Monthly Archives: October 2010

Valient Tenobob raw but effective in Michigan Futurity

Despite his best efforts to do otherwise, Valient Tenobob could not stop himself from running away with Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Futurity at Pinnacle Race Course.

The Service Stripe colt was unhurried out of the gate and settled into last on the rail, as Buy The Law, Duty Calls and Duncan took to the lead heading into the first turn. Post time favorite Duty Calls emerged from that group in the turn and led by a length heading into the straightaway. He was chased by Duncan across the backstretch, who quickly gave way heading into the final turn. However, Valient Tenobob was on his way to take Duncan’s place and flew past the leader on the outside.

Valient Tenobob opened up multiple lengths in the turn and moved onto the rail, then things got interesting. As he approached the quarter pole, Valient Tenobob shied away from the whip of jockey Tommy Molina and almost slowed to a halt entering the stretch. That loss of momentum allowed Noequal to get within striking distance at the top of the stretch, but Valient Tenobob re-rallied and left that rival behind. He weaved greenly through the stretch, but did it far enough ahead of his foes that it did not matter, as he crossed the wire seven lengths ahead of Noequal. Equal To finished 8 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up for third.

The final time for the one mile race was 1:45.23 over a fast dirt surface. He was the betting public’s second choice at odds of 2.70-to-one.

Valient Tenobob was homebred in Michigan by trainer James Jackson and Laura Jackson. He is also co-owned by Red Riding Hood Stable LLC.

With the victory, his first in stakes company, Valient Tenobob improved his career record to a perfect three-for-three for earnings of $48,222.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

4 – Valient Tenobob (Tommy Molina) 7.40 / 4.80 / 3.40
1 – Noequal (Federico Mata) 3.80 / 2.80
5 – Equal To (Ricardo Barrios) 3.20

One Mile
Time: 1:45.23

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Going For More leads all the way in Michigan Juvenile Fillies victory

Going For More sprinted to an early lead and outlasted a late challenge to win Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

The Slew City Slew filly broke quickly on the outside and entered the first turn about three paths off the rail. She was followed by Harlan Trace and post time favorite Paris Prayer, but the leader was soon putting distance between herself and her foes as they went through the turn. Going For More entered the backstretch about a length ahead of Harlan Trace and a tightly bunched pack. That margin held up along the straightaway, as Let Me Doit also advanced to a length behind the leader on the rail.

Going For More started to gain separation from her rivals heading into the final turn, and entered the bend with a length and a half advantage. Meanwhile, Paris Prayer began her rally from the back of the second flight and soon challenged Harlan Trace for second place. Going For More swung wide coming out of the bend and was quickly approached by Paris Prayer coming up the rail. The pair battled down the stretch, with Paris Prayer coming within a neck of Going For More’s lead, but she could not get past the winner, who outkicked the runner-up in the deep stretch under strong urging from jockey Ronald Allen, Jr. to win by a half length. Waxies Willie finished 13 1/4 lengths behind Paris Prayer for third.

Going For More completed the one mile race in 1:44.54 over a fast dirt surface. She was the field’s second choice at odds of 2.60-to-one.

Homebred in Michigan by Michael McQuade, Going For More was saddled by Gerald Bennett. The race was her second straight win from three starts, and her first blacktype score. Going for More’s career earnings now total $37,080.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

6 – Going For More (Ronald Allen, Jr.) 7.20 / 3.20 / 3.20
4 – Paris Prayer (Tommy Molina) 3.00 / 3.20
7 – Waxies Willie (Augusto Marin) 4.40

One Mile
Time: 1:44.54

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Stakes winners face off in Michigan Futurity

The winners of Michigan’s first two stakes races for Juvenile males will meet for a rubber match in Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Futurity at Pinnacle Race Course.

Eight Michigan-bred two-year-olds nominated earlier this year will contest the one mile race. Last year’s rendition was won in a bank-breaking fashion by Sahmmy Falls.

Michigan Sire Stakes winner Noequal will try to solidify his two-year-old male of the year credentials with a strong showing in Saturday’s race. The Equality gelding picked a big race to graduate from the maiden ranks, with a 3 1/4 length score in the Oct. 16 Sire Stakes. He also finished third in the Sept. 19 Patrick Wood Stakes. Regular rider Federico Mata will have the mount for owner Daniel McCarthy and trainer Ronald Allen, Sr..

