The Horse Race Insider is a privately owned magazine. All copyrights reserved. “Bet with your head, not over it.”

The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


When the sports world stopped in the wake of the pandemic, and with bigger fish to fry, sports media was caught up in the overload, too. The result was that some stories fell between the cracks of daily news.

As Justify was attempting to win his Triple Crown and dating back to when Curlin came on the scene, racing media made all aware of “The Curse of Apollo,” that no horse unraced at 2 had won the Kentucky Derby since 1882.

But unless I missed the memo, it wasn’t until NBC’s Mike Tirico informed a national television audience on Saturday that a New York-Bred hadn’t won the Belmont Stakes since Forester, also in 1882.

Now isn’t that some kind of weird, bitchy karma.

But conquer the curse he did and there’s no telling how good Tiz the Law is now and can be later this year. And if it weren’t for his getting trapped on a wet, dead rail at Churchill Downs, he would be undefeated, but there’s no “Curse of O’Connell” to deal with in Louisville, only voter suppression.

First, however, there’s a “Derby of Midsummer” to win. (After all, August 8 still qualifies as midsummer and the Travers is a race exclusively for three-year-olds. So there’s no reason to fool with that sobriquet in 2020.

There will be plenty of time later to wax on the colt and his beloved and well- respected old-school connections; Barclay, Robin, and Jack, in the lead-up to Travers and Derby.

Posit: Can anyone name a single race card not named Breeders’ Cup that offered as many great performances as Saturday’s at Belmont Park? To wit:

In the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, No Parole did for Louisiana-breds what Tiz the Law did for New York-breds. His performances would be described by Charles Hatton as “sheer zip.”

No Parole had only four rivals but they had quality and he made them look bad. Even if the surface was kind to inside speed, 1:21.41 is impressive at Belmont Park and the victory never looked in doubt. Now looking forward to the G1 “Chief” at the Spa.

Indian Pride proved to be a serious filly sprint player, taking a 6-1/2-furlong allowances with authority in 1:15.84, her final sixteenth in 6.29. While not in danger of catching up, Mrs. Danvers was an impressive runnerup.

Presuming good health, graded stakes victories await both fillies; make note.

Decorated Invader, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf tough-tripper of 2019, was awesome taking the G2 Pennine Ridge, delivering on the high promise he showed at 2.

Closer to the pace than ever before, he needed to hold position from the pole slip while awaiting a seam at the moment Joel Rosario would ask for run. That opportunity came approaching headstretch.

The Declaration of War colt lowered his body, extended his stride and whoosh he was gone, a 4-3/4 length victory after racing away from quality lone-speed Proven Strategies in 1:33.66, and sprinting his final quarter-mile in :23.05. Next stop, Saratoga.

A 7-furlong maiden allowances for three-year-olds produced a sensational debut score by Super Saver colt Happy Saver. Irad Ortiz clearly had horse and extreme confidence into the lane, eventually drawing off to win by 5-1/2, ridden out in 1:21.51, only 1/10th of a second slower than No Parole.

The prolific Pletcher will always tell you something about his horses but he is no hype machine. When he says that he expected to colt to run well, but not as impressively as he did, you can believe him. I did.

The manner of victory so surprised the equine chess master that he couldn’t even hint at what’s in play next, saying only that he needs to think about it and go wherever the colt leads him. Not yet a household name, he’s a  stable mailer.

The fifth consecutive impressive performance of the day was delivered by Sweet Melania in the G3 Wonder Again. It was her first start since finishing third to Sharing in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Sharing was a good runnerup that morning in Royal Ascot’s Gr.1 Coronation Stakes.

Given the soft-pace dynamics it would have been disappointing if Sweet Melania hadn’t won, which is neither her fault nor that of her rivals in the one-mile Widener event. She ran away powerfully at the end.

Post-race, Pletcher said he was uncertain about her ability to handle 10 furlongs, but that she had sufficient class to get a mile and a eighth. We’ll all find out at Saratoga.

But the Stable Mail Award in this event goes to runnerup Highland Glory, who was pace-compromised and wanting more ground. Tagg Team can look forward to Saratoga with this one, too.

