Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Haiku Handicapper: Cigar Mile Recap

Tale of inquiry
Bribon made me look foolish
A new loss to mourn

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The Haiku Handicapper: Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap

As promised, here is my 5-7-5 breakdown of tomorrow’s Grade 1 race at Aqueduct. I hope you like it.

If you would like to handicap along, click here.


#1 – Visionaire
Clear sight in Bishop
Mr. Magoo in Jerome
Outlook here? Fuzzy

#2 – Arson Squad
Fizzled on fake stuff
Caught fire in dirt return
He’s the wild card

#3 – Harlem Rocker
Stronach’s Prince winner
Good efforts, not mind-blowing
Super? Sure. Win? Nope.

#4 – Bribon (FR)
Makes a huge step up
This ain’t a mid-week feature
My pick for dead last

#5 – Tale of Ekati
Needed the layoff
Came back strong, but can it last?
Tale of exotics

#6 – Monterey Jazz
Long layoff, long trip
He’s a rock star with Flores
Rust brings sour notes  

#7 – Storm Play
New rider, same name
Undefeated, untested
An upset special? 

#8 – Wanderin Boy
Curlin’s punching bag
Weaker field, shorter distance
This could be his race

#9 – Kodiak Kowboy
Established sprinter
New jockey, longer distance
Too many questions


Who’s in my top three?
Wanderin Boy finds a win
Place: five, Show: seven

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Please excuse our dust

It was recently brought to my attention that there was no way to directly contact me on this site if one felt the urge to do so. As with any new project, there are still some kinks to work out. I am always looking for ways to improve the blog, so keep the suggestions coming.

The issue has now been resolved with the help of my shiny new “Contact” page in the top menu bar. Now, if you want to further discuss something, give me a suggestion, send me hate mail, or find out my address to send me Hate Mail, you can now do it with ease.

As for what to expect in the future, The Haiku Handicapper segment should make its long awaited return shortly. I had originally planned to cover the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs, but it appears the NTRA website did not select it to be its feature race for the week, meaning no free past performances. An appearance at the local simulcast joint in the near future is unlikely and I am not going to shell out a buck fifty to Equibase just so I can write short, choppy poetry (Stinginess: the sign of a truly great poet), so I may just hold off for the Cigar Mile Handicap (G1). Stay tuned.

Also, I will be chiming in on the second phase of construction at Pinnacle Race Course, as well as commenting on the results of the poll. In other words, consider this your two-minute warning that the poll will be closing soon. If you have not yet given your opinion about the track’s proposed additions, be sure to do it soon before it is too late.

And as always, if something significant happens in the world of racing, I will probably spend some time discussing it on top of everything else.

If I do not get to any of this before the end of tomorrow, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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Bang for your buck

Success on the racetrack does not always lead to success in the breeding shed. El Aleman, by Point Given, is led around the Keeneland saddling area. 

Success on the racetrack does not always lead to success in the breeding shed. El Aleman, by Point Given, is led around the Keeneland saddling area.

Word came out yesterday that Curlin will stand at Lane’s End in Kentucky for a $75,000 stud fee.

When news like this comes with hard numbers, it is pretty safe to assume the horse in question is probably done racing. I guess no one could provide Jess Jackson with the “appropriate venue and purse” he was looking for. There goes my post-Thanksgiving farewell excursion to Churchill Downs.

Oh well. I’ll probably still end up reviving the Haiku Handicapper for the Clark Handicap (G2) regardless. I have to have some kind of product to put out there to keep things fresh and interesting during the slow winter months. 

Anyway, back to the business at hand. I was a bit surprised at the tag set for Curlin’s inaugural year in the breeding shed. It is understood that times are tough in the economy and he has proven nothing yet as a sire, but for a horse with his accolades and bloodlines, $75,000 seems a tad low.

