Industry Profile: QnA with Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith

After over 40 years in the saddle, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith remains at the top of his game. To date, the 54-year-old (as of today — happy birthday, Mike!) jockey has 26 Breeders’ Cup wins, the winner of two Eclipse Awards, and an Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award. Mike has won horse racing’s largest races including two Kentucky Derbies, two Preakness Stakes, and three Belmont Stakes and has piloted some of the best-known Thoroughbreds like Unbridled’s Song, Arrogate, Bodemeister, Zenyatta, Songbird, and 2018 Triple Crown winner, Justify…

4. Who is your favorite horse at the moment?
McKinzie (four-year-old colt, with seven wins out of 12 starts and $2,238,560 in earnings).

5. Which racetrack do you enjoy riding at the most?
In California: Santa Anita and Del Mar. In New York: Belmont and Saratoga. I love Lexington, Kentucky, and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. All special for different reasons.

Industry Profile: Trainer Linda Rice

From The Blood-Horse Magazine:

Linda Rice was 17 years old, a time when the real world begins to come into view for most teenagers. She and her father, Clyde, had attended a Keeneland sale in Lexington, and were driving back to their farm in Pennsylvania when an accident ahead of them caused a….

She left Penn State after two years and took out her trainer’s license in 1987. Clyde understood and was so supportive he assigned her half a dozen horses or so at the outset. Now viewed as the leading female trainer in the United States, Rice was hardly an overnight success.

“It was very difficult getting started,” Rice said. “My father was my first client and then I grew from there. But it was many years of building the business. It’s taken many years and a lot of hard work.”

If she had an advantage in what continues to be an aspect of the industry populated largely by men, it was her upbringing.

“When you grow up around horses, you learn the behavior of horses, the psychology of the horse,” she said. “It allows you to be very advanced and have many years of experience by the time you start training them.”

Trainer Kevin Patterson is On Fire

Mountaineer racetrack

When Frank Passero, a brash Canadian laying siege to Gulfstream Park, saddled a record 14 straight winners in 1996, the odds of performing that feat stood roughly similar to your shot of getting hit by a meteor. In fact, a theoretical $2 parlay on those victories would have returned a staggering $7 million. Kevin Patterson’s Mountaineer streak stands six short of that, by comparison, and while letting a deuce ride on that cinchy octet would merely make your car payment for the month, those eight MOVED like meteors, most leading at all calls. This ostentatious parade of speed should come as no surprise to followers of the bonafide super-trainer.

“Kevin extracts speed,” said Patterson’s main client, Robert Cole, who as a skilled handicapper and longtime student of the game well comprehends the advantage of shaking loose in front, even tailoring his acquisitions to fit Patterson’s training style. ” I don’t claim closers,” stated the long-successful Cole, who once led the nation in wins and made his considerable fortune in the mortgage business.

With his own best successes, like …

To Churchill via Afghanistan, horse trainer Mark Simms followed his dream

For Simms, the path to the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs had gone through various states and countries, through countless predawn drives chasing a dream in his spare time and through, of all places, Afghanistan.

“I really do thank the Lord every morning,” Simms said. “I’m training racehorses. I’m living the dream.”

His alarm clock goes off at 3:30 a.m., with long days facing even longer odds in trying to break into a tough business.

Simms, who recently turned 30, went out on his own in 2017 as a trainer. That move was after a stint assisting Churchill-based trainer Dale Romans that began when Simms was enlisted in the U.S. Army.

He was a soldier, part of a military family, joining ROTC in high school in Virginia and the Army out of college, being stationed all over the place. But even then, it was always about horses. His grandfather, a horse trainer himself, would always tell a story of how Simms learned to walk in a horse barn. Simms grew up on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indian Reservation in North Dakota, which had a racetrack, Chippewa Downs.

“As long as I can remember,” Simms said, “all I’ve really wanted to do was train racehorses. … They get in your blood, and it’s really hard to shake them.”

While stationed in Korea at one point, Simms would go to a racetrack on the weekends with a Korean soldier who could translate the program, and they’d figure out horses on which to bet…

Industry Profile: European Trainer John Gosden

A trainer to rulers, royals and billionaires

In the sport of kings, John Gosden is a trainer to rulers, royals and the richest in the horse-racing industry.

The 68-year-old is seen by many as the antidote to the Coolmore and Godolphin operations, breaking their hegemony to win some of the world’s biggest races from the Epsom Derby to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe — his Enable is the two-time reigning champion.

