Monthly Archives: December 2008

My Christmas wish list

Jockey Lee Gates gallops Bobbin' For Loot in the post parade prior to a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Jockey Lee Gates gallops Bobbin' For Loot in the post parade prior to a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

As the holiday season enters its creamy chocolate center, it’s about time to figure out what I want for Christmas. Being as though Christmas lists are all the rage in the racing blog community, I figured I should throw my hat in the ring as well.

The items on this list are not necessarily for me (or even real at times), but seeing them get delivered would make this a very happy holiday season for yours truly.  

(In no particular order)

1. A quasi-legitimate Michigan-bred Triple Crown trail contender
–  I know Sheik Mohammed has Santa’s (or I suppose the Muslim equivalent of St. Nick’s) ear for a Kentucky Derby winner this year, so I have no problem conceding that wish to His Highness. For now, I would be perfectly happy to see a Michigan-bred cause a minor stir in a few Derby preps and work itself into the fringe of the “who’s in, who’s out” discussions similar to Kentucky Bear’s run this spring. Entry in the Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes would not be necessary, but sure would be neat.

At the moment, the only horse with even a shred of a chance of checking this one off in 2009 is Michigan’s two-year-old of the year Mr. Conclusive, who won all four of his races this year by a combined 19 lengths. As I have stated in the past, I would love to see him give it a shot, but I am willing to be patient on this one.

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The Haiku Handicapper: CashCall Futurity Recap

Zayat by daylight
Revenge is fleeting, four strides
Let’s see it on dirt


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The Haiku Handicapper: CashCall Futurity

Another big race
Winter break leaves me with time
Cali, here I come 


#1 – Azul Leon
Early juv darling
Hasn’t shown he can stretch out
Crossroads race this soon?

#2 – J P Jammer
A local prospect
Good efforts, nothing stands out
Not too exciting 

#3 – Hype
Improving turf horse
Distance won’t be a problem
Buy into the hype 

#4 – Axel Foley
Euro stakes winner
Will race with load off his back
Too much left to prove 

#5 – Pioneerof The Nile
New Baffert trainee
Runs the distance in his sleep
Time to prove his class

 #6 – Chocolate Candy
Improved with distance 
Money jock, but a class jump
CashCall’s sleeper pick

#7 – I Want Revenge
Best name in the field
A likely front-end burnout
Would need big effort 

#8 – Ventana
Spanish for “window”
English for “distance issues”
Great works, not today 

#9 – Frumious
Source of early speed
Three straight wins, but in San Fran
Probably outclassed 

#10 – Bittel Road
Turf star tries fake dirt
Great closer, shaky sprinter
Which horse will we see?

#11- Mr. Rod
A former claimer
Early speed will seal his fate
Could last for super 

#12 – Mark S The Cooler
The field’s lone maiden
Really, does this ever work?
Don’t see a win here 


Who answers the call?
Five sends them up the river
Ten if rode well, three

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Campbell Stables, Arnold Farm clean up at MTOBA year-end awards

After three years of success on the racetrack, the only question that remains surrounding Campbell Stables’ prized filly Valley Loot is where to go from here.

The four-year-old Demaloot Demashoot filly threw two more awards, including another Michigan Horse of the Year nod, onto her already impressive heap of honors at Sunday’s Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association awards banquet and silent auction.

I always enjoy going to the MTOBA banquet. It gives me an opportunity to talk to people in the business and acquire some memorabilia and reading material for the coming year in the silent auction.

However, being a quasi-broke college student in a room full of people with money (I know a lot of horsemen are hurting financially right now, but if you can afford to feed a double-digit herd for more than 15 minutes, you probably have more in the bank than I do) makes going home with the big-ticket items tough.

This year’s marquee item(s) was a set of paintings, one of Barbaro and one of Secretariat, signed by each horse’s owner and jockey. I do not recall how much the set sold for, but the last time I checked on it, the high bid was somewhere in the $500 range.

I was disappointed to see some of the higher-end items I had my eye on (an A.P. Indy halter and a print of a Keeneland painting) go for more than I was willing to spend, but I still managed to leave with $120 worth of books for me and Christmas gifts for the family.  

One more thing about the auction. It was surprising to see most of the stallion seasons go completely untouched.

Though I did not watch the bids that closely, the only stallion I saw getting any action at all was Service Stripe, who will make his return to Michigan in 2009 after standing in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.Unless someone placed some bids after I last checked their sheets, proven sires like Demaloot Demashoot and promising ones like Elusive Hour and Monetary Star did not receive a single bid. 

If I had a broodmare, I could have done quite well for myself, snagging up breedings to some decent Michigan stallions for less than half their posted stud fees. Of course, the breeding and sales industries are hurting so badly, both locally and nationally, that it seems no one is looking to breed, and rightfully so. From that standpoint, I can understand the lack of bids, but from the perspective of someone constantly looking for that good deal, I was left scratching my head.

But you’re not here to read about my fortunes in the silent auction, are you?

Let’s have a look at this year’s award nominees and see who took home the prizes…

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Luau in the winner’s circle

As if people needed another reason to go to Hawaii, it turns out the collection of islands grouped into a state used to have a somewhat active racing industry.

While researching each state’s anabolic steroid policy over the summer, I half-jokingly searched for a Hawaiian jockey club figuring none of the islands had the room to accommodate something as spatially wasteful as a racetrack. After discovering this page, I found out I was quite wrong.

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Jackson Harness Raceway closes its doors

For the third time in the last four years, another Michigan racetrack is closing up shop.

This time the fallen party is Jackson Harness Raceway in the southern part of the state.