Can’t you just watch Oleksandra kick home all day? And it turns out New Yorkers will get that chance as she’s staying in the East. She’s won at Saratoga where there will be turf sprints aplenty, and the fall at Belmont where she’s undefeated will be a prelude to Keeneland’s BC Turf Sprint. That’s the plan.

I will not diminish Tiz the Law’s victory, so I must make Gamine’s Acorn a Co-Performance of the Day winner. As the youngins’ might say, her performance was sick.

It wasn’t so much she completed a mile in 1:32.55, blowing up the stakes record by a bunch. But her final quarter-mile in 23.22 was so fast that she bore out, Johnny said. Simultaneously, I was thinking lidocaine off maybe?

For me, it was more about the running line at the points of call: 1 by 1, 1 by 1-1/2, 1 by 3-1/2, 1 by 9-1/2 and, finally, 1 by 18-3/4s. And those were no equine tomato cans behind her. She has size and scope, so who knows what her limits might be?

Classiest Raceday Ever Began in Ascot, Berkshire

Actually, Saturday morning was a culmination of the five days of Royal Ascot. Highlights and personal favorite moments:

Finally saw what all this “Battaash is the best sprinter in the world” talk is all about. He sure looked the part by taking the King’s Stand. He broke like a shot and was on cruise control throughout.

Don’t know if Battaash’s connections regularly support the Breeders’ Cup. The hope is this year they will, pandemics notwithstanding.

There were, for us, three performances that made us go wow. Circus Maximus was all class winning the Queen Anne. Alpine Star was stellar winning the Coronation Stakes and Palace Piper stayed undefeated in four starts despite a rise to the Gr. 1 level.

Wesley Ward continued to represent America very well as Campanelle, first-time blinkers and Frankie, showed her class to win the Queen Mary. Stradavarius was amazing in taking his third straight Gold Cup. He don’t need no stinkin’ hot pace!

Personal favorite scenes were the John Gosden-Frankie Dettori show; great looking horses so well prepared and thoughtfully ridden. Jim Crowley’s six winners and his leading-jockey battle with Dettori.

Proud of Graham Motion who tweeted that he never got so many congratulatory messages for finishing second. Sharing is really special and should have a great U.S. campaign with a possible repeat in the Breeders’ Cup.

Loved seeing history made when Nanda Parrado won the G2 Coventry at 150-1, the largest priced winner in Royal Ascot history and while I’m not a Royalsphobe I was happy for the 94-year-old breeder of Tactical, winner of the Windsor Castle.

Of course, she missed her first Royal Ascot race meet. Queen Elizabeth had her watch party at home, a.k.a. Windsor Castle. It was her first win at Royal Ascot in four years.

Facebook Share
Twitter Share
LinkedIn Share

⚠ 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.

18 Responses

  1. The performance by Stradivarius makes me wish there were more marathon turf races carded in the USA. Talk about stamina, he seemed to do his best running at the very end of the race. Probably my 2nd favorite moment of the week behind Gamine.

    1. Good call, Doc, a remarkable performance; no pace and uphill at the end. And to win an Ascot race four years running and if all goes well next year, wouldn’t four Gold Cups be a single achievement?

      But he would still need one more to catch Kelso, right?

      And I don’t think you’re appreciating Tiz the Law enough… just sayin’

      1. Kelso’s streak is just flat out mind boggling.

        You might be right about Tiz’ performance – you probably are. I have not watched it over since Belmont Day, but I will end up seeing them all again. I know it was very solid and very professional – it’s almost like a Floyd Mayweather fight; you don’t feel blown away, but it’s only because his skill level is so high that he puts himself in the correct position to score points and avoid any damage with such ease. Tiz doesn’t have to speed pop and blow a field away, or come from the clouds in the final furlong, simply because he seems to usually instantly secure a perfect position on the track based on the pace and opponents. That in itself is an elite skill, but it doesn’t leave that lasting impression. But you look up, and his record is a bunch of wins.

        1. That’s the thing, Doc, it’s like the Yankees were always lucky… it’s a residue of design thing, right.

          Good point in that it looked like a routine perfect trip but it was the horse that helped make it so. Good from the gate and getting better about tractability.

