Thursday, November 01, 2012

2012 Breeders' Cup Selections

Once again, it's that time of year where we ignore demanding spouses, dirty laundry, and needy children all for horse racing glory. Yes, it's the Breeders' Cup World Championships! And no Breeders' Cup could ever be complete without Post Parade's Sixth Annual Magic Beer Bottle Breeders' Cup Selections.

This year, we honor our East Coast horse racing brethren/hurricane survivors. We're serving up Brooklyn Lager, a pleasant little brew. We love you NY, NJ, et. al.!! You're in our thoughts and prayers!

As you may or may not be familiar with our long-standing tradition, let me remind you of the rules: I handicap, the bottle spins. I've had my fair share of winners over the years, however the Magic Beer Bottle should never be discounted, notable wins being Stephanie's Kitten and Amazombie last year.

    2012 Breeders’ Cup Selections



    Sue
    Magic Beer Bottle
    Juvenile Sprint
    Super Ninety Nine
    Hightail
    Marathon
    Commander
    Worth Repeating
    Juvenile Fillies Turf
    Kitten's Point
    Waterway Run
    Juvenile Fillies
    Executiveprivilege
    Kauai Katie
    Filly & Mare Turf
    Marketing Mix
    Nereid
    Ladies Classic
    Awesome Feather
    Royal Delta
    Juvenile Turf
    Dry Summer
    Artigiano
    Filly & Mare Sprint
    Groupie Doll
    Strike the Moon
    Dirt Mile
    Rail Trip
    Emcee
    Turf Sprint
    California Flag
    California Flag
    Juvenile
    Speak Logistics
    Fortify
    Turf
    Shareta (Ire)
    Little Mike
    Sprint
    Coil
    Trinniberg
    Mile
    Excelebration (Ire)
    Obviously (Ire)
    Classic
    Game On Dude
    Pool Play

Admittedly, I'm somewhat uninspired with both the Marathon and the Sprint. There's a strong possibility that if I even elect to wager on those races, I may opt for some imaginative combination of various family birthdays tossed into a 50-cent trifecta box and hope for the best. Those assorted numbers include but are not limited to 1,2,5,8,9,10.

Have a great Breeders' Cup weekend! Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

OMG!! BC Next Week?? How Can This B!! :0

Holy Guacamole! The Breeders' Cup is next week! Whoo-hooo!! Dig the loose change out of the couch because there is some serious betting action to beholden! BTW, who's entered ?!?!?

(1) Game On Dude
(2) I'll Have Another (Sayonora)
(3) Frankel
(4) Hanson
(5) Wise Dan (just guessing he's on an entry in some event ...)

 Ummm .... uh-oh ... Trouble. Fortunately, for the horse racing fans/bettors that have had their attention diverted*, Lone Star Park will be hosting its annual Breeders' Cup Preview Party, featuring our good friend, Gary West; track announcer, John Lies; Expert Handicapper and Mr. Congeniality, Rick Lee; and local favorite sports-talk guru, Norm Hitzges. The first 200 in attendance will receive a free Breeders' Cup Advance Edition and the handicapping solution to next week's races! I will be in attendance, as it appears this year the Magic Beer Bottle could very well have the upper hand!

 _________________________

*Possess freshman in high school marching band; whole "Friday Night Lights" stuff that consumed an entire chapter in James Michener's novel, Texas, as well as a much ballyhooed TV series, is real. Scary. Forgot where racetrack is located.  Forgot how to place wager.  Not sure what a horse even looks like anymore.  BUT ... I'm proficient at serving nachos in a concession stand!

;-)


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Olympic Equestrian Observations

Last week, I called my big sister in Wisconsin to wish her a happy birthday and to inform her that, due to my overwhelming schedule of summer activities with work and kids, I had not found the time to mail her birthday present, which of course, was a lie because, in fact, I had consumed her birthday present long ago and just hadn't had the opportunity to dash back to the liquor store and purchase an appropriate replacement.  Anyway, between my off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday" and my myriad of excuses, she pointedly observed, "Hey!  You haven't written jack-squat in ages, you lazy bum!"

Well, sadly enough, horse racing inspiration runs shallow this time of the year.  Saratoga and Del Mar are inconveniently located 1,671 and 1,356 miles away respectfully.  Simulcasting is nearby, but getting into my car on these mercilessly hot summer days is like stepping into an Easy Bake Oven.  And the "players" are constantly changing - injuries and retirements in the midst of a swirling whirlwind of new and upcoming 2-year-olds - that it just becomes easier to spend my free time lounging in the pool and/or scouring eBay for deals.

But the biggest distraction/excuse/preoccupation is the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

So, in honor of Horse Sports of the XXX Olympiad, I shall present a brief review of horse happenings in London, which is, in fact 4,777 miles away.

Zara Phillips, aboard Toytown, takes part in the Olympic torch relay:


First thought:  (snort) Guess how she got the job??
Actually, the Queen's granddaughter is a world equestrian champion.  Additionally, it was aboard Toytown when she won the the 2006 Eventing World Championships.  And to prove her world class equestrian prowess, she's part of Team GB that won the silver medal in the equestrian team event.  Okay, maybe they would've won the gold if not for the fact that Zara and her horse, High Kingdom, clipped a fence.  Ups-a-daisy ...


