Monthly Archives: November 2009

ORC approves Pinnacle’s 2010 schedule

From the Michigan HBPA website…

2010 RACE DATES ISSUED: Commissioner Lockwood approved the following dates for  Pinnacle Race Course’s 2010 season at 84 days.

June 4 – June 27 Friday, Saturday and Sunday

June 29- October 31 Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday

The 84 race dates approved by the Office of Racing Commissioner is an increase of 12 days from the 72 live dates conducted by the New Boston track in 2009. Pinnacle was originally scheduled for 83 dates in 2009, but cuts to the ORC by Gov. Jennifer Granholm prior to the start of the meet forced the track to cut dates and use the purse money to fund the regulatory organization.

For more information on the approved dates, as well as quotes from trainer Bob Gorham and HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle, a Blood Horse story can be found here.


Filed under Pinnacle Race Course

Guest Post: Thinking about synthetic surfaces after Breeders’ Cup weekend

Jeff Klenner photo - JPG

Jeff Klenner discusses the impact of synthetic racing surfaces following last weekend's Breeders' Cup. (Photo provided by Klenner)

An exciting weekend of horse racing action in the Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita last weekend has left Jeff Klenner musing about the virtues of the synthetic racing surfaces now used at all three “major league” tracks in Southern California: Hollywood Park, Santa Anita Park, and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

First question about Synthetic Surfaces: Safer than traditional dirt tracks or not?

From what I understand, the evidence thus far is insufficient to support the assertion that synthetic tracks result in fewer catastrophic breakdowns.  However, in the course of 14 Breeders’ Cup races over two days at Santa Anita this past weekend, I don’t recall seeing any horses pulled up nor any horse ambulances on the track the entire time.  That’s an anecdotal observation rather than empirical evidence, but it’s nevertheless somewhat reassuring for a guy like me who still has emotional scars from Go For Wand’s horrific breakdown in the 1990 Distaff (see but beware the gruesome scene).  From my perspective, anything that shows promise in preventing catastrophic breakdowns is worth the investment — regardless of the typical grumblings of most handicappers and protests from some horse owners (like Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra).

My hope is that scientific evidence will ultimately validate claims regarding synthetic surfaces being safer than traditional dirt tracks.  That will help spur more tracks (which can afford to do so) to transition to such surfaces.  As they become more common place, there is bound to be less resistance from reluctant neighsayers and so-called “traditionalists” — after all, what track has more embraced tradition throughout its history than Keeneland and, yet, they were one of the first tracks to install a synthetic surface.  It’s true that the horse racing industry has some serious short term issues pertaining to its survival as a result of alternative gambling venues and other competition for the “entertainment dollar.”  Yet, the racing industry’s long term sustainability is still threatened by the possibility of a public relations backlash as a result of further high profile tragedies like those which claimed Ruffian, Go for Wand, and Eight Belles.  Heck, if I’m a dedicated, lifelong fan of the sport and still question my allegiance in the wake of such occurrences, what is the casual sports fan supposed to think?

Second question about Synthetic Surfaces: Promoting true International competition?

The fact that European stables won nearly half of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races surely demonstrates how competitive they have become at challenging American runners on our big championship days of racing.  Conduit (Turf) and Goldikova (Turf Mile) both scored repeat wins in their events this year.  By comparison, when is that last time a horse from the U.S. went and competed in the Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe or other race of similar status in Europe?  Ironically, prominent owner Jess Jackson supposedly flirted with the idea of sending Curlin to France for the “Arc” a couple of years ago, yet balked at sending Rachel Alexandra to California this year merely due to the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.

Given that two of the European wins in this year’s Breeders’ Cup were on the synthetic dirt surface rather than the turf course, all indications are that the trans-Atlantic shuttle is likely to continue.  In my mind, that is a good thing.  In fact, I would like to see more horses coming from places like Australia, Japan, and South America.  When the racing surface proves to be less of a hindrance to that actually occurring, I consider that a positive development as well.

