Archives for January 2021

More Horse Races This Year at Royal Ascot

royal ascot paddockAscot racecourse said that it will permanently expand the schedule at its showpiece Royal meeting in June to seven races per day from this year, after what was described as a “temporary” revision to the traditional six-race daily card in 2020 proved popular with both participants and punters.

Last year’s change was made to allow for extra runners at the Royal meeting, which was staged just over a fortnight after racing returned after a two-and-a-half month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new program required the creation of three new handicaps – the Copper Horse Stakes, the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes and the Golden Gates Stakes – as well as the return of the Buckingham Palace Stakes, also a handicap, which had been discontinued in 2015.

These races will be retained and another new race – the Kensington Palace Stakes handicap for fillies and mares over a mile – has been added to the schedule.

Lessons from the First Big Online Tournament of the Year

By Rich Nilsen

The first big online handicapping tournament of the year was held over the weekend of Jan. 9-10 at horsetourneys.com, and I was fortunate enough to win into this $1,500 buy-in event via an initial $28 feeder.  It was also the same weekend at the local Tampa Bay Downs handicapping contest, so plenty of work was required to prepare for both events.

The Flo-Cal Faceoff, the Players Championship (April 2-3) and the Spa & Surf Showdown (August 14-15) comprise the new 2021 Tourney Triple series at HorseTourneys which features additional bonuses and prizes if you do well over the three contests.  The Flo-Cal closed on the morning of January 9th with a staggering purse of $570,373 based on 429 entries and a top prize set at $205,019.  The contest was comprised of full-card mandatory races at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita on both Saturday and Sunday, so this was going to be a long weekend.

On day one I got off to a very good start in the Flo-Cal Faceoff by hitting five winners from the first nine races at Gulfstream Park.  The problem was that I missed the big longshot that came in early in the day ($37.00 to win, $17 to place) and that missed $54 in bankroll was going to be difficult to overcome.

Unfortunately, I did not fare nearly as well at Santa Anita, so most of my Saturday bankroll came from South Florida.  I ended the day with over $97, an admirable score that was within ‘shouting’ distance, but that only put me in the top 25% of the field.  The lucrative prize structure was paying down to the top 28 players at the conclusion of the weekend.

Day Two of Flo-Cal

I decided I was going to swing for the fences on Sunday.  ‘Grinding it out’ seemed like a difficult strategy to make up the $60-90 deficit.  Hindsight is 20/20 and that proved to be a mistake on a day where shorter price horses were consistently winning throughout the afternoon.  The first longshot of the day wouldn’t come in until nearly 4pm when Weisser scored in Gulfstream Park’s 8th race, paying $27.80, $11.80.  I did not have him, and the situation was looking bleak.

However, I am not one to give up, knowing that in the span of just one-two races, a tournament player can make up huge strides on the leaderboard.  In the very next race at Gulfstream Park (race 9), I eyed a runner that was trying the turf for the first time.  The Munnings filly had won two of her three starts when sprinting and she had good tactical, early speed.  She looked like the type of filly that could win going 5 furlongs on the grass.  She was a juicy 17-1 and I knew if I could get this horse home, I was back in the top 50 of the standings.  I would then have a chance for some nice prize money if I could finish the day strong.

Choose Joy, my bomber, tracked closely in third and was loaded turning for home.  She surged in the final strides at the leader, but the front runner who had been off since June fought back and held on by a diminishing nose.  I got a $15.00 place payoff but missed out on an additional $36 for the win.  Numerous players had the 14-1 winner, and, instead of sitting on the first page of the leaderboard,  I was now sitting in around 170th  and the light at the end of the tunnel was very dim.

It wasn’t too long before the final race of the long weekend was upon us.  Sitting in about 140th and being only $20 out of the top 100, I had to decide if I was going to shoot for the top 100 to earn some points in this Triple Tourney event, or if hitting a bomb could move me into the top 28 of the cash prize winners.

In the field of 11 there were only three cappers and a 17-1 shot on the board.   The math told me I was blocked.  There was simply no way that I was going to pass over 100 players no matter what horse won.  It made more sense to find a horse I really liked at good odds.  [In the end my calculations were correct and even if I had hit the final contest race winner, I would have only ended up about 40th… but I digress.]

Not that I was considering the favorites, but the shorter priced horses in the field did not strike fear into anyone.  #11 Miss Dracarys had only raced one time.  She was let off at odds of 23-1 in her debut, indicating that she wasn’t exactly ‘well meant’ by her connections.  Despite that, she won, but now she was being asked to transfer that form on the other side of the country – not an easy task for a young horse.

So, I was on the lookout for a runner that had a strong chance of winning and represented some value.  I needed at least 6-1 odds to secure a top 100 finish, but of course, the higher the odds the better.