MTR Gaming Group Inc., the track’s majority owner, announced Thursday that the Jackson racetrack would cease all simulcast wagering at the facility and would not schedule live dates for 2009.

The group also owns Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino in West Virginia and Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania – both of which are racinos. MTR Gaming has been trying to do the same at Jackson since purchasing the track in 2005, but it never came about. The group has lost at least $3.6 million connected to the track over the last three years.

JHR continues the trend of Michigan racetracks going dark for good over the last decade. In 1998, Detroit Race Course flatlined and was subsequently flattened by the wrecking ball. Saginaw Harness Raceway closed down in 2005 followed by Great Lakes Downs in 2007. 

I’m not going to go into a long spiel about the state’s failure to support the racing industry, but one has to wonder how much blood has to be on the hands of the Michigan state government before they realize their patient is bleeding to death. I’m not saying slots or advance deposit wagering are the be-all end-all answer to the industry’s problems, but when three of state’s tracks shut down in four years, someone in Lansing has to realize something has to be done.

This apathy can not be allowed to continue if horse racing is to have any hope for long-term survival in the state of Michigan.

Jackson Harness Raceway closes – Jackson Citizen Patriot
Harness drivers will have to travel – Jackson Citizen Patriot
Michigan HBPA

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Turn on the bright lights

  A field of trotters gets ready to go at The Red Mile.

A field of trotters gets ready to go at The Red Mile.

 On my second to last day in Lexington this summer, I decided to try something different and went to The Red Mile, the city’s harness track.

I have never considered myself a fan of harness racing. The whole concept of discouraging a horse from running at its fullest potential just to conform to a specific running style seems as foreign to me as race walking. 

This particular evening did little to change my opinion on this version of the sport. I didn’t cash a single ticket and had a general uncertainty about what was going on most of the time. 

My time at The Red Mile did, however, rekindle one aspect of the game that I found myself sorely missing – night racing under the lights.

Having spent my adolescence playing the races at Great Lakes Downs, I grew up with night racing. It made sense – run the races when people were out of work and other daytime commitments so they could blow off some steam after a hard day’s work or have a weekend night out. Plus, they made it possible for me to make the hour and a half drive from Mount Pleasant after classes for a weekday card.

Racehorses look different under the lights. They blur. The gray ones glow. It’s the same game, but there is some irresistible quality about night races that has always made me a fan.

However, I found out as I expanded  my horizons to other racetracks that night racing was far from the norm. In fact, it seemed as though the time slot was reserved for the lowest rung of the Thoroughbred food chain and…shudder…harness racing. Even night-based tracks like Mountaineer move up to the afternoon time slot for their major race days.

My night racing experiences ended with last year’s closing of GLD, which meant I had to get used to afternoon racing in the daytime.

I will admit, it has its perks. There is simply nothing that can top the proverbial “beautiful day for racing.” Plus, the weather is generally warmer in the fall months and it is much easier to take pictures when the sun is out. The early start times also mean a higher likelihood of me getting home on the same day I left.

Some have suggested that Pinnacle Race Course would benefit from a switch to evening post times where there is less competition for the wagering dollar. Because there are not currently lights on the racetrack, the main obstacle is getting them built, which would be another hit to Pinnacle’s already tight budget.

To race at night, the Michigan horsemen would also have to find a way to remove the “6:45 Rule” from the state’s Horse Racing Law of 1995.

For those of you who hate reading through legislative mumbo jumbo, the rule states that if a Thoroughbred track is in the same town as a standardbred track (Pinnacle is within a stone’s throw of two), the Thoroughbred facility can not conduct live racing after 6:45 p.m. and the sulkies can not run until after that time.

Pinnacle ran smack dab into the 6:45 rule on its opening day when gate troubles caused major delays. The races were finished slightly past that time with a lot of hustling (post parades were nonexistent after about the fifth race) and the blessing of the racing commissioner, but it was one of those instances where the obscure rule that no one remembers came into play. It appears Aqueduct recently found itself in a similar situation as well.

With all of the talk about too many tracks fighting over the same blocks of time and saturating the market, one has to wonder if more tracks will consider switching to later post times to spread things out and perhaps capitalize on a softer market.

With that, I present you with the next poll question:

When do you like your live racing:  In the afternoon sun or under the lights at night?

As with all my polls, be sure to vote for your choice in the upper-right corner of the page. Also, feel free to share your opinions and experiences with day and/or night racing in the comments.

By the way, a special thanks goes out to whoever wrote “Free lifetime pass for Joe Nevills” in the “Other” category after I broke down the previous poll. Even though Pinnacle did not charge admission last year, giving me free admission should they decide to start charging would be an immediate improvement. Whoever you are, I like the cut of your jib.

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The Phase 2 results show

The future site of the Pinnacle Race Course grandstand.

The future site of the Pinnacle Race Course grandstand.

The people have spoken.

According to the readers of this remote internet outpost, the two Phase 2 projects Pinnacle Race Course should focus the most energy on are building a permanent grandstand and installing a turf course.

For a little background information on the topic, click here.

Let’s have a look at the results…

Which “Phase 2” addition to Pinnacle Race Course is your highest priority?

Four votes (36%)
– Completed Grandstand/Clubhouse
– Turf Course

Two Votes (18%)
– Track Lighting

One Vote (9%)
– Other (not specified)

No votes
– Completed Paddock
– Permanent Tote Board
– Backstretch Expansion
– Additional Betting Windows
– Expanded Parking

Thanks to everyone that voted. Look for a new poll question in the coming days. 

As for my thoughts?

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