Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Haiku Handicapper: 2010 Borderland Derby Recap

Raise the objection
Nine drifted out, taken down
Storming Saint cashes

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The Haiku Handicapper: 2010 Borderland Derby

Obscure Derby prep
Don’t like it? Blame Mine That Bird
Field lacks world beaters

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

#1 – McKenna’s Justice
Gulf Coaster heads west
Only dirt start went poorly
Likely not his spot

#2 – Haitian Hero
Cross-country shipper
Struggled at elite racetracks
Hard to get a read

#3 – Amen Baby
Pace-setting local
Proven in sprints. Can he route?
Exotics, perhaps?

#4 – Nicky Boy
Dead last in debut
No redeeming qualities
This is a joke, right?

#5 – Storming Saint
Picks up leading jock
Lots of stakes experience
Could be a factor

#6 – Chuchuluco
I can’t pronounce you
Winner of the local prep
Can he stretch it out?

#7 – Guiltbyassociation
Wallowed on Cal turf
Came alive on Sunland dirt
Won’t mind the distance

#8 –  Tango Tango
A No-Cal transplant
Tends to wilt in the big spots
It’s his bubble race

#9 – Raise The Bridle
Just missed in lone start
Stablemate of Mine That Bird
Can lightning strike twice?

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

Who runs the Border?
Chuchuluco gets the duke
Eight and nine follow

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Michigan Farm News article accurately portrays racing industry

In recent days, I have received calls and emails from several people regarding an article in the Equine News insert of the Feb. 15 Michigan Farm News.

I had not read the story, but the fact that it had evoked such emotion from a broad range of people in and out of the racing industry compelled me to seek it out.

The article, written by Michigan Farm News editor Paul Jackson, absolutely lived up to the hype. Over the last year and a half, I have tried to project the issues surrounding Michigan’s racing industry in a comprehensive and easy to understand manner, but I wish I could nail it down like Jackson has in this piece. His story is the most accurate, truthful portrayal of the state of racing in Michigan I have read in a long time. While the story focuses on the harness side of the industry, its message rings true for everyone involved in Michigan racing.

In the article, Jackson outlines the consequences of a series of failures by the leadership in Lansing and elsewhere to not only assist the racing industry, but to even hear it out. The two major consequences outlined in the story are the exodus of Michigan’s horsemen to more lucrative states and the increase of abandoned horses due to strict anti-slaughter laws.

The departure of horsemen, Jackson suggests, can be largely blamed on the failure of state Congress to pass expanded gaming legislation in 2004, despite the obvious benefits, and the constant meddling of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Jackson highlights Standardbred trainer Rob Harmon, who moved his stable to New York after it became clear he could not make a living in Michigan. Despite his farm and family still residing in the state, Harmon said he had no interest in ever buying another Michigan racing license.

The other, less publicized, issue discussed is that of horse slaughter and abandonment. Jackson argues the leaders in Lansing and Washington D.C. turned a deaf ear to the agriculture industry in favor of animal rights groups who pushed for harsh anti-slaughter laws. Since then, the nation’s animal shelters have been packed to capacity, and those not lucky enough to be admitted have become part of the epidemic of abandonment by owners of all breeds who can not afford to feed or euthanize their horses.

The piece then discusses the hypocrisy of the animal rights groups who pushed for the legislation, focusing on the Humane Society of the United States. According to the article, the organization does not operate any animal shelters in the country despite owning a “multi-million dollar budget”. Subjects interviewed by Jackson suggest these groups’ desire to cause trouble without offering solutions only serves to create more problems.

Jackson’s article is a must-read for those unfamiliar with the dire situation of Michigan’s racing industry. While there are many factors that have led us to the point we are today, there is little denying that the antagonization of racing by those in power has been a major factor in the industry’s collapse.

To read the article “State, national laws put horses, racing on last legs”, click here.

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Michigan HBPA displays petition language

The Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association website has posted selected language from the petition to allow casinos at the state’s five racetracks and three additional locations. The petition was written and promoted by the group Racing to Save Michigan, led by Hazel Park Raceway CEO Dan Adkins.

The section of the petition displayed on the site has “caused serious concern” among Michigan’s horsemen’s groups due to its lack of guaranteed provisions for live racing programs.