Santa Anita race favorites

#10 Empire House was starting for the dangerous Jonathan Wong outfit, but this runner had never attempted the turf.  She was getting first time Lasix and had a pedigree to handle the surface switch.  She made sense at odds of 9-1, but #4 Magical Thought was even more appealing.  Starting for trainer Peter Miller, arguably the best turf sprint trainer in California, this horse was dropping out of a graded stakes race and was cutting back from one mile to a preferred sprint distance.  She was also 9-1 and just the odds I needed to pass a lot of players on the leaderboard.

The Pivotal Question

When I first handicapped the race, it didn’t take my long to pass right over the #1 horse.  Having seen Mountaineers shippers lose at an extraordinarily high rate over the years, I didn’t care for the cheap maiden graduate to move to Santa Anita and win.  Although she had won by a large margin (over a bad field) she had “lugged out” in the lane, another negative note.  Two races back this horse had lost at Belterra Park.  Win at Santa Anita…are you kidding me?  Next.

Now, my Dad, who taught me how to handicap, would not have been so rash.  He would have looked at this odd shipper and asked himself the question, “What is this horse doing in this race?”  And that is the question that would have led to the correct answer.  He was here to win.

Santa Anita race 9 winner

The Mountaineer shipper had moved into one of the top barns in Southern California, that of John Sadler.  He had given the filly a long string of workouts, fairly consistent and dating back to at least early October.  She showed two bullet works in early October and a sharp 47.3 drill, sixth best of 52 at the distance on October 17.

Sadler was putting up one of the top jockeys in Southern California, Umberto Rispoli.  Rispoli is one of the best on the grass and also one of the best out of the gate.  This horse had flashed very quick early speed in her two races, and that is one of the main assets you typically want in a 6 furlong turf horse.

Why in the world would a top California barn obtain a lowly maiden winner from West Virginia?  By the stallion Cinco Charlie and out of a modest winner, the filly didn’t have much of a pedigree.  However, they clearly saw something in this runner and felt that she could fit a certain profile out West.  The connections were right, and they were handsomely rewarded.

The Final Race Result

With dusk falling over the stunning San Gabriel Mountains, Five Pics Please cruised to the front right out of the gate and ran the field off their feet.  At odds of 29-1 she easily held on for the shocking score in the $63,000 race.  She stopped the timer in a swift 1:08.91.

By not closely analyzing Five Pics Please and failing to ask the obvious question that my father would have asked, I missed out on a big longshot winner.  The Flo-Cal Faceoff champ turned out to be Alan Levitt, a 12-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship.  Back in 2012 he compiled a $195.20 bankroll en route to a 7th place overall finish in Las Vegas.  With one race to go Levitt was sitting in 19th place in the Flo-Cal Faceoff, and he wisely pulled the trigger on the Mountaineer bomber.  He catapulted past the 18 players in front of him and took down the lucrative six-figure cash prize.

The Final Race Result winner Santa Anita

copyright 2021 Equibase.com

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Industry Profile: Trainer King Leatherbury, The King of Maryland

Editor’s Note:  I had the good fortune of working for trainer King Leatherbury one summer at both Pimlico and Laurel.  Although I worked on the backstretch for him, I was also doing a college internship in which I analyzed his accounting ledgers dating back a couple of decades to determine whether or  not his owners made owners.  Incredibly, they actually did.  An article was written, and with the help of editor Mark Simon, it was published in the now-defunct Thoroughbred Times (April 24, 1994).  ~ Rich Nilsen

King Leatherbury knows how he wants his training career to be defined. He knows how he would like to be remembered.

“If I wanted something on my tombstone,” he said, “it would just be, ‘He won races.’ ”

Leatherbury, 87, has won races all right. He ranked fourth all-time with 6,455 victories when he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2015, the ultimate exclamation point to a career that has spanned parts of seven decades. He currently ranks fifth on the all-time list of leading trainers by wins with more than 6,500.

The Maryland native stayed close to his roots in winning at least 100 races per season for 26 consecutive years from 1972 to 1997. He won at least 200 races every year from 1974 to 1984. He won more often than any other Thoroughbred trainer in the nation in 1976 and 1977.

Business boomed even as he competed against the likes of [trainers] Bud Delp, Dick Dutrow, and John Tammaro, a group so formidable they became known as the “Big Four.”   Continue reading about legendary horseman King Leatherbury.

Great Horse Racing Video – The Final Race at Hollywood Park

Horse Racing History

75 years of historic horse racing came to a close on December 22, 2013 at Hollywood Park.  Track announcer Vic Stauffer gave a great send off to the Southern California racetrack.

