Friday, October 31, 2008

HOTY Numbers Game

Many years ago, I would religiously balance my checkbook. The difference between $47.52 and $47.95 could be 4 dime draws at the Cave Inn on Tuesday nights, with $45.03 leftover for "general living expenses". But over the years, grinding numbers turned into mundane minutiae; I had a general knowledge of the amounts of deposits and debits, so a quick glance at my monthly bank statement would suffice.

The same could be said for horse races that have that mysterious minus-negative-six-feet-under-and-pushing-up-daisies Show Pools. I don’t understand them. I don’t even try. It only matters if I'm holding a winning ticket on that race.

Additionally, the numbers crunched for points in the TBA Standings get similar attention. I have glanced at them on occasion and they appear to reflect what’s happening in horse racing. Father-and-Inventor of the TBA, Patrick, implemented standings that dishes out points in conjunction with graded stakes. Or something to that effect. A worthwhile idea, as I had pondered a couple of years ago, but not without its pitfalls. And the horse with the highest number of points would be crowned TBA Horse of the Year. And according to the TBA Standings, the 2008 TBA HOTY is Zenyatta.

Zenyatta? Huh?!?

Turf writer and good friend to Post Parade, Gary West of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, sums it up with one word:

"Flapdoodle," proclaims the Professor.

Gary West goes on to write in his blog,
[Zenyatta] was unbeaten in seven races, but except for the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park she raced exclusively in California. She earned $2,090,580 this year, and among her victories were four Grade I stakes, in which she defeated a total of 21 starters.

Curlin...[won] the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup. And then he traveled from Kentucky to New York to California, running in major events all along the journey. He won five of seven, his only losses coming on turf and faux dirt. He won four of his six Grade I stakes, where he defeated a total of 46 horses. And he earned $5,399,000 this year, pushing his career earnings beyond $10 million, to become the richest horse ever to race in North America.

Clearly, their accomplishments are not comparable. Curlin earned more than twice as much money and beat more than twice as many top horses as Zenyatta.

Yes, something looks amiss in the TBA standings.

However, Kennedy’s Corridor maintains its own Thoroughbred Championship Rankings. The industrious horseplayer/blogger uses a complex algorithm that uses deductions and bonuses and decimals that has me reaching for a Michelob just to get through the instructions. As you can see by the displayed rankings, there’s a remarkable difference between Kennedy’s Championship Rankings and the TBA Standings, and (I hate to say this) Kennedy’s appear to be supportive of what actually occurred in horse racing in 2008.

Anyway, in the end, the Eclipse will be decided by votes from a group of scotch-swilling-cigar-smoking turf writers, not by algorithms, calculations, nor the quadratic equation. And Old Friends will gladly accept the TBA’s charitable contribution regardless if the TBA HOTY is Zenyatta, Curlin, Big Brown, or Tres Borrachos.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Request Granted

This morning I received a request from a fellow horse racing enthusiast, asking for my thoughts and input about his own horse racing blog, Amateurcapper. I obliged the request and have opted to share with you my reply:


You flatter me! Asking me to read your blog and provide my opinion! I'm delighted!

After perusing through Amateurcapper, the most obvious piece of information is that it is blue. Blue is a nice color. I like blue. I painted my daughter's room blue. I also won a blue ribbon in the 5th grade for the Three-Legged Race with my girlfriend, Pam. And my neighbor has a hound dog named Blue who's a nice doggie even though he poops in my yard. So blue is good.

Secondly, I noticed that you are very articulate about discussing horse racing, both in terms of handicapping as well as reviewing races. We have this common. Well, the horse racing part, anyway. Whereas my handicapping skills usually entail either (1) consuming two frozen margaritas, (2) spinning a Magic Beer Bottle, or (3) a good guess, I would speculate that our blogs would be quite dissimilar regarding this topic. That is good because I detest literary competition.

