Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Haiku Handicapper: Fountain of Youth Stakes

One day, two big preps
Flipped a coin, this race was tails
Best do what it says

– – – – – – – – – –

#1 – Bee Cee Cee
Hits board, but way back
A tier below Florida’s best
Look for a step back

#2 – Theregoesjojo
Rough trip in Bashford
Long layoffs will need shortened
Needs to prove his class

#3 – Notonthesamepage
Looks like a quick read
Distance tries not his best work
In shape to improve

#4 – Take the Points
Left Florida behind
For Sham wow in southern Cal
Scratch from your programs

#5 – Jack Spratt
Jack jumping in class
Handles distance, but on turf
This isn’t his race

#6 – Rocketing Returns
Outrun in last start
Poor returns on bigger stage
Not a big time horse

#7 – Beethoven
Closer runs best long
Can he bounce back from last start?
A threat with clean trip

#8 – Break Water Edison
Last start not so great
Hit or miss in graded stakes
Derby hopes at risk?

#9 – Capt. Candyman Can
Distance, class no sweat
Lone graded winner at three
Should run third at worst

#10 – Taqarub
Garcia’s choice mount
Quick starter, won’t be alone
Wins big or burns out

#11 – Quality Road
A Virginia-bred
Raw, but love his sire, works
Could crack exotics

#12 – This Ones for Phil
Came alive last out
Can Dutrow bump keep going?
Not a believer

– – – – – – – – – –

Who’s on my ticket?
The Fountain’s spiked with Captain
Seven, eleven


Filed under The Haiku Handicapper, Triple Crown

It begins…

Saw this in my inbox earlier today. Felt the need to share…

This notice is to inform you that one or more of your horses has worked out. 
Mrs. Murphy
Your Comment: 

Date: February 25, 2009
Distance: Three Furlongs
Time: 40:40 Breezing
Track Condition: Fast
Surface: Dirt
Rank: 30/33

From: Equibase Virtual Stable 

For those of you who do not recall why this is important (check out #6), I am listed as the breeder to Mrs. Murphy, which entitles me to 10% of the gross purse if she wins a race in Michigan.

Aside from the obvious monetary interest I have in Mrs. Murphy, I will also cheer for her because her bloodlines run several generations back into our family stable. Her dam, Janies Enjoyment, and granddam, Janies Echo both ran under my grandpa’s colors at Great Lakes Downs and Detroit Race Course respectively. The fact that she was named in honor of my late grandma Murphy gives her sentimental value as well. 

Of course, if she runs at Hawthorne, this gets me nothing but an excuse for a road trip, but it is still exciting to see her owner/trainer has her at the track and is getting her ready to start somewhere. For my bank account’s sake, I hope she holds off until Pinnacle Race Course opens up in June, but I have no problem driving to Hawthorne or her trainer’s other out-of-state base, Presque Isle Downs, to see her run her first race. Lord knows I haven’t driven longer distances to see a live horse race.

If and when she is confirmed to start, expect full and exhaustive coverage right here. I am fully prepared to blow off class to cover this.

Come on, people. Get excited!


Filed under Pinnacle Race Course, The Family Business

Michigan owners and breeders need your help

As some of you may have heard, one of the key points of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year is significant cuts to the Agriculture sector, including major reductions and reconfiguration of funds in the racing industry.

From a letter sent out to members of the Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association:

“The Governor has made a recommendation to reduce the appropriation to the Ag Equine Development by $5,200,000.00 and use the remaining $8,100,000.00 solely for support of equine purses and regulation. What this means to you as an owner or as a breeder, all the incentive programs will be taken away, the owners & breeders awards as well as the Michigan Bred supplement monies.”

To put it simply, no breeder’s awards means breeding in this state becomes financially impossible. No breeders means no Michigan-breds, which will spell the death of racing in this state. This can not be allowed to happen.

Because I am currently working on a 1,500-2,000 word story on this very subject for a class, I am going to abstain from writing at length on the subject so as not to have my professor discover this and cry “self-plagiarism.” 

However, that will not stop me from linking you to others who have written about Gov. Granholm’s proposed cuts.

Andrew at Turf Link has lots of useful information for those looking to learn more about the subject, including a link to the entire budget proposal document. 

Also, be sure to visit the MTOBA website for more information regarding the status of owner and breeder awards.

If you are a Michigan horseman, a friend of one, or operate a business a Michigan horseman frequents, I encourage you to visit the MTOBA website to get more information and download the letters to send to the three Senate Agriculture Subcommittee members asking them to consider the long-term health of racing in this state when making their decisions.

