Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stewards to Review 'Objection'

It has come to my attention via emails, comments, anonymous notes left on the windshield of my car, and a billboard along Texas State Highway 198 outside of Gun Barrel City, that I made an incorrect and unqualified statement on a recent post, subsequently lending uncertainty to my credibility as a blogger.

Last week, Tote Board Brad vehemently objected to my “unqualified characterization of a martini as a cocktail made with vodka.”

Thus, I feel compelled to document my expertise in light of these allegations so as not to be deemed unscrupulous and misinformed, i.e., a dope. My grandmother lived to be 100, and resided in the Bay Area most of her life. In the last decade or so, she lived in a good, Catholic retirement home. It should be noted that good, Catholic retirement homes are run by good, Catholic nuns who generally do not like to see their good, Catholic residents liquored-up and dancing around with lampshades on their heads. Therefore, Happy Hour consisted of a choice between (a) a glass of wine, (b) one beer, or (c) a spoonful of Milk of Magnesia. However, for my grandmother, this was severely insufficient, thus she would take her walker and toddle across the busy boulevard to a little Chinese restaurant and drink her proper [gin] martinis. She did this for many, many years, until at the age of 98, when after her ‘Tini Time, she crossed the road, fell down, broke her arm and declared, “Hmm. Apparently I’m having some difficulty holding my liquor. I’d better switch to vodka martinis.”

So one can see that by the evidence presented here, although anecdotal and somewhat embellished if not completely made up, clearly provides sound basis regarding a certain libation.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Sunshine [Million] Kind of Day

Once in a while, there are so many upsides to a day that one has to reflect that all the stars in alignment, or there is some great cosmic anticipation of the upcoming Year of the Dog. Saturday was one of those days, as most everything was swinging in my direction:

1. It rained.

2. I was running exceptionally late Saturday morning - errands, business, breakfast, jack-knifed eighteen wheelers - and Lone Star Park graciously held my seat (unoccupied) for an hour. Once again, John Records and his wonderful staff at the Post Time Pavilion can receive all my cyber-hugs of gratitude for providing such great service. (Note to Frank Stronach: Give 'em a raise!)

3. One of my 3-year-old fillies I have on my horse watch, Lake Alice, was completely ignored in the Sunshine Million Oaks at Gulfstream. Yes, on paper, she appeared to be somewhat overmatched, especially since she showed little in the Sandpiper Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Yet here she was, a Calder stakes winning filly, going off at 70-1 a couple of minutes before post, and subsequently with final odds of 90-1. How could you not dump at least a show wager on that?? And the little chestnut filly ran well from the onset and came in third. Sweet! My first play of the day put a smile on my face. Admittedly, I was smitten with the Dale Roman's trained horse, Joint Effort, who did win the race, but I had keyed in Knights Templar on the win. Joint Effort will be heading to my horse watch though.

4. Another of my highlighted races, the Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita also proved to be productive. In my quest to get some value, I had originally pegged Dancing General and Beneficial Bartok as an exacta, but with Dancing General's scratch, I ended up with the favorite, Moscow Burning. Beneficial Bartok is a very solid 5-year-old mare, 2 for 7 at Santa Anita, and I felt that she would certainly hit the board. She didn't let me down.

5. Saturday evening, as I was basking in the glory of having a good day at the track, I noted that my kids had forgotten to eat the leftover chocolate cake from Macaroni Grill, and it is a well-documented fact that their chocolate cake is the best in this quadrant of the galaxy. Thus, I ended the day on another superb note: I ate the cake.

As good as the day went for me, I should state that there were a couple of downsides.

1. Jerry Bailey retired.

2. Fellow horseplayer and local character, Kemper, who quite possibly could be Mike Holmgren's twin separated at birth, had to "leave early". We all know what "leave early" means, however he did receive a nice little $700 Sunshine Millions cooler as a nice parting gift.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oh my, a real Movie Star!

I feel that it has become a matter of utmost importance to break away from my 4-year-old's tea party and quickly tout a particular race.

Today's 7th race at Santa Anita is the Tuzla Handicap, a one mile turf race for fillies and mares. Movie Star (Brz), a 5-year-old Baffert-trained gal will be running; her fourth start in this hemisphere. I had the opportunity to watch, wager, and win on her first North American start at the Meadowlands; she beat Snowdrops in an impressive style in the Navajo Princess. Her subsequent races were at 1 1/8 miles with tougher competition. This horse can certainly benefit from the turn-back in distance.