Additionally, I noted that you have a lovely blog list of some notable horse racing blogs. However, I noted that you have blatantly omitted Post Parade, West Points, I Need a Martini Mom, and Plumbing 101, which is a must on the blogroll because you never know when your son or daughter may flush a pudding cup down the toilet. However, I presume that these omissions are a minor oversight on your part as I'm fully aware that you have been consumed with the Breeders' Cup World Championships recently as well as devising a new strategy to win at Scrabble by scoring 96 points with the word ZENYATTA.

Needless to say, you are a competent horse racing blogger and I, for one, would welcome another intelligent voice to the TBA.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2008 Breeders' Cup Selections

The 2008 Breeders' Cup is nigh so now comes the time to post my selections. After perusing through the myriad of past performances, I handicapped a race and concluded that Zenyatta will be tough to beat. As for the other 13 Breeders' Cup races spread over the two day Fiesta de Santa Anita, I conserved energy and opted to drink a beer and took a stab or two.

And speaking of beer, Post Parade is proud to present the Second Annual Magic Beer Bottle Breeders' Cup Selection. The official beer bottle provided for this year's Magic Beer Bottle Breeders' Cup Selection is original formula Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

    Schlitz: Go for the Gusto!

    *Pabst Brewing Company is not directly or indirectly implying any approval, association, sponsorship, endorsement, or affiliation to the use of empty beer bottles for the use of wagering selections for the Breeders' Cup. Bet and drink responsibly.

    2008 Breeders’ Cup Selections


    Magic Beer Bottle

    Filly & Mare Sprint

    Indian Blessing


    Juvenile Fillies Turf

    Sugar Mom

    Saucey Evening

    Juvenile Fillies

    Dream Empress

    Evita Argentina

    Filly & Mare Turf

    Wait a While

    Folk Opera

    Ladies Classic




    Delightful Kiss

    Church Service

    Turf Sprint

    Mr. Nightlinger


    Dirt Mile

    Well Armed

    Surf Cat



    Kip Deville



    West Side Bernie

    Juvenile Turf

    Grand Adventure

    Paddy The Pro


    Cost of Freedom

    Street Boss


    Grand Couturier




    Go Between

It's noteworthy that last year both the Magic Beer Bottle and I selected a couple of winners, Kip Deville and Curlin, respectively. Since the Magic Beer Bottle demonstrated success ($18.40) in selecting last year's Mile, I left the defending champion as its selection. And then there are the races that scream, "Just try to find a winner without the use of a dart board! I dare you!" Like the Juvenile Fillies Turf; I settled on Sugar Mom because she looks interesting and she'll be a nice price. She's won her last three races, has some nice breeding, and Mr. Catalano and Mr. Calabrese are familiar with the Breeders' Cup Winner's Circle, having had great success with another turf filly, Dreaming of Anna. And how can you not like the name Sugar Mom? However, I assure you, my handicapping expertise is equivalent to the Magic Beer Bottle in those cases.

Anyway, be sure to stop by the TBA homepage as various members have posted their selections for the 2008 Breeders' Cup. Have a great Breeders' Cup and remember to go for the gusto!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Naming Rights and Wrongs

Historically, corporate naming rights was a concept that appeared back in 1972 when Rich Products Corporation acquired naming rights for Buffalo’s new NFL stadium for a dozen space heaters, two snowblowers, and $1.5 million. Since then, corporate sponsorship of sports and concert venues, golf tournaments, college football bowl games, anything NASCAR, badminton events, frat parties, and horse races – particularly the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands and the Friday Night Cuervo Gold Margarita Madness Mile - are widespread.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are no exception. Corporations have sponsored 9 of the 14 races this year. Sentient Air Group, Bessemer Trust, Emirates Airlines, TVG, and Grey Goose Vodka are excited to attach their name to high profile races all for the glory of advertising and subsequent revenue.

I don’t get it.