Fans and Horseplayers, if you frequent one of the Michigan racetracks, play one of the state’s tracks over simulcast, or just enjoy watching a Michigan-bred run at your favorite racetrack, I also encourage you to contact the members of the subcommittee and let them know how much Michigan racing means to you.

For those interested in taking action, here are the letters offered from the MTOBA website. If you are not an owner or breeder but would still like to help, the addresses of the subcommittee members are listed at the top of each page.

Cameron Brown – Chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture

Ron Jelinek – Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture

Martha Scott – Minority Chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture

For the sake of horse racing in the state of Michigan, I hope the state’s horsemen can count on your support. Thank you for your time.


Filed under Politics

Pinnacle owner Jerry Campbell resigns from Magna board

Jerry Campbell, owner of Pinnacle Race Course, resigned Friday from his position on Magna Entertainment Corp.’s Board of Directors.

Campbell served as the board’s lead director and was a member of the company’s audit committee.

In 2000, Campbell, then chairman of Great Lakes Downs, was named MEC’s president and chief executive officer. The Muskegon racetrack was purchased by MEC a year later.

About seven months after taking the helm, Campbell resigned from his positions with MEC to sit on the board of directors. Magna chairman Frank Stronach eventually took the top position, which he holds today. 

Shortly after it was announced that Great Lakes Downs would close, Campbell began plans for Pinnacle Race Course near Detroit. The track hosted its inaugural card on July 18, 2008.

Campbell is the second Magna board member with Michigan ties to leave the company this year. Charlie J. Williams, another board member on their audit committee, resigned from his position on January 26. Williams, a Thoroughbred owner and breeder, had served on the board since February 2007.

Campbell’s departure leaves MEC short of the NASDAQ-required three independent directors on their audit committee. Failure to comply by their next shareholders meeting on February 20, 2010 could result in MEC’s shares being de-listed from the NASDAQ market.


MEC Press Release
Magna announces timing spinoff” – Thoroughbred Times
“Magna president resigns as company moves to Toronto” – Thoroughbred Times
Magna sells Great Lakes Downs” – Thoroughbred Times (by yours truly)
“Williams resigns from Magna Board of Directors” – Thoroughbred Times”
Explanation of NASDAQ Marketplace Rule  4350 (d) – Progenics Pharmecuticals Press Release

Special Thanks to The Business of Racing.

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Filed under Great Lakes Downs, Pinnacle Race Course

The 2012 Kentucky Derby Future Wager

I’m not afraid to say it. Picking the Kentucky Derby winner three months in advance is too easy.

By the time the first pool opens, the potential winners on the first Saturday in May can be whittled down to about 40 or 50 horses. That’s practically a flip of the coin.

If you’re looking for a true challenge, the real game’s in picking the horse that will wear the roses before it even stands and nurses. Somewhere out there, the next great Thoroughbred champion is wandering beside its mother on still-wobbly legs or perhaps still inside its mother’s womb waiting to learn of its destiny.

By the time Derby season rolls around, the race and all the horses on the the Derby trail are old news. It is time to start looking deeper into the future. It’s never too soon to think about who is going to be the classic winner three years from now, and if people are going to be thinking,they might as well be betting. Just imagine the payoffs that will be generated when all 36,000 horses born in North America in this year’s crop will be put into play.

With that in mind, it is time to look at some of the early contenders in the 2012 Long Range Wager. Because none of the following horses likely have any on-track experience, I am going to leave the oddsmaking to the betting public.

Bay filly (Storm Cat – Western Princess, by Gone West)

As the first foal from Storm Cat’s final crop of Thoroughbreds (he’s moved on to side projects), this Kentucky-bred filly was shouldered with the burden of going out with a bang as soon as her hooves touched the ground. With Mr. Prospector and Secretariat on the top side and Deputy Minister and Alydar on the bottom, her ancestors sure aren’t hurting her cause.

Filly (Sun King – Allemande Right, by Affirmed)

Whenever a three-year-old race goes off in Dubai, it seems there is always at least one mention that the true sophomores are running against four-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere. For those looking for a way to give their rivals a similar disadvantage, this horse is about as close as one can get. Born on January 1, this Louisiana-bred will have an age advantage over just about everyone else on the Derby trail. Obviously, every horse is different, but those extra weeks and months could mean more time to develop both physically and emotionally.

