Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Mike Smith Talks about Zenyatta, Wine

Zap of the Week

Larry Zap caught up with hall of famer jockey Mike Smith in the paddock at Hollywood Park the day after Zenyatta won her 11th in a row.

Mike mentions a wine project he's involved in with Alex Solis and other investors -- check out the web site
Smith mentions here.

Mike Smith also answers Zap's hypothetical question about strategy on a future match-up between two of Thoroughbred racing's biggest names... Smith rides Eclipse winner Zenyatta and is expected to take on classic winning and future Eclipse winner Rachel Alexandra and jockey Calvin Borel.

This day, Smith rode Dish the Dirt for trainer Peter Eurton to a nice 2nd against undefeated filly Moon de French.

Once again, nicely narrated by Larry Zap... Enjoy!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hollywood Park is First California Track to Receive SAIA Accreditation

Hollywood Park, Inglewood, Calif.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced that Hollywood Park has been fully accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance following a complete review of all racing operations at the facility.

Hollywood Park is the fifth racing facility to be so designated by the Alliance, the accreditation being the culmination of a lengthy certification process that began with the track’s completion of a 48-page written application and continued as Hollywood Park hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. The on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing facility, and interviews with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards, regulators and fans.

Noteworthy findings at Hollywood included best practices in areas including equine ambulance services and equipment; participation in a groundbreaking training injury study coordinated by Drs. Jeff Blea and Wayne McIlwraith; and participation in track surface studies coordinated by Dr. Mick Peterson.

According to Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, Hollywood Park exceeded recommended Alliance benchmarks in several areas.

The Alliance, formed last October with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen’s organization. Alliance certification standards cover five broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; and safety research.

Way to go, Hollywood Park!

Read the full story here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Past Performance Data: Inconsistencies are Handicapping the Handicapper

The latest in a series of guest posts on the business of horse racing.

By Vic Harrison

We've discussed video displays, breakage and outs issues, past posting and starting gates. This week we turn an objective eye to Past Performance info.


Q: Does the best horse always win the race?
A: No, there are many contributing factors.

Q: Is the Past Performance info in the
Daily Racing Form accurate?
A: Yes.

Q: Is the Past Performance info in the
ubiquitous Simulcast Program (SP) accurate?
A: Yes.

Q: Is the Past Performance info in the
DRF the same as the PP info in the SP?
A: No.

On any given race day…

My handicapping pal Grant places great handicapping emphasis on class drops. He uses, mostly, purse amounts to determine class. But his wagering choices hinge on the publication he’s reading, either the Daily Racing Form (DRF) or the Simulcasting Program (SP). Yup – he will make his betting choice in a race depending on which publication he is reading. Is this proper, or fair? Is Grant’s return-on-investment higher utilizing the DRF or the SP??

The added purse from, say, the in-state Breeders Association (and shown in the SP) skews Grant’s handicapping choice: Let’s look at a horse named Dobyn’s Novel. The DRF does not show the added money on the PP line; so Dobyn’s Novel’s most recent allowance race appears in print with a purse of $52,325. In the SP, the added money is included in the total purse amount and, for the same date and race, is $59,000. Remember, to Grant, Purse equals Class. Today’s purse is $55,000 – Dobyn’s Novel is not dropping in class as per the DRF. But, utilizing the SP, he’s dropping in class.

I can’t say which publication has is right, but I believe it should be shown identically. There should be consistency in both publications, keeping in mind that wagering newbies are already struggling with racing terminology and convoluted condition races.

And… my pal Grant, whose unfortunate surname is Marnier, also places great emphasis upon moves made by horses within the running of their recent races. If a horse makes two moves in the race, all the better. So, dear reader:

Q:  In this year’s Kentucky Derby, would
there have been an outcry if Desert Party

or Regal Ransom had won the race?

Non-committal A:

Perhaps, I think so, yep, pretty sure.

Neither horse shows any fractional times, positions or lengths-behind in their three most recent races – all were overseas. Is this proper or fair? In this year’s Derby must Grant toss his handicapping formula/criteria on these two horses? Should he have withdrawn them from his considerations? One could argue that first time starters also have no such PP info. Well, a graded stakes race generally has no such first time starters and…I know I am not likely to part with my money on a FTS in any race, maiden included. We’re trying to grow pari-mutuel handle here by allowing players to bet with confidence.

Related Note: Just today (Wednesday, June 24, 2009) I read a wonderful article by the venerable John Pricci on the veracity of workout times and the underlying issue of such data collection. Mr. Pricci offers that the obvious solution is to track the horse’s movements by utilizing chips in saddle pads. I know there is a cost involved in implementing such systems, but he is absolutely right. There is no other answer, not only for workouts but for live racing as well. This would also solve the problem of having humans posting the running numbers during the race which invariably result in laughable departures from reality. And (he added hopefully) perhaps the saddle-chips can be programmed to trigger the stop-bet command as they break from the gate so this responsibility isn’t left in the hands of the Stewards/Judges (a moot point, in thoroughbred