Whose attention are these corporations planning to attract? It appears that the Breeders’ Cup has made great strides to secure sponsors that have associations with moneyed individuals, like Warren Buffet and Curlin,

Buffy Buffet: Oooh, honey! Look-ee! Sentient Flight Group is a sponsor! Their round-trip fare in the continental United States is only $7,700! What a bargain!

Emirates Airline has been shuttling sheikhs and Zayats back and forth since the Crusades. And according to their website, Emirates Airline can fly me to Ahmedabad for a mere $1,205. If I was actually going to Ahmedabad, I might consider this a great deal. However, I’m fairly certain that I don’t want to go there. And I’m also fairly certain that 98.76% of the folks hanging out at the racetrack and local OTBs don’t want to go there either. Personally, I can relate more to Southwest Airlines, particularly the “Friends Fly Free” and “Fun Fare” shill.

Bessemer Trust isn’t even interested in me, the middling railbird, as a possible client and flatly informs me,
Enhancing Private Wealth for Generations

Admittedly, I easily recognize Grey Goose Vodka. And I’m now compelled to use it in future martinis. Let that be a lesson, Stolichnaya! Hah!

Surprisingly absent this year is a corporate sponsor to the Breeders’ Cup Classic Formerly Powered by Dodge. As a Texan, I could identify with Dodge. The Dodge Ram 1500 is the state truck of Texas and driven by all 236 residents in Deaf Smith County. And Breeders’ Cup couldn’t find another sponsor to be associated with a race with a $5 million purse? Unbelievable. Geez, the Superbowl can get a corporate sponsor for the coin toss, for heaven’s sake. But apparently, Pepsi, Bank of America, Tostitos, and Poulan Weedeater were unavailable or not interested in the richest horse race in North America.

I’m not a marketing guru and I certainly don’t pretend to understand the Breeders’ Cup marketing strategy or advertising schemes. However, Greg Avioli, Breeders’ Cup President, admits that one of the goals of the Breeders’ Cup is to bring new fans to the sport and that has yet to be realized. Naming rights is the tour de force of advertising. New fans and/or the general public that is aware that horse racing exists, should be able to recognize some of the corporate sponsors. Take NASCAR, for instance. The public recognizes the Home Depot car and the Budweiser car, zipping by at 422 miles per hour, and the public clearly knows that the drivers are Buford Snodgrass III and Nancy Pelosi. Or whoever it is because I really don’t know anything about NASCAR. But I know Home Depot. I know Budweiser. Thus, I’m not a complete moron when anybody talks NASCAR, only a partial moron.

Perhaps Breeders’ Cup might embrace corporate sponsors that the everyman can recognize. There are five Breeders’ Cup races without a corporate sponsor this year. Maybe Greg Avioli should consider calling Home Depot. I like Home Depot. And they have the right supportive philosophy,
You can do it. We can help.

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Amazon Invasion

    I love the Official Photo of the Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008. Angel Cordero, Jr., Laffit Pincay, Jr., and Pat Day, look bold and tough and confident. If you were completely unfamiliar with horse racing and the diminutive stature of jockeys, these guys could pass for lumberjacks.

    Therefore I am providing a fresh perspective of the Hall of Fame jockeys with the addition of a typical 5’8”, 130 lb* racing fan:

    *in my dreams!

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Legendary Jockeys Rock On

    Marketing has been a hot topic of discussion amidst the horse racing industry. Last month the NTRA held a summit / junket in Fabulous Las Vegas in an effort to develop some semblance of a plan to lure a new and younger fan base to the sport.

    Inspired, Breeders’ Cup devised and implemented their own marketing strategy to promote the upcoming New and Improved - Hot and Hip - Two Days and You’ll Wish for Three, Breeders' Cup World Championships 2008:

    Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008

    25 Years ...
    1984 Pat Day, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Laffit Pincay, Jr. finished 1-2-3 in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic and ushered in a new era in thoroughbred excitement ...

    Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008 ...

    Multi-city tour sweeping through racetracks across America to promote the Breeders’ Cup World Championships ...

    Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008 ...

    Don’t miss out on Pat Day, Angel Cordero, Jr. and Laffit Pincay, Jr., legendary jockeys that combined for 78,445,267 lifetime wins and combined earnings larger than the national debt ...

    Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008 ...

    Wild Again 25 years ago and it’s gonna be wild again in rockin’ Santa Anita October 24th and 25th. Be part of the excitement! Reserve your seats now!

    Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008
    *Not affiliated with any concert performers, concert events,
    or the McCain-Palin campaign.

    The Tour would be stopping at Lone Star Park and I just had to be part of the hysteria! Just think, Pat Day, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Laffit Pincay, Jr., would be there to sign autographs, answer questions, high five fans, and trash hotel rooms all for the glory of the upcoming Breeders’ Cup. Hey, maybe there’d be a mosh pit!

    Well, needless to say, 10:00 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday morning in a simulcast facility with three quiet and venerable jockeys, it didn’t exactly resemble Lollapalooza. They sat silently behind a table, autographing memorabilia, answering an occasional question, only to momentarily stop and watch race replays of previous Breeders’ Cups on a nearby monitor. However, I observed Angel Cordero, Jr., covertly glance over at the free continental breakfast more than once.

    Regardless of the subdued atmosphere of the Legends Tour, it afforded me the luxury of conducting brief interviews of the Racing Hall of Fame jockeys. I inquired to what they were doing in their retirement and if they were still involved in horse racing.

    Since his retirement, Pat Day remains active in the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, traveling the country, ministering to the spiritual needs of horse racing’s workforce by conducting prayer breakfasts. Actually, he was so soft-spoken and reserved the only thing I heard him say was “prayer breakfasts.” He did not indicate how he likes his eggs cooked.

    Angel Cordero, Jr., is the agent for the handsome and talented, Johnny V, so he continues to enjoy the glories of the Winner’s Circle during his retirement.

    Both Pat Day and Angel Cordero, Jr., have mounts for the upcoming Living Legends race this weekend. So I thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit; get a spark of competition going.

    “I received an email from Gary Stevens the other day,” I informed the legendary jockeys. “He had breezed 7 horses on Sunday in preparation of the Living Legends race on October 18th. He says, ‘I’m ready. I worked that many [horses] to make sure I’m dead fit.’ Sounds like he’s giving you notice. Have you been actively riding, getting ready for this upcoming race?”

    Pat Day seemed somewhat disinterested. “I guess I’ve been on a couple of horses,” he answered, unconcerned.

    Meanwhile, Angel Cordero, Jr. displayed a hint of excitement. “It’s going to be fun!” After chatting for a moment or two, I speculated that he would provide much livelier answers if he tossed back a couple shots of tequila:

    “Oh, that Gary Stevens thinks he’s the greatest jockey to ever ride. He thinks he’s so tough because he breezed 7 horses. I’ll be blowing by him by daylight, man! I’m gonna be kicking dirt back in that pretty-boy-HRTV-on-air personality! And you know that movie, Seabiscuit? He wasn’t that good in it. Hey, you got any more of that PatrĂ³n?”

    Anyway, they kindly autographed an item that I brought: a birthday card. “It’s for my daughter," I explained. “Tomorrow’s her birthday.”

    “Is she a racing fan?” Pincay asked.

    “Nah. She’ll only be 7. But who wouldn’t love to get a birthday card from Pat Day, Laffit Pincay and Angel Cordero? If I got one, it would be awesome.”

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    In Search of Mr. February

    I have little in common with Fran Jurga. She is the exceptionally intelligent and wise individual with 324 Ph.D.s that writes Hoofcare and Lameness Journal, Fran Jurga's "HoofBlog", Everything You Wanted to Know About Hooves But Were Afraid to Ask, and Fran's Fast Feasts for Farriers: 20-Meals for Your Horseman. I, on the other hand, can barely string two sentences together on a weekly basis and I might be able to recognize a hoof.

