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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Not that he loses any sleep over it, but Martin Panza and I did not get off on the good foot. It was some philosophical difference or another, so trivial it appears that I’ve completely forgotten what the tiff was about.

Today, that’s ancient history. Time has come to give a racing executive his due, for his vision, the thinking behind the idea, an idea which makes good sense considering that by helping yourself you can also serve the sport, too. All can agree that’s a good thing.

Some will still find some controversy but, hey, this is Thoroughbred racing, yes?

Many racetrackers and fans are averse when racetracks offer exorbitant purses in the hope of attracting the best horses to its event. The objection is that that means fewer dollars for the locals, from everyday horses to graded stakes winners, all levels, an argument not without some merit.

But to improve something requires change, a notion racing has never been comfortable with. Panzer’s idea may not have been that novel in a historical context and the grand scale of it was.

Yes, that’s been done, too. But not in this part of the calendar when all in racing are laying in wait for Saratoga. Yes, there’s Santa Anita and Ellis in the Midwest and all can achieve success. Good for them. But they never can be Saratoga.

In a interview with America’s Day at the Races, Panza explained the genesis of what would, yesterday anyway, become the most successful international day of sport presented at an American racetrack. For our part, the only events to top it could come on Million Day, or for sure in the Breeders’ Cup championships.

As Panza expounded, I recalled the American Oaks at Hollywood Park, first run as a Grade 1 in 2004. His intent was make the race into an international event, but a West Coast trip in summertime is a long way for Europeans and is doesn’t fit neatly into their peak summer and fall schedules.

The July event attracted grass specialists from all over the world. The field for the inaugural running was exciting and meaningful and field size was huge by North American standards.

With turf racing’s burgeoning popularity in the U.S. along with the growth of international scheduling of glam events, New York’s relative proximity to Europe, Belmont’s expansive turf courses and monetary wherewithal, were a good fit. Why not try it here, the timing is now?

So New York Racing Association’s Senior Vice-President of Racing created the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks, The 2014 Belmont was the first to feature a seven-figure purse. Since then, Europeans have won only two editions—Aidan O’Brien twice.

On Saturday at Belmont Park, O’Brien doubled that output by sweeping the Derby and Oaks with two horses that were beaten favorites in the G1 Epsom Derby and G1 Pretty Polly, respectively. Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara overcame their trips and ground that did not suit either of them. Class told!

As most HRI Faithful know, yesterday’s races were part of an international turf series for racing’s glamour division–whichever side of the Atlantic one calls home: The Spa will host the Saratoga Derby and Oaks and Belmont Fall will complete the triad with the Jockey Club Derby and Oaks.

It was a genuine treat to see racing class on display, even if it was on video and not live in person. Cheap analogy alert: Class in Thoroughbreds is analogous to pornography in that you know it when you see it, and by seeing it you can tell the difference.

Panza knows the advantages he has thanks to NYRA’s considerable resources. It’s one thing to know what one has but another to execute it with style and substance. Therein lies a lesson to all racetrack executives: Good management matters.

Speaking of Turf…

Not only did Bolshoi Ballet have the talent to overcome trip obstacles to earn the lion’s share of the purse Saturday but it turned out he was winning it for his daddy, renowned champion racehorse and sire, Galileo, humanely euthanized at 23 owing to a chronic, non-responsive injury to his left fore.

Since I’ve become hooked on grass racing, I’ve noticed with each passing European handicapping session, how often the name of Galileo shows up as both sire and grandsire of many top horses. What I didn’t realize until Sunday morning just how many there were.

Galileo, unlike his son, won the Epsom Derby along with many of the great races of Europe, and why not? Galileo was a son of the great race horse and sire, Sadler’s Wells, from a Prix l’Arc de Triomphe winner, the mare Urban Sea.

Upon entering stud, Galileo sired a Group 1 winner in his first crop. No one could have dreamed that there would be 90 more Group 1s while an equally astounding 20 of his sons have followed suit. If that doesn’t put you in the conversation for greatest sire of all-time, I shudder to think what would.

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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.