In the You-re Never Too Old to Live Your Olympic Dreams, Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71, is the oldest competitor at the 2012 Olympics.  He didn't exactly light up the leader board in the Grand Prix individual, but he earned a respectable 68.739 percent.  He hasn't ruled out Rio 2016 but his dressage partner, 1997 German-bred chestnut mare Whisper, is "too old" and will be retired.


And finally, even in the international spectacle of the Olympics, nobody is safe from American politicians.  As I'm sure you are keenly aware, Ann Romney, wife of Presidential Wannabe, Mitt Romney, is a co-owner of Rafalca.  Although Rafalca failed to advance in dressage, she is still under consideration as a potential vice presidential running mate.

_____________________________________

Happy Birthday, Sis!  Your gift is on the way ... soon!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Meet Concludes With Remix of the Same Song

Sunday evening, Lone Star Park concluded its 2012 Spring Thoroughbred Meet and Musical Extravaganza Spectacular. And judging from the final numbers - average daily handle down 7% with a 4% decrease in attendance - racing wasn't exactly rockin' anybody.  Fortunately, Lone Star Park President and General Manager, Drew Shubeck, was able to use one of his ol' reliable quotes,

"We're disappointed with the results."

In addition to the 7% live handle decline, the off-track, export handle took a solid hit: down 12%.

Here, I'll just go ahead and insert a fitting Drew Shubeck quote from last year,

“We continue to be disappointed in the simulcast out number. This decline is a signal that the national simulcast customer is telling us they are not interested in our product offering.”

Notably, the 2012 simulcast-in handle increased 2.2%.  Apparently, even the local bettor wasn't too interested in Lone Star's product offering!

Of course, there's the usual reason for lack-luster fields and handle declines:  Slots.  And, coincidentally, there's a Drew Shubeck quote for that!
"A lot of tracks like us that don't have the benefits of slot machines struggle to be competitive."
Slots. VLTs. Racinos. Expanded gaming.  Whatever verbiage you want to use, slots have been proclaimed the cure-all for horse racing's woes.  Bolster the purses from monies generated by one-arm bandits and all the good horses will want to come and everybody will bet.  Well, this is Texas.  I assure you, if Texas politicians don't give a crap about education or providing health care for the poor, they certainly won't give a crap about the horse racing industry.

Moving right along ...

There were a couple of so-called "bright" spots to the season.  The Lone Star Music Series was popular entertainment event, representing 33% of total attendance.  Of course, as I previously observed, there is not a direct proportion between concert attendance and increased live handle.  But hey, if the gate brings in the funds to pay the light bills, then maybe it's not such a bad thing.  Toss in the fact that people purchased and consumed copious amounts of beer at $5.75 each, the racetrack probably made a ton of money at the concerts.

Other "bright" spots:  Nates Mineshaft ships in, easily wins the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. 3), and is crowned Horse of the Meeting without so much as breaking a sweat; a Texas' favorite, Clarence Scharbauer Jr's Coyote Legend runs in the Assault Stakes for third year and posts a second victory; jockey Cliff Berry becomes Lone Star's all-time leading rider and adds his fifth riding title, all before he receives his AARP membership next month; Danny Pish notches his first training title at Lone Star Park; the popular Bar & Book and its wide selection of draft beers.

Without a doubt, Lone Star Park and its owner Global Gaming Solutions certainly have their work cut out for them.  Naturally, there's a Drew Shubeck quote for that, too.

"We are very optimistic about our upcoming off-season simulcasting in our Bar & Book"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Most Pitiful Belmont Recap Ever

Last Saturday, of course, was the Belmont Stakes. The final jewel in the coveted Triple Crown. And we all know the drama that unfolded: I'll Have Another scratched and retired; Union Rags squeaking along the rail, edging out Paytner in a thrilling win; a teeming horde of 85,811 in attendance, wagering over $13 million; all-sources handle in the neighborhood of a gazillion dollars, or something like that.

All this Belmont excitement! And Lone Star Park sends out its press release that very evening:

ELI YOUNG BAND CONCERT SMASHES ATTENDANCE RECORD 
26,519 On Hand Friday Night Is Largest Post-Race Concert Ever

What?!?

Nothing about the Belmont Stakes??  Union Rags??? Even some kind of little, impromptu Triple Crown fiesta on the patio???

Well, if I wasn't discouraged enough with the state of horse racing at Lone Star Park, I only had to crack open my Sunday morning edition of the Star-Telegram (motto:  "Leading the industry in printing corrections!"). Directly above the Belmont Stakes recap was a short article of how I'll Have Another's scratch took a toll on the local racetrack's attendance; they were anticipating a crowd approaching 20,000.  Instead, attendance was a 10,586.  And then, in a quote that can cause serious heartburn for the avid horse racing fan, Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Lone Star Park, G.W. Hail says,

"Who needs I'll Have Another when you have Eli Young?"

That's enough to discard my morning coffee and reach for the vodka!

Well, I could very easily go off on a rant and tirade about a some dumb obtuse remark - menopausal women are very good at doing that.  However, I shall just stick to a few numbers.