Third question about Synthetic Surfaces: What is the ultimate impact going to be on the breeding industry?

Since I am very much a Thoroughbred bloodline aficionado, I am fascinated by the possible long term homogeneity effect that standardized synthetic surfaces could render.  There could eventually be less of a differentiation between “dirt sires” and “turf sires”, leaving distance proclivities as the single major factor to consider in planning matings.  How would that impact the worldwide bloodstock market?  How would the breed evolve?  Would some prominent lines (like Mr. Prospector) give way to other lines that garner greater success on synthetic surfaces?  Would the net effect result in greater or lesser overall soundness in the breed?

What are your opinions regarding these three stated issues?  Let’s hear from folks via your comments or through submission of your own guest posts…

About Jeff Klenner:

Jeff started out as a hotwalker and groom at the Detroit-area Thoroughbred tracks (Detroit Race Course and Hazel Park) as a teenager in the 1970’s.  He is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program and has worked in several capacities in the horse racing industry: as Director of Operations at The Downs at Albuquerque and The Downs at Santa Fe (both in NM); as General Manager of Payson Stud (KY) and Payson Park (FL); and as Projects Coordinator at The Association of Racing Commissioners International (KY), in which he was involved in developing the Model Rules of Racing.  He has also been a professor of Organizational Management (at Midway College in KY) and has recently transitioned into the field of law by completing his Juris Doctor degree.  He resides in a suburb of Detroit and remains a dedicated fan of the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.

Jeff invites you to connect with him on Linked In ( ) and/or Twitter (@klenner).


Filed under Commentary, Guest Posts

The Haiku Handicapper: 2009 Breeders’ Cup recap

Before we look at the recaps, I just want to take a moment to note my victory in the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance Breeders’ Cup handicapping contest. The win was largely on the strength of Vale of York’s upset score in the Juvenile, which netted me a cool $100 on the leader board.

The contest was only for pride (or at least nobody filled me in on a grand prize), and I didn’t make it up to Mount Pleasant Meadows to place any bets, but the thrill of victory is sweet no matter how it is served. To check out the board and see how my picks compared to the rest of the blogosphere, click here.

I am also entered in a Breeders’ Cup handicapping contest sponsored by Darby Dan Farm where the top finishers receive a complimentary season to one of the farm’s stallions. The final numbers have not been tallied, but unless Vale Of York provides a ridiculous point total, my ground to make up is probably insurmountable. Stay tuned for the final results.

Anyway, 0n to the haikus…Feel free to overlook the fact that I went 0-4 picking winners in the races I covered…


Zenyatta dazzles
Her legend, Eclipse case, grows
Race for the ages


Four-wide in the stretch
Longshots fill the exacta
Sa-wing and a miss

Ladies’ Classic

Silky Sweet stretch drive
Escapes Zenyatta’s shadow
By running like her

Filly & Mare Turf

Midday goes all day
Reeled in stablemate from rail
Score one for Europe


Filed under The Haiku Handicapper

The Haiku Handicapper: 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic & Sprint


Guest for Claire Novak
Click the link to check them out
Once you’re done below


#1 – Zensational
The other “Zen” horse
Untouchable at one turn
They’ll have to catch him

#2 – Cost of Freedom
A Cal circuit vet
So-so after year-long break
Not gonna happen

#3 – Fatal Bullet
Last year’s runner up
Deadly in all-weather sprints
Could avenge his loss

#4 – Crown of Thorns
Ex-Derby dropout
Came back well from long layoff
Mark for exotics

#5 – Gayego
Godolphin purchase
Time in desert did him well
A serious threat

#6 – Dancing in Silks
A Cal-based sprinter
Lots of wins, but none graded
He’ll need to step up

#7 – Join in the Dance
Owner’s a baller
Bland on state derby circuit
Will need some magic

#8 – Capt. Candyman Can
Runs with heavy heart
Does best at seven panels
Can he scale it back?

