Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Haiku Handicapper: Donn Handicap

Nicanor’s sideshow
Lil’ bro should hope he gets here
Let’s look at the field… 

———-

#1 – Finallymadeit
A quick turnaround
Pacesetter chokes at Gulfstream
What’s left in the tank?

#2 – Albertus Maximus
Breeders’ Cup winner
Dirt Mile wasn’t real dirt
Course, distance too much

#3 – Anak Nakal
Unfulfilled promise
Great at two, then not so much
Has a lot to prove

#4 – Bullsbay
Seems to like the dirt
Late runner should like distance
Could have some value

#5 – A.P. Arrow
Last year’s runner up
Not the same after Dubai
Time to bounce the “bounce”

#6 – On Board Again
Slow build to big reach
No big foes since long layoff
Needs race of his life

#7 – Arson Squad
Burns it up on dirt
Wins at distance, with Prado
I smell money here

#8 – Sir Whimsey
Money at Gulfstream
Hard to toss from exotics
Win looks doubtful though

#9 – Great Hunter
Still hunting for form
Another Dubai bouncer
Could use one more race

#10 – Einstein
Comes off a big win
Horse of the Year bid starts here
Long post a concern

———-

Who takes down the Donn?
Einstein makes it relative
Five, seven, watch four

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Richard the Handicapper

A few quick thoughts from last night’s Eclipse Awards broadcast…

– My Haiku Handicapper picks went 13 for 17. 

– The Horse of the Year voting wasn’t nearly as close as a lot of people speculated it to be. I figured the winner could be decided by how many votes get siphoned away by Big Brown. It turns out Big Brown’s 13 votes would have still made it a blowout. Either way, I’m glad to see Curlin get it.

– How burned must Michael Iavarone be after losing the owner award by one vote? 

– Speaking of IEAH, it will be interesting to see if Benny The Bull will be the same horse when he comes back from injury.

– Whose idea was it to have such a high podium at an awards ceremony where many of the people involved stand under five feet tall?

– I’m not sure how I feel about Zenyatta’s owner, Jerry Moss, getting additional stage time for a do-over speech. Was it the class thing to do to get back up there to thank Zenyatta’s jockeys after forgetting to do it the first time around? Without a doubt. I just worry about what kind of precedent this sets for future award shows. Now that it is out there, where do we draw the line for who gets a mulligan and to thank whom?

– The MVP of the night was easily Handicapper of the Year Richard Goodall. Yes, his speech went longer than it needed to, but he used his platform to its fullest extent and got the messages that many have been championing directly to the people that can do something about it. As much as we, as bloggers, like to think our messages are reaching the difference-makers in the industry, the only way we can know that we are even on their radar is for them to acknowledge us through comments or emails. There is no question that Goodall’s message got to his intended audience.

Could this guy be racing’s answer to Joe the Plumber?

Edit: Whoops, I read the wrong press release and got the names mixed up. My apologies to Mr. Goodall.

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Boom goes the dynamite

A few weeks ago, former Fox News punching bag Alan Colmes made an appearance on The Colbert Report, playing the role of the faux-conservative host’s whipping post. Early in the episode, Colmes was given a list of acceptable responses to Colbert’s opinions, one of which was the infamous catchphrase “boom goes the dynamite.”

Having not heard that phrase used in quite some time, I responded in two ways: 1) By laughing like an idiot; and 2) By heading over to Youtube to watch the famous video that begat the exclamation. 

For those of you who do not recall, the video stars a flustered replacement sportscaster from Ball State University who stumbled through the highlight reel after his teleprompter went on the fritz. As if the poor kid had not suffered enough, the video found its way online, and eventually garnered references from TV shows including Family Guy, Veronica Mars, SportsCenter and the aforementioned Colbert Report.

Where am I going with this, you ask? The next question of the day, of course!

After watching the doomed sportscaster, my mind soon shifted to thoughts of racetrack announcers. Don’t ask why. I don’t know how it happens either.

Anyway, I tried to decide on the worst race call I have ever heard. I recalled a few minor slips – a mispronounced name here, a wrong call on a close finish there – but nothing at the catastrophic level of “boom goes the dynamite.”

This is where you come in.

Even though I couldn’t single one out, I would love to hear your answer to the question: What is the worst individual race call you have ever heard?