Of course, there has to be sufficient value. Ticker Tape (GB) will probably be heavily favored, and I suspect that Movie Star will be a well-bet second favorite. The value play may be in an exacta with Patrick Biacone's Paddy's Daisy, a grade 3 winner.

And then there are other dilemmas that must be resolved. Post at 4:10 (PST) would be 6:10 (CST) which would mean that there would be a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old in this household, demanding to be fed and/or allowed to watch 'Arthur'. I contemplate the value of a babysitter. Or perhaps a dash to the track this afternoon to place my wager and check the Results Ticker in the evening. However, it should be noted, that the last time I brought my 4-year-old to the track, she had to bring Chubby Bear with her. If she were good, that would not be an issue, but instead she used the entire duration of our track visit (approximately 8 minutes) to toss Chubby Bear high into the air and shout, "Wheeeeeeee!" It makes for a rather disconcerting sight at the racetrack.

I feel as though I just made a case for getting a nanny. Or a bookie. Or a nanny with bookie qualifications. Or vice versa.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Eclipse Awards (hic) Wrap Up

The glitter! The glamour! The gala! The most anticipated red-carpet event to hit HRTV!

Joan Rivers: Oh look! There's the beautiful Suzanne Warren, wearing a original strapless gown by Vera Wang! Absolutely riveting and gorgeous! But ...Oh! What was Saint Liam thinking, wearing such clunky shoes?!?
Melissa: Absolutely. And apparently Ashado likes that style as well. Rather unattractive for such an event as this.
Joan: Hold on! There's Johnny Velazquez! As usual, he looks incredibly handsome but somehow shorter in real life. (Calls out) Hey, Johnny V! Come over here! Can we talk?
John: Hi.
Melissa: So, are you excited about receiving the Eclipse Award for top jockey?
John: Yes. I look forward to winning the Eclipse yet again.
Joan: Let me ask you this ... do you think you look better in pink or fuchsia silks?

And to think that I missed the gala event of the year because I don't have cable. But I should note that Alan did a remarkable job in his coverage of the Eclipse Awards. And there is a nice little slide show of Merv, Larry King, and all sorts of important horse people whooping it up last night, on Bloodhorse.com.

And how do you think Ashado, Lost in the Fog, Smuggler, Saint Liam celebrated? Some hay? Some oats? Old episodes of 'Mr. Ed'?

Or how about a little vodka, perhaps?

I noted an article, posted today in The Blood-horse, about how some horses are allegedly being liquored-up to calm down before they race. The article Officials: Vodka Used as Tonic for Jittery Racehorses by Tom LaMarra says that the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) is authorizing the development of a test for alcohol detection in racehorses.

Waterman ... believed the typical dose is about 60 milliliters, or roughly 12 tablespoons.

That's about 1/4 cup of hooch. I've got news for the RMTC: I've got more vodka than that in my nightly martini, and I'm not a 1000 pound horse!

Of course, I should mention that the RMTC is funding this project to the tune of $621,000. And this is where me, as Ms. Science, finds this intriguing. 1 ounce of alcohol requires an hour to clear the human body. Horses are receiving roughly 2 ounces of alcohol about 4 hours prior to racing. Admittedly, I'm no equine scientist, but at post time would it even be detectable? As a depressant, the alcohol would be calming, not performance enhancing, so does this constitute cheating?

And in this day and age, when the NYRA can't stay afloat and handles are down and the naysayers are preaching doom and gloom and the demise of the great sport, where does the RMTC get over a half-million dollars to fund the development of a horse breathalyzer?

And then the biggest question of all: Which do horses prefer, Skyy or Stolichnaya?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Not-So-Instant Karma

The Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance has graciously laid out the Welcome Mat and has included me, a working mother of two who attempts to handicap, analyze, and review horseracing while swapping out discs in her 4-year-old's Viewmaster, into their fold. Patrick, Alan, QQ, Toteboard Brad, Railbird, et.al.: you are all talented and witty. In return, I hope that you and others find some sort of entertainment and/or pertinent information here. Or some relief for any bouts of insomnia.

Thank you, TBA. I'm excited to be part of the group.

Now, let's get to the real excitement. Saturday's action. I had only a couple of races that required my attention, so I didn't saunter over to the track until later in the day. I flipped open my Gulfstream race card 3 minutes before the post of the 7th race. It was a maiden special, a personal favorite of mine. And it was one of those bets that was a no-brainer. Bernie White Shoes had previously come in third by 3/4 lengths to a couple of notable horses, Dixie Swinger and Exclusive Quality (and the notation in the racing form was "lost whip stretch"). Easiest $30 I made. And immediately I'm thinking to myself, "It's going to be a great day."