#9 – Fleeting Spirit (IRE)
A Euro filly
Holds her own in open fields
An upset special?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Who’s the top sprinter?
Bullet wins: Fatality
One, nine will follow


Filed under The Haiku Handicapper

State Congress pushes racing funding bill through in the nick of time

Good news from the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association website:

Your efforts have helped a great deal!  Our bill has changed to HB4311 and has passed the Senate!  As of 2:37 p.m. the bill was concurred with in the House.  It now moves to the Governor for her signature.  We have been notified that the Governor intends to sign this bill the morning of 11/6/09.  The ORC office was contacted this afternoon by the Governor’s office and instructed to report for work tomorrow, 11/6/09.

Prior to the Legislature’s rapid action to approve the funding, all live and simulcast racing in the state of Michigan was scheduled to shut down indefinitely at midnight tonight.

HB4311 was initially a bill to fund correctional services, scholarships and election reform projects. It appears the racing-related items were added on along with funding for community health programs, wetland protection and can & bottle return fraud protection.

The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 32-2 with with three abstentions. It then went back to the House where it was approved by a 91-12 margin with seven not voting. Click the links to see the roll call votes from each chamber.

In the midst of the shift over to the new bill, the Senate also modified the amount of funding to the three racing-related line items. The Office of Racing Commissioner and Producer Security (Grain Elevators) line items saw a decrease, while the Horse Racing Indusrty Programs line saw increased funds.

For a spreadsheet detailing the changes in funding between the  bills, click here.

For more information on HB4311, click here.


Filed under Politics

Senate’s delay to cause shutdown

From the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association website:

We have learned that HB4288 is not scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee until at least Tuesday, 11/10; therefore live and simulcast racing will end 11/6/09.

After yesterday’s elections saw Ohio approve casinos in its major cities, the news just keeps getting worse for Michigan racing.  Keep an eye out for new developments.

For more information about HB4288, click here.

Thanks again goes to Twitter user @ThoroFan spotting this announcement.


Filed under Politics

The Haiku Handicapper: 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, Filly & Mare Turf

(This is the first of two posts highlighting key races from this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park. Today’s post focuses on a couple races on Friday’s female-focused program. Check back later in the week for previews of selected races on Saturday’s card.)

Ladies’ Classic

#1 – Careless Jewel
Elite three-year-old
Cleaned up while Rachel beat boys
This will be her test

#2 – Life Is Sweet
A local filly
Tailing off after strong start
Needs a turnaround

#3 – Mushka
In form at right time
Transfers well from turf to synth
Could bust some tickets

#4 – Lethal Heat
Likely to press pace
Enters with second-itis
Exotic wagers?

#5 – Proviso (GB)
Second-tier Euro
DQ’d in U.S. debut
Tough to get a read

#6 – Cocoa Beach (CHI)
Bridesmaid in ’08
Tried every surface since then
Shouldn’t top last year

#7 – Music Note
Versatile filly
Steps up her game with Maragh
In the driver’s seat

#8 – Rainbow View
Grade 1 regular
Does her best at a mile
Better fit for Turf

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The Distaff winner?
Music Note hits the right groove
Three and one follow

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Filly & Mare Turf

#1 – Visit (GB)
Show money last year
Resume lacks a big win
Middle of the pack

#2 – Forever Together
The defending champ
Late bidder creates drama
Watch if she gets room

#3 – Rutherienne
Summered in New York
Form improved in shorter stakes
Looking elsewhere here

#4 – Magical Fantasy
The race’s home team
On a tear since turf return
Leave off no ticket

#5 – Pure Clan
Letdown in ’08
Focused campaign to get back
Won’t run last again

#6 – Midday (GB)
From across the pond
Distance won’t be an issue
Should battle in stretch

#7 – Dynaforce
Beverly D champ
Enters off field’s worst finish
Hiccup or a trend?

#8 – Maram
Last year’s Juv Turf champ
Runs strong, but infrequently
Has too much to prove

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Who chews up the Turf?
Do you believe in Magic?
Five, two round it out

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Filed under The Haiku Handicapper