To view the petition language on the Michigan HBPA website, click here.

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Adkins, horsemen’s groups trade blows in media

Arguably the most controversial issue facing Michigan’s racing industry is the petition penned by Hazel Park Raceway CEO Dan Adkins seeking to place casinos at the state’s five pari-mutuel racetracks and three additional sites.

The petition has been met with opposition from the state’s horsemen’s groups from both the harness and Thoroughbred worlds, who claim the petition lacks provisions for purse structure in live racing.

Here is the latest from the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association website

HBPA/MHHA MEET: HBPA group and the MHHA met Thurs. Feb. 11 to discuss the current status and an alternative racino and casino petition that will provide provisions for live racing, simulcasting, purse distribution, as well as, CHO protection. Both organizations understand the importance of time, after some research it was determined that the Board of Canvassers may review  a petition request between 14 and 17 days. One important segment of a petition is, of course, purse revenue. The current petition only provides for purse revenue from the state tax. As we all know, we have not had much support from the state for our industry, substantiating our concerns.

The two sides have each stated their case to The Blood-Horse.

Michigan HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle was interviewed for a Feb. 9 story by Esther Marr. Though Tinkle said he and the horsemen’s groups want to support the petition, he told Marr that in its current form, the petition would “place the industry’s future in jeopardy”…

“We feel very strongly that (this petition) is using the tracks as a conduit but with no provisions (for racing),” Tinkle said. “Adkins said he’s willing to go ahead with the (bill) alone. It’s hard for us to understand why he would do that. The takeouts (proposed) by the horsemen are completely reasonable.

“I would hate for this legislation not to pass, but if it does pass in its current form, it would be a ticking time bomb for the (Thoroughbred) industry. And the enabling legislation—that’s the real elephant in the room.”

– Blood-Horse

Adkins gave his rebuttal on Feb. 11. In the story, also written by Marr, he called the lack of support “suicidal” and noted how little the state’s 23 existing casinos pay to the state compared the projected figures of the proposed racinos…

“I met with the Thoroughbred and harness horsemen over a year and a half ago and told them I was putting this together, and nobody showed any interest,” said Adkins, who noted that even Pinnacle Race Course owner/developer Jerry Campbell had failed to give a real response to the proposal.

“So I put it together the best I could, and once I got it approved, everybody showed up,” Adkins said. “Gary Tinkle says there’s nothing in (the petition) for the horsemen, and that’s not true. The initiative that I put together requires the state to take a share of its revenue and put it back into the programs related to horse breeding and racing.”

– Blood-Horse

The blogosphere has also chimed in regarding the situation. Reactions have ranged from concerned to very concerned.

Clearly, this is a very complicated subject. Whenever money and politics are involved, it is foolish to assume anything will go smoothly. Hopefully the two sides can reach some semblance of common ground before things get out of hand, be that a failure to collect enough signatures or a divided proposal on the ballot. No matter what form of the petition is put up to the plate, it will be faced with crippling resistance by interests with truckloads of money. If the industry approaches this issue on a divided front, the result won’t be pretty.

The fact that the two sides are slinging mud at each other through the media is an embarrassment. It does not reflect well on Michigan’s racing industry for such infighting to be aired out publicly, and it will not help public support if some version of the petition makes it to November’s ballot. Regardless of who is right or wrong, a middle ground must be reached between Adkins and the horsemen, because we have one hell of a fight coming up this fall.

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Deal or No Deal – 2010 Kentucky Derby Future Wager

Eclipse Award finalist Noble's Promise is one suitcase to leave shut in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

People love action.

If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have bets like the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which requires horseplayers to forecast the winner of the classic race several months before it even draws.

It takes an awful lot of gusto to plunk down some hard-earned bones on such a risky venture. Each interest is like a numbered suitcase on the hit game show Deal or No Deal. Inside each one could be that million-dollar prize (a Derby winner at a better price than at post time) or just enough cash for the bus ride home (a Derby trail dud or injury defection).

From noon Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday, ambitious horseplayers will take their place on the proverbial stage before the 24 models holding numbered briefcases. The shadowy figure of the banker will be looming, asking players to accept his odds. Howie Mandel will be there, too. Whatever you do, don’t shake his hand.

