Interview with Garett Skiba, Elite Contest Player and OptixEQ User

Meet Garett Skiba, an elite handicapper and contest player with the most six-figure cashes in handicapping contests over the last two-plus years. He most recently took home third place in the 2018 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) tournament in Las Vegas, netting $125,000. We asked him to discuss OptixEQ and how he incorporates its products into his own handicapping process. 


Optix (O): When did you first start following horseracing? And what is your proudest achievement as a horseplayer?

Garett Skiba (GS): I started playing the races with my dad, going to simulcasting outlets at Balmoral Park and to live racing at Sportsman’s Park and Hawthorne. As a horseplayer, my proudest achievement is having won more than $650,000 in contests.


O: What kind of player are you and how often do you play? For example, do you follow just one circuit? Do you just play tournaments, etc.?

GS: I will focus primarily on Kentucky Downs, Belmont, Saratoga, Keeneland, and Gulfstream. I will typically play intensively one to two days a week, and then, for three or four days a week, I will look for spot plays.


O: What kind of handicapper are you, and which types of bets favor your style?

GS: Historically, I have been a handicapper who has looked for hot pace scenarios that would favor horses with perceived “weak form” who would benefit from a pace collapse. Optix has been a valuable tool in broadening my approach to the overall pace picture.


O: How long have you been using OptixEQ and what brought you to try our handicapping platform?

GS: I have been on Optix for about two years. My interest was brought on by a willingness to try new products and always tweaking my style/approach in order to better understand the game. 


O: Describe how OptixEQ has enhanced (or added to) your game?

GS: As mentioned previously, the product has improved my understanding of the pace picture. Additionally, OptixNOTES have been a fantastic way to explain away poor races by horses who are being overlooked on the board.


O: Over the past two years, OptixEQ users have been finishing very well in tournaments. What advice do you have for users who are new to the platform?

GS: I would highly recommend learning about all aspects of Optix and also take the time to review historical races. I wouldn’t recommend playing either OptixPLOT or OptixNOTES alone, but rather use them as tools to support/contract your entire picture/opinion of the race. It is not meant to be a prediction engine!


O: What would you like to see integrated into the platform to further enhance the product?

GS: Personally, I would like more control as it relates to the pace lines driving the OptixPLOT, or at the very least, visibility as to which line is driving what we are seeing.

Queen Elizabeth II has over $9 million in Earnings from Her Horse Racing side hustle

source: Ascot

Queen Elizabeth II Loves Her Horses

According to the site’s report, the Queen has claimed 452 wins out of 2,834 races, about 16 percent. Her best year was 2016, when her earnings totaled $775,325. One of her most significant wins came in 2013, when her horse Estimate won the Gold Cup at Ascot. It was the first time a reigning monarch had won the race.

CNBC Full coverage Source: Queen Elizabeth II has made an amazing $9 million from her side hustle

The Making of Horse Racing Conference Equestricon II

Tampa Paddock

Up close and personal at Tampa Bay Downs paddock. Copyright AGOS

The Making of Equestricon II

Although he actual trade show will take place on the Monday and Tuesday prior to the championships, Equestricon will have a week-long presence and involvement with the Breeders’ Cup, Sharp noted.

“That’s the kind of energy and excitement we’re hoping to build for Breeders’ Cup week, trying to get fans who are traveling to the Breeders’ Cup to come in early and get to experience Louisville and make a whole week’s vacation out of it.”

Source: The Making of Equestricon II

Brazilian Jockey Scores World Record Win 12,844

jockey riding a horse raceJorge Ricardo Nabs World Record for Rider Wins

For years, Brazilian jockey Jorge Ricardo battled for one of the least heard-of, yet toughest titles in sport — most horse races won — and on Monday he got there with a 12,844th victory. The win in the rain at Rio de Janeiro’s Hipodromo race track equalled the extraordinary world record held by Ricardo’s career-long Canadian… [Read more…]

Industry Profile: Jockey Antonio Gallardo

Two seasons ago, Antonio Gallardo rode a 3-year-old first-time starter named Imperial Hint to an eye-opening victory in a 7-furlong Tampa Bay Downs allowance in a sizzling time of 1:22.39. The Luis Carvajal, Jr.-trained Florida-bred colt lowered that time to 1:22.15 in his next start with Gallardo in the irons, the Florida Cup Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes.