          Helps big time when the guy who rides him in the morning rides him in the afternoon.

          1. Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of jockeys working their mounts in the mornings when possible. I think if the whip rules end up drastically modified here, it will be of the utmost importance for the horse and jockey to know each other that way.

            As a handicapper, when the whip rules are changed – and I assume they will, I think I will need to have that information denoted somehow on the workout lines in the PPs.

  2. Loved the “equine tomato can” line John. Very creative. Anything left in the cans, we can still make and share a pizza after. What a shame, so many great performances on Saturday without and the traditional crowds able to witness in person. Like my five year old buddy Everett often says, maybe someday when “the sickness” is over Papa, I can get back to school with my friends. Same for all of us.

    Back in my years in the service in the late sixties, early seventies, I flew over from a hawk missile outfit on the Czech border where I was stationed to visit a younger brother stationed at an Air Force base outside of London. Six boys in my family and we had every branch covered, and none ever in Asia. All luck of the draw.

    Back to my trip to England, only at random, one morning I mentioned to my brother “How about going a to a racetrack for the day. Purely by accident, we ended up at The Ascot Races. Got lucky enough to catch 4 out of 5 that day which covered my standby plane tickets. I only lost my last wager going after an odds on 4 to 5. I ran second. The racing gods had my back at Ascot😄. On exiting the track, my brother and I were stopped two feet from a road crossing as Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne made their exit in her horse drawn carriage.

    Only draw back on the day….the beer simply wasn’t cold enough for us Yanks. Never been to Kentucky, but I have the forerunner Ascot now in my memory bank. Right up there on the shelf, now with the John’s tomato cans, lol.

    1. You’re going to need an awful lot of Dime Supers to make the Derby anymore as, with all major sports, have priced the middle class out of the game, but you never know.

      But a weekend will cost you as much as a week’s trip to Europe. CDUI makes you buy an Oaks Derby ticket package, figure, I don’t know, $4,000-5,000 for the pair?

      Mannie Kalish–I’m sure you remember him–would say “all you gotta’ do is bet a little more.” EZ for him to say, he had clients back in the day, and I dare say he was worth the money.

      Horseplayers lack the tools in those days, replays were once a day–had to get to the track before noon, PPs were stark, no TV, etc.

      Went to Paris and London on my honeymoon, could never get used to room temperature beer.

  3. Oddly, enough, John, Happy Saver is closely related to Creed; they share a third dam, Lassie’s Legacy, who is out of Weekend Surprise. What’s even funnier is that Jose Ortiz rides Creed, and his brother rides Happy Saver! I know that one of these days you’ll see Creed’s races, lol.

    Belmont had a phenomenal day – and it deserved its day in the spotlight.

    1. Thought I responded on another thread re Creed–liked his race and potential a lot. You’ll be my personal stable mail on him I’m sure.

      Interesting stuff re pedigrees. Loved Weekend Surprise as a race horse and producer. And you are correct again; Belmont did earn their day in the spot. This weekend is interesting, Between BEL and CD, I think nine stakes…

      1. Oops, I’ll check those threads out ! Yes I will, lol – unless he doesn’t do well, then I’ll just remain mum, lol. Shug seemed very pleased with Creed, so that says something. I’m looking forward to his next start!

        She’s awesome – AP Indy is so legendary you almost forget she also foaled Summer Squall.

        Here’s hoping for continued good weather – the racing is and has been outstanding

  4. Actually John, I would prefer a trip to Keeneland. A site more for the purists of the sport. CD is way over hyped at this point. Saving my dimes for Keeneland. With Belmont in the backyard, I’m in no rush mind you. Still pretty sweet there as well.

    My wife and I went to both Italy and France last year, will forward pictures if you like. Our third trip to Italy, no need to say more. We traveled all over France. The one place I missed was Normandy. Only so much you can visit over two weeks. Maybe if I catch one of your light up the board Tote Busters scores, I’ll talk Susan into another visit. I would go back in a minute. Toni would love Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. Try to google Monet at Giverny by Adrein Goetz and Photopraphs by Eric Sander. Right up there with Photos By Toni!