Racetracks are usually in the business of racing horses.  Horses race for money.  Money is funded by handle.  26,519 people showed up for the Eli Young Band concert and the on-track handle was $332,835.  Belmont Stakes Saturday's attendance was 10,586 with a on-track handle of $477,635.  Without the use of pie charts, calculators, or any other kind of visual aid, I can reach a simple conclusion:  Concert goers do not bet.  They do not contribute to handle.  However, they contribute to excessive alcohol consumption and a trashed parking lot.  Horses are not impressed.

Look, I understand that Global Gaming is in the "entertainment business" and they are very successful using the facility as a concert venue.  That's not a bad thing.  What's bad is being negligent and indifferent to the very reason the racetrack is even in business.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Scratched

    I'll Have Another
    Dreams of the Triple Crown dashed
    by tendonitis

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Triple Crown Haiku

Over the past week, there has been at least 355,673 articles, columns, blogs, talk shows, and bathroom graffiti dedicated to the Triple Crown. Triple Crown Newsreels. Triple Crown Trophy. Triple Crown Training Patterns. Triple Crown Conversations. So, in an effort to pare down the verbiage, I offer up Triple Crown Haikus.

    I'll Have Another
    Belmont is the final jewel
    Yearning for the Crown

    A mile and a half
    Dullahan and Unions Rags
    Bright-eyed challengers

    A Crown within reach
    Yet forty-five days beckon
    Trainer Doug O'Neill

If you seek more original verse of the Triple Crown, be sure to visit Haiku for the Thoroughbred Racehorse by Barbsbitsnpieces of Napoleon, Ohio.  Or jump in and contribute your own Triple Crown Haiku prose.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Two Degrees of Separation from Secretariat

It’s been a year or two since Affirmed last captured the Triple Crown in 1978. And now I’ll Have Another, with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness jewels already stashed in his saddlebag, is attempting to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.

Coincidentally, Kate Chenery Tweedy, author of Secretariat’s Meadow and daughter of Penny Chenery, was in Fort Worth this weekend as a presenter at the AmerEquine Festival. Kate would be the hippie, older daughter for those of you at home following along with your Secretariat movie.

Anyway, Thursday night she held a book signing; an opportunity to meet an individual that had been closely associated with the great racehorse, Secretariat. Kate Chenery Tweedy is a genuinely fascinating and vivacious woman, willing to share her rich family history and anecdotes about growing up, and her familiarity with horse racing. She is truly lovely and I felt privileged to have almost touched history. Magical!

Okay, but you know that I didn’t drive all the way to Fort Worth and elbow my way into a crowd of people just to hear about Granddad Chenery and the wonderful Meadow. So, I asked about her mother’s comments that were recently published in Andrew Cohen’s article in The Atlantic,

“I don't know Mr. Reddam personally but I think he should be embarrassed that the trainer he has chosen does not have a clean record.” [Penny Chenery]


Kate, as she invited me to call her, laughed. “Oh, you know about that article, do you? Well,” she continued, “Mom’s ninety and she’s done playing politics.” Sorry, Doug. The Grand Dame of Racing is speaking her mind - racing is not as clean as it once was; too many issues with drugs as opposed to Mama Chenery’s Old School Racing.

However, everybody in the book-signing vicinity all were genuinely excited about I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown bid. A true champion! Unable to keep my mouth shut (as usual), I woefully lamented, “A great champion that runs straight into the breeders’ shed."  Kate grimaced and agreed; “champions” usually depart post haste from the racetrack to stud. But she admitted that she feared Secretariat may have been one of the first stallions to blaze the trail to direct stud duty. “Mom sold the breeding rights to a syndicate in order to pay the bills. The syndicate did, however, ‘allow’ her to race Secretariat for the rest of the year.”

Finally, I had to ask Kate’s opinion one last burning question: Did Diane Lane do a good job portraying Penny Chenery in the movie Secretariat? That question sent Kate into gales of laughter. “Oh, we love Diane Lane! She is so wonderful! But you have to remember that it was a Disney movie. Diane Lane portrayed Mother as a good, dutiful housewife. And I assure you, Mother was not much of a housewife! She should’ve been running a business.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nates Mineshaft Takes On Foodies

Lone Star Million Day!

WinStar Win [Up to] a Million Day featuring the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. 3), Food Truck Festival, and WinStar Million Man!

Okay, I didn't see the creepy WinStar Million Weirdo but I was privileged to watch Nates Mineshaft easily win the Lone Star Park Handicap by over 7 lengths.

After his last race - a disastrous 20-length trouncing in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs - Nates Mineshaft returned to his winning tactic: being on the lead.  Jockey Jesse Campbell sent him to the lead early, setting fractions of :25.11 for the opening quarter-mile, :49.20 at the half-mile, 1:11.97 for six furlongs; winning in hand in 1:42.91.

Nates Mineshaft in the paddock prior to Lone Star Handicap

Nates Mineshaft and jockey Jesse Campbell win Lone Star Park Handicap

Now I know what many of you are thinking: "Wow! Impressive!  I have no idea what the heck those numbers mean! But what about the Food Truck Festival?!?"

Food Truck Festival indeed!  The top food trucks in DFW were featured in this foodie extravaganza.  Who knew that food trucks were so popular?  It was like walking through some kind of reality show on the Food Network.