27 Responses

    1. Panza, Stomach in Italian slang. Galileo,great name x a terrific horse and Sire ! Great respect for that Genius ! May he rest in peace That Irish connections shipper closed on the seventh race like a Ferrari getting out of traffic on the Cross round Expressway !It only took her less than a furlong to leave them in the dust.Bolshoi Ballet had an easier time as easy as that Irish DD and 6-7-8 races pick 3. Got the gimmicks in all three races,bet a longhy on the last race and left while another longshot won. No betting today,rarely do on the last day,esp if a Sunday when you ll be rooting for a young Tennis player and a National Soccer team that will be playing a few miles away from each pitch and court. One loss and a better win at odds over 7-1 .Saw the Migliore- Panza interview. It’s hard if they won’t put the $ up for such excellent talent and respected connections. The better solution? Better competition,,,If it exists but this trainer-jockey- horse and owners combo was terrific. Chad,Christophe who ? Saratoga,you re up next even if I will only watch you x the first week from nearby Lake George. Hoping that it will be as successful as my past Belmont stint but since I’m not superstitious I’ll let the board guide me,as usual.Ps: Are those ” Saratoga handicappers” still talking about which favorites are they picking,after a few adult beverages, or did they cease that Tradition..?😉🤔😷

      1. Cross Bronx Expressway: maybe the worst highway I have ever driven on and I’ve driven in over 20 states and 2 continents ( Please ,Jesus , Don’t let me get a flat here !). Be safe,bet safely.😁🇮🇹

        1. They should have a convent, or monestary,
          for those who believe in betting x 40 Days and 40 nights…without any ATM s ! But then again,to me, any religion is a sign of superstition.Just believe in factual # s. Amen !

    2. I will take the hit since it appeared in post, but I think spellcheck got me again. I do know how the man spells his name. But good catch, thanks Tink…

  1. “Turn the page’, right Mr. Pricci?

    Santa Barbara paid $4.30 to win; Bolshoi Ballet $4.10. Were is the money for the gambler, err horseplayer?

    Class. A most significant tool in my approach to ‘capping. You know, class figures in many races, day-after-day. Horses entered in any race must meet the required conditions to get into the race. Thus, it is possible to find numerous races where one plodder appears to have a class edge over the other horses entered. Class in not limited to high-end stake races, and usually, in fact the plug with the class edge usually pays more than $4.30 to win; and, runs the race a couple of seconds slower (tick-tock), as if anyone noticed, than a stake race.

    What is this, after writing that the 9th race is tough, then boxing four horses (Vincent)? Shouldn’t the race be passed? What a premium is being paid as three tickets are automatic losers, plus where is the handicapping, as it appears that just numbers are being used. Anybody actually purchase the past performances?

    1. Congratulations Vincent, you now are are official member of the club. And that’s OK, all tracks would love you to bet on all the races, the good ones and bad ones, and that’s what horseplayers do, they bet on horses, albeit more on the better ones than the common ones

    2. Used to complain about short prices but in big races [ over $ 100 k purses ] many times it’s hard to go against the flow so i bet a few Exactas,Triples with the Fav$ x first and second,also use it x the brief PK 3,or 4 which in both races it paid more than expected. After watching the races most of us agreed that both Irish invading connections were ready to win with their leading trainer and jockey . 100 X % cent profit is real $,no matter how we cut it.So if they would have come in second? More $ to be cashed in ! But they were the best in both races and maybe that $4 and change was generous.It Happens ! Saratoga will have similar moments , too, but not too many; Too many temporary transfers for a couple of races.Careful..

      1. Good observation and correct, caution should be a buy-word at the Spa. Let the winners come to you…

  2. Hey Tinky,
    I enjoyed your comment re: the Chad Brown interview at TRC. Seems like the demise of the PR comment section has you ready to pounce. LOL

    How about turning the tables and allowing yourself to be interviewed here at HRI (with JP’s permission and involvement, of course)?

  3. Mr. Pricci: You write above ‘all tracks would love you to bet on all the races, the good ones and the bad ones . . . . albeit more on the better ones than the common ones’. Really?

    Wish you would define just what race is a ‘good one’ and and a ‘bad one’. Also what race is a ‘better one’ and what race is a ‘common one’.