Bay Colt (Jazil – Art Affair, by Mineshaft)

The 2006 Belmont Stakes winner’s first foal is about as regally bred as they come, with bloodlines going through horses including champion broodmare Better than Honour. This cross has something of a precedence, as the sire’s dam and the foal’s damsire (try saying that five times fast) produced 2008 Peter Pan Stakes winner Casino Drive. If Jazil passes on his screaming closing style to his foals, this could be a fun one to watch.

Foal in Utero (Dynaformer – La Ville Rouge, by Carson City)

If at first you succeed, then you don’t succeed, do you still try, try again? Roy and Gretchen Jackson do. This foal, due February 21, will be the fourth in the series of Dynaformer/La Ville Rouge crosses, following brothers Barbaro, Nicanor and Lentenor. If the Jacksons decide to continue with the theme of naming these foals after the foxhounds in a cherished painting, then this one, expected to be a colt, will likely be named Margano. The other two remaining names, Sereno and Calypso, have already been taken. Regardless of the name, the cross has already produced desirable results and the name recognition forever linked to Barbaro’s brothers will give them Derby buzz before they even open their eyes.

Foal in Utero (Smart Strike – Sherriff’s Deputy, by Deputy Minister)

Another example of trying to get the goose to lay another golden egg. This foal will be a full sibling to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Clearly, those are some hefty shoes to fill, but if it can win the Kentucky Derby, it will have done one of the few things big brother couldn’t. How ironic would it be if this horse ended up becoming a turf champion?

Foal in Utero (Giant’s Causeway – Rags To Riches, by A.P. Indy)

The 2012 Kentucky Derby could also bring about a sort of rematch between the first two finishers of the 2007 Belmont Stakes, with a full sibling of runner-up Curlin squaring off against the first foal out of winner Rags To Riches. Based on name recognition alone, this foal ought to bring an absurdly high amount at the sales. The question will be whether it can live up to its hall-of-fame caliber pedigree. As of right now, I’m pegging this foal as my pick among those yet to be born.

The Mutuel Field (Everyone Else)

It’s hard to say no to a proposition that includes all but six of the roughly 36,000 North American horses in this year’s crop. Then again, 1-100 shouldn’t begin to describe how heavily this would be bet. Clearly, this is the safest bet on the board, but it’s unimaginative and could only pay pennies on the dollar. Where is the fun in that?


Disclaimer: The Kentucky Derby Long Range Wager is not responsible for tickets lost, forgotten about or biodegraded from the time of the wager to the time of the race. We suggest placing it in a small time capsule with some news clippings and other present-related materials to be opened at a later date. Because of the constant advances in gaming technology, the machines used to place your wager may be obsolete by the time of the race. If so, the ticket will likely be shredded by the new machine and no refund will be given. 

Second Disclaimer: If the first disclaimer was not enough of a giveaway, this wager does not really exist. Obviously, I do not represent the Kentucky Derby Future Wager or any outlets that offer the wager. But if one of these horses ends up wearing the roses, just know I totally called it first.


Filed under Commentary, Triple Crown

Longtime Michigan-based announcer Jack Riggs dies

Jack Riggs, a familiar voice to Detroit-area racegoers for most of his 50+ year announcing career, died Friday, Feb. 6 in Englewood, Florida. He was 79.

Riggs called Thoroughbred, harness and Greyhound races in seven states and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. In Michigan, he took the announcer’s post at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, Northville Downs and the defunct Detroit Race Course.

His racetrack announcing career began at Gulfstream Park at the age of 19. After taking time off to serve in the Navy during the Korean War, Riggs returned to the Hallandale Beach, Florida racetrack.

In the 1950s, Riggs played a key role in the first TV show broadcast from a Michigan racetrack. He was later part of the nightly replay shows from Hazel Park and Northville Downs.

Aside from his announcing duties, Riggs made appearances on TV and radio for many of the major networks, including ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

In 2003, Riggs retired from announcing and moved with his wife, Nancy, to Englewood.

Riggs was an honorary lifetime member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association, the highest individual honor the organization awards. He was also given the Appreciation Award from the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association for his lifetime of service.  

A memorial service will be held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 508 Rivers Street, Venice, FL at 11:00 a.m. on March 27, 2009.

United States Trotting Association
Detroit Free Press

Thanks to Jeff Klenner for sending the information.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Deal or No Deal

  Michigan-Bred Hot Chili (with T.D. Houghton aboard) was considered part of the field in the initial 2008 Derby Future Wager Pool. Though his time on the Derby trail was brief, a fellow field horse, Big Brown more than picked up the slack. 

