… the loss of Main Sequence from this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which will be staged at Keeneland for the first time, is a definite setback for the event. From a European point of view, however, it does leave the Turf looking very open indeed. Fabre may feel he has some unfinished business where Flintshire is concerned, and if it looks as though his five-year-old is likely to find at least one opponent too good at Longchamp in early October, it is at least possible that the race in Kentucky will assume greater significance.
… what I do know, from having watched this horse for the better part of his career, is that Art Sherman always showed that he knew what was best for California Chrome. He ignored people who said the colt should have arrived sooner at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby, and those who said he needed to work between the Derby and Preakness, and those who questioned why he was running on grass after the Breeders’ Cup.
Sherman was not down with going to the Pennsylvania Derby — a pure money grab that left him a race short for the BC Classic — nor going to England.
Sherman was right an all counts, and it’s a real shame his probity wasn’t fully appreciated by those whose interests he, ultimately, was trying to look out for.
The long trip home this week surely did not help his appearance, but even after just two days here, the colt appears to be headed the right direction. I saw him this morning as he was being hand-walked by groom Raul Rodriguez around the barn of trainer Chris Block, his new digs upon leaving quarantine, and it sure looked like California Chrome already had added a touch of heft and a bit of gleam to his chestnut coat.
Many people on several different social media sites have concerns about Chrome’s weight. It is our belief that he needs to put on about 150 pounds. We appreciate all of your concerns and hope that you all know that he is in the best hands with Raul and Anna. His health and well-being is our top concern and we are confident that now that he is home and with people he is familiar with things will only get better.
Four months from the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and Lady Eli looks unbeatable in her likely year-end race. “She certainly has the most devastating turn of foot I’ve ever worked around,” trainer Chad Brown said after the 3-year-old filly brought her undefeated career record to six with a 2 3/4-length win in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Oaks. Her final time of 1:59.27 earned a Beyer speed figure of 98. Her TimeformUS figure is 120.
The Belmont Oaks finish time was almost two seconds faster than the Belmont Derby, run at the same distance, which Force the Pass won in 2:01.16 (92 Beyer, 118 TimeformUS). It’s interesting to think that Lady Eli could have won the age-restricted race with its larger purse ($1.25 million versus $1 million), and she might have. Pace complicates the comparison. According to Trakus, Lady Eli won the Oaks with quarters of :23.92, :24.27, :24.30, :24.21, and :22.77. Force the Pass went :24.97, :25.77, :25.05, :23.58, and :22.07. The first three-quarters in the Derby, with Bolo as leader, was 1:15.58. The same fraction for the Oaks, with Lady Zuzu in front, was 1:11.80*. Watch the replay:
*Trakus time; Teletimer/chart time is 1:11.71.
7/13/15 Update: Heartbreaking news from trainer Chad Brown — Lady Eli has laminitis. Brown’s statement is below:
“We have some unfortunate news to report from our barn. Following Lady Eli’s impressive victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks on July 4, she sadly stepped on a nail on the horse path on the way back to our barn and injured her left front foot. Despite our efforts, including a talented team of veterinarians, Lady Eli’s injury has led to her developing laminitis. Thankfully, we have assembled the best possible team of veterinarians and farriers to stabilize her and assist her through these difficult times. I ask that all of her fans keep this magnificent racehorse in their prayers and hopefully she will be back on the racetrack flashing her brilliance again.”
“We are ecstatic to know American Pharoah will be running in the Haskell,” Monmouth president Bob Kulina said. “This will be the biggest day ever in the history of racing in New Jersey. We’ve been racing for 70 years and this is the first time we will have a Triple Crown champion here. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but this will be even bigger than 2007 when we hosted the Breeders’ Cup.”
The nine percent of those revenues designated for the Racehorse Development Fund totaled $553,916.37; that’s $138,479 for harness racing, which takes place at Plainridge. I was going to insert a sentence or two here noting how much Plainridge handled on live racing during the same period, and maybe try to draw a conclusion from the slots-RDF-handle numbers, but tracking down harness handle figures turns out to make Thoroughbred racing look like a transparent, open dream industry. (Harness friends, any tips?)
Let’s say Plainridge does $100,000 in handle per card. At a low signal fee, let’s set revenue at 5% of that handle, which would mean the track and purses would drive $5,000 per card in revenue.
If they race three cards a week, that’s $15,000 in revenue.
$15,000 from racing, $567,000 from slots.
His conclusion: There’s no point to doing the work of growing handle when there’s so little payoff compared to the casino money. Plainridge is booked for 105 cards this year. Assuming they average about the same per card as last year, they’ll handle almost $10 million, while paying out approximately $4 million in purses (estimate based on averaged recent daily purse levels; in 2014, Plainridge paid $2.6 million in purses). There’s not much incentive to push casino patrons into betting on the local racing product either: The track’s portion of daily live handle runs roughly $1400 per card on-track, or about the gross on two slot machines.
1:35 PM Correction: This post was originally published using only the on-track handle total for 2014, which led to an incorrect conclusion re: daily revenue. This was because I did not include simulcasting handle, listed as “Export Simulcast” in the annual report. The post has been revised to include that figure, and the new and/or altered text is indicated in bold above.
The CHRB said the effort has involved a review of racing videos and informing jockeys when their actions would have incurred a penalty under the impending rule. “Stewards report that jockeys are now in substantial compliance,” the CHRB said.
“It’s honestly going to help riders in general,” Van Dyke said. “If you go rapid-fire, like hit a horse four times quick, your horse tends to drift more. The whip rule will make the rider focus more on staying straight. I think it’s great.”
In my own judgment, racetrack managers in most states have failed to see the problems they have created for themselves. Fact is, there are so many tracks open for so many months each year, the majority have had to cut down on the number of races they offer each day.
Instead of a five day racing week with nine and 10 races per day, Santa Anita just ran four-day race weeks, with eight races on Thursday and Friday. That pattern is repeated in many states that used to operate five and six days a week with plenty horses left over after running nine and 10 races a day! Even Gulfstream Park had eight race cards …
Earlier Monday, word from the track was that they were still waiting for direction from Zayat as to whether he wanted them to increase the Haskell purse or put together some kind of lucrative package for winning multiple races, including the Haskell and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
That’s not what Zayat’s looking for, however, and he said he indicated that in a conference call with Monmouth Park leadership last week.
“I want to make it a festival,” he said. “Where it’s best for the prestige of this horse. Something that is appropriate for a Triple Crown winner. I want to excite the fans. I want to make it a festival that they will always remember. A great day for the sport. And whoever is going to deliver that, that’s what’s good for me. That’s where I’m going to go. That was my message to them.”
… officials are trying to come up with a plan on how to deal with having racing’s superstar housed on the backstretch. Baffert made it clear that the colt is getting back to work, and surely Del Mar will respect those wishes. At Del Mar, it’s almost certain there won’t be nearly the fuss made over the colt’s arrival as there was at Santa Anita, where he was welcomed back as a conquering hero by adoring fans, TV stations and every form of media. As much as Del Mar would like to see it, this won’t be Cigar coming in for the 1996 Pacific Classic. Talk about a zoo.
All Del Mar can hope for is that American Pharoah’s scheduled works will be announced ahead of time to allow San Diego’s horse racing fans to attend them in the morning as they did for California Chrome last year.
If you’re not already planning to be there August 22, don’t rush to book a trip.
It’s the only horse racing going in Massachusetts right now, so I went to Plainridge Park on Monday to catch Thursday’s rescheduled card. First post was 11:00 AM — too early to enjoy a snack before at Doug Flutie’s Sports Bar, although not too early for the crowd that was already settling into the new, cacophonous casino floor with its 1,250 slot and video gaming machines. When I emerged onto the track apron — after following a winding hallway that lost more glitz the closer it got to the beige and Formica simulcasting room — it was almost a relief to count only 28 other people out there with me.
That number went up, although not by much. By noon — that was race four — fewer than 100 people were along the rail or watching the flat screens inside. What I took for a larger group in the simulcasting room turned out to be eager casino patrons signing up for players’ rewards cards — Plainridge was processing their new loyalists in the one place they had space and the noise level didn’t make it impossible to capture that all-important marketing data.
I don’t know much about Standardbreds or harness racing, except that they’re sturdy animals who often run weekly and that horses breaking from the one hole have an outsized chance at winning because of likely ground saving. I also know that at Plainridge they’re now running for higher purses funded by casino licensing fees and a percent of gaming revenues via the 25% split harness racing gets from the state’s Racehorse Development Fund, which makes total handle a little less of a concern for horsemen and the track, and that — today, anyway — they were running races every 12 minutes. It was almost as though they were running the card as a formality.
The Plainridge Park simulcasting room.
Grandstand exterior. Tents and picnic tables were set up along the wall.
Lining up for the start of a race. A classic car with “Raceway Park” stenciled on the doors handled gate duty.
Coming down the stretch for the first time.
Debs Girloffortune (#1, outside) wins the first race.
A horse warms up in front of the crowd along the rail.