It is all a far cry from the economics graduate who tried and failed to get a job in the City of London after leaving Cambridge University in a time of economic crisis.

Instead, he turned to training against the advice of his father, John “Towser” Gosden, himself a trainer.

“That was the last thing he said to me,” recalls the Newmarket, UK-based Gosden. “That it’s seven days a week and nearly 52 weeks. That was when there was much less racing and horses. He had 40 in his yard and said that was plenty. Now we have 150 to 200.

“If he came back now, he would say we’re mad. The pace of life has moved on, everyone needs instant gratification, there’s so much tracks and channels.

“We’re in a world where people don’t stop to think, it’s just go, go, go. If you don’t compete every day, you’re like a mouse trying to get back on the wheel, you’ll just fly back off.”

Industry Profile: Professional gambler Mike Maloney

A Richmond native who lives in Lexington, the 63-year-old Maloney has been studying horse racing since age 15. But he turned pro, so to speak, about 20 years ago, becoming a full-time horseplayer and leaving his business as a wholesale antiques dealer.

It’s a journey he chronicled in the 2017 book “Betting With An Edge,” which was co-authored by Peter Thomas Fornatale. Maloney has wagered as much as $12 million in a year at one point, and he says he has turned a profit each year.

“I was in my 30s before I ever began to consistently show a profit at the track,” Maloney said. “Then once that began to happen, I thought, ‘There’s a possibility here.’ … I haven’t had a negative year, but there are a lot of years where I’m not happy and I want to do better. Then there are some years that were really good. But it’s not a smooth ride. You know, it’s gambling, and you have to embrace it that way.”

“There’s plenty of 12-hour workdays,” Maloney said. “It’s a 70 to 80-hour workweek.”

Some may instinctively recoil. Others might believe he’s got the best job in the world.

But neither response does justice to how rare it is that Maloney has had the makeup to thrive full time in a profession that a select few could do — or would want to — with numbers that seemingly dwindle each year as the game grows more difficult.

“These days, the people betting the most money, it’s AI, it’s computers, it’s algorithms, stuff like that,” Fornatale said. “But for an individual, you can’t really name (anyone better). Other people I know who’ve been doing it for a comparable amount of time as Mike are, I think, more consciously phasing out as the market gets more efficient and the game gets tougher. He’s still there grinding away, and it’s the only job he’s had in nearly 20 years.

“He really is at the pinnacle. As far as I’m concerned, put him on the Mount Rushmore of horseplayers.”   Read the rest…

Long Overdue. Jockey Craig Perret inducted into National horse racing hall of fame

Saratoga_NatMuseumofRacing and HallofFame

copyright AGameofSkill.com

Craig Perret was inducted into the the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Monday, making the New Orleans native only jockey in the 16-member class of 2019.

Perret joins Calvin Borel (2013), Randy Romero (2010), Kent Desormeaux (2004), Eddie Delahoussaye (1993) and O. Eric Guerin (1972) among Louisiana jockey inductees.

Joining Perret in the class, are champion fillies Royal Delta, My Juliet, and Waya along with members of the Hall’s 12 Pillars of the Turf category: James E. “Ted” Bassett; Christopher Chenery; Dick Duchossois; William S. Farish; John Hettinger; James R. Keene; Frank E. “Jimmy” Kilroe; Gladys Mills Phipps; Ogden Phipps; Helen Hay Whitney; Marylou Whitney; and Warren Wright Sr.

Perret, 68, won 4,415 races in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. He was voted an Eclipse Award as the Outstanding Jockey of 1990, the year he guided Unbridled to victory in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Carl Nafzger. Perret also rode Bet Twice to victory in the 1987 Belmont Stakes.

Perret also rode champions Honest Pleasure, Rhythm, Housebuster, Storm Song, and Smoke Glacken, among others. He was honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1998 and won four Breeders’ Cup races, including the inaugural Sprint in 1984 aboard champion Eillo.

Perret was inducted in the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

The National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Aug. 2 at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Former Star Tribune horse racing handicapper and author Steve Davidowitz dies

Steve Davidowitz, the Star Tribune’s horse racing writer and handicapper when the sport came to Minnesota, died at his home in Nevada. He was 77.

The news was first reported by the Horse Racing Nation web site.