Noequal was beaten in the Patrick Wood by Duty Calls, who will get the chance to do it again in the Michigan Futurity. The Service Stripe gelding took the Patrick Wood in a front-running fashion to prevail by 4 3/4 lengths in his most recent start. Duty Calls is owned by Mast Thoroughbreds LLC and trained by Robert Gorham. Jeffrey Skerrett will have the riding assignment.

Also entered is undefeated Valient Tenobob. The Service Stripe colt is a perfect two-for-two following a Sept. 4 maiden score at Pinnacle and a 2 3/4 length victory in an Oct. 2 allowance race at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino in West Virginia. James Jackson will give Tommy Molina the leg up aboard Valient Tenobob for owners Laura Jackson and Red Riding Hood Stable LLC.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Noequal / F Mata / R D Allen, Sr. / 5-1
2. Native Niko / R D Allen, Jr. / J R Jackson / 7-2
3. Buy The Law / J E Collazo, Jr. / R J Rettele / 12-1
4. Valient Tenobob / T Molina / J R Jackson / 8-5
5. Equal To / R Barrios / D Foggiano / 20-1
6. Equal By Design / O Bernal / L Penner / 20-1
7. Duty Calls / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 3-1
8. Duncan / A O Stanley / J R Jackson / 10-1

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Paris Prayer headlines Michigan Juvenile Fillies Stakes

Michigan’s two-year-old fillies will have one more chance to prove themselves in stakes competition this year in Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

A field of seven will enter the gates for Saturday’s one mile race. Last year’s champion juvenile filly Hustle Now won the 2009 running of the race.

The group is led by Sickle’s Image Stakes winner Paris Prayer. A daughter of Meadow Prayer, Paris Prayer won the Sept. 18 race by 5 1/4 lengths after rallying six wide out of the final turn. She enters the Michigan Juvenile Fillies off a runner-up finish in the Oct. 16 Michigan Sire Stakes. James Jackson trains Paris Prayer for owners Laura Jackson and Red Riding Hood Stable LLC. Tommy Molina will be in the irons.

Dixie Diva enters the race off an impressive 7 1/2 length score in an Oct. 24 maiden special weight race at Pinnacle. The Ulises filly rallied three wide down the stretch in that effort to secure the victory in her second start. Dixie Diva will be ridden by Federico Mata for owner and trainer Robert Gorham.

Harlan Trace will also try for her first stakes victory on Saturday. The Elusive Hour filly’s most recent start was a third place effort in the Sire Stakes. She is owned by Elkhorn Oake, Inc. and trained by James Jackson. Angel Stanley will have the riding assignment.

#. Horse / Jockey / Trainer / Odds

1. Dixie Diva / F Mata / R M Gorham / 15-1
2. Let Me Doit / O Bernal / L R Uelmen / 20-1
3. Juliets Secret / J Skerrett / R M Gorham / 10-1
4. Paris Prayer / T Molina / J R Jackson / 6-5
5. Harlan Trace / A O Stanley / J R Jackson / 6-1
6. Going For More / R D Allen, Jr. / G S Bennett / 2-1
7. Waxies Wilie / A A Marin / G R Fiesman / 8-1

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Bringing down Prairie Meadows

Prairie Meadows is a quality venue for racing and other forms of gaming. Oscar Delgado awaits a photo in the winner's circle aboard BT Sum Beach.

Racinos fascinate me.

As a resident of a state whose jurisdiction outlaws the splicing of a racetrack and a casino, they are the forbidden fruit; the seed that makes the grass greener, but is only available on the black market.

With that in mind, there is always a special incentive to visit tracks that offer casino gaming in other states to see if the positive effects of the one-armed bandits are more than just numbers on paper.

This aspect added a special intrigue to my visit to Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Ia. on the way back from my trip out west.

Prior to my visit to the central Iowa track, the only previous racino experience I had came from the two tracks in Indiana, a state in the midst of a racing renaissance because of its additions. While similar in vibe and motif to Indiana Downs, Prairie Meadows offered a different experience. Unlike the Hoosier State tracks, Prairie Meadows’ casino is built right into the grandstand. Parts of the casino even offer views out to the track.