    I am a gambler, err horseplayer, and I can assure you I don’t wager on ALL races nor do I bet against myself. And I wouldn’t bet a stake race with your money – simply to tough and usually of no value.

    1. That’s why it’s called gambling, one never knows. And beat a heavy favorite in a stakes race you get better value than one might think. In stakes with “reputation horses,” those kind tend to be over-bet, making value possible with oft-surprising payouts.

  4. I like that they’re boosting the money for 3yo turfers in order to draw in the Euros. They are great races, and A Thread of Blue’s front running 2019 Saratoga Derby win was the centerpiece of my biggest score of the meet, so this series already holds a place in my heart.

    I do see one potential issue with the turf triple crown as a concept: as European connections take the TTC more and more seriously, we will get better and better Euro horses coming for it on a consistent bases. This is great for the first legs, but the type of quality Euro horse that will be coming for it will more and more be the type that if they win leg 1, they will be pointed to the Breeders Cup instead of the turf triple crown. These horses will not be coming back in August to run in Saratoga.

    Of course, the intent is to incentivize this country to put more emphasis on high end turf breeding, so it could lead down the road to better and better American G1 turf divisions. But in the short-medium term, it will not be a ‘triple crown’ in anything but name. I just hope they will be patient and not lose the Triple Crown concept while we likely have many years where it won’t serve as the goal of the winners of the Belmont spring leg 1.

    It was beyond an absolute treat to see Santa Barbara run here, and it gave a great look at just how far this country really does have to go to really be in the discussion at the top end consistently (aside from the outlier from time to time). She was brilliant and that stretch explosion was a thing of beauty. I am the ultimate down state homer, but even with that bias acknowledged, I am pretty confident that we will not see a performance to match the Belmont Oaks up north this summer.

    1. So many good observations I’m not sure where to start, Doc.
      For openers I’ll say that the American Triple Crown is well intended but until they lengthen the time between events, Derby runners-up will in the main skip the Preakness and freshen a vbit for the Belmont.

      Perhaps your best argument is the idea of getting more good turf sires to stay home in America and work our way up to European turf standards at some point. Wish I could say for sure I’ll be around to see it–do hope so.

      Playing if those horses-were-mine game, I would cross the pond until BCUP if that were the end game–though I could show up for the final leg as a BC prep. We’ll see how it all plays out. Either way, good racing and hopefully good wagering, too.

  5. Mr. Pricci: You write above ‘and beat a heavy favorite in a stake race you get better value than one might think’; wouldn’t this observation apply to any race anywhere? When would a serious horseplayer in his right mind bet against a heavy favorite in a stake race when there are other races that offer value without the need to pray that the heavy favorite gets beat?

    Over the past few years I have noticed that your win selection is usually the M/L favorite or close to the favorite. Nothing wrong with that, but you have moved into exacta boxes, key exacta boxes, pick three and pick fours, and even dime supers – sucker bets that a serious horseplayer wouldn’t touch if he/she is in this ‘game’ to make money. I am still trying to understand how one ‘caps a horse to run second or third – guess I missed something after six decades of handicapping the plodders.

    I’ve concluded that the current commentators are not serious horseplayers, but individuals who simply like to comment about stake races and the trainers/jocks involved then bet their exacta or super believing that they are watching the best racing, forgetting that the sole objective is to gamble and make money which can be achieved much easier by handicapping the race cards at several racetracks daily.

    When Saratoga opens y’all pay attention to shippers from the so-called second-tier racetracks (Delaware, Parx, Finger Lakes, etc) that ‘pop’!

    1. WMC, Shippers into Saratoga from B-level tracks as a general rule are always well intended and the payoffs can be quite generous. Some of my best moments at Saratoga have come from these situations.

      I pick who I think is the most probable winner because in this age of horizontal Pick wagers–which I do not play as a general rule–a short-priced winner gets you to the next leg of the sequence.

      The reason for exactas, trifectas and superfectas is intended to get the most money out of the race as possible without making a large wager on one horse. Players that are betting hundreds or thousands straight don’t seek advice from public handicappers.

