Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Trainers

Confusing Conditions

As racing secretaries scramble to fill cards, under pressure from year-round racing and declining horse populations, deciphering complex race conditions is becoming more difficult for handicappers, writes Bob Fortus:

Little by little, claiming races with restrictions started creeping into the programs. The ‘B’ races, which started on the East Coast several years ago, are the latest form of restricted claiming. In those races, it can be particularly difficult to single out horses as serious contenders.

Optional claiming/allowance races are common everywhere, too. Handicappers suddenly are confronted with questions they rarely would have encountered just a few years ago, such as, Can a sharp and capable 3-year-old with only two victories in his career beat a tough, old claiming horse with several career victories.

Steve Davidowitz wrote about how to spot live horses among “gobbledygook” conditions in a 2009 DRF+ column (via HRF). For more in-depth treatment, nothing beats James Quinn’s “The Handicapper’s Condition Book.”

Character Unbecoming

Roguish trainer Rick Dutrow is being called to account:

In a five-point “show cause” notice ordering Dutrow to appear before the board on March 30 and 31, the racing board states that the trainer is a “person whose conduct at racetracks in New York state and elsewhere has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming and detrimental to the best interests of racing.”

I may have been wrong last month about the NYSRWB.

Enough Isn’t Enough

Following the news that Rick Dutrow had been suspended ninety days* for two infractions, RCI president Ed Martin formally asked the NYSRWB for a review of the trainer’s license, citing his lengthy record of violations (PDF):

At some point, an individual who continues to violate the rules of racing forfeits through his own actions the ability to be in the game. At some point, enough is enough.

Since 1979, racing regulatory jurisdictions have sanctioned Mr. Dutrow at least 64 times for various rule violations in nine different states at fifteen different racetracks.

The board isn’t rushing to consider the request, reports David Grening:

“If I had a crystal ball with high-definition and 3-D I’d be in a better position to make predictions,” said Joe Mahoney, a board spokesman.

Dutrow’s New York license is valid through Aug. 5. Mahoney said the board does “look at the licensee’s record at the time of renewal.”

Grening describes Mahoney’s reply as “non-committal.” I’d say it sounds more like, “No way in hell.” The Babe’s not going anywhere, except on vacation.

*Pending appeal, of course.

2/20/11 Addendum: Dutrow’s attorney replies to Martin: “We hope that Mr. Martin did not rush to judgment and that he paid more attention to the actual facts when he was in charge at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board than he has demonstrated in his recent unfounded and irresponsible letter.”

Sadler’s Year?

Trainer John Sadler is hardly unknown. Steadily climbing the rankings over the past decade, he’s been among the top 10 conditioners nationally by earnings since 2008, and six weeks into this year, he’s number four, behind perennial leaders Asmussen, Baffert, and Pletcher. On opening day at Santa Anita, he won three graded stakes. This past weekend, he won three of the four graded stakes run at the track — the Strub Stakes with Twirling Candy (“possesses an undeniable brilliance,” gushed Mike Watchmaker), the Las Virgenes with Zazu (Green but Game’s expert pick and newest crush), and the San Antonio Handicap with Gladding. With 4-year-old stakes winners Switch and Sidney’s Candy also in his barn, the Santa Anita press office calculates that he has “serious contenders … in no less than six of racing’s divisions.” Not bad. While Sadler isn’t well stocked in racing’s glamour division — his most promising 3-year-old male so far this winter is Runflatout, a debut maiden winner — with three of the best older horses in training, he seems poised to have the kind of breakout year that leads to an Eclipse Award.

Hold off on adding Cal Nation to your Kentucky Derby top 10:

“Cal Nation came out of his race well,” said Pletcher of the 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt who was impressive in breaking his maiden at first asking in Saturday’s eighth race [at Gulfstream].  “It’s a little late [for him to get onto the Kentucky Derby trail].  We’d have to make up a lot of time.  I think we’ll just take the conservative route with him.”

Kentucky Derby and Oaks prep schedules updated: Beyer speed figures of 88 for Toby’s Corner in the Whirlaway and Zazu in the Las Virgenes.

Brad Free was out with an interesting post on Santa Anita’s new dirt surface over the weekend: “No one wants to knock the surface. Not publicly, at least. But behind the scenes, many are frustrated.” For whatever reason, the track composition is not as as expected; more sand is to be added. Via Derby List comes this report of bruising clods being thrown up by the dirt: “I had the misfortune of being behind one horse while working a set 2 mornings ago …

2/9/11 Addendum: Sadler tells Jay Privman that Runflatout is possible for the San Vicente Stakes on February 20. “I want to give him a chance to get to the Kentucky Derby, but I want to be smart, too, about how we go at it.”

Astounding

Nick Kling delves into trainer Rudy Rodriguez’s first-year numbers:

Because of this lucrative pipeline, Rudy has compiled one of the most phenomenal statistics I’ve ever seen. Horses making their first start for the Rodriguez barn after a straight trainer change have won 15 of 29 starts, a celestial 52 percent. In addition, Rudy has hit first-time out with 8 of 22 claimed horses. That is a 36 percent strike rate.

And his ROI is excellent.

Rodriguez’s win rate is 30% for the year, 35.7% at Belmont since the start of the fall meet. He’s in the money 65% for the year, 69% at Belmont.

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