For years Memorial Day was billed as the richest day in Texas racing, Lone Star Million Day, with $1 million in stakes races.  The once spectacular race card is gone this year. But on the bright side, I heard that the sliders from Easy Slider were pretty tasty.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vote YES! to Dollar Day

Okay, my Lone Star Park brethren.  You have griped and whined and complained long enough about Lone Star Park carelessly discarding your favorite promotion:  Dollar Day.  Well, this is your chance to let your voice of discontent be heard and make it happen!  They are currently running a brief campaign over the weekend to hear your voice about the subject.  And if you are loud and persistent, you could mark June 16th as Dollar Day!

Vote on-line at Lone Star Park's facebook page and/or be sure to stuff the ballot box at the track.  Voting ends at 3 p.m. today.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Derby Coverage in the Newspaper Suffers from a Bad Hangover

2012 Kentucky Derby Winner: I'll Have Another

 Fort Worth Star-Telegram Copy Editors: We Had Too Many

There's nothing quite like opening up your Sunday morning newspaper to read of all the Derby news and excitement from the previous day.  The Kentucky Derby is known as The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports:  The thunderous charge of horses as the gates spring open, the roar of the crowds, the cheers, the tears, the exultation and glory of crowning a new Derby Winner.

A sports event of this magnitude ended up relegated to page 10C of the Star-Telegram (motto:  "If it's happening in Fort Worth, it's news to us!") - behind the Mavs losing, the Rangers winning, and Yankees' Mariano Rivera tearing some ligament in some knee.  Regardless, the Derby feature article was by Beth Harris (AP).

However, when I went to review the chart I was stunned!  The Star-Telegram published last year's chart! (Click to enlarge)


Whoa!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

2012 Kentucky Derby Selections

Today we're passing up mint juleps in favor of frozen margaritas because, in addition to the running of the 138th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, it's Cinco de Mayo! And frankly, frozen margaritas are a whole lot tastier than anything made with bourbon. Regardless of your Derby and/or Fiesta libation of choice, it's time to post Derby selections.

 Last year I looked like a handicapping genius; Animal Kingdom et. al. were right on the money.  And there was money!

Bodemeister, installed as the morning line favorite at 4-1, is appealing and promising, especially after his impressive Arkansas Derby win last month. But no matter what I do, I just can't get past that one miserable statistic:  Horses that do not race at age two are 0 for 129 years.  Curlin couldn't even do it and Bodemeister is no Curlin. But I'll definitely put him in the mix.

I love Hansen!  Okay, maybe I'm not the biggest fan of front runners at 1 1/4 miles but in this case I don't care.  I love how he's raced.  I love how he looks.  I love how his owner is somewhat eccentric and just wants to make horse racing fun.  And Hansen's sooo beautiful!  He would make the perfect Poster Child for horse racing, looking regal and immaculate, accessorized with roses.  I was surprised to find bestowed on him a morning line of 10-1, however I should think the odds will not be that generous at post time.

From a purely handicapping standpoint, I like Gemologist.  Truthfully, I haven't even watched him race, but he displays every positive angle that I use:  successful  trainer (Pletcher), regular rider (Castellano), increasing speed figures, success at Churchill Downs.  Most notably, he's undefeated.  And undefeated is undefeated, a statistic that should never be overlooked nor ignored.

And finally, it's "déjà vu all over again":  Went The Day Well has me giddy as a longshot.  He's been a little of a world traveler in his brief career but he's exclusively run routes and, from the appearance of his past performances, has run them well. His speed figures are on the rise - a trend that appeals to me as a handicapper. I watched his Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes victory last night and he really fired up in the stretch. Graham Motion isn't sure if lightning can really strike twice or if Went The Day Well is as good as Animal Kingdom, but if Went The Day Well goes forward from the Spiral, he could very well hit the board at a fat price.

Have a great Derby Day!  Good luck!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Texas Mile Today. Pool Party Next Week.

Today Lone Star Park takes a break from its concert schedule to feature a horse race, the $200,000 Texas Mile (Gr. 3).

The race has attracted a nice field of 10, with a couple of notable shippers. Canonize, winner of the Santana Mile, ships in from Santa Anita and clearly looks like the horse to beat. Rumor has it that once he discovered an element called "dirt", he turned into a new racehorse.

Trainer Eoin Harty brings in Endorsement. He recently ran some nice allowance/optional claiming races at Gulfstream. You may remember him from winning the Sunland Derby in 2010. With visions of roses dancing in his head, he unfortunately sustained a non-displaced right front condylar fracture in a workout at Churchill Downs the week before the Kentucky Derby. He's owned by one of our favorite owners and pseudo-fan of Post Parade, Bill Casner.  

Coyote Legend returns to Lone Star Park, where he's enjoyed success. He's trained by Bret Calhoun, who's on a hot streak and just recently enjoyed his 2,000th win. And he'll have hot jockey and Lone Star's all-time leading rider, Cliff Berry, aboard.

 However, I never pass up anything that trainer Donnie Von Hemmel puts on the racetrack, especially here at Lone Star Park. He saddles Moonshine Mullin who recently raced at Oaklawn Park. He's eligible to improve in his 3rd start of his cycle. And at nice odds (morning line of 12/1), he would help pay for that pool resurfacing that I so badly need this spring.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Looking for Dollar Day? Well, Search No More.