The question is…Deal or No Deal?

Which entries in the first future wager pool appear to offer the best value? Which ones make it look like the banker is lowballing the contestants? Below are a few horses that fit into one of those categories.

Keep in mind these speculations are based solely on the morning line odds set by Churchill Donws handicapper Mike Battagalia. The odds can, and will, fluctuate according to the action in the pari-mutuel pools, which could negate some of my statements.

Also, unless otherwise noted, this is not an analysis of talent, but a projection of betting value. Just because a horse is labeled a “No Deal” does not mean I do not think it is capable of winning the Kentucky Derby, and vice versa.

For a complete list of the horses being offered in the Future Wager and their odds, a Thoroughbred Times story can be found here.

Deal

Vale of York
Odds: 30-1

Has a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner ever given odds this long in the first Future Wager pool? I debated long and hard about which category to place the Irish-bred Eclipse Award finalist. On one hand, an awful lot of planets aligned to put Vale of York’s nose across the line first in the Juvenile. He benefitted from a European turf-friendly surface, was a first-time Lasix user and got the best of a multi-horse head bob. Also, there is talk of sending the Invincible Spirit (IRE) colt to Europe instead of testing the Derby trail, which gives this wager an added risk. On the other hand, let us consider a scenario. In all likelihood, Vale of York will take the road to Louisville going through Dubai. If he cleans up the preps and shows a pulse in the UAE Derby, there should be no reason to expect he won’t go off at less than 15-1 on the big day. This has the potential to be a high-risk, high-reward investment.

No Deal

Noble’s Promise
Odds: 15-1

Aside from earning the bragging rights that go along with picking the Kentucky Derby winner several months in advance, one of the appeals of the Future Wager is trying to get a horse at a better price than on race day. Unless Noble’s Promise puts the throttle on his three-year-old campaign and notches a couple highlight reel-caliber wins, odds in the mid-teens ought to be a reasonable expectation on the big stage.

More deals and duds can be found behind the jump.

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Photo of the Year 2009: The Results Show

The Michigan-Bred Claimer's 2009 Photo of the Year: Del Mar Storm and jockey Azael De Leon wait in the starting gate prior to a race at River Downs. Date Taken: July 16, 2009.

Riding a wave of support from fans of jockey Azael De Leon, the photo entitled “Caged Animal” was the leading vote-getter in the second annual Michigan-Bred Claimer Photo of the Year poll.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote and comment on my photos. Your kind words were greatly appreciated. It was a ton of fun to shoot these photos, and with another year of experience with my new camera, the shots that document 2010 ought to be better than ever. Hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Now let’s take a look at how the votes shook out…

Which is your favorite photo of 2009?

11 Votes – 26%
#9 – “Caged Animal” (Del Mar Storm/Azael De Leon)

Five Votes – 12%
#2 – “Waiting” (Leonard Frazzitta, Jr.)

Four Votes – 9%
#10 – “Stumbled Start” (Orieal/Lee Gates)

Three Votes – 7%
#3 – “Acting Up” (Buffalo Bill Cole)
#6 – “Tucked Down” (Christmas From Mom)
#16 – “Natural Ledge” (Keeneland Race Course)
#18 – “Into The Tunnel” (Surely Bird)

Two Votes – 5%
#1 – “Paddock Inspection” (Island Chancellor)
#12 – “Victory in the Rain” (Bush Hog)
#15 – “Stretch Duel” (Im A Corona & Lucky’s Rambler)

One Vote – 2%
#5 – “Lighting up the Board” (Send Cash)
#7 – “Admiration” (Funny Cide)
#11 – “Shoot to the Lead” (Waltz Across Texas)
#14 – Follow the Leader (Toagule/Lee Gates)
#17 – “Call to Post” (Bucky Sallee)

No Votes – 0%
#4 – “Load ’em Up” (JJ Delgado)
#8 – “Pea Patch Parade” (Revival Ridge)
#13 – “Blanket Finish (Mt. Pleasant Meadows)
#19 – “Grabbing the Spotlight” (Backtalk)
#20 – “Masked Man” (Teetee’s Tapit)

Now I’ll work on getting up that countdown clock looking ahead to opening day at Pinnacle Race Course. Be on the lookout.

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