“That is the dream of every jockey every year, to have a nice horse like that,” said Gallardo, who watched Imperial Hint race to a second-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint last month under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano. “In this game, you stay positive because you can find a good horse anywhere.”

The 30-year-old Spaniard, whose meteoric rise upon moving to the United States resulted in three consecutive riding titles at both Tampa Bay Downs and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., has shown a knack for winning all kinds of races, including five graded stakes the last two years.

But while Gallardo’s quest to secure another “big horse” continues at full speed, he’s a devoted family man who strives for the right balance between his professional and personal lives.

Gallardo’s early-meeting Oldsmar performance, with 17 victories, has earned him the SenÞor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award.

When the 2017 season at Presque Isle Downs in western Pennsylvania ended in early October, Gallardo, his wife Polliana and their two children, Carlos, 9, and Christa, almost 4, traveled to his hometown of Jerez in Cadiz, Spain for about a month to visit his relatives.

Gallardo’s ambition to be known as one of the world’s best jockeys hasn’t changed. But the pull of home, both in Spain and Tampa, helps charge his batteries to succeed on the track.

“That (traveling to Spain) helped me a lot. My family is real close, and I was able to have fun with them and forget about the horses for a while,” said Gallardo, who got to visit his parents, his sister, his grandmother and other relatives. “If one of us is crying, everybody is crying, and if one of us is happy, everybody is happy.

“It was good for me mentally and good for my muscles and my bones. If I have a chance to go next year, I’m going again,” he added.

After riding in New York last season, where he finished seventh in the 2017 winter meeting standings at Aqueduct with 19 victories, Gallardo has returned to his home away from Spain on Florida’s west coast.

Gallardo, who finished second in North America in victories in both 2015 and 2016, riding 652 winners during that two-year period, recently bought a home on a farm a few miles from Tampa Bay Downs. The property includes a seven-stall barn, several paddocks and a riding arena.

Gallardo said the reasons he has returned to Tampa Bay Downs are “simple. It’s my home, my family is here and the weather is good. I was making more money in New York, but I wasn’t as happy.

“As a jockey, you risk your life every day. Yes, you have to make money, but you have to have fun and enjoy your family. Money comes and goes, but when time leaves, it never comes back to you.”

Gallardo finished third in the Monmouth Park standings this year with 50 victories. On Dec. 16, he won the inaugural $125,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on 3-year-old gelding Mo Cash with a bold move between rivals on the turn.

Among his five graded-stakes victories is the 2016 Grade II Nashua at Aqueduct on Hemsworth. He also won the $400,000 (ungraded) Poseidon Handicap last winter at Gulfstream on Imperative on the Pegasus World Cup Invitational card and finished fifth on War Story in the $12-million Pegasus.

It appears Gallardo’s next major assignment is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Whoever it happens to be with, the connections can rest assured their jockey will know the way home.


Source: Press Release

Famed Racehorse Trainer Jack Van Berg Passes Away at 81

He fell one win short of Triple Crown prestige with Alysheba

LOS ANGELES — Jack Van Berg, who walked the barns of Southern California race tracks for more than 40 years and remained haunted by the Triple Crown he never won, died Wednesday in Little Rock, Ark., from complications of cancer. He was 81. Van Berg, always adorned in a cowboy hat befitting his upbringing in rural… [Read more…]

Great Horse Racing Videos – R.I.P. Jack Van Berg

We’re sad to hear of the passing of legendary horseman and trainer Jack Van Berg.  Jack’s accomplishments are too long and deep to list here, but the first major horse of his that was a favorite of mine was the exciting runner Gate Dancer.  The Hall of Fame trainer would parlay that success on the national stage to  Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic wins with the great Alysheba.

Rest in peace, Jack.




Son of Charles Cella to Lead Oaklawn Park into the Future

Logo Oaklawn Park racingPress Release

Louis A. Cella, whose family founded the Oaklawn Jockey Club in 1904, has been named president of the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack and gaming facility as well as Southwestern Enterprises, Inc., the parent company of Oaklawn. He succeeds his father, Charles J. Cella.

