesterday. Everett had two pint containers filled while young Griff simply pops them directly into his mouth. He doesn’t speak but I just know he’s reasoning a bird in hand is…..

    Later Everett shared his fresh berries bounty at dessert with his Mom and Dad. Griff was also allocated another handful. There he sat in his high chair with a chunk of Breyer’s vanilla in his right hand and a handful of raspberries in his left. What a sight he was. His Mom simply moved him from his chair to the tub directly after.

    They have been back over the last two days picking. Suspect I will see a lot of them. History repeats as I did the same with my grandfather which I am sure why he planted raspberries.

    As I finish, my wife just let me know “the little monsters” are on their way over again.

  19. Those were the days my friend and, like most wise asses, thought they would never end.

    The Carousel was an improvement, of course, but those days behind the old paddock with Harvey is what I miss the most.

  20. John: Thanks for looking into my request. However, I must comment on Richard’s reference to Mr. H Pack. John, the days of the Daily Show, on Sportschannel, with Harvey and guest, is something that I miss very much. It was appointment viewing, with yourself, Russ Harris, Bill Finley and/or Clocker Lou! Anyway, although Harvey was the greatest “straight” man in racing ( his BC appearances with Pete Axthelm are legendary), he was and IS a great handicapper. As a teenager, in the “old” Big A 2nd floor Grandstand, I listened intently to Harvey handicapping the double each day. I learned more from Harvey than anyone else. As you well know, he loves to praise others-you and little Andy, for example, but he knows what he is talking about. All that being said, when will someone at NYRA recognize that Harvey was the greatest Ambassador NYRA has ever known. Before Harvey arrives at his Eternal resting place, NYRA should name a stakes race after him or honor someone with a Harvey Pack award, whether Harvey likes it or not! LOL

    1. Fram, I completely agree with you. I would be thrilled to see Harvey honored in some way. Maybe a “Pack at the Track Day” could be arranged with Harvey in virtual attendance ??? Collect a number of those great Harvey stories from the Paddock Club, Sportschannel show, whatever – and show them on screens all over the track – much like the replays of the Travers are shown on Travers Day.

      My story from above – at Harvey Pack’s Paddock Club – gets completed: “But Harvey would spin that old tale about the guy who went up and back to Saratoga on the bus each racing day from NYC . . .” Back when the track ran 24 days in 6 weeks and was dark on Tuesday, the gentleman made 24 round trips via the bus to the Old Spa. When questioned as to why he didn’t just stay up there for a month instead, he replied: “What, and leave my family alone ???” Great stuff.

    2. Fram, can’t do many more memory laners as I’m a one man band now but had to reply to this.

      Let’s just say that NYRA treated Harvey very badly at the end and I doubt he’d show up for the honor, not that anyone there now appreciates racing from back in the day–and not that far back in the day either.

      And you’re right, the best ambassador they ever had. When he did seminars at Suffolk on Mass ‘Cap day, he drew more people than Drumpf did in Tulsa, enormously popular and talented.

      Of course, he has little difficulty explaining to every how he made my and Steve Crist’s careers. There was and is only one Pack at the Track!

  21. Pack at the Track via Donna Summer on the radio was pretty captivating as well. Always entertaining and often quite profitable. A caller once asked Harvey if a horse would run better after having taken a dump? Harvey simply said “I don’t know about the horses, but I always feel pretty good after taking one.” How could you not love the guy?

    When Harvey had Paul Corman on the show as a guest on the televised exchanges, you just knew after a few visits Paul Corman’s calls were golden. He explained on one of his last televised visits with Harvey “I really need to stop coming on this show, you guys are simply killing my prices.” I always thought that Paul C. and John P. should have partnered on a book. Always one I wanted to buy anyway. Just a walk through on one of the Vegas ventures alone would have been a hell of an education for all the HRI faithful. Still a young 76 is John Boy, so I guess there’s still a shot.

    As for Mary Lou’s Birdstone, first I ever saw him live was at the Stakes against either Smarty J. or Funny C. Can’t recall which of the two as , both were in the same era. At any rate, I recall saying to a retired NYPD friend seated to my immediate right on the third deck that “There are only two Grade 1 winners in this race, one of them is 3-5, and the other is 35-1…..I don’t know how your playing this one, but I know how I’m going to wager.” Well I never got to see a Crown, but the $165 Exacta payout per each $2 bet was a pretty darn good consolation. Boy did the track get quiet when Zito’s horse started to roll down the center of the track. Hated to miss a crown, but…..

    I really need to thank you both with the counsel of locking down the Win ticket first in the conversations above. I have indeed left too many winners off my ticket by trying to stretch out a payout. Now I get it. Secure the Win first. Heck I’m only 72 in Sept. Duh!

    As to lessons learned, a good friend who taught me most of what I learned always advised “It was OK to lose a few bucks as long as you had a few extra, but to never, never go home broke. Never leave the racetrack broke. Time to quit if you do. There’s always going to be another day.”
    Great advice that always stayed with me. Pays to listen. Six Feet and Safe. 😷

    1. McD, it was Birdstone – Smarty Jones – Royal Assault combining for a $1,500 + Trifecta for $2 in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. I held one of those winning tickets. Birdstone returned to win the Travers at 9-2 that Summer. I skipped the race, mostly due to the impending thunderstorm of gigantic proportions that was arriving at Post Time. It looked like Midnight in the Spa backyard area soon after the race finished. Water was everywhere. NYRA even cancelled the last race, scheduled for turf.

      As John says below, be sure to get the right price on those Win bets. Insist on value: If you’re looking for 5-1 and see 5-2, look elsewhere. Easier said than done; especially when that $7.40 winner gets posted and you weren’t aboard.

      1. Thanks Richard. I was too often reaching for the ex box and skipping the Win. Will modify my approach and go with John’s if equal or greater than. Last flash on the board in the AWD world is anyone’s guess. Thanks again.

  22. Secure the win indeed, but only if bettable odds. I created a saying back int the day that I still follow, although it’s not as effective since we really have no idea about what closing odds will be anymore thanks the last minute whaling: “Bad price,must lose.”

    Seriously, Cary did teach me that you can’t afford to win at shot odds. He made make his own betting line, based on 100 points, not the standard 120-125 to compensate for takeout, then demand two point higher: 5-1 to 7-1, 6-5 to 8-5 etc… It’s tough discipline but if your opinion is good enough, it will keep you whole.

    I’ll mention to Paul about the book. Just can’t figure how he will say no, but will ask…

  23. How about the HRI Faithful cadre lending a hand on a possible title for your possible collaborative endeavour? I would recommend invoking the kiss principle, keeping it short and simple: WIN! That just might entice Paul’s interest. You could even ask Harvey Pack for a little color to the project. Maybe he would cover a preface to the body of work you two could share.

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