Michigan-Bred Hot Chili (with T.D. Houghton aboard) was considered part of the mutuel field in the initial 2008 Derby Future Wager Pool. Though his time on the Derby trail was brief, a fellow field horse, Big Brown, more than picked up the slack.

 To paraphrase a banner ad for last year’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool, if you pick the winner in May, you’re smart. If you do it in February, you’re a freakin’ genius. 

The freakin’ geniuses of the world will once again have their shot to prove their superiority following the recent release of the odds for this year’s first pool. Though the figures will fluctuate by the end of the wagering period there are a few horses that stand out either positively or negatively based on their initial odds. 

With a limited time before the pool closes and with the silhouette of the banker ominously staring down at you, it is time to make a decision. Deal or no deal?

Listed below are a few of the horses I would press the flashing button for if I had the money, and some I would leave behind to open more suitcases.

For a look at the entire pool, click here.


I Want Revenge
Odds: 50-1

Firstly, do not take this as an endorsement that I like I Want Revenge to win the whole thing. He’s at 50/1 for a reason. However, he has shown marked improvement since stretching out over a mile a few races back, finishing no less than third since then. He has gotten caught in the stretch by Pioneerof The Nile in his last two races, but he turns out great works and could be sitting on a big race. At that price, he could be worth taking a small waiver on just in case.

No Deal

Midshipman/Vineyard Haven 
Odds: 12-1 

Some may call me crazy for turning down 12-1 on an Eclipse Award winner and another finalist, but if one of these two find the winner’s circle on Derby Day, they will have done so by taking the long road less traveled against what many would consider to be lesser competition. I would need higher odds than that to feel good about this bet.


Old Fashioned
Odds: 10-1

Unless he absolutely tanks as a three-year-old, this should be the last time he comes close to being offered at 10-1 between now and the Derby. Though I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid on this horse until I see how he handles early pace pressure, his wins have been impressive. If he can live up to the potential he showed during his juvenile campaign, this could be the easiest money offered in a long time.

No Deal

Stardom Bound
Odds: 12-1

That’s some awfully low odds for a horse that is only being considered for a Derby run. Also, despite the recent successes of Rags to Riches and Eight Belles, I still like to see some proof that a filly can run with the boys before I go throwing too much money at her. Even if she wins the Santa Anita Derby, she should leave the gates in Louisville at comparable odds to what she’s giving now. If you like her that much, wait until she is a sure thing to run.


Pioneerof The Nile
Odds: 20-1

The Zayat homebred has stepped up his game considerably since last year’s win in the CashCall Futurity, becoming the leader of the California Derby contingent. This fact alone makes him an incredible value at 20-1. Until someone proves otherwise, all of the California-based horses will bear the artificial surface red flag, but no one knows how that could change with the Derby preps at Santa Anita being run on a new surface. Either way, he is worth a play at this price.

No Deal

This Ones for Phil
Odds: 12-1

Do I need to tell you to avoid the horse who’s not even nominated to the Triple Crown? Even if IEAH Stables ponies up the six grand for a late entry, he ought to bring higher odds leaving the gates at Churchill Downs than he is giving here. Have patience with this one.


The Pamplemousse
Odds: 30-1

A gray horse who sets glacial opening fractions, then finds another gear in the stretch. Where have we seen this before? Granted, his San Rafael effort was hardly against world-class competition, but front-running winners with that extra gear are hard to come by on artificial surfaces. The same questions plague him that follow Old Fashioned, but he has the same upside with a higher payoff.

No Deal

The Mutuel Field (All Others) 
Odds: 5-2 

Give me all the smug remarks you want about how this was the ticket that was cashed last year, but at such low odds, making money at this proposition is near impossible. Big Brown barely made this bet profitable last year, winning the Derby at 5/2 after giving odds of 3/1 as a part of the mutuel field. Big Brown was also a freak that won out of the 20 hole. Barring someone coming out of nowhere and absolutely crushing everything in his path, no one in this category should go off at odds lower than 5/2. And besides, “the field” is such an unimaginative bet. Come on, get creative with your wager, people!


Filed under Triple Crown

Racing without representation

Racing takes on a new level of importance when the fans have a connection to the people and horses involved in the sport. Royal Charley and jockey Tommy Molina are led into the winner's circle at Great Lakes Downs.