To put it in perspective, Street Sense, a fellow 2004 foal who retired as a three-year-old, stood for the same price in his first season. Sure, one could give the argument that Street Sense ran huge as a two year old while Curlin did not even start and the case could be made that Darley may have been capitalizing on the fact that Street Sense is by a hot sire, Street Cry (Ire), but the fact remains that Curlin holds the advantage in career wins, money earned and perhaps most importantly, head-to-head matchups (2-1). This alone should put Curlin at least a couple thousand bucks ahead of his old foe.

Then again, we have the example of dual classic winner Smarty Jones, who began his stallion career with a tag of $100,000 after finishing no worse than second in a roughly seven month long racing career. Though a sire can not be defined by a single crop, Smarty’s first career winner came in Puerto Rico. Not exactly a hotbed for up and coming juveniles. He has sired one Grade 1-placed foal from his freshman crop, which is more than most can claim, but on the whole, Smarty Jones has yet to live up to the hype that followed him into the Three Chimneys stud barn.

With all of this in mind, I began to look back at the initial stud fees of other high-profile horses in recent years to see how the newest big names to go to the breeding shed stack up. Then, I compared those figures to their current stud fees to see how things have changed. Have a look for yourself…

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Horsepower vs horse power

With NASCAR wrapping up its season over the weekend, I figured it would be an ideal time to cart out this piece I wrote a couple years ago. Hope you like it.

25 Reasons Why Horse Racing Is Better Than NASCAR

By: Joe Nevills

(In no specific order)

1. People in foreign countries recognize the Call To Post. “Gentlemen, start your engines” requires a translator.

2. Some horses are known for running well in rainy conditions. NASCAR goes on delay at the slightest hint of a sprinkle.

3. Horse racing fans do not cheer when there is a wreck on the track.

4. Seabiscuit was a much better film than any NASCAR movie ever made.

5. On that note, name one good NASCAR book. The first person to mention the NASCAR romance novels gets kicked in the head.

6. The most beautiful horse tracks resemble nature preserves. The most beautiful stock car tracks still look like parking lots.

7. The number on the horses actually serve a purpose.

8. Only a narcoleptic could fall asleep in the time it takes to run a horse race. NASCAR is rivaled only by golf in its potential for a nice weekend afternoon nap.

9. Horse racing is full of fun and interesting names. All NASCAR has is Dick Trickle. 

10. One would look pretty stupid if he or she tried to pet a car. 

11. No restrictor plates. Fast horses are actually encouraged to run fast. Imagine that.

12. The horses, jockeys and tracks are not nearly as smeared with advertising.

13. How much did you make the last time you picked the Daytona 500 winner?

14. An 85-year-old having a stroke can push a pedal to the floor. That same person would probably fall off a horse.

15. If you get a sunburn at the horse track, it’s probably your own damn fault.

16. In horse racing, everyone is on the same lap.

17. The exhaust a car puts out is pollution. The exhaust a horse puts out is fertilizer.

18. Nobody gives Tony Stewart a better chance of winning just because he took a dump before a race. (I’m through with the poop jokes, I swear.)

19. Diversity: Name three NASCAR drivers, pit crew members or owners who are not white males. Now name three jockeys that are.

20. Jockeys don’t sit down during races.

21. Horsemen try to keep inbreeding outside of the most recent generations.

22. In horse racing, the major races are named after legendary people and horses. In NASCAR, they name major races after soft drinks.

23. Horsemen actually earn the right to wear cowboy hats. I’m looking at you, Richard Petty.

24. When a NASCAR driver gets in a wreck, he’s done for the day. when a jockey gets in a wreck, he’s done for ten minutes.

25. Track pretzels. Checkmate.


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Curlin calls it a career…?

Assistant trainer Scott Blasi leads jockey Robby Albarado and Champion Curlin out of the paddock before the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1).  

Assistant trainer Scott Blasi leads jockey Robby Albarado and Champion Curlin out of the paddock before the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs.

It’s official. At the end of the year, reigning Horse of the Year Curlin will be retired to stud.

This news has left me somewhat torn.