Google query: Lone Star Park Dollar Day

Teeming millions have been on a recent cyber-treasure hunt, searching for one of the most popular promotions ever cooked-up by Lone Star Park: Dollar Day. It's not listed on the 2012 Calendar of Concerts Events, and many are thinking, "Clearly, the omission of Dollar Day is a mistake! Why, it must be an oversight!"

Well, query no more, oh Band of Dollar Day Diehards. There is no mistake. There is no oversight.

There is NO Dollar Day this racing season.

I asked Vice President G.W. Hail to shed a little light on the decision; perhaps offer reasons and insights. He responded, "As with any promotion, we always evaluate them from year to year. This year we decided to offer more concerts tying into our new themeline 'Racing That Rocks You.'"

Interestingly enough, Dollar Day originated in the spring of 2004. I had always heard through anecdotal information that it was created prior to Lone Star Park hosting the 2004 Breeders' Cup to draw a small horde of bettors, providing a "practice run of insanity", if you will. However, G.W. set the record straight, "It was a late addition to our promo schedule to fill a date and didn't receive any media support other than a direct mail letter and a spot in the Kentucky Derby telecast. We projected 10,000 and were pleasantly surprised when over 20,000 customers showed up." Completely unrelated to Breeders' Cup hoopla.

So there you have it.

Rock on.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bar! Bar! Bar!

Last night Global Gaming Solutions, LLC (GGS), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation, ushered in a new era at Lone Star Park. Their Trifecta for the Pursuant of Entertainment, Gaming and Racing is comprised of:

    Horse racing
    Concerts
    Bars

Not necessarily in that order.

Gone is Chef Jake and his Cajun Kitchen; in its place is the Dash for Cash Bar. The beloved Blue Bell Ice Cream kiosk, a must on hot days and/or when kids are in tow, has been eliminated - replaced by a gift shop kiosk because said former gift shop is now a bar. And, as mentioned previously, the former Post Time Pavilion is now the wildly popular Bar & Book with more beers and drink specials than Triple Crown nominees.

There are 9 concerts on the schedule. Additionally, there are concerts after concerts at the Bar & Book. It's conceivable that the Bar & Book could end up staying open until 2:00 a.m. Australian racing, anyone?

One can surmise with all the changes at Lone Star Park, including discarding Dollar Day, there is a notable shift toward adult entertainment.

And how does this Mom - a horse racing fan and bettor whose companions, on occasion, are her children - feel about these changes?

Frankly, Global Gaming is calling a spade a spade: horse racing is gaming. And you don't create a small empire on Exit 1, Oklahoma, by being The Family Fun Park.

Opening Night Notes
Almost 9,000 were in attendance last night, up 3% from last year. According to Vice President G.W. Hail, the Bar & Book was "packed because of Happy Hour specials from 4-7 p.m."

The $50,000 Premiere Stakes, shortened from 1 1/16 mi to 6 1/2 f, was won by Gold Element, trained by Bret Calhoun; winning jockey, the up-and-coming Lindey Wade. As a matter of fact, Lindey had two winners on the card last night. And he's still a real cutie-pie and I would adopt him if I could. (Sorry, Mama Wade).

And I made a new friend: The Yard of Margarita!


Purchased at the Bar of the Former Gift Shop for a reasonable $9.75 for 500 ml of pure frozen delight, it presented itself with a couple of minor flaws:

Melts before completion, leaving wino with a short straw


Finally, it was great to have the evening end with our good friend, trainer Dallas Keen, in the Winner's Circle with Hy Lime Time. That would be a horse, not some exotic cocktail served at the Bar & Book.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lone Star Park Preview Party

Tomorrow is Opening Night of Lone Star Park's 2012 Spring Thoroughbred Season. As a perennial patron during the live racing season, each year I hope for something "new" and/or "improved". And this year is no different! New owners! New Bar & Book! So, with 2012 racing drawing nigh, today we are lounging poolside with margaritas and Wi-fi to bring you The 2012 Lone Star Park Preview Party!

Immediately, we find a number of "new" items on this year's racing calendar.

1. There are more concerts than stakes races. Okay, I'm exaggerating. There are 12 stakes races and 9 concerts. That would probably explain why Lone Star Park updated their Facebook banner and are promoting the lingo, "Racing that Rocks You." Although Lone Star Park is actually a very nice venue to hold concerts, it has a tendency to fill up rather rapidly with a very young crowd (read: not old enough to bet) because it's cheap if you arrive before the 7th or 8th race. Which leads us to another change,

2. Lone Star Park's New Concert Age Policy. Entry to concerts requires one to be 18 or older with a valid ID unless accompanied by a 30-year-old or older appropriately notarized legal guardian. Limit 3 juvies per notarized legal guardian. Notarized legal guardian is strongly encouraged to wager and contribute to on-track handle. The junior and senior classes of Trinity High School are to make other plans next Friday night and/or secure a number of notarized legal guardians to see the Casey Donahew Band.