The casino itself will be discussed later on, but it is necessary to bring it up when describing the track’s layout. Open entrances to the casino divided the grandstand’s second story, meaning it required an ID to explore the track beyond the ground floor. To the left of the casino sat rows of bleachers and a concession stand. On the other side was a typical-looking racetrack-style restaurant with the tables on declining levels going down a staircase. There were also some reserved seats with individual TVs for those who prefer to watch on a screen what is happening right in front of them.

Seating was abundant on the apron, even when the good-sized crowd reached its apex. A newspaper-sponsored car giveaway also meant the apron was populated with shiny, new automobiles seeking new owners.

The paddock is situated near the first turn in a curved fashion. The viewing area is split in the middle leading to the walking ring. The sightlines were excellent both for examining horses for wagering purposes and photography.

I stand firm in my belief that paddock placement can make or break a racetrack experience, and unless crowd management is an issue, the best place for it to be is near the clubhouse turn. This allows patrons time to get from the paddock to the rail to view the post parade and normally means shelter is not far away in the event of inclement weather. Prairie Meadows apparently got that memo and is a better track for it.

Admission for the day’s races was free and programs were $1.50. When the program vendor told me the price, I had to ask him again to make sure I heard correctly. For programs made with quality, white paper (not that pulpy crap that is hard to write on with my Mount Pleasant Meadows golf pencils), I am normally not upset to pay between two and a half to three bucks. A dollar fifty is unreal. The power of slots, man…

Speaking of programs and the power of slots, Prairie Meadows does a fantastic job showing off the track’s contribution to the state’s coffers. The program’s first two pages display letters from the track’s chairman and the chair of the Polk County Board of Supervisors welcoming fans to the races and showcasing the $1 billion the track has generated for the state of Iowa. Every day of live racing will be someone’s first day at that track, as this was mine, and that is a fantastic way to make a first impression.

My visit came on the richest day of the track’s Quarter Horse-exclusive meet, the Prairie Meadows Quarter Horse Championship Night. As it was during my visit to Yellowstone Downs during its richest card, my timing is impeccable.

With that said, consider the following. The combined purses on Montana’s richest day of racing totaled $77,650. The evening’s feature on Iowa’s richest day of Quarter Horse racing, the Valley Junction Futurity (G3), offered a purse of $143,250.

The lowest purse on the night’s card was a maiden claiming race for $7,000, while the average non-stakes purse was in the neighborhood of $14,000. Not bad at all.

The jockey colony consisted largely of Texas/Oklahoma/Hialeah Park circuit riders, with one notable exception. Among the track’s leading riders was Mount Pleasant Meadows-based jockey Oscar Delgado, who rode three winners on the night.

Once the races started, they moved at a rapid pace. The barns are apparently behind the paddock, because the horses came up to saddle from that direction without setting foot on the track. This meant no time was wasted walking from the backstretch because there was no backstretch to speak of. More than once, I found myself looking through the program or otherwise daydreaming, only to look over and see the field for the next race already saddling up.

It is also interesting to note that they played the song “Rawhide” in between several races. That was pretty great, even though I found it odd that the powers that be thought enough to play the song in Iowa and not at Yellowstone Downs, a track in a legitimate cowboy state. It is times like these when I wonder if I am taking this “racetrack aesthetic” thing way too far.

Between races, I ventured over to a barbecue shack on the apron. The shack’s pulled pork sandwich has the potential to earn a spot in the Pantheon of Racetrack Concession Foods. It will take another visit to to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, but it has the one-man committee’s full attention.

It took until the third race for me to cash a ticket, courtesy of Delgado aboard BT Sum Beach. Betting windows were plentiful, which is always a plus. There were even a couple tellers stationed in a gazebo near the paddock, which was also a plus.

The casino money had, without a doubt, increased the quality of the product between the rails, but the burning question with any racino track is if it can draw people out from the casino and on to the apron, especially the coveted youth demographic. With so many people in suits asking for identification, in the middle of Iowa for that, I initially had my doubts.