    2. Kind of getting tired of One note,repetitious songs! People like to get the better races because they re more interesting with more reliable trips and,yes,results. Betting a $ 3000 Assiniboia claiming race May turn WMC on but not many others. There’s no thrill watching and betting such low products,as a a matter of fact, I feel terrible watching these races when some of these poor equine souls cannot keep up with the leading horses.What will soon happen to them? A final trip to Mexico or Canada ? Would you rather bet in a Pee Wee league football game or the NFL product with it’s ‘ superstars’ ? Rather watch a cheap production of a musical or movie or one with big name actors in an intriguing plot ? I got my lesson from yrs ago skipping the various Charlestown,Va.,Suffolk Downs,Mass and even most of Finger Lakes races and miserably,one shut down,one is about to close after a couple of different failing enterprises and Finger Lakes,in the middle of nowhere off RT 17 is still breathing thanks to simulcasting $$ from the rest of NY state and other places where they have time and space for such low product and an attractive track. The reasons why people bet,play is very subjective: we,they,all play their way with their money,credit cards,borrowed $,Their way and just like Nobody asks me why I play this or that race,horse,trainer or jockey Because they have become mature enough to Mind Their Own Business ! Do I ask Why you,he,she gets which horse or race ? I Do Not Care ! And to read PP s from all tracks Is impossible and worthless! Nobody can claim to read,absorb more than a couple of programs,and if they do they got to do it well before post time,maybe even a day before IF track conditions have not changed .To continually mention,criticize,complain about the same crap is a sign of some mental ‘ obstruction’ ….close to senility. I’m not trying to defend anyone. Pricci can do a good job of it or even delete your continual lament But have you ever thought of changing your repetitive inputs …even if you have been wrong most of the time ? Favs with some 33 % of the time but if you do a good research you’ll find out that this average is well above most cheap claiming races. Personally,I have learned that once a horse gives me highest numbers,doing it my way,I cannot exclude that number from my exactas,otherwise I got to skip the race. Why go against your logic? But then again,logic is not measurable among bettors or people in general,But it does Not mean that me,as a gossiping spectator, I’m supposed to comment on their ways of playing. Who made me Jury and Judge ? Who has time for that adolescent,repetitive and predictable nonsense ? For your mental state of mind…change your tune. Nobody likes a broken record, it’s Annoying .

      1. And there it is: bipartisan support for infrastructure repair that includes wmc’s broken record. LOL

        Some of those aware that wmc’s message has not changed in a decade may have also observed that fisherman’s occasional snagging (exposing?) of an impatient parimutuel pool participant too frustrated to ignore his rambling, rumble-rousing rhetoric.

        Indeed, I was among the first.

        But you know what? Even if one doubts the details of his disagreement, one can not always dismiss them — or even dispute them — in light of the many sacred cows that have been put out to pasture.

        While I generally restrict my own handicapping, wagering, and viewing to stakes races (or races with stakes performers), I now seldom find competitive renewals and/or interesting opportunities for significant play.

        One problem I have with your analogies is that one does not watch a high school play or football game with the same expectation of ability and consistency one has for a professional theatrical production or an NFL game. Usually one is there to enjoy watching performers they know personally enjoy themselves or pursue their own dreams.

        1. Bingo !!! Better races are more Consistent than bottom claimers. One does not expect a tenor,or soprano to kill a note or forget a line,lyric while in a kiddie play anything can go wrong and we applaud them anyway: good job,Kenny,Barbie ! Tune ups are better than temporary Band Aids.

  6. Mr. Pricci: You write ‘the reason for exactas, trifectas, and superfectas is intended to get the most money out of the race as possible without making a large wager on one horse’; such rational leaves me flabbergasted. A win bet has a 16% to 18% takeout. The exotic bets between 20% and 30%. And when these exotic bets are boxed only one ticket can win. You are incurring a huge premium via takeout and automatic losing tickets. Geez, the money taken via takeout and automatic losing tickets should allow you to make a $10 win bet instead of $2.

    Further, these exotic bets are far more difficult to cash than a win ticket; plus handicapping seems to be tossed and replaced by merely betting numbers.

