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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, October 16, 2022 – Handicappers and turf writers are not as dumb as they appear, although it sure seems that way many times. Guilty as charged.

Trip video, performance figures, pedigree, form-cycle analysis, pre-race appearance, jockeys, trainers, and even owners–all are the elements by which racetrackers and fans measure equine ability.

Some days horses, being only human, just don’t want to do what they do best. Mentally and physically, they take a day off. Often there are good reasons, but just as often it’s a who-knows, a shrug of the shoulders mystery.

But that’s the game. It’s why they run races between fences and not between the pages of a set of past performances.

The media is pretty good at god-ing up these magnificent beasts. Guilty, again. But I must also say that most respected analysts admit when they’re wrong and try to learn from their errant judgments, finding plausible reasons, not excuses.

As an example, we were so moved by a series of jaw dropping performances by Bulldog Hanover, the fastest Standardbred in history, that we implored the HRI Faithful to watch his October 7 start at The Red Mile.

The Allerage Open Pace was supposed to be little more than a mile trial. Could he better his world record mile in 1:45 4/5 set in the Haughton Memorial at The Meadowlands? No. He shortened stride late and finished second.

Upon further review, however, these thoughts: A series of weekly miles raced in 1:46+ following his record performance likely had him over the top of condition. Further, a thoughtful strategy by rival driver Todd McCarthy contributed to the huge upset.

Allywag Hanover left quickly from his pole position, forcing Dexter Dunn to push Bulldog Hanover forward a little faster than usual, making it a harder for The Bulldog to make the top, simultaneously allowing the winner a perfect pocket-trip second.

When ready, McCarthy tipped Allywag Hanover outside the leader and out-paced him to the wire, stopping the timer in 1:46, the fastest time ever posted by a gelded Standardbred. So there was that.

We know harness stock is hearty, but The Bulldog was less ferocious last week and presumably would benefit from a freshening. But then we only bet’em; we don’t train’em.

This weekend, we pushed the envelope again. Paraphrasing: “Be sure to tune in to the Champions Day program at Ascot Saturday morning and watch the top-rated Thoroughbred in the world—Baaeed, not Flightline—win his 11th victory, seventh Group 1, and retire undefeated.

The last odds we saw posted in U.S. betting pools held Baaeed at 1-9. He failed to hit the board and finish fourth.

Thoroughbred race watchers need not to have been too sophisticated to find the reason for his lackluster performance. Baaeed simply did not handle the boggy ground.

The course was not “bottomless,” as many grass courses can become, but it was soft enough whereby Baaeed clearly struggled to get a hold of it, churning away but showing no forward progress whatsoever as clods of turf shot straight up in the air.

Clearly, the racing gods have no respect for perfection.

The ground didn’t help the chances of Trueshan or Inspiral, either, while aiding the fortunes of Kinross, Bay Bridge and Bayside Boy in their events.

Wonder what the gods have in store for Lexington on November 5?

Speaking of Breeders’ Cup… we can’t think about the event without thinking of Jack Will, long time reporter, publicist, and head of the Breeders’ Cup notes team, who passed on earlier this month.

Turf Writers from all over the world depended heavily on the information dispensed in those teams of veteran reporters. Many boots on the ground are required when trying to cover 14 “Kentucky Derbies” in 48 hours.

For decades, writers could not walk into any press box in Florida without sharing a few words with Jack, an endless source of leads and backstories.

We bonded over cocktails in 1987 when Hollywood Park hosted the event for the second time. We will miss you Jack, RIP my friend…

Thoroughbred racing lost another significant member of the racetrack community when Ed Mackie passed suddenly this week.

The long time mutuels manager at Gulfstream was always willing and helpful any time I made contact and was always forthright with his answers. Condolences to his Gulfstream Park colleagues and his many friends in the industry. #Respect …

Lots of morning trials Saturday all over America with penultimate workouts posted by Flightline, Rich Strike and Hot Rod Charlie. All impressed their connections.

We saw the Flightline drill on video and once again he was remarkable, with three-quarters of a mile in 1:12, then galloping out 7 furlongs in 1:24.