My doubts, however, were soon disproved. For night racing at a casino track, a surprising number of attendees brought their children. While it is good to see Iowa race fans grow the sport, though, little kids can’t put money through the windows. The real test is whether a track can draw the pivotal 2o-somethings, and Prairie Meadows seemed to do a good enough job of that.

One particularly entertaining example of this was a trio of clearly inebriated girls dressed way too lightly for the chilly evening. Between affirmations of how much they loved each other and asking me to take their picture (with their own camera. Sorry, gang), they actually paid more attention to the happenings in the paddock than the average tipsy Keeneland coed’s observations about the jockeys’ size or the pretty horses. Of course, they followed that up by trying t0 speak Sesame Street-level Spanish with a random Hispanic horseman near the paddock about which horses he liked. What the industry has to gain from this demographic remains unclear.

As a fan of Michigan racing, the highlight of the evening came in the $45,000 Two Rivers Stakes (G3) when Delgado set the track record at 440 yards aboard Jess A Runner with a time of 21.199 seconds. I found myself curious after seeing Delgado had the mount on Jess A Runner instead of Fairmount Park Invitational winner Bold Badon, whom he regularly rides, but clearly, he made the right call.

The fields were decent all night and it reflected in the payoffs. I hit two moderate-sized exacta tickets to finish about $15 ahead for the evening’s races. The night was not without its share of pari-mutuel heartbreak, though. Missing out on a winning ticket by a head or a nose is to be expected in Quarter Horse racing, but having the two horses boxed in one’s exacta dead heat for second hurts.

With a little more money in the bankroll than I had walking in, it was time to deposit it firmly into the casino. I entered through the grandstand to a few rows of slots, but eventually wandered my way into a much more expansive gaming area.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Prairie Meadows offers full table gaming. Having finished Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House somewhere in flyover country on the road west (see, doesn’t the post’s title make sense now?), I was itching badly to play some blackjack.

The computerized table games at Indiana’s racinos served to hide my cowardice as I placed $1 bets on roulette, but when it came to card games, I wanted the show. I wanted to wave off the dealer while holding a 14, knowing he was going to bust. I wanted to push my chips to the center of the table and feel the place erupt when the dealer threw down the card for 21.

The problem is, things like that require vast sums of money, so I hovered around and found a quiet $5 minimum table inhabited by a couple college-age-looking Asians who left after a few hands. I put in $25 and was soon one-on-one with the dealer; just like playing at the kitchen table at my grandpa’s house.

Wanting to keep in the game as long as I could, I played the minimum bet each time and hit hot and cold streaks that kept me at about the same amount with which I came in. Then I hit a blackjack. Booyah.

This must have drawn the attention of the pit boss, because he soon came over and carded me. I’ve got to hand it to this place – they sure are careful about keeping underage people out of the casino. Between shoes, the dealer and I made the usual small talk, and I told him about Michigan’s racino situation, or lack thereof. As someone on the green side of the fence, he was understandably surprised at the ridiculousness of it all.

I kept playing for a few more hands after hitting blackjack, and after noticing that my stack of chips was about $10 taller than it was at the start, I decided to get up from the table while I still had the casino’s money. I did some more exploring around the casino just to get a feel for the place, but resisted the urge to play anything else and risk blemishing my winning record.

The chips at the Prairie Meadows casino feature the track’s logo above the phrase “Your favorite place to play!” From a gambling standpoint, the chip isn’t wrong. It is hard to describe the boost an actual table game can have over a video version, even if the only computerized part is the betting terminal. Warranted or not, I always feel better playing a table game knowing my fate is being determined by the draw of the cards or a roll of the dice, as opposed to a computer algorithm that will tell me whether I won or lost.

From an entertainment standpoint, however, the Indiana casinos have the edge. As casinos with bigger, more expansive gaming rooms, there is more space for entertainment like bars and live bands. I’m not going to lie. I gamble more when there is a good live band in the middle of the casino. Even if I am just playing the slots, it puts me in a delusional kind of rhythm. At the very least, it makes me stick around to hear what else they are going to play.

With that said, building the casino into the grandstand as Prairie Meadows did has a greater potential to create more crossover interest between the casino and the track because of the easy access to each other. Judging by the number of people I saw out on the apron who migrated to the casino later that night (including the drunk trio, now with boys in tow), I think it might be working.

