JC / Railbird

Gulfstream Park

Why Not?

Steven Crist on extending the Pegasus World Cup concept:

The central idea of the Pegasus is to raise purse money from owners rather than through an extraction from the parimutuel handle. Horseplayers have been told for generations that they must pay an exorbitant 20 percent takeout on their wagers because of the need to pay purses as well as to staff and maintain a racetrack. Now, however, we have a rare case where the purse has already been funded.

So, why not eliminate the takeout on the race entirely, or at least slash it to a low, player-friendly rate such as 10 percent? That would make this a revolutionary race for the customers as well as the owners.

(I think I hear someone muttering, “to hell with the bettors.”)

The other Steve of the turf trade press proposes a Pegasus reality show.

Stars Aligning

The Pegasus World Cup is coming to Gulfstream on January 28, 2017, and to get a spot in the 12-horse starting gate, owners will have to buy an entry for $1 million, which will go into the purse, making the $12 million Pegasus the world’s richest Thoroughbred race. (Somewhere, Sheikh Mohammed’s gritting his teeth at this trumping.) The money doesn’t only guarantee entry, though:

All entrants will not only be competing for the world’s largest purse, but they will also share equally in 100% of the net income from pari-mutuel handle, media rights, and sponsorships from the Pegasus World Cup, according to The Stronach Group announcement.

Aspects of the Pegasus plan, which allows owners buying an entry to also lease a starter or sell their place in their gate, immediately reminded me of Fred Pope’s star vision from 2011. You might remember this idea:

Maybe, just maybe, the system we have been using for compensating our talent in racing has become a problem, a big problem. This year, if things go well, Uncle Mo’s races could have total wagering handle of more than $200 million. With average takeout of twenty percent, the wagering revenue generated by Uncle Mo’s races, $40 million, will go somewhere else.

Of that $40 million, about $10 million (5% of the $200 million wagered) will go to the host tracks where the races are held and be split between track operators and future purses. The remaining $30 million (15% of the total wagered) will go to those simply taking bets on Uncle Mo’s races. Why?

Why can’t the top finishers in Uncle Mo’s races receive the $20 million in purses due from wagering on their races? Our stars need to be compensated for the revenue they generate. That’s how the real world works.

Racing’s welfare system is not working for those putting on the show, thus it is not working for Uncle Mo, and the other brands in the sport. Racing needs the same distribution model as the Apple brand, where Apple sells customers direct, through bricks and mortar outlets and through on-line vendors.

The Pegasus World Cup is selling direct. Even if it doesn’t upend the current economic structure of racing, it’s a step in that direction.

5/19/16 Addendum: I missed this Tom LaMarra story in January, which quotes Frank Stronach addressing the business model experiment angle:

“The basic idea is how can racing compete with other great sports?” Stronach said. “We’ve got to make things exciting, things the press will write about. We want to tell people that love horse racing that we say, ‘Look. We want to establish a new business.’ We would lease Gulfstream for one day and call it a new business.”

He was cagier about it when asked by T.D. Thornton last week:

TDN: If the profit-sharing concept works with a race of this magnitude, could the concept be scalable? By that I mean could you see profit-sharing trickling down as a way of funding other types of races or even entire racing programs or race meets?

FS: That’s possible. But smaller races are less interesting, right?

At Some Point

… Tackleberry will surely catch the attention of bettors. Eight for 12 in his career, three for four in graded stakes at Gulfstream this year, the 4-year-old Florida-bred deserves serious consideration as a contender in the older male division after winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap. A winner sprinting and routing, and a rarity for racing drug-free, the highweight Tackleberry was sent off as the fourth-choice on Saturday. He was given a Beyer speed figure of 103 for his neck win, and he’ll point to the Charles Town Classic for his next start.

Saturday Notes

Azeri’s second foal, a 3-year-old filly by Giant’s Causeway named Arienza, is readying for her debut at Oaklawn. “We are starting to raise our sights a little higher, but then again, you remember she hasn’t won anything yet.”

The Timely Writer is back on the table for Dialed In. “I’m not happy with the distance of the race since they changed it to a mile from a mile and one eighth…. But at the moment we don’t have that many options.”