Remember, this is a question regarding a single race, not an announcer’s overall body of work. If you think Tom Durkin is the worst announcer in the game, that is not what I am looking for (besides, Durkin takes his place among the best based on his calls of Arrrrr’s races at Saratoga last summer alone). But if he had a particularly atrocious showing somewhere along the line, fire away.

Obviously, this is an open-ended question, so there will not be a poll for this one, just comments. If I happen to come up with something later, I will be sure to chime in as well.

So have at it. I can’t wait to hear the horror stories.

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The Photo of the Year results show

September 27, 2008

The Michigan-Bred Claimer's 2008 Photo of the Year: Oscar Delgado talks things over with the stewards following a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows. Date Taken: September 27, 2008

As you can see by the large picture at the top of this post, the winner of my “2008 Photo of the Year” poll is the picture entitled “Stating His Case.” This victory is brought to you in part by  the Friends of the Mount Pleasant Meadows Phone in the Mailbox, headed up by chairperson Claire Novak. 

But seriously, thanks to everyone who voted and left comments on my pictures. I know these photos are far from Eclipse quality (even if this year’s winner was pretty debatable), but it was still a blast to shoot them and I hope you enjoyed the first-person glimpses into my unforgettable year.

Let’s take a look at how the votes shook out. For one last look at the nominees, click here.

Which is your favorite photo of 2008?

Four Votes (31%)
– “Stating His Case” (Oscar Delgado)
  

Two Votes (15%)
“Dreaming of the Spotlight” (Dreaming of Anna)
– “Rolling Start” (The Red Mile)

One Vote (8%)
– “The Champ” (Curlin) 
– “Best Seat in the House” (Mount Pleasant Meadows)
– “Leaving ’em all Behind” (Flame of Justice)
– “The Cross” (Oscar Delgado)
– “Final Preparations” (Phil Teator) 

No Votes (0%)
– “Pillar to Post” (Ricardo Barrios)
– “Down the Stretch” (Pinnacle Race Course)
– “Picture in Picture” (Jamie Theriot)
– “Tiz Springtime” (Tiz Now Tiz Then) 
– “Keeneland Clock” (Keeneland Race Course)
– “Lock and Load” (Ethel Redneck)

 Now for a few observations…

While I was not surprised by the winner of the poll, I did not expect to see so much support for “Rolling Start.” Aside from the fact that it was a Standardbred picture in a Thoroughbred blog, I figured the motion blur would turn people off. Glad to see people liked it though.

Also, it was mildly shocking to see the Curlin picture only receive a single vote. Though the subjects are not doing anything particularly noteworthy, I expected name recognition alone to net it a few more votes.

I’m looking at buying a new camera sometime in the near future; something with better zoom and picture quality. If and when that happens, expect business to pick up in the photo department. Hopefully next year’s “Photo of the Year” poll will leave this one in the dust.

Thanks again to everyone who voted and commented. I’ll have the next question up and ready to go as soon as I come up with something worth asking. See you then.

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Classic cars and classic winners

I don’t know the first thing about cars.

Prior to a halftime speech comparing our team to pistons in an engine, my JV football coach asked how many of us were “car guys.” I was the only one on the team that didn’t raise my hand.

Despite this lack of knowledge, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the recently concluded Barrett-Jackson classic car auction on the Speed Channel. With high-stakes drama, colorful characters, feel-good stories, fan interaction and prognosticators who were informative without getting too deep into the nuts and bolts, the broadcast managed to get me to care about a subject that I normally wouldn’t give a second look.

Of all the ways I have seen discussed to increase awareness to the sport of horse racing, I have seen very little mention of the sales ring. After a year where auctions were down across the board and the sport continued to struggle to find a television image and attract new fans, perhaps racing could pick up a thing or two from Barrett-Jackson.

What does Barrett-Jackson have that one of the big yearling or two-year-old sales at Keeneland, Saratoga or Ocala doesn’t?

Both have the kind of high-dollar drama that makes things normally enjoyable only to the players highly watchable (see: Poker). People love to watch others play with ridiculous amounts of money and decide who amongst themselves has the guts to spend the most. The kind of money Sheikh Mohammed, Michael Tabor and Ahmed Zayat blow at these things make the high bidders at Barrett-Jackson look like second-class citizens.  