But good karma can switch on the dime-breakage. And it usually has to do with some cosmic event, such as the guy next to you spills his beer into your lap. Or your hot wings' sauce splatters over your racing form. Or you go to the bathroom and the toilet overflows. Or you run into an old boyfriend. In my own scientific way (and it should be noted, that in real life I am a scientist) I have determined that this "cosmic event" sucks the life out of every subsequent wager placed. Jockeys fall off. Horses break late from the gate. Horses scratch. Exacta bets finish first and third, or second and third. Piles of losers begin to litter the table.

I had greatly anticipated the First Lady Handicap (gr III) at Gulfstream and Trickle of Gold. I felt that the LaBrea Stakes (gr I) in the slop was just an indication that she didn't like those type of track conditions. Or Southern California. But my feelings was that if she got out front, it could be try-and-catch-her situation. I was almost confident. But if there was a horse that could beat her, Smokey Glacken could do it. She had won previously a little off the pace, and if there were too much speed she could win. Smokey Glacken did not let me down and she won soundly. But Trickle of Gold ... well, trickled. The longshots finished out the trifecta. I was disappointed, in a very lady-like manner. The, ahem, gentleman sitting next to me was disappointed in a not-so gentlemanly manner.

But hey! The American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn had my attention next. And as previsouly touted, True Tails would be sitting big on top of my exacta. Well, True Tails scratched, much to my dismay. Thus my second choice, Josh's Madelyn was pounded down to nothing. At that point, I opted to save my cash and head home. Maybe I would come back to place a wager on Happy Ticket, who would be running at the FG@LaD on Sunday afternoon.

Happy Ticket scratched.

My Sunday afternoon consisted of looking at SpongeBob in the Viewmaster. The good karma has returned.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Gangsters and True Tails

Oaklawn opens today. It should be proclaimed some kind of holiday, I'm thinking. A beautiful racetrack in a town with a very colorful past. Bath houses, prostitutes, and Al Capone hanging out at the Arlington Hotel can do that to a town's reputation.

But Hot Springs is a great place to visit. And the track always has great races for wagering.

Tomorrow, the American Beauty Stakes will have a field of six fillies and mares. And one that I've been watching is True Tails. She's trained by Cole Norman - and broken neck or not, he's formidable at Oaklawn. The first time I saw True Tails was last spring at the Warfare Farm Stakes at Lone Star Park. She won gate to wire. And what was absolutely eye-popping was that she led within a length down the backstretch, and at the half-mile, she turned on the gas and pulled away as if her competition were standing still, winning by almost 8 lengths in stakes record time (1:08.76). It was a visionary experience that stays with you.

Saturday's pick for the 9th race at Oaklawn: True Tails. Exacta with late closer Josh's Madelyn.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Lawyers, Guns and Money

If you liked Stevie Wonderboy before the San Rafael (Gr II), you should still like him after the race. Mike Watchmaker at DRF and fellow blogger, Alan (leftatthegate.blogspot.com) are a couple of fellows who gave very upbeat and analytical reviews into the race. My take? It was only a four horse race. Part of thrill of a horse race is full fields; manipulating paces and overcoming traffic problems. Also, the mutuel pools will indicate a variety of longshots, not just Woody Be Quick. I'm unsure if this race can effectively indicate Stevie Wonderboy's Derby potential, or Brother Derek's for that matter. Let's face it, on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, it's a calvary charge out of the gate. As far as I'm concerned about the San Rafael, it was a strenuous workout, of sorts.

But hey! It was a payday ... kind of. As I wrote previously, I placed my wimpy bet on Brother Derek to win and put him in an exacta box with Wanna Runner. I got my beer money back and a couple of extra bucks, enough for popcorn. Whoo-hoo!

However, the best race I watched was the Risen Star (Gr III) at the FG@LaD. My big picks were Mark Of Success and Hyte Regency. The Know-It-All next to me kept insisting on Lawyer Ron, but somehow, I could not compare some win at Evangeline Downs, Somewhere In Louisiana, with the fact that Hyte Regency ran in the Jockey Club Stakes and ran an exceptionally good third to Private Vow. And on a personal level, the Holthus-McKee combination had teased with me on previous races ... only to leave me flattened; crumbling up losing tickets. But Lawyer Ron certainly put on an impressive show, winning by eight lengths. Bob Holtus said that "he's probably the best 3-year-old I've ever had this time of year." Lawyer Ron is 4 for 11, but it should be noted that 5 of those losses were on turf, the other two losses on Turfway's "Polytrack". For those of you who require a little math review: 11-5-2 = 4. And that would be his dirt races. Unbeaten. He's one for the Derby Watch ... even if you don't trust lawyers.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The San Rafael: Is It Worth a Wager?