Handicapping the Fountain of Youth: “You try to beat To Honor And Serve, and I’ll try to beat Soldat.” In the Davona Dale, try to beat Dancinginherdreams.

Where Mo Goes

Jerry Bossert hinted on Monday that early Derby fave Uncle Mo might start at Gulfstream on March 12, instead of at Tampa in its eponymous Derby on the same day, if a suitable race were written. Such has happened:

Gulfstream Park racing secretary Dan Bork has written a one-mile overnight handicap for 3-year-olds to be run here March 12. The race, called the Timely Writer, will offer a $100,000 purse and will carry no conditions, which makes it open to all 3-year-olds, including reigning division leader and Eclipse Award champion Uncle Mo.

Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole are very interested; the camp will commit to a race next week. “We’ll talk it over after he works and we’ll let people know on Monday or Tuesday,” Repole told the Blood-Horse.

Making the Timely Writer more likely: “Elliott Walden says WinStar looking at March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (gr II) next for Brethren,” tweeted Janet Patton.

As prepping goes, if Uncle Mo were to start in the Gulfstream special, then the Wood Memorial (which has been mentioned as a target), his schedule would look much like Big Brown’s in 2008. Before winning the Kentucky Derby, he started in a one-mile allowance on March 5 and then the Florida Derby on March 29. The sequence worked for Big Brown, the first horse in more than 30 years to win off one two-turn start as a 3-year-old, but he was exceptional in a weak crop — Uncle Mo’s contemporaries seem like a more promising bunch.

Elsewhere: This week’s Paulick Derby Index. Brethren moves from #7 to #4, but doesn’t make anyone’s list as #1 following the Sam F. Davis.

2/18/11 Addendum: John Pricci sees payback in Mo’s Timely Writer.

Mo’s First Show

Jerry Bossert reports:

Uncle Mo is scheduled to return in the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby, but there is a chance the colt could debut at Gulfstream Park that day if a race is written for him.

“That’s a possibility should there be something at Gulfstream on March 12,” the trainer said.

Who would run against?

Thursday Notes

You’ve probably heard? Zenyatta will be bred to Bernardini. If you’re into nicks, it’s a match that gets an A++ or a B+, depending on methodology. And while the most anticipated foal of the 21st century hasn’t even been conceived yet (that’ll probably happen in February, if all goes as planned), it’s apparently not too early to think of names. (Bernyatta? Zendini?) I don’t know enough about breeding to call the mating conservative or not, but from a handicapping perspective, it’s an intriguing mix of flash and substance, class and speed. Bernardini’s first-crop runners were precocious and versatile juveniles; Zenyatta was sound through a three-year career and never faltered on track.

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo is listed as the 128-pound highweight on the 2010 Experimental Free Handicap, announced today by the Jockey Club. That’s the highest assignment since Favorite Trick was weighted 128 in 1997.

Boys at Tosconova will miss the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Sunday. The Rick Dutrow trainee hasn’t seemed himself since a work on January 13. Santiva will also pass on the Holy Bull. The Kentucky Jockey Cup winner, just getting back into training, could make his first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth.

Recovered from the hind ankle injury that knocked him out of Saratoga and a fall campaign, Sovereign Default returns on Saturday at Gulfstream in race five, a seven-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds over the main track that drew seven starters. The colt attracted attention after winning his well-bet debut by two lengths at Belmont Park last July 15, a maiden race that yielded two next out winners in Stay Thirsty (who followed his maiden win with a second to Boys at Tosconova in the Hopeful) and Air Support (who won the Pilgrim Stakes).

I suppose this story’s good news is that 84 past-posters weren’t able to cash.

4:30 PM Addendum: Entries are now up for Sunday’s Holy Bull and Forward Gal Stakes. As often in recent years, the potential Oaks fillies look like a more interesting bunch, with Pocahontas Stakes winner Dancinginherdreams and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up R Heat Lightning, both making their first starts since November, topping the seven-horse Forward Gal field. The Holy Bull drew nine, including Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, and Major Gain.

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