    1. Understood, me too! I just meant that the Derby is a bucket list thing… as a visit to Keeneland might be.

  5. The Derby and Oaks are opening to fans. No surprise there. Those two days are half the gross product of Kentucky.

    Et tu, Saratoga.

  6. Please make note that I was the first person at this site to recommend that you stake lovers follow Happy Saver.

    I just ‘hit’ the double at Belmont and I can assure you that I didn’t bet dimes, nor a buck or two; simply a straight double available to bettors decades ago.

    I would like to get back to Mr. Pricci’s score where he won a pick four which had numerous people here at HRI applauding him. Years ago it was just win, place, and show betting along with the early double. Then it progressed to a trifecta in the last race. Now we have an abundance of exotic bets which has drawn once pure professional handicappers into them. Horseplayers with learned handicapping skills are now giving into the lure of making a big score instead of concentrating on simply picking a winner of a race. Mr. Pricci’s using six horses in two of the races involved in the pick four (it would have been more Alice if there weren’t scratches) is an insult to me, a serious horseplayer; in other words the type of bet overrides the need to use ‘capping skills to pick a winner. The numerous exotic bets have spoiled the serious horseplayers, who no longer attempts to come up with one horse is a race; why bother, play several which fit the exotics. Who need the past performances anymore? The attraction to Thoroughbred racing for me is the challenge of analyzing the entrants in a race and selecting one plodder as the probable winner. To use six or eight in any bet, again, is unbelievable; especially when coming from a professional horseplayer in this ‘game’ for years.

    Takeout is no longer relevant as bettors are making numerous wagers in a race where only once ticket can win which surpasses any amount of takeout. An exotic bet has a takeout in the 20% plus range; couple this with the numerous combinations bet, the ‘sucker’ is paying a high price for a winning ticket.

    The tail is now wagging the dog! Bettors are now following the bet, not the horse.


    Claiming horses matter

    1. WMC:

      John’s Pick 4 was 1x1x6x6 = 36 combinations X $0.50 = $18 to collect $427.75. You can drink a lot of Fosters with that kind of cash. You also could have put a $4 Cold DD on the two singles to begin the sequence, pocketed the $26 and you’ve covered the Pick 4 outlay.

      This was a wager that one could love. No rule says that you can’t take half the field in one or more legs, if you wish. That doesn’t diminish the handicappers skill, in my opinion, whatsoever. Cast a wide net, get a longshot to Win and collect big money.

      Yes, only one of the 36 combinations can win – but look what it paid. The pay-off is the equivalent of hitting a 22-1 shot to Win. I would certainly call that an impressive victory !!!

  7. Tom: Its not just Churchill opening up for fans but Phil Murphy has also given the Green Light to Monmouth to allow fans in that building. Since Cuomo has been consistently expounding on a “tri-State” solution to the pandemic, as evidenced by yesterday’s edict against Floridians, Texans, etc, what is the latest excuse for denying physically distanced fans in the Spa backyard? What’s good for Jersey should be good enough for NY! However, as those of us who have observed Mario Jr from long ago and far away, he is nothing if not a world-class hypocrite ( see, Koch v. Cuomo Sr-as to the sexual proclivities of candidates). Another interesting dichotomy between us & Jersey-while throngs of New Yorkers flock to the Meadowlands, Monmouth and AC to open online sports betting accounts, Cuomo is still twiddling his thumbs. He has asserted some “Constitutional” problem with permitting the existing upstate casinos to conduct online sports betting. Well, even if such an assertion was legally correct ( which is is not), then why hasn’t Gov Andy submitted such a resolution for passage by the Legislature, in the two years since the Supreme Court opened the door to Sports Betting? Anyway, we can leave that for a day when the politicians actually return to Albany. For now, I think we would welcome an announcement that patrons will be allowed to sit in their favorite folding chairs, under their favorite tree, in the only backyard where racing has been conducted since 1863.

  8. You are so awesome! I do not think I have read something like that before. So nice to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is one thing that is required on the web, someone with some originality!

  9. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after browsing through a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely pleased I found it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *