Tag Archives: Mine That Bird

Rave Reviews? – Animal Kingdom

Back in 2009, I put together a highlight reel of quotes and prognostications about Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird leading up to his upset victory at odds of 50-1. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.

This year’s Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, was not nearly the monumental shock Mine That Bird was, but at post time odds of 20-1, he clearly was not on the radar of many bettors.

With that in mind, I decided to again comb the prediction columns of some of the racing media’s most notable figures to see where they stood on Animal Kingdom prior to the big race.

Like the movie Avatar, Animal Kingdom received mixed reviews, but ended up making all the money. In the end, that’s all that matters.

As usual, I will start the proceedings with my own analysis of Animal Kingdom, so as not to give the impression that I am just taking potshots at everyone else.

#16 – Animal Kingdom
Won the Spiral Stakes
Even connections seem tense
About his dirt form

That is what we call a good, old-fashioned swing and a miss.

But it gets worse. Have a look at this post to my Twitter feed just hours before the race…

“Triumph The Insult Comic Dog’s “No Rules In The Animal Kingdom” came on my shuffle on the way to the track. Choosing to ignore that sign.”

That’s not only a swing and a miss, that’s a swing and a miss from a tee-ball stand, then whacking yourself in the face with the bat on the backswing.

Now, let’s take a look at how some of the other members of the turf writing community saw Animal Kingdom. Just for kicks, I have arranged the analyses in a rough order by how favorably they projected the horse’s performance, from non-factor to win threat.

Let’s start at the bottom…

“Bottom line: Can dismiss.”
– Tom Pedulla, USA Today

“Another complete mystery on dirt.”
– Steven Crist, Daily Racing Form

“Still has considerable upside, but didn’t beat much in the Spiral, and that race was six weeks ago.”
– Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form

“Animal Kingdom is bred to run all day long so the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby isn’t a concern. His pedigree is geared mostly to turf racing, however, so it’s questionable if he’ll take to the dirt at Churchill Downs.”
– Dan Illman, Daily Racing Form

“Brilliant Speed and Animal Kingdom are synthetic/turf horses who may or may not relish the track…Animal Kingdom could be any kind of horse but has trained well and has yet to miss the board.”
– Jason Shandler, Blood-Horse

“Given the dirt question and the fact his major victory came in a Grade 3 race, Animal Kingdom deserves to be 25-1 in a 20-horse field. Animal Kingdom, however, seems to be generating favorable buzz, and he might not offer great value in the win pool. But given his consistency, stamina, and impressive last race, he should at least be an attractive exotic-wager proposition.”
– Marcus Hersh, Daily Racing Form

“Worth using in exotics, for sure.”
– Jay Privman, Daily Racing Form

Exotics Contenders: ANIMAL KINGDOM: In Graham We Trust. The horse looks outstanding in the flesh and should have no trouble with the Derby distance. There’s not a ton to like on past performances to be honest, but there’s an infinite amount of respect for trainer Graham Motion and I love the grassy pedigree on the dam side, so key in past Derby success stories.”
– Jeremy Plonk, ESPN

“I’m certainly going to use him in the trifecta, because people I respect say no horse had a better work than Animal Kingdom at Churchill.”
– Jennie Rees, Louisville Courier-Journal

“Yes, the dirt is a big question mark, and he’s bred for the turf, but he looked good winning the Spiral, and the horse he beat by 6 lengths came back to be beaten a nose in the Blue Grass. He made an impressive early move in the Spiral, so you know he has a turn of foot. And he’s bred to run forever, so you just have to take the chance that he’ll be as effective on dirt. In this kind of year, it’s a chance worth taking if the price is right.”
– Steve Haskin, Blood-Horse

“Trained by the very capable Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom would not be a surprise to hit the board at a big price.”
– Gene Menez, Sports Illustrated

“Love the way he won the Spiral. Watch out if he likes the dirt.”
– Andy Andrews, Kentucky Confidential

“Watch out for Animal Kingdom, especially now that John Velazquez is aboard. After all his bad luck with horses going out of the race, this is one man who is hungry for a Derby win.”
– Deirdre Biles, Blood-Horse

“Animal Kingdom is a beast of a horse who caught our eye last fall. He is long and lanky with a humongous quickening stride.”
– Bruno DeJulio, The Rail Blog – New York Times

“Roared mightily through Spiral field. Worked well on Churchill dirt. Trust in Motion and love the price.”
– John Scheinman, Kentucky Confidential

“Animal Kingdom is capable of a sustained drive for second.”
– Frank Angst, Thoroughbred Times

“I’ve got many questions about Animal Kingdom’s ability to transfer his form onto dirt, but the bottom line is that he’s improved as a 3-year-old, has the pedigree for the distance and seems adaptable to any kind of pace based on his limited starts. If he’s anywhere as good on dirt as he’s been on synthetic, he’ll be a factor in the Derby and that’s a leap of faith I’m willing to make.”
– Chris Rossi, Hello Race Fans

“Animal Kingdom will win the Kentucky Derby. I know this because I didn’t write a feature about him.”
– Claire Novak, Everything (this particular quote in ESPN)

Congratulations to everyone that cashed tickets on Animal Kingdom. To everyone else, the Preakness Stakes is only a couple weeks away. There is always time for redemption.

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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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The Alternative Scene: Part One – Slot Machines/Racinos

Racetracks like Indiana Downs have seen significant increases in purse structure since adding new forms of alternative wagering.

Racetracks like Indiana Downs have seen significant increases in purse structure since adding new forms of alternative wagering like slot machines, but can the good times last?

In a poll that went about three and a half months longer than planned, the readers of this blog voted convincingly that slot machines are the most important form of alternative wagering for the long-term health of the racing industry. 

The voting was neck-and-neck between slots and advance deposit wagering in the poll’s early goings. As time wore on, slots pulled away to an insurmountable lead. 

Let’s have a look at the results…

Which form of alternative wagering is most important to racing’s long-term health?

Slot Machines – 58% (123 votes)
Advance Deposit Wagering – 22% (46 votes)
We don’t need no stinking alternative wagering – 8% (18 votes)
Instant Racing – 6% (13 votes)
Card Rooms – 3% (6 votes)
Other – 3% (7 votes)

Total votes: 213

“Other” answers (some of the answers could be placed in one of the categories above, but because they were placed in “other,” I am keeping them here):
– “table games, that’s what they want, only slots is not the answer”
– “telephone/Internet wagering”
– “All of the above”
– “exchange betting”
– “Simulacast”
– “Racino”
– “nothing we’re dooooooooomed”

There is no question slots have had an impact on the racing industry, and will continue to do so. Just look at the career path of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. 

The classic winner started his career at Woodbine, enjoying slots-enriched purses on his way to nabbing the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top juvenile. His earnings in Canada alone were enough to secure him an invitation to the big dance at Churchill Downs, which removed the pressure from taking the road to Louisville going through New Mexico.

Mine That Bird worked his way through the Derby preps at Sunland Park, which would have been a laughable strategy only ten years ago, and is unorthodox at best today. With the help of alternative wagering (mainly casino-style gaming) in 2009, the Sunland Derby offered a purse of $900,000, among the biggest prizes offered to three-year-olds in the country.

The race was not graded, and Mine That Bird finished off the board, but his eventual win in the Kentucky Derby put New Mexico in a position to become a legitimate path on the Derby trail. The little Birdstone gelding that could’s success has spearheaded the campaign to get the Sunland Derby designated a graded stakes race, officially making it more than a cash-grab race for Derby wannabes.

Simply put, without casino-style gaming, Mine That Bird is clunking around the California allowance ranks, Calvin Borel doesn’t tearfully celebrate his biggest upset on national television, Sunland Park still runs cheap Quarter Horses, West Side Bernie wins the Kentucky Derby and nobody goes home happy.

The story doesn’t end there. Just recently, the connections of Mine That Bird spurned the Haskell Invitational, and a rematch with Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, to challenge the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. If Mountaineer were still in the slums of the racing hierarchy, as it was before the implementation of slots, a trip through the hills of West Virginia wouldn’t have even crossed the minds of team Mine That Bird (even if the gamble did blow up in their faces, leaving with a third-place finish).

Alternative wagering, slots in particular, does not only give gamblers more options at the racetrack. It also leads to horsemen having the option to try their charges in spots previously considered no-man’s land for horses with any class. Mountaineer landed a Kentucky Derby winner. Charles Town landed Commentator for the Charles Town Classic. Last year, Hoosier Park enticed Pyro, once considered one of his crop’s heavyweights, to enter the Indiana Derby. There is a $1 million race in the middle of Pennsylvania for crying out loud.

Even if for a brief moment, racinos can draw the big horses to come to your local track and thrust it into the national spotlight. If a few curious onlookers become serious followers of the sport, the track will be ahead for the day – and all thanks to a room full of retirees mindlessly hitting the “spin again” button.

However, the honeymoon between racing and slots may soon be coming to an end.

Many racino tracks are still struggling to find an identity for themselves, especially when the quality of racing has yet to catch up with the caliber of purses being offered.

Despite becoming a beacon for horsemen from non-racino states (just take a look at all the Michigan-based connections racing at Presque Isle Downs), Pennsylvania still faces issues with keeping the balance between the racetrack and the casino. Further complicating the situation is the radical discrepancy between the money the live handle kicks into the purse structure versus the purse money generated by the slots (as high as 20-to-1 at Presque Isle). According to the article linked to in this paragraph, Pennsylvania racing’s heavy reliance on the slot machine dollar paired with its difficulty generating its own funds could be seen as a sign of blood in the water by other groups looking to profit from gambling monies.

Though it has been confirmed at Prairie Meadows, an Iowa racino, that live racing actually boosts the slots revenue, the track plans to restructure its schedule for next year, with plans to jettison standardbred racing and ask for fewer Thoroughbred dates. While purses have steadily risen, live handle has steadily dipped despite being one of the first racetracks to adopt casino-style gaming.

The racetracks of today are the lab rats in the study of the miracle cure known as slot machines. Tracks with slots get the medicine – tracks without get the placebo. Early returns appear positive, but the side effects are still being discovered. Little is known about the long-term effects slot machines will have on the racing industry because they have only been around for the short-term. Proponents say slots will bring racing to an even playing field with competitors and will encourage the breeding of better competitors, while others worry the bottom line will eventually drive the “Rac” in “Racino” to become a full-blown “Cas”.

The answer is likely somewhere in the middle, but as it stands right now, there is only one way to find out.

A poll running this long deserves a post just as lengthy. To help preserve your eyes and attention spans, I am splitting it up into two separate entries. The next post, examining some of the poll’s runner-ups, will be up whenever I get around to writing it. Keep your eyes peeled.

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The Haiku Handicapper: Belmont Stakes recap

Summer Bird swoops in
Karma is overrated
Borel’s crown denied

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The Haiku Handicapper: The 2009 Belmont Stakes

All this news surrounding the race date cuts is depressing the crap out of me. Let’s have some fun, eh?

Triple Crown’s last leg
Big Sandy brings champs to earth
Start spreading the news

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

 #1 – Chocolate Candy
Can set pace or close
Can’t go wrong with Go-Go up
The field’s X-factor

#2 – Dunkirk
Fell flat in Derby
Yet to beat the crop’s elite
A show threat at best

#3 – Mr. Hot Stuff
Closer might like length
No fire in the Derby
Not too high on him

#4 – Summer Bird
Nice run at Churchill
Jockey change brings bad karma
Wait ’til the Spa meet

#5 – Luv Gov
Lone win’s a maiden
Stakes credentials are shaky
They’re asking too much

#6 – Charitable Man
Won the Belmont prep
Loves the track, running in front
Late speed should catch him

#7 – Mine That Bird
Underdog no more
Jock roulette lands on Borel
A serious threat

#8 – Flying Private
Shows up at each dance
Outran odds at Pimlico
Still don’t expect much

#9 –  Miner’s Escape
Tesio winner
Background is Da’Tara-esque
Lightning don’t strike twice

#10 – Brave Victory
LaPenta’s bomber
Zero success in big spots
Victory? No way. 

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

Who gets carnations?
Borel lands the jock triple
One, six round it out

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The Haiku Handicapper: Preakness Stakes Recap

The filly did it
Top two proved they are legit
Who wants a rematch?

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Something to note: In a race that’s purpose, as defined by Rachel Alexandra’s former co-owner Dolphus Morrison, is “to showcase the future stallions of our industry,” the top two finishers were a filly and a gelding. Nice.

While looking through Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra’s pps, I noticed she  finished second in last year’s Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race I saw in person. I quickly searched my photo archives and found I had a couple pictures of her. Neither of them are exactly Eclipse-quality, but it is the first time to my recollection that I photographed a horse before he or she broke through to the big time. Enjoy!

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The Haiku Handicapper: The 2009 Preakness Stakes

The Crown’s second jewel
Most Rachel drama since “Friends”
Should make good watching

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

#1 – Big Drama
Does well off long breaks
Will duel for lead, but can last
Shooter with a shot

#2 – Mine That Bird
Historic upset
Best horse or opportunist?
No Borel, no chance

#3 – Musket Man
A pleasant surprise
Answered class, distance questions
As live as any

#4 – Luv Gov
Best name in the field
Took ten starts to break maiden
Would be a huge shock

#5 – Friesan Fire
Derby’s biggest bust
In-race hoof woes a concern
Has he recovered? 

#6 – Terrain
Wisely skipped Derby
Globetrotter on eighth new track
An exotic threat

#7 – Papa Clem
Off two big efforts 
Almost always a factor
Is a bounce looming?

#8 – General Quarters
A minor letdown
Rough trip in race, ride to track
Was Blue Grass his peak? 

#9 – Pioneerof The Nile
Hey, he handles dirt!
Great trip, ran into buzzsaw
Will be tough to beat 

#10 – Flying Private
Crossed the wire last
Lane’s End now an afterthought
Doesn’t look likely 

#11 – Take The Points
Passed on the big dance
Second tier on the west coast
Middle of the pack 

#12 – Tone It Down
A local entry
Could draft Mine That Bird on rail
Too much here to beat 

#13 – Rachel Alexandra
The filly phenom
Stallion showcase gains intrigue
Talent should trump post

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

Who cashes tickets?
Zayat only needed one
Place: thirteen, Show: one

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