3. Dollar Day Disappears. Lone Star Park has eliminated its most popular promotions, Dollar Day. A day when entry into the racetrack was very affordable ($1), racing programs were affordable ($1), hot dogs were affordable ($1), and beer was even more affordable ($1). People love it! A day when you could bring your entire family or the junior and senior classes of Trinity High School, feed them, have fun, and still have enough money to put gas in your car on Monday morning. Last year, the event attracted well over 16,000 people. Wouldn't most entertainment establishments consider that a "raging success"? Well, after perusing through Facebook comments, it appears that Lone Star's decision to discard the beloved Dollar Day is proving to be unpopular. Their response,
There aren't any Dollar Days this year.. however, we have several other great promotions running along with drink specails [sic] including Party at the Park on Friday nights with $2 beer!

Good-bye family friendly environment. Hello, betting and drinking public. Leave the kids at home but be sure to bring your dictionaries!

4. Lone Star Million $300K Day is newly christened WinStar Million Day. When Lone Star Park amputated numerous stakes from its schedule, this is the day that suffered. Historically, Memorial Day featured the richest and best day of racing in Texas. This year, Memorial Day features the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (G3) and a Food Truck Festival.

Excuse me while I take a big slurp of my margarita ... I'm beginning to feel a little disheartened during our Preview Party ...

5. Triple Crown Good News! Simulcasting is still available for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes!

Of course, there are other intriguing promotions that are noteworthy. The wildly popular Jockeys & Java makes its return May 27. There's Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Silks and Party in the Park every Friday night - although it's noteworthy that last year's beer specials were $1 but this year it's $2.

Regardless, tomorrow night we're off! The Premiere Stakes opening night, concerts Friday and Saturday night - be sure to bring your appropriate notarized legal guardian. And on Sunday it's Family Fun Day featuring Camel and Ostrich Races! And I don't care what "horse racing purists" say, they're fun! Besides, as this Preview Party clearly demonstrates, it's not about the racing ...

Time to get me a "new" margarita.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Love Horse Racing? There's an App for That!

It happens to all of us. We've been stuck in waiting rooms for doctors' appointments, or boring budget meetings, or delayed flights. And the only way we survive and forge on through these mindless, frustrating colossal waste-of-times is our Smartphones. We peruse Facebook, check sports' scores, and play "Angry Birds" to pass time. But wouldn't it be handy [and a lot more entertaining!] if we could check out the races at Aqueduct? Or replay the Fountain of Youth? Or review yesterday's charts from Santa Anita? Well, good news! There's an app for that!

Kenny and Sue McPeek developed a horse racing mobile application, Horse Races NOW, that is designed to entertain and provide easier access to horse racing fans, and perhaps build a stronger fan base.
“This iPhone app is dedicated to fan participation and viewer proliferation of horse racing worldwide,” said Kenny, “It’s like having the program for every racetrack in the palm of your hand.” [KYForward]

The development of this app required involvement from the Jockey Club and Equibase, as well as relationships with racetracks and horsemen, all working together. It should be noted that this is not a wagering app, although there are links to wagering sites. Horse Races NOW is strictly entertainment; marketing racetracks and their product.

So grab a cup of coffee and take a few minutes to watch Kenny's demo of how the application works. The app download is free for a limited time. Pretty soon waiting for the doctor or a delayed flight will be a pleasure.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sam Houston Posts Positive Gains Without the Aid of a Slot Machine

Last weekend Sam Houston Race Park concluded its 2012 Thoroughbred meet. And the Good News: The racetrack posted a 35% increase in handle and a 40% increase in average daily attendance.

This is a positive - and maybe hopeful? - sign for the slotless Texas horse racing industry. It was only a couple of years ago that Texas racetracks proposed consolidation; eliminating 48% of racing dates. SHRP was prepared to axe its 2011 Thoroughbred meet and transfer its purse monies to Lone Star Park in a bid to bolster foundering purses. Well, needless to say, a small faction of Texas horsemen thought the idea basically sucked and put up a fight. When the smoke cleared, racing dates were reduced but SHRP's meet was still intact.

And instead of barking the usual Texas racetrack battle cry, "We need our VLTs!", Sam Houston did something that I have been touting for years: Be creative!

The racetrack had a 31 day "boutique" meet to increase their purses. To the bettors' delight, there were rolling Pick-3's with 12% takeout and 50-cent trifectas. They revised their popular Texas Champions Day and turned it into a 2-day Texas Champions Weekend extravaganza. Friday night 50-cent beers! Camel races! Ostrich races! Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

SHRP brass felt they offered the most competitive racing program ever, however they know that there is room for improvement. Apparently, their on-time performance for major races was poor, running as many as 22 minutes behind schedule. Their premier event, the $150,000 Maxxam Gold Cup has no business going off at 10:50 p.m.; that's not an attractive hour for your East coast bettors. However, SHRP is now on the Creativity Express so hopefully we'll continue to see progress.

Meanwhile, Lone Star Park is preparing for the start of their Spring Thoroughbred meet on April 12. I've already voiced my displeasure at their initial "creativity." One can only hope that the positive gains demonstrated by SHRP will serve as an inspiration to Lone Star Park and provide a much-needed energy jolt for Texas horse racing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tough Luck

So, HBO has cancelled Luck after its third horse fatality on the set. I've only casually observed a smattering of scenes from one or two episodes over the past several weeks that probably totals 20 minutes, if that much. But much of the horse racing world was watching - being a vanguard - to see if the promising and critically acclaimed series would serve as a proponent and initiate a fresh pack of racing fans.