Every Friday evening I log onto ESPN.com and read Eddie Mac's weekend picks. I admire him greatly, and I'm pretty sure I must have been married to him in a previous life. He's an exceptional handicapper; his column is brief, consists of three races that offer some good betting potential, and he's funny to boot. And today's weekend picks column was no different. However, he referred to the San Rafael Stakes (Gr. II) at Santa Anita as follows:

There are races to bet and there are races to just watch, and I won't have any action on Saturday's Grade II San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita. ... it will feature Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Stevie Wonderboy, the likely 2-year-old champion and the winter-book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Merv Griffin's gifted and promising colt undoubtedly will be odds-on in his 3-year-old debut, and it will be no shock if he blows away five seemingly overmatched rivals. Win or lose, as long as he doesn't hurt himself, the mile San Rafael won't count for much down the road. I can't see a reason to bet on it, though.

For the most part, I am in total agreement. Stevie Wonderboy looks like he should easily defeat the field. And you, me and Auntie Barb and her cookie jar money will only make a few dimes for every couple of dollars wagered.

But remember, when we saunter up to the mutuel windows and plop down a few dollars on a horse, it is called gambling.

And it is this type of race that I am willing to gamble a small but worthy few dollars on the prospect that (a) Garrett Gomez falls out of the saddle, (b) Stevie Wonderboy really doesn't like the idea of actually racing around two turns, or (c) there may actually be another horse out there on this particular day, at this particular moment of time when the Earth, sun, moon, and Neptune are in perfect alignment, will beat Stevie Wonderboy.

So what is my cheap-o plan? Brother Derek, a heavily favored second, looks pretty tough. He's a graded stakes winner around two turns. Granted, sandwiched between his Norfolk win and the Hollywood Futurity win was the Breeders' Cup and his loss to Stevie Wonderboy. But maybe October in New York wasn't Brother Derek's style? Maybe a field of 14 was just too much of a party for him? To me, that will be worth a couple of dollars on a Win wager.

I also like Wanna Runner. He has won his last two as routes, and Bob Baffert is winning 26% at Santa Anita. His Won Last Start statistics (29%) is indicative that he's placing his horses where he believes that they belong.

Thus, I will gamble a cheap exacta box, Brother Derek and Wanna Runner.

And toss in a cheap Show wager on Sailors Sunset if he goes off at ridiculously high odds, on the premise that there isn't any reason that he can't move forward on his third career race. And he's a gray.

So unlike my favorite turf writer on the planet, I will be wagering on the San Rafael. I'm anxious to see Stevie Wonderboy's 2006 debut and his highly anticipated start toward the Kentucky Derby. And if he wins as expected, hey, I'm only out a little beer money.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Filly Here and a Filly There ...

This time of year horseplayers, handicappers, turf writers and turf writer wannabes are busy writing up and analyzing every 3-year-old colt that has Derby and/or Triple Crown potential. I feel as though that fillies are an after-thought. Maybe. Maybe not. It's probably some sort of woman-weirdo-thing that I feel. I will go ahead and let Steve Haskin of The Blood-horse list every 3-year-old possible. But you know the old saying, "Behind every man, there is a good woman." In this case, "For every good 3-year-old colt, there is a filly that can still put some serious cash in your wallet." And recently, a couple of them caught my eye in a backward-not-paying-attention-and-planned-to-bet-another-horse kind of way.

New Year's Eve was spent at the track. It is a personal neccessity to watch and wager on the final juvenile races of the year. One of them was the Sandpiper Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Now, Tampa Bay Downs is not one of my "usual" simulcast tracks, but I had been watching a filly from Calder, Lake Alice, and she would be running in that stakes race. Admittedly, Lake Alice is a nice little filly, and she won her first stakes in the slop at Calder, but I am a woman and mother and I let my emotions dictate that horse watch. It's the name of my 4-year-old daughter. Alice, not Lake. However, upon review of my racing form, there were a couple of really nice fillies that stood out and subsequently performed admirably.

Misty Rosette had won her career debut at Calder on December 2nd, winning by 6 lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 81. Her second race, the Sandpiper Stakes, she won by more than 3 lengths. It may be a minor stakes race somewhere in Florida, but this gal looks like she's going forward.