His son, Brad, told the Daily Racing form in a story: “I’d like to imagine he basically died doing what he loved, that he passed while doing what he loved.  Romantically, I envision that he was writing a story, watching replays preparing for a story. He really enjoyed still being able to do relevant things about horse racing.”

read the rest

Cheltenham Festival: A day in the life of Paul Nicholls’ racing yard

Ditcheat, England (CNN) — It’s lunchtime at Manor Farm Stables and Clan Des Obeaux, a joint favorite for Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, wants his carrot, and he wants it now.

Tall, dark and handsome, his coat glistening in the unusually warm February sun, the French-bred bay gelding pricks up his ears as Clifford Baker, the head lad, tickles his soft nose and hands him his favorite vegetable.

“He just is special, he’s won some big races,” Baker told CNN Sport at the yard in Ditcheat, a small village in the rolling hills of Somerset, England. “And you’re friendly, aren’t you? And you like carrots.”

NHC Veteran Joe Scanio Seeks Gotham Score

The Gotham Challenge takes place this Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack and online for the first time via NYRA Bets. Entries for the $500 live-bank contest close Thursday night at 5 p.m. One of the players looking forward to competing is Joe Scanio.

Scanio is an old-school New York horseplayer. How old school? He describes himself as being from the Fred Capossela-era. He used to hitchhike from his home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn – where he still resides today.

“First, you’d get a ride from the Verrazano Bridge to Flatbush, and from there you’d get another guy to take you to Lefferts Boulevard,” he happily recalled.

His horseplayer “origin story” is a twist on a theme. Unlike so many in his generation, he did not have an older relative who introduced him to the track.

“No one in my family was into the horses,” he admitted. “I broke the mold. I like to kid that I got my Associate’s Degree at Aqueduct, my Bachelor’s at Belmont, and my PhD at Saratoga.”

His first experience came one day when he cut school to hang out at a Bay Ridge pool room – as one did back in the day. There he met a couple of older guys who took him along to the races.

“I bet on a horse named Mountain Crest,” said Scanio. “You always remember your first horse. And the worst thing that could have happened, happened.”

Mountain Crest was an easy winner and Scanio’s $2 bet across the board multiplied in value.

“I said, forget school, what do I need that for? I want to come here every day.”

Scanio has been active since the earliest days of NYRA’s contests in the tent in the backyard at Belmont. He might not have learned racing from a family member but he has passed on the bug to a future generation. His niece and protege, Stephanie Davis, won one of the first NYRA contests and continues to be an active participant.

“She’s great because she doesn’t get emotionally bent out of shape like a lot of everyday gamblers,” he said. “She stays calm and collected and makes better decisions than I do when it comes to contests.”

He estimates that he’s qualified for the National Horseplayers’ Championship 14 times and figures six of them have come on the NYRA circuit. He’s been to one NHC Final Table, and he and Davis both made the semi-finals in 2018.

Scanio has followed all the changes in NYRA contests through big transitions, from mythical money fixed-odds to real-money live-bankroll, and now the advent of online play.

“I think it’s a good idea and it should help increase participation a lot,” he said. “I’ll always go in person when I can. I have to work weekends sometimes and this is a benefit to me to play online those days but I’d always prefer to go because that’s really where the fun of it all is.”

Speaking of work, Scanio’s had an interesting and varied career. He started off in direct sales, and now works selling timeshares in New York. He’s also been an actor, and is currently working on a comedic screenplay – Crime Share – based on his experiences in his day job. But his real passion is for racing.

In fact, Saturday night, after the Gotham Challenge is over, he plans on heading across the river to play in a harness racing contest at the Meadowlands.

“The last time I did a doubleheader, it was Aqueduct-Roosevelt Raceway but I was a lot younger then,” he joked. “This time around we’ll see if I have the energy to survive.”

RULES OVERVIEW

Winning players on Saturday will receive cash as well as the opportunity to qualify for a seat to the two-day 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge on June 7-8 or one of two seats to the National Horseplayers Championship in February 2020.

Tournament races include those races run live at Aqueduct Racetrack, Gulfstream Park, and Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The final tourney race will be the nightcap at Aqueduct. Permitted wagers include Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella, and Daily Double wagers. Rules require players to wager a minimum of $25 per race on a minimum of ten 10 races. Players can go all in at any time.

In order to enter and play online, contestants must be registered NYRA Bets account holders. New NYRA Bets members are currently eligible to receive a bet $200 get $200 bonus.

Full rules for the Gotham Challenge are available at this link.

Source: NYRA