Just look at The Green Monkey. Even if he never did amount to anything, his record-breaking purchase would have made compelling television.

Because an auction wouldn’t be fun to watch if all we saw was the ring, the broadcast would need some feature segments. First, get someone who knows their stuff to single out some horses who look like they could go for a price; siblings and foals of big-name horses, first-croppers, horses with killer conformation, etc. Then, have that person bring the horse out before the sale and show the audience exactly why the entry should draw the high bids. Obviously, there would be profile pieces of high-profile, and otherwise interesting, consigners and buyers as well. Perhaps a “where are they now” of successful alumni would be fun, too. 

Not to goad too much from the Barrett-Jackson production, but the fantasy bidding feature added a level of interactivity that made the broadcast even more enjoyable. Even though I did not participate in the contest to text or submit online my prediction for a specific lot in hopes of winning an HDTV, it was fun to guess how much the cars would go for with the others watching with me. Getting the viewers involved in the broadcast could help keep them from wandering to other channels if things get slow. 

Some could argue that a big draw of the Barrett-Jackson auction is the sense of history surrounding the cars being offered. It is not hard to generate interest in a car when it was owned by JFK or driven in a NASCAR event. In comparison, the horses are relatively unknown commodities who come from similar backgrounds, look the same and have done little of note to separate themselves from the rest aside from having famous parents.

That is why this project would have to market toward the future. While the cars will probably spend the rest of their days collecting dust in museums, the horses offered in these sales will someday be your wiseguy pick in the Kentucky Derby, an Eclipse Award winner or even just the horse that clinches your superfecta in the nightcap at Turfway Park. Either way, this is a chance for viewers to say they saw that horse way back when. Just look at the buzz that surrounds the NFL Draft for players who more than likely will be out of the league in four years or less. There is a market for potential, and these sales are teeming with it. 

The big question mark in this equation is figuring out which channel would air the auctions. TVG or HRTV would be the obvious choices, but giving the sales the attention they would deserve means cutting into the networks’ precious racing coverage, which means they aren’t making money through account wagering. Probably too hard a sell. The only other channel that immediately comes to mind is RFD TV and their viewership and production values are not at a level to make an undertaking like this successful. For this to work it has to look slick, and I don’t see that channel pulling it off.

Honestly, I am not sure where a program of this caliber would best fit. Then again, I just came up with this idea last night. We’ll worry about that little matter when we get one of the major sales on board.

So that’s my plan. Sure, it’s probably an incredible longshot, but it sure would be fun to see, wouldn’t it?

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The comeback cat

Lee Gates rides Binarebel, a quarter horse sired by Thoroughbred Binalong in the post parade at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Lee Gates rides Binarebel, a quarter horse sired by Thoroughbred stallion Binalong in the post parade at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

News came out today that recently pensioned sire Storm Cat will make a semi-comeback, artificially inseminating quarter horse mares for $20,000 a pop.

This announcement brings to mind three questions…

1. Why didn’t someone think to do this earlier?

2. How would this change things in both Thoroughbred and quarter horse racing/breeding if the experiment is successful? 

3. Would Walt Disney have gotten a theme park named after himself if his last name was something that didn’t roll off the tongue as easily, like “Blagojevich?”

Okay, the last one really doesn’t have anything to do with the situation at hand, but it is still a worthy question to ponder.

Anyway, I have my doubts about Storm Cat’s chances of duplicating his success on the drag racing circuit.

Though it can hardly be considered an accurate sampling of potential Thoroughbred/quarter horse crosses, the occasional cross-breed will find itself in the gates at Mount Pleasant Meadows. In most instances, the horse will have been sired by a Thoroughbred stallion who I would assume live covered a quarter horse mare.

Of all the instances I have witnessed of cross-breeds racing at Mount Pleasant, I can only recall one finding the winner’s circle – a gelding named Binarebel by local Thoroughbred sire Binalong. This serves quite to the contrary to my general impression of Binalong’s foals, who largely struggled at shorter tracks like Great Lakes Downs, but improved their form at tracks with longer stretches. It will be intriguing to see if Storm Cat’s foals will be able to show that initial burst needed to be successful in the quarter horse ranks after years of progeny bred to run at the classic distances.