This is a track where Citation, Native Diver, Affirmed, Zenyatta and many more great horses raced over the years.

5 New States Likely To Legalize Sports Betting This Year

As the 2021 legislative season starts, legal sports betting will be front-and-center for a handful of states … and will continue to be a frustrating topic for others. Since PASPA fell in May 2018 , 24 U.S. states have legalized or allowed some…

California is not on this list because a tribal referendum is nearly set for 2022, and while lawmakers may again try to create their own referendum, it seems certain Indian Country won’t let that happen.

Here’s a look at my prediction of how things will play out:

States with a real shot to legalize in 2021

Arizona

What’s going on now: For the last two years, Sen. Sonny Borelli has pitched bills that would allow both tribal and commercial retail wagering. The state’s tribes have objected, and the bills didn’t gain any traction. Going into 2021, the landscape has changed some — FanDuel signed a deal with the Phoenix Suns, which seems to imply that commercial digital wagering is being seriously considered, and tribal pacts are set to be renegotiated. Sources say a new House bill that includes a mobile component is in the works. The legislative session is only three months long.

Is 2021 the year?: It’s a tossup. If all stakeholders are in agreement when the new bill is filed, then yes. If not, sports betting is too heavy a lift to get done in three months…

Great Horse Racing Video – 2018 San Felipe Stakes

The battle between 2018 Kentucky Derby hopefuls Bolt d’Oro and McKenzie in the G2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.

How A 40-Year-Old Horse Racing Law Helped Move Sports Betting Forward

A look back…

Forty years ago, Congress passed a comprehensive bill for horse racing that could be a model for nationwide sports betting legislation.

The federal law — the Interstate Horseracing Act — even includes a “consent to bet” clause that may cause certain US sports league executives to drool.

Related developments in sports wagering are proceeding at a rapid pace, increasing the chances that Congress will weigh in soon.

Indeed, in just the last two months, potential sports betting legalization has moved from the US Supreme Court to the Indiana statehouse. The draft bill out of Indiana even mimics the 40 year-old horse racing statute, with a clause allowing sports governing bodies to “restrict or limit wagering” on certain events…

Source: How A 40-Year-Old Horse Racing Law Can Nudge Sports Betting Forward

Big Papi Needs a Job. Horse Racing?

Future baseball Hall of Famer David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz visited Gulfstream Park on Friday, March 9, 2018 to film a segment for his reality show, Big Papi Needs a Job, which debuted Jan. 31, 2019 on Fusion TV.

In the episode, Ortiz explores the ins and outs of being a thoroughbred owner, including a visit to trainer Mark Hennig’s barn, the jockey’s room and grandstand as well as the paddock and walking ring for Race 5, where he gave the call for riders up and later made a presentation to winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione and trainer David Fawkes in the winner’s circle.

Ortiz, 42, retired following the 2016 season after leading the Boston Red Sox to World Series championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013, when he was named Series MVP. A 10-time all-star, he finished with 541 home runs and 1,768 runs batted in and a career batting average of .286 over 20 seasons.

The first season of Big Papi Needs a Job featured 10 half-hour episodes where the 6-foot-3 Ortiz, a native of the Dominican Republic tried his hand at various professions. Previous shows had him working as a barista, barber, brewmaster, dog groomer, firefighter trainee, food truck cook, manicurist, mechanic, musician, zookeeper and tour guide at the Red Sox home stadium of Fenway Park.

Source: Press Release

5 Things Investors Can Learn from Betting on Horse Racing

ProfitInvesting is an art, not a science. In science, the search is for a repeatable answer under every identified condition. As strong as it may seem to many, the search is not, in the end, the largest performance number.

From an investment standpoint what I learned at the track that is useful can be summarized as follows:

1.  The objective is not to win every race but to finish the day as a winner (including expenses).

2.  Don’t bet on every race, there could even be days when no bets are made as the payoff o

Source: Lipper: 5 things investors can learn from horse racing betting

Industry Profile: Legendary Australian race horse, Phar Lap

Phar Lap movieMaybe you’ve seen the movie…

The story of Phar Lap has all the drama of a soap opera, a murder mystery and an episode of The Sopranos, all rolled into one. Let’s start with this horse and his accomplishments.

Phar Lap was a champion racehorse who was foaled in New Zealand in 1926 and mostly raced in Australia. He dominated Australian racing, winning major races such as The Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates, The Futurity Stakes and an AJC Derby. In the final race of his career, he won the Agua Caliente Stakes in Mexico and broke the track record while doing so. He was victorious in 37 of 51 races and captured the hearts of depression era people who longed for some hope and sunshine…

Read the rest: The dramatic life and times of legendary Australian race horse, Phar Lap