Although Luck wasn't exactly considered a ratings bonanza, Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture.com argues that HBO's success is not driven by ratings, but rather subscription renewals.
What made this case unique ... was the nature of the show itself. No drama in TV history has been built exclusively around horse racing and the daily life of a track. Hollywood has used horses during production for over a century. Horses have been getting hurt or killed in production for just as long, sometimes because of negligence or cruelty but more often because of simple probability. When a story is dependent upon horses, over time it becomes increasingly likely that one of them is going to be hurt.

However, this 20 Minute Critic is more aptly to agree with one of the comments posted following his article,
This was a weak show that had the unfortunate side effect of being harmful to its equine co-stars. It never engendered much passion, except from critics, and it won't be missed. [Heliotrope]

Meanwhile, HBO will continue showing completed episodes of Luck. And in an effort to provide closure to the series, a script is in the works that will see Dustin Hoffman's Chester "Ace" Bernstein nod off after a long day of conniving and wake up the following morning as a Red Panda only to find a fat Panda taking a shower, realizing that Luck was nothing but a dream.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Morning Line at Blowfish Park

Last weekend my husband, in his quest to relive his childhood, pulled out a dilapidated cardboard from storage. Scrawled across the top of the box with black marker, "MINE! TOUCH IT AND DIE!" A hush overcame the household as he opened his time capsule to reveal its precious contents: His collection of MAD Magazines.

As he lovingly perused through all the issues, he stumbled upon an unexpected treasure - his original 1978 National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody.

We've had a blast the past few days reading all the news that's not fit to print. Interestingly enough, in this day and age as horse racing coverage continues to disappear from mainstream newspapers and media, the Dacron, Ohio, Republican-Democrat offered up a full page devoted to horse racing. And the Morning Line at Blowfish Park by Dugan O'Neill is some of the "finest" handicapping demonstrated.

Here's a sampling of the card at Blowfish Park on Sunday, February 12, 1978,

    PAWN ME - Last ran well in Tijuana under different name.
    JIMMY'S CART HORSE - Fits description of stakes horse stolen recently in Southern Calif.
    DRAINAGE SLEW - Runs like it was on the deck of a freighter in a hurricane.


or in the 2nd race,

    SIR BARTON - Won triple crown in 1919-aging.
    MAJESTIC DRINKER - Out of Northern Drinker-could last till closing.
    THE FUELER - Good chance - extremely long front legs and "special diet" will see a win.


And I found the 4th race especially intriguing,


The humor of P.J. O’Rourke and John Hughes has withstood the test of time. Unfortunately, the Sunday newspaper has not; its multitude of sections and inserts that required a couple of hours to read has vanished.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where is All This Lovely Money Coming From?

Our good friends over at the Paulick Report were quick to announce that the New York Racing Association (NYRA) is boosting purses 27% for the 2012 Belmont Spring meet and the Saratoga meet.

27%!!

Twenty-seven percent!!

Vingt-sept pour cent!! if you are Jean Dujardin.

And here's some statistics that will leave you gobsmacked: Average daily purses will see a 44% increase at Belmont; 39% at Saratoga. Amazing!

My first reaction: "Wow! They must be raking in the big bucks at the new Aqueduct racino!" But wait a minute ... Hasn't the NYRA been caught up in a web of financial troubles for some time? Fiscal problems? Bankruptcy? Bailouts?

According to New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli,
"NYRA stands to squander significant revenue from the recently opened VLT franchise at Aqueduct." [Jan. 24, 2012]

Squander? Genius Restructure? A ginormous VLT windfall?

Un mystère intriguant...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

'Luck' and Zen of Derby Futures

One of my best friends is a professional couch potato; she watches lots of TV. She can name all the contestants on The Biggest Loser and recite how much weight each has lost since their last weigh-in. She's irritated that Ben is besotted with the shallow, bikini-less Courtney on The Bachelor. ABC, CBS, PBS, HBO, TNT, CSI, and so forth - she's the original Bourbon and Coke swilling TV Guide.

A few days ago she asked me what I thought of the new series Luck. I told her I haven't seen it.

She just about fell off her couch.

"It's a horse racing TV show! And since you know all this horse racing lingo, you need to watch it," she reprimanded. "We have much to discuss!" You'd think we were a book club.

So, yesterday I sat down to watch the first episode. And I didn't get far. It was just too slow and heavy handed; it didn't hold my interest very long. If Dustin Hoffman had reprised his role as Master Shifu, it would've been a lot more entertaining.

And let's face it, the serious bettors, or "degenerates" that were so warmly portrayed in Luck, certainly could be enhanced by channeling inner peace.

For those of us "degenerates" channeling inner peace, our pal Gary West at espn.com provides his zen philosophy for this weekend's upcoming Kentucky Derby Futures Pool. For those who deride or resist the wager, Gary reminds us "it's all fun, even if a little foolish. But a Futures wager can be more wise than foolish." In his example, he demonstrates that a modest wager spread throughout various Future pools and 390 ± 20 possible outcomes, there is the potential of profitable awesomeness or dinner with Dennis Farina.