It will also be worth keeping track of others following in Storm Cat’s footsteps into artificial breeding when they are no longer able to cover a mare. If he does hit it big and inspires a legion of copy “cats” (ah, puns) to do the same, it will be interesting to see how the quarter horse industry reacts. Will quarter horse stallion owners feel threatened by the potential influx of sires that are not of their kind? 

Perhaps AI to quarter horses could also be used as a last resort for stallions whose foals don’t live up to expectations. Even at a reduced stud fee, the chance to recoup a portion of the money invested in a stallion could be worth keeping him around for a few more years. Who knows? Maybe he just missed his calling.

This way too much speculation over a horse that has only officially impregnated one mare.

In other news, the positive reviews just keep rolling in for the blog you are reading right now. 

As was announced in a previous comment, my last post was chosen to be on Raceday 360’s “Best of the Wire” list, giving me two in a row. My recent Haiku Handicapper post breaking down the Eclipse awards also drew some notoriety from high places, landing on the front page of Equidaily. Thanks largely to that link, my blog’s view total reached an all-time high in recent days. The good folks at Equidaily even got into the game a bit with the link. Have a look…  

TODAYS FUNNY
Eclipse voters
Might be weeded out
If style trumped

Equidaily.com

Finally, this is the last call for voting in my Photo of the Year poll.  The winner will be announced and displayed the next time we convene and a new question will be presented for your amusement. See you then.

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Lessons not learned

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
–  George Santayana

Apparently the connections of the recently departed Go Between failed to get this memo. 

After the Grade 1-winning Point Given horse died in his stall following a cardiac episode, The Blood Horse reports owner/breeder Peter Vegso said the horse would be cremated and no further tests would be conducted to explore the cause of death.

With all due respect and condolences to the horse’s connections, this is not the thing to do.

In a post-Eight Belles world where every high-profile Thoroughbred death is put under scrutiny, people are going to raise questions about what caused Go Between’s heart to betray him.

Before I go on, let me state that I am in no way accusing anyone in the Go Between camp of any wrongdoing. Let’s get that out there right now.

However, there are people and groups (starts with a “P”, ends with an “ETA”) who live for days like this so they can leap out in front of the nearest camera and cry “inhumanity.” The only way to silence these rabble rousers is to provide clear documentation stating that what happened to Go Between was due to natural causes and nothing else. Opting to close the book so quickly leaves too much room for people to make up their own stories.

To understand why this is important, we need only to look back at everything the connections of Eight Belles went through this summer following his star filly’s breakdown. Trainer Larry Jones even cited the public’s treatment following the race as a factor in his leanings toward retirement. Granted, his horse broke down on the biggest stage of them all and not in the barn following a workout, but in the end they are different roads to the same destination.

Now imagine the firestorm that would have erupted had Jones and owner Rick Porter not decided to schedule a detailed autopsy for Eight Belles. People would have accused them of pumping the horse up with enough drugs to give Keith Richards pause whether they had done it or not. Getting the tests done may not have gotten the naysayers completely off their backs, but it helped.

Again, I am not making accusations. I’m just looking out for the best interests of Go Between’s connections and ask them to consider the examples of the past before sending their horse to his final resting place. It may cost a little more now, but just think of the stress it will save in the long run.

A few other spare thoughts…

– My most recent Haiku Handicapper entry breaking down the Eclipse Award nominees made Raceday 360’s “Best of the Wire” list. This could very well be the most exciting thing to happen to me in 2009.

– Am I the only one who is looking forward to Da’Tara’s stallion career if only because someone will inevitably name one of his foals “Da Bears?”

– A question I posed on Foolish Pleasure‘s blog and will ask you as well: Does Rick Porter/Fox Hill Farm recieve any owner Eclipse buzz if Eight Belles had not broken down at the Kentucky Derby? Also, will people take that (and the potential PETA backlash of giving Porter the award, even a year and a half later) into consideration if Old Fashioned and Friesan Fire go on to put him in the discussion in 2009? 

– I’m going to keep my “Photo of the Year” poll up for a little while longer. Be sure to get your vote in if you have not already. If anything else, cast a vote to break the tie between the two leaders (or get your friends together and vote for a new leader!). A link to the nominees can be found above and below the poll, as well as a few posts down from here.

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