But it’s not about the speed of those trials. Obviously, he’s fast. Rather, it’s the manner of his drills which resemble morning open gallops than timed workouts. Remarkable, really.

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2 Responses

  1. Sometimes we are and feel as smart as the others who run games want their followers to be, including horseracing, Jai Alai and some other entertaining .Someone else many times is in control : Luck, Bad luck, Destiny, Doctors, Hospitals ,and Surgeons. As i was watching a couple of sports ,Football, Horseracing, on Sunday Afternoon ,the same sisterly voice who called me yrs ago about my father`s death. Listening my sister Rosalie saying with strong voice was a Cold Slap into my heart. MOMMY IS Dead ! Reacting with a NOO and then thinking about how much she had suffered and the getting worse at the West Islip hospital was a reminder of how many times my wife ,a former ICU,MCU and then Cancer nurse for a total of over 30 yrs had told ‘stories of mistakes’ which remained in the ER and Operating rooms where many unknown patients and their relatives Never knew what was Really going on among all of those experts,,and their tools. My mother, Maria, had problems which worsened as she was infected with Covid 19 while being a patient at the hospital.Her weak immune system could not fight it off,getting weaker by the day. When the day came to visit a Manhattan specialist she did not want to go; too weak to get off the bed,walk with family helpers-assistants .She refused like never before.She hated meds,including those so called immune shots.Tylenol was her only trusted.Could that Specialist have helped her? Doubtful,buy geting Infected at a place where we are SUPPOSED to be expensively be Taken care of is Inhumane,even for a 80 plus yrs old woman,mother,granny who had a touch,poor upbringing as a motherless child at a very young age and with a deaf mute father, Nonno Giuseppe who died within months of when we came to the US. He missed us ,all of his six grand children, and especially his close, kind, loving daughter, Our MAMMA ! Ever since we lost my oldest sister, Mom`s closest friend ,confidante who would take wherever she needed to go and do even if she had a family, managerial job at Estee Lauder , at the Melville plant for yrs .After that darn one car accident where my sister Carmela died from still unknown causes in the worst height of Covid 19. It was so bad that churches were shut down as where funeral homes..She could not even have a worthy funeral of her gifted life while Mom was so afraid and weak that she did not want to leave the house while deliriously crying most of those long gray days.. Until my last visit a month ago she was still mentioning her Carmela while talking to herself as i tried to keep her in company for few days.: ” Mom, why are you talking to yourself so much? ” Her answer,” Senza di lei non ho nessuno a cui parlare”[ Without her,i have Nobody to talk to } . CAPISCI ? ? I was there but was there for only a few days as myself have priorities, duties of a husband of a victim of a nine year old Acute stroke which has caused problems in her body besides being handicapped,bed ridden, unable to walk more than a few feeble steps while her sight,diabetes make her life less enjoyble, to put it mildly.She keeps a smile,not the smile of yrs ago while she became more religious than ever before as she prays for herself, others and for God,if he`s ever listening to her sweet, talkative southern voice. I have not slept for days nights while reminiscing her life as a mother,woman,wife ,daughter . She did not deserve to leave like this,out of her hands,after so many yrs of giving so many kindness, whether they deserved it or not. Sometimes,it seems that one death drags someone `s life, or lives , into being sick ,or worse,espe. among couples who have been together a long time.I just wish that,if Heaven exists,they all will meet again and re embracing where they left off.Like old, interminable real friendships, if any still exist. Yeah, JP,if i may,life keeps us humble after we stopped being arrogant ,know it all. Again,thanks and as promised,this is my last time i`m wasting your time.Got a lot of catching up to do with my real friends,my brothers and remaining sister.You can Bet on that.

  2. JG. we’ve done lots of back and forth for a few years here, but nothing as weighty as this. Family matters most, warts and all, and to recall days when real issues matter most.

    My recent dose of humility only addressed our pastime, our avocation but you are right of course, life in its totality keeps us humble but we put our heads down and move forward one step at the time. As the headline reads, humble yet hopeful.

    If this space, or this idea, brought some reflective moments, we’re happy about that. We all strive to be better people, not simply better handicappers. God bless…

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