On one hand, I can not fault majority owner Jess Jackson for wanting to protect his investment. In these days of retiring any horse with a flash of talent after its three-year-old campaign (or in some cases, a decent two-year-old stand!), Jackson kept Curlin in the game and brought him to just about every dance while his rivals settled into their new careers.

Every time the Smart Strike colt set foot on a racetrack, Jackson put the big stinking paycheck tied to his star’s stallion potential in jeopardy. One bad step or dull effort would have taken huge sums of money out of Jackson’s pocket. But he still moved forward and Curlin did little else but reward him for his confidence. I have nothing but respect for the man and his respect for the sport.

At the same time, this does not stop me from wishing he would stay in training. When it comes to seeing the greats do their thing, I am a very greedy person; especially when the athlete in question is still sound of body, as I would assume would be the case with Curlin.

I must admit, I am a little biased in my position. As I have mentioned time and time again, I had the opportunity to watch Curlin race in person over the summer when he ran away with the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. Because I was there to cover the race for the Thoroughbred Times’ website, I had the privilege of seeing the champ up close in the paddock, on the track and in the winner’s circle. I was less then three feet away from Curlin when I took the picture you see in this post, and I probably could have reached out and touched him during the post-race commotion if I were not so afraid of getting tackled by security.

I will share the full story of my Stephen Foster day at a later date, but for now I want to describe a couple observations about Curlin I largely formed from my few moments in his presence.

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Pinnacle’s second phase could face obstacles

Blueprints of Pinnacle Race Course's finished product were displayed around the track.

Drawings of Pinnacle Race Course's finished product were displayed around the track during its inaugural season.

As anyone who has seen or read about Pinnacle Race Course will attest to, the facility is still a work in progress.

The Pinnacle that launched on opening day and hosted the inaugural meet was Phase One of a two, or possibly three, part project expected to be completed by 2010. As it stands, the pavilion, barns, and the track itself figure to be the only permanent fixtures currently in place.

For a look at the architectural renderings of the finished track, click here. The drawings are presented in a slideshow format, so stick around for a few moments to see them all.

Tom Schramm described the track’s future plans in an article for the Daily Racing Form.

Long-term plans – collectively known as Phase 2 – include the construction of a permanent clubhouse, a turf track inside the one-mile dirt strip, and a retail mall on the outlying property. Other plans will increase the number of barns to aid a chronic shortage of horses in the first season. Due to the ailing economy and tight credit markets, some of the plans will likely be delayed.

“There will still be a Phase 2; how quickly it progresses will be decided over the next months,” said Pinnacle general manager Alan Plever. “I know for sure we’re going to add some barns for next year. We only had 580 stalls and that worked to our detriment.”

– Tom Schram, Daily Racing Form
October 31, 2008

With this in mind, I would like to put you in charge of the decision making at Pinnacle Race Course for a moment. 

Assuming that Phase Two will not be fully completed by the start of the 2009 meet, which of the proposed additions or expansions would you push to the front of the line to have ready by next year’s opening day? Which ones do you think can be shuffled to the back burner to be finished when the time and money are there? Finally, is it more important to make decisions that will appeal to the patrons on the frontside or the horsemen on the backside?

As you may have already noticed, I have also posed the first question in the form of a poll in the upper right hand corner of the page. Please be sure to give that a look and please leave a comment giving the reasoning for your decision as well.

For the moment, I will abstain from giving my opinion on the matter so as not to sway the voting in any direction. However, I will certainly share my thoughts in the near future.

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ORC approves more dates for Pinnacle, fewer for MPM

I’m a little behind on this story, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.