  7. JGR: Gotta get personal, hum? Some facts: a) I only wager on Delaware, Parx, Monmouth, and sometimes Finger Lakes; b) if NYRA wasn’t receiving casino dole and sponsor money the purses wouldn’t exceed $100,000 for stake races; c) All the ‘cheap’ claimers entered in races at those so-called second-tier racetracks have the same bloodlines as those at the over rated top-tier racetracks; d) there is no way you can determine how fast a claiming races is being run with your own eyes without being informed by an announcer or the tote board; e) ALL claiming races are run one or two seconds slower than stake races, and if the race is 5F or 6F the claiming race just might be run faster; f) most stake races and high-end allowance races at top-tier racetracks are to tough for me to handicap as few entrants can be tossed. Not so with cheap claimers; g) maybe I am senile, as I will be eighty-four soon, but somehow I still manage to be profitable.

    Sorry that all of the above has been written by me numerous time already here at HRI. Just attempting to get readers to try thinking for themselves and stop relying on media commentary.

    Kindly keeps records of your wins/losses at the Saratoga meet this year. Let me know if you show a profit. It is not to late for you to realize that you have been “sucked in” by media coverage to believe that the best races for wagering purposes are stake races. The ‘game’ is about making money and you won’t if you bet odds-on blue bloods or can’t eliminate most of the field in a stake race.

    1. Personally,I got tired of this inane Mantra after reading it four,five times. You must be trying to convince,at any cost, whomever may disagree with you. Freedom of choices. Nobody is forcing you to Insist on the same topic… why Insist? Of all vices,gamblers are,most of us taciturn,stoic stubborn and hard headed while believing their own illusions of grandeur,of being at front row restaurant seats at Delmar,Saratoga with a Cubano cigar in one hand and a close,fit,smart,rich friend on the other while champagne,or Wild Turkey bottles are keeping you company with your lobster Beluga Caviar and Kobe steak right next to your 24 k Omega or Rolex…All of this reminds me why I sat down and came to this Pricci corner: I tabbed 7 races today, Thursday,first day at Saratoga 2021 and I’m not foolish,or crazy enough to make Any of the following results up.I make my selections a few minutes before post time,without changing anything. No pencils,just
      black Sharpies on my messy,not the soccer player, thick notebook. Instead of taking care of my handicapped,not handicapper,wife it would have been a very profitable day,a good way to start.
      Race 3,both horses,the only ones,came in in the exacta:$140 plus.Race 4: two horses picked,one won ,odds is,$ 4.60, Racer: two horses bet,one won$ 10. Race 7: Bet $ 14 worth of exactas and with the favorite entry out of the $ the other exacta combo paid $ 95. Race 8, minus $ 12. Race 9 cold exacta,two favorites, paid $ 16,,,Race 10,which has become my favorite race both in harness and flats had the following revealed numbers: 82-8257-8257 12. Triple,cold exacta,superfecta plus the 1-2–258 Daily Double of $ 95 plus. Don’t know the prices x the triple,super gimmicks,it would be too painful to see what ” coulda ,shoulda” been. Like the venerable Dick Mitchell stated in his book, ” Nobody will believe you,so keep it to yourself “,or something like that. Live and learn by being a responsible husband,father,brother: cannot be too greedy. If some angle,” system” ( hate that word! ) works,it will work again because some things never change,they just get old and…..predictable. Stay on your lane,the safest one in the long run. Sincerely, Jim.


      1. Race 4,odds on fav, Race 5,two horses bet,one won ,$ 10,lost $ 8. That 5 f race with that speedy horse was the race of the day. Ps: Any thought of Baffert s ” reversed decision” ? Will be be booed like baseball ‘ s Houston Astros ? Have many changed their minds on his ability to win without cheating ??

  8. JGR: As I already wrote here at HRI, you are either a very talented handicapper or extremely lucky with your selections (sorry to be repetitious). You should inform the current crop of HRI faithful of your daily ‘picks’. You, along with all the vacationers who patronize Saratoga and bet birthdays, license plate, etc. numbers will be the only people who manage to be profitable for the meet. Don’t forget to keep track of your success and after Labor Day weekend kindly announce the profit figure. The way you started, the profit figure s/be in the thousands.

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