    However, yesterday Fran alerted her multitude of readers to some very significant information that, if not for Fran, would have been completely missed by the media. A preeminent publication is being sold at this very moment: Hunks and Horses, a 2009 calendar featuring 12 of your favorite farriers.

    Immediately I perused the calendar. I suggest you should, too. Be sure to spend some extra time with Mr. September. Ooh la la.

    Anyway, Fran's scoop was a timely reminder that I, too, had planned to put together my own 2009 calendar: Hot Men of Lone Star. Suddenly I was inspired to begin reviewing the numerous photos I had acquired over the year of all my manly subjects. So I spent a few moments, evaluating the assortment of pictures, and I reached a troubling conclusion.

    These guys aren't looking so hot.

    There's Kemper, sitting in the racebook, earnestly studying his Daily Racing Form, two empties and a stack of crumbled losers piled in from of him. There's a photo of Stuart, a chatty sort, whose mouth is open and there appears to be some kind of food particle stuck between his front teeth. And he's in dire need of a barber. I have a few pictures of Super-Manager, John Records. That's a keeper. Hmm ... Magna/Frank Stronach associate, Drew Shubeck ... not sure. I was hoping that I might have a photo of Dave Appleton, the track's paddock handicapper and TV broadcaster because he's hot. But I only have the back of his head. Few pictures of Steve Asmussen and Steve Asmussen Bobblehead. (Insert your own opinions here). Warner the Mutuel Clerk: adore him and love him. My husband, sitting in a lawn chair, swilling beer, sunburn on his nose, reading a race program pretending that he knows what any of those little numbers actually mean - I'll have to think about that one.

    Decidedly, I need to venture out to the track this weekend and roam the premises in search of Calendar Fodder.

    Perhaps I will find George Clooney relaxing at the bar, sipping on his scotch, casually watching the Keeneland races on a simulcast monitor. Or Antonio Banderas seated in the racebook, intently handicapping the Oak Tree at Santa Anita Pick 6. Or maybe those guys from Grey's Anatomy, McDreamy and McSteamy, might be hanging around the track.

    Well, at least I have Mr. January: Gary West.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    Women Tell It Like It Is

    The horse racing industry determined that its "core" fans - those individuals who routinely show up at the racetrack and contribute to handle and litter of losing tickets, empties, and butts - are mildly upset with the industry. Apparently, the NTRA learned this after conducting a study.

    Absolutely amazing. Amazing because they required a study to actually figure this out.

    What they need are a few good women. Oprah would be a good start. I mean, she did do that little Breeders' Cup episode about Oprah Winney last year on her show. The NTRA should have seized the opportunity to ride the Oprah-wave. Renaming the Distaff to The Oprah Winfrey Fillies & Mares Classic would have been a marketing bonanza.

    Anyway, a number of brilliant women have expressed their opinions and thoughtful insights about the climate of the NTRA and the horse racing industry:

    “We have a lot of strength and things going for us if we can get our crap together.”
    -Susie Sourwine at the International Simulcast Conference in St. Petersburg, FL

    "What I find most encouraging is that the NTRA realized there was a gap as far as reaching out to fans old and new and is making a real effort to try and find ways in which to fill it."
    -superfecta, blogger

    "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it."
    -Marge Simpson

    "I really hate these [Breeders' Cup] changes. What better way to alienate current and future fans than to take a giant leap backward by segregating females? Will the next knuckle-headed marketing idea be something as cute as races for all gray horses? Or how about races for geldings only? Those races could be on Thursdays, and called the nutless wonder division."
    -grrr grrrl, Self-Appointed Fan Committee

    "What is it exactly that the VP does every day?"
    -Sarah Palin, maverick

    Listen up!