In addition, John G. Cella has been named president of the family’s Southern Real Estate and Financial Company, Inc., also succeeding his father.

“It is truly an honor to follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather,” Louis Cella said. “Racing has been part of the Cella family DNA for generations and we are committed to keeping Oaklawn one of the premiere racetracks in the country for generations to come.”

Earlier this year, Cella became the third generation of his family to serve on the Board of Directors of the Thoroughbred Racing Association (TRA). His grandfather, John G. Cella, served as president of the organization from 1959-’60 and his father, Oaklawn president Charles J. Cella, served as president from 1975-’76. In late August, he was elected to The Jockey Club, which establishes the recommended standards for the industry, along with four other prominent figures in Thoroughbred racing.

“The appointment of Louis Cella as president of the Oaklawn Jockey Club will be welcomed news throughout the racing industry as it continues the legendary involvement of the Cella family,” said James (Ted) Bassett III, a longtime family friend, Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup director and a member of The Jockey Club. “For over a century, four generations of this family have dedicated themselves to maintaining the highest and traditional standards of racing, insuring public trust and the well-being of the horse. For most of his life, Louis has been actively involved in every aspect of racing and with this experience and the Cella family’s commitment to excellence this continues the success of Oaklawn Park for years to come”

Cella, a 1990 graduate of the University of Arkansas Law School, is also vice chairman and director of MUNY, America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre. He is past chairman of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center Foundation, director of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board and director of the Myeloma Institute.

He and his wife Rochelle live in Ladue, Mo.. and have two children.

A New Name in the Jockey Colony to Know

Press Release

Apprentice Weston Hamilton, the youngest son of multiple graded-stakes winning journeyman Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton, picked up his first two professional wins with his only mounts of the day Monday at Laurel Park.

The 19-year-old shares the Laurel jock’s room with his dad, a winner of more than 1,300 career races who returned to the irons last year following a decade’s absence in part to help raise his sons, including older brother Garrett.

Hamilton had ridden in three amateur races, winning a seven-furlong claiming event on My Uncle Al for trainer Patricia Farro Nov. 5 at Parx, before making his pro debut with a runner-up finish on Durango Girl Dec. 2 at Laurel. His first win came in his 10th professional mount.

“I feel great. That was the best feeling ever,” Hamilton said after guiding David Carter’s I Just Wanna Win ($8.60) to a neck victory over favored Have Hope in Monday’s fifth race, a $17,000 claiming event for fillies and mares 3 and up. The Pat McGill-trained 5-year-old mare ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:05.98 over a fast main track.

Steve Hamilton, sixth in the current fall meet standings with 23 victories, finished another three lengths back in fourth aboard 4-year-old filly Include a Check, the program favorite.

“I saw the light at the end and saw we had an open shot and went on with him. We had a lot of horse under us so we finished up good. I’m really happy,” Hamilton said. “I was thinking we were going to make it. I got up next to my dad, he was outside of me, and he said, ‘Go on with him.’ Sure enough we went on with him and we had a good race.”

Hamilton, a 10-pound apprentice, picked up his second winner with Sola Dei Gloria Stable’s Stella Nova ($14.40) in Race 7, a $25,000 starter allowance for females 3 and up. Despite dropping his whip and briefly losing the lead in mid-stretch, Hamilton persisted on the 3-year-old filly and got her to the wire a neck ahead of Lemon Lover in 1:05.46 for 5 ½ furlongs.

“I knew we had a good horse. I looked at the program and there’s been some pretty good rides. She’s made the lead and never looked back a few times, so I knew we were on a good, fast horse,” Hamilton said. “I wasn’t trying to worry about it too much. I just stayed calm and rode my race.”

“He did a good job,” winning trainer and former jockey Hugh McMahon said. “He didn’t need the stick. He used his hands and kept it coordinated and kept it going and he prevailed.”

Sports writer Dick Jerardi looks back at his remarkable career

Sports writer Dick Jerardi looks back at his remarkable career Full coverage

Source: Sports writer Dick Jerardi looks back at his remarkable career