Racing takes on a new level of importance when the fans have a connection to the people and horses involved in the sport. Royal Charley and jockey Tommy Molina are led into the winner's circle at Great Lakes Downs.

A lot of discussion has taken place lately regarding horse racing’s position in the general public’s consciousness compared to those of other major sports.

For those of you who have not been keeping tabs on the situation, racing is so far behind the big four sports (I still count hockey, damn it), it makes Nicanor’s finish look like a neck and neck stretch duel (zing!). The issue has been discussed in the Blogosphere and at the industry meetings, and it seems as though everyone involved is trying to figure out the best way to catch up.        

I can’t say I have an answer. I’m not the one getting paid the big bucks to figure these things out. What I do have is a point of improvement (with an assist from a previous comment by Amateurcapper) that someone with more time, energy and resources than I could use to increase awareness for the sport and perhaps boost the handle a bit.

One of the big reasons racing lingers behind the major sports, both team and individual, is because fans are given little reason to follow their favorite horses and people outside of the few minutes they have have a ticket in their hand with the horse’s number. More effort must be made to get the fans to personally identify with some aspect of the game – to follow a horse or a stable with such passion that said horse or stable comes to represent the people that cheer them on. Once their stake in the game becomes something more than monetary, the fans will keep coming back.

The reason the major team sports have their fanbases is because their operations represent cities, states and other geographic regions. Whether or not people identify with the players themselves, they identify with the colors and logos on their jerseys and what they stand for. If the Dallas Mavericks suddenly became Mark Cuban’s Mavericks and only considered their hometown a loose base of operations, the people of Dallas would likely care significantly less about the team.

As for the individual sports, the majority of the fanbases tend to follow particular athletes for two reasons: 1) Sheer dominance (Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, The Williams Sisters), or 2) The fan hails from the same city/country as the athlete (Every athlete to have competed in the Olympic Games. Would anyone in the U.S. care about Michael Phelps if he came from Latvia?).

The exception to this rule is NASCAR, but you already know how I feel about NASCAR.

Now that we have identified what draws the fans in, we must examine what the sport of horse racing offers that can generate that same passion.

The obvious answer to this problem is ownership. The races take on a whole new meaning when one of your own is in the gates, and with partnerships and syndicates on the rise and horses going for firesale prices at the sales, opportunities to get in the game are becoming more and more plentiful. Of course, with the current state of the economy, owning even part of a horse is nearly impossible to justify financially for the average person, even at the lowest levels.

As for attracting fans based on dominance, the only standard anyone outside of the know respects is the Triple Crown, and those are too hard to come by to rely on for anything more than a welcome boost. Next.

This brings us back to regional pride. Every horse comes from somewhere. Where the horse is bred and where it is stabled means it represents the home team for up to two different groups. Personally, I feel a great sense of pride when a Michigan-bred goes to another track, especially a big one, and wins a race. If there were a way to channel this “my state is better than yours” mentality into some kind of yearlong competition or series of races, it could have the potential to get people interested in rooting for their home team.

The big problem with this idea is that the overwhelming majority of the national-level horses are based or bred in Kentucky, New York, California or Florida. Any kind of direct state vs. state competition would be thoroughly dominated by the big dogs unless the states were put into divisions based on size and class like high school sports.

The powers that be have already tried the regional competition idea on a global scale in the Breeders’ Cup with a sort of “U.S. vs. the world” angle. The general American dominance in both wins and entries has put a damper on this drawing point in the past, but with the success of the European-based turf horses on Santa Anita’s Pro Ride surface, this could definitely be something worth looking at for this year’s World Championships.

Like I said, I really don’t have any answers. Just a few thoughts to ponder.

What this sport needs is a way for the casual (or at least low-to-non-betting) fans to connect with some aspect of the game, be it the horses, jockeys, trainers, owners or otherwise on the level that their successes and failures become “our” successes and failures. When the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in last Sunday’s Super Bowl, no one in the Steel City was exclaiming “they won!” Though a small number of people actually accomplished the feat of winning the Super Bowl, millions claimed the win as their own. Once racing can accomplish this, it will be in business.


Filed under Commentary

The Haiku Handicapper: Donn Handicap recap, etc.

Maximized results
A gutsy run by the one
Cup win was legit


Nicanor’s letdown
Big bro’s shadow gets bigger
Derby hopes look dim


This one doesn’t have anything to do with today’s races. Just something I came up with…

Bred in Lexington
To win big in Louisville
Derby contender

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Filed under The Haiku Handicapper