Inner peace ... inner peace ... Alpha 20-1 ... I'll Have Another 65-1 ... inner peace ... inner peace ...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Shake, Rattle, and [Heads] Roll

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the Cowboys aren’t playing. In fact, further inspection shows that the Dallas Cowboys have only been to the playoffs once during the past 713 seasons, or something to that effect. Regardless, there is suffering and angst here in Texas; teeming millions are calling for owner/general manager, Jerry Jones, to fire himself and hire a real GM.

It’s a popular business model: When business is crappy, it’s time for a shake-up. Change management. Change strategy.

I bring this up because a few days ago Lone Star Park announced its 2012 Spring Thoroughbred Season. It will feature 12 stakes. That is not a typo. 12 – yes, count ‘em, 12! – stakes, down from 19 stakes in 2011. Lone Star Park has effectively obliterated its best day of racing, Lone Star Million Day.

"We took a long hard look at our purse structure and felt the best way to support local horseman was to make some difficult cuts to our stakes program," said Lone Star Park President and General Manager Drew Shubeck. “Eliminating stakes from our calendar was a difficult but necessary decision in order to preserve overnight purses as we attempt to remain competitive with tracks in neighboring states that have purses supplemented by gaming.”

Oh, like this is going to increase handle???

How did Lone Star Park go from its horse racing glory and crowning achievement – hosting the 2004 Breeders’ Cup – to crap in 8 short years?

It’s time for somebody to do something because doing nothing is not working. A shake up is in order; horse racing at our premier racetrack is officially crappy. Eliminating great stakes such as the Grade 3 Ouija Board, and supplanting them with an assortment of cheap claiming races is not going to lure bettors. Using this business model, the 2013 season should feature about 4 stakes!

Don’t get me wrong: I like Drew Shubeck. He’s a nice guy and snappy dresser. But he originally landed his position as part of Magna brass. You remember Magna Entertainment (MEC) whose claim to fame was a swan dive into bankruptcy. It seems to this horse racing fan, each year Mr. Shubeck just brushes off his usual doom-and-gloom speech, never offering up even the slightest shred of optimism.

Lone Star Park has new owners this year and a nice, bright, shiny updated simulcast facility. Additionally, Global Gaming is making some sort of attempt to “improve” Texas racing by introducing the Global Gaming Triple, a three-race series linking the Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile, Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, and the $200,000 Governor’s Cup at Remington Park. There’s incentive for horsemen to enter all 3 races but is it incentive for the wagering public?

New vision is needed. New strategy is required. It's time to get shakin'!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year's News

After suffering through weeks of post-Breeders' Cup malaise, I started the New Year feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

So I immediately took a week off.

But now I have a solid toe-hold into the New Year so let's see what's new for 2012, as well as the rapidly approaching Chinese New Year, 2012 being the Year of the AARP Card.

1. I've updated my blog. New photo, new motto, same old crap.

2. A sordid variety of Eclipse Award voters have taken the time to publish their thoughts and commentaries as to how and why they voted for the prestigious Eclipse Awards. After reading how many of the voters cast their ballots, I can safely predict that Horse of the Year will be either Zenyatta or some other horse that actually raced in 2011.

3. Gulfstream Park started its meet in December which, I don't know about you, kind of wobbled my internal calendar. No word as to whether or not it will affect the Chinese New Year. Regardless of what I term The Calendar Effect, it appears to be a popular decision. Additionally, on New Year's Day it featured the inaugural running of the $ 100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, the first derby in the country for 3-year-old colts. The race was won by Reveron, immediately catapulting him to the top of Steve Haskin's Derby list.

4. Speaking of Derby lists, Post Parade's pal, Gary West, is now a contributor at espn.com. Unfortunately, it is not the easiest column to locate. However, he recently posted his own list of Top 20 Triple Crown "noisemakers". Reveron and Steve Haskin didn't make the list.

5. On Friday, Hot Springs, Arkansas, turns into a horse racing mecca when Oaklawn Park begins its meet. Gone from the popular meet is Terry Wallace calling the races, with the announcing duties turned over to his long-suffering-dammit-Terry-when-are-you-going-to-retire-so-I-can-have-a-turn understudy, Frank Mirahmadi. Meanwhile, it appears that Mr. Wallace has taken to blogging with gusto!

6. The Not-so-Naughty New Yorker, Ms. Genaro of Brooklyn Backstretch, is on a bold turf writing conquest. She's now a contributor to Forbes.com. Forbes used to be for geeks and nerds. When did Forbes get hip and cool?

7. And when it comes to hip and cool, our local simulcast digs at Lone Star Park has been renovated, renamed, and reopened. Horseplayers of North Texas have not suffered the fate of those who toil away at Aqueduct as the newly christened "Bar & Book" (formerly known as the Post Time Pavilion) recently opened its doors. The facility features a new expansive Sports Bar with a colossal TV screen, hundreds of individual racing carrels with individual 19" flat screen televisions, and - my favorite - big comfy club chairs! Betting has never been so comfortable!


I invite you to peruse the photos on Facebook. It's truly a remarkable venue. And it's free! The grand opening gala is January 12th, by invitation only. Clearly, my invitation to cover the event was lost in the mail or perhaps displaced by The Calendar Effect.

Regardless, this New Year is off to a pretty good start.

_____________
Photos courtesy of Lone Star Park