As it turns out, Misty Rosette, the tepid 3rd choice in betting, beat the favored Rgirldoesn'tbluff, who was 2 for 2 at the time. She had won her MSW back in October at the Meadowlands then walloped a field in an allowance race at Tampa Bay in December, winning by 11-1/4 lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 89. Toss in that her trainer is Kirk Ziadie, who practically owns a piece of Florida racing ciruit, and she looked tough to beat. She came in fourth in the Sandpiper, but I am definitely looking forward to her in her 3-year-old debut.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ooh la la! Viva la French Park

In today's issue of the Daily Racing Form, Marcus Hersh wrote a nice little article about Helen Pitts. You may know her as the former assistant to trainer Ken "Bloodstock" McPeek. Or perhaps from foxhunting with her in her youth. Regardless, she is now a full-fledged head trainer, responsible for a stable full of horses. And that includes the very impressive 3-year-old filly, French Park.

My first introduction to French Park was back in early November in the Pocahontas Stakes (Gr III). She had one and only race in her then-2-year-old career, and it consisted of an eye-popping Beyer Speed Figure of 95, and she had won the MSW by more than 12 lengths. Like many horseplayers, I can be skeptical of big Beyer scores in career debuts. Can the horse duplicate the performance, especially as a 2-year-old? Toss in the factors of stretching out and graded stakes, and I spend a little more time viewing the competition.

French Park, I decided, required a modest wager. Apparently, I was not the only one, as she did go off as a soft favorite that day. And she displayed that she is the real deal.

Later in the month, she won the Golden Rod Stakes (Gr II). And from what I read and reviewed from that race, she rallied from the back. She gave it the gas when asked.

This weekend, French Park is slated for the Silverbulletday Stakes (Gr III) at the Fair Grounds Meet at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. Jockey Mark Guidry won't be aboard, but she gets Calvin Borel, no slouch at LaD (17%).

Message to Helen: I'm glad that you didn't select foxhunting as a career. Keep up the good work! And Viva la French Park!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Achilles of Troy

The Count Fleet stakes is one of my favorite races for 3-year-olds. It was that race I first saw a chestnut colt from Philadelphia, who had started his racing career with a serious bonk to the head, had a no-name jockey, and a trainer whose last name wasn’t Pletcher, Zito or Baffert. After that impressive victory, I put that horse on my watch and followed him as if he were the Dalai Llama himself. I bet on that horse when he raced in Oaklawn. I bet him in the Derby Future Pools and the Triple Crown. Yes, Smarty Jones made me look like a genius.

The 2005 Count Fleet didn’t capture my attention this year, at least in the racing form. I didn’t even handicap it or wager on it. But I watched. Achilles of Troy romped to a 14 length victory, setting a stakes record at 1 mile 70 yards at 1:39.61. He earned himself a nice little Beyer of 104. Of interest, this horse was wheeling back after only 9 days when he broke his maiden at 6f, with a Beyer of 96. Sprint to route, and speed figure improvement to boot. Jockey, Alan Garcia, is only winning at a mere 9%. Trainer Jennifer Pederson, at 11%. I read in DRF that she felt that Achilles of Troy was more of a one-turn horse. Well, this horseplayer was most impressed with his two-turn ability on January 7th. He’s on the horse watch. And he may pop up in the Whirlaway.

First Post

As a horseplayer, I’m always looking for an extra angle; an added edge; a plausible tout. Something that preferably will put a little extra cash into my pocket. And it’s here that I will happily share my observations and comments with my fellow horseplayers. This is for my betting buddies, who are currently sitting at the smoke-filled bar area in the simulcast halls or race books, surfing the web using their palm pilot or cell phone, looking for a tip or two.

At this point, I will boldly declare that I am not a professional handicapper. Jim Mazur, Andy Beyer, Dan Illman … they’re geniuses. They write books and columns and spend oodles of time reading charts and handicapping races. I just love the sport. It’s a thrill to sift through the race form, place my wager at the pari-mutuel window, cheer on my horse, and hopefully collect some loot. $4000 claiming race or the Preakness, it’s entertaining and exciting. It is a sport that we, the horseplayers, are actually participants. It gives the un-athletic individual who couldn’t even make the third string junior varsity water polo team an opportunity to be part of the sport, whether our participation is as simple as a $2 Show wager or a $100 exacta.

So it’s here that I will share tidbits and perhaps occasional picks. My friends can tout their horses. My friends’ friends can tout. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll let my husband, a man with absolute no handicapping tenacity and bets strictly on longshots when he actually goes to the track with me, give a selection. As soon as he takes out the trash.