Behind the jump are photos from the evening’s races at Prairie Meadows.

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Meadow Wise wins older males Sire Stakes

Meadow Wise staked his claim to Michigan’s older male of the year title with a dominant victory in his division of Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course.

The four-year-old Meadow Prayer gelding angled in at the start, but quickly corrected his course and shot to the front. He was soon passed by Hot Chili on the outside, followed closely by Red Bow Tie as they headed down the stretch. The trio came back to even terms heading into the first turn and became a duo when Hot Chili and Meadow Wise sped off to battle their way into the backstretch. Hot Chili led by a half length over Meadow Wise as they made their way past the barns with Red Bow Tie and Romeo Again less than a length behind him. As they made their way into the final turn, Hot Chili was swallowed up by Meadow Wise on the rail and Romeo Again on the outside.

The lead pair of Meadow Wise and Romeo Again battled neck-and-neck throughout the turn, with Hot Chili trying to regain position three wide. Meadow Wise emerged at the top of the stretch with a length and a half lead and ran down the shadow of the rail to win by 3 1/4 lengths under jockey Angel Stanley. Romeo Again battled Hot Chili for second place, and finished a length ahead of his foe.

Meadow Wise completed the mile and one eighth race in 1:54.76 on fast dirt. He left the gates as the favorite among the betting public at odds of 1.50-to-one.

Meadow Wise was bred in Michigan by James Arnold, Marcia Arnold and Deb Miley. He is owned by Mast Thoroughbreds LLC and trained by Robert Gorham. With the win, his second in stakes competition, Meadow Wise improved his lifetime record to six wins from 20 starts for earnings of $139,296.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

1 – Meadow Wise (Angel Stalney) 5.00 / 3.40 / 3.40
5 – Romeo Again (Federico Mata) 2.80 / 2.40
7 – Hot Chili (Ricardo Barrios) 4.20

One Mile and One Eighth
Time: 1:54.76

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Valley Loot regains form in older females Sire Stakes

After a year with more downs than ups, Valley Loot reminded fans why she is the state’s┬ádefending┬áthree-time horse of the year with a hard-fought win in Saturday’s $50,000 Michigan Sire Stakes for older fillies and mares, an astounding fourth straight victory for the mare in the series of races.

The six-year-old Demaloot Demashoot mare broke alertly and battled Guns And Giggles for the lead coming out the gate. She settled back to third behind Guns And Giggles and She Could Be Good as the field made its first pass under the wire. Guns And Giggles stayed a couple paths off the rail down the straightaway and entered the first turn with a length advantage. The top three were each separated by about a length heading into the backstretch in the same order as they came into the turn. The two trailers began to draw closer to Guns And Giggles on the backetretch, with Valley Loot making the boldest bid three wide.

As the field entered the final turn, Valley Loot had drawn even with Guns And Giggles, while Baba Booyah moved up from the second flight to challenge She Could Be Good for third. Valley Loot quickly disposed of the pacesetter, but was then faced with a rapidly gaining Baba Booyah on her outside. The defending champion led her challenger by a half length at the top of the stretch, and under heavy urging by jockey Federico Mata, began to pull away. Baba Booyah attempted to re-rally at the sixteenth pole but could not reach the winner before the wire.

Valley Loot finished a half length ahead of Baba Booyah for her first win of 2010. Secret Candy improved her position late to finish third, five lengths behind the runner-up.

Valley Loot completed the mile and one eighth race in 1:56.23 over a fast dirt surface. She was the field’s second choice at odds of 2.40-to-one.

Bred in Michigan by Marilyn McMaster, Valley Loot is owned by Lisa Campbell and trained by Ronald Allen, Sr.. Both Campbell and jockey Mata finished the day with three wins in the six Sire Stakes races.

With her fourth Sire Stakes win in five starts in the series, Valley Loot improved her career record to 14 wins from 32 starts. Her career earnings now total $584,885.

For an Equibase chart of the race, click here.

1 – Valley Loot (Federico Mata) 6.80 / 3.80 / 2.40
7 – Baba Booyah (Jeffrey Skerrett) 5.00 / 3.40
8 – Secret Candy (Ronald Allen, Jr.) 6.20

One Mile and One Eighth
Time: 1:56.23

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