Anyway, on October 31, the Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner issued race dates for the state’s seven racetracks. Because my focus is on Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing, we will take a look at two tracks in particular…

After conducting an abbreviated meet in its inaugural year due to construction, Pinnacle Race Course is slated to run 82 live dates in 2009. Opening day at the Detroit-area racetrack will be June 5, with getaway day scheduled for October 24. The track will continue with its four days a week setup, hosting live races on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

Mount Pleasant Meadows saw a major drop in race dates for the 2009 meet, going from 57 days in 2008 to 37 next year. However, it must be noted that Mount Pleasant declined to utilize all of its allotted dates this year. After originally being scheduled for three days of live racing per week, the track ended up running on its usual Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes only scheduling one card per week. Though I have no official statements to back this up, it appears the additional dates were intended to make up for the days lost while Pinnacle was under construction. The track will continue running most Saturdays and Sundays, excluding three days for the Isabella County Fair. Racing will begin on Kentucky Derby day, May 2, and conclude on September 27.

The ORC also denied an application for live racing dates from Silver Stallion Development Corporation to supposedly host races inside or in the vicinity of the Pontiac Silverdome. I had heard some rumblings about this venture in the past, but figured it was nothing but a pipe dream. From the looks of it, Silver Stallion applied for 110 race dates. With Pinnacle still in its early stages, giving the track competition so close to home would be a pretty horrible idea. Besides, in the current state of racing, Michigan can barely support one thoroughbred-exclusive racetrack, much less two in the same city.

However, the fact that this Silver Stallion group seems to have its act together enough to start asking for dates is somewhat intriguing. I will have to do a little research on this company and their plans. If I find anything interesting, you’ll find it here first. Actually, being as though business has come to a screeching halt since Pinnacle called it a meet, I will probably put some information up regardless of whether it is interesting or not. Keep your eyes open.

Michigan Racing Commissioner issues 2009 Thoroughbred horse racing schedule
Michigan Racing Commissioner issues 2009 mixed breed racing schedule
ORC Racing News: September 2008

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One year later…

Jockey Jareth Loveberry waits for his mount in the Great Lakes Downs paddock on October 10, 2007.

Jockey Jareth Loveberry waits for his mount in the Great Lakes Downs paddock on October 10, 2007.

A year ago today, the horses crossed the wire for the last time at Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon.

With that in mind, I figured this would be an ideal time to debut a new feature to the Claimer where I look back at some of the moments I have documented in my travels over the years. 

As you may or may not know, I have been blogging for at least five years; mostly over Livejournal. Over that span, I recorded several memorable journeys to Great Lakes Downs – sometimes to watch our horse Royal Charley, sometimes just to go to the races. Every once in a while I will tell a few tales based mostly on those posts. Perhaps they will bring back a few memories of GLD or give those who never got the chance to visit the track an opportunity to see what they missed. Either way, I hope you enjoy my stories.

And now, without further ado, gather ’round kids, it’s story time!

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Valley Loot named Pinnacle’s top Thoroughbred

Jockey Mike Allen twirls his whip in victory after Pinnacle Horse of the Meet Valley Loot's Sire Stakes victory.

Jockey Mike Allen twirls his whip in victory after Pinnacle Horse of the Meet Valley Loot's Sire Stakes win.

Winning is nothing new to Valley Loot.

The four-year-old Demaloot Demashoot filly has done little else but finish first in her career, winning Sire Stakes races in two straight years and tallying up eight other stakes victories at Pinnacle Race Course and Great Lakes Downs.

All that success led to plenty of honors, including 2007 Michigan Horse of the year. Valley Loot added yet another trophy to her case on Saturday after winning the inaugural Horse of the Meet title at Pinnacle Race Course.

Pretty much all of the information in this post comes from the Daily Racing Form website. To see the original story by C.A. Shoemaker, click here.

If you are still here, I will go on…

The awards were presented in the Pinnacle Pavilion following last Saturday’s card. Track announcer Matt Hook selected the winners in each division, as well as leading owner, trainer, jockey and claiming horse.

While many of winners were fairly predictable, there were a few that could be open to debate, namely the three-year-old male division. However, considering that the awards were based solely on performance at the New Boston racetrack, not on the individual’s complete body of work, .

With that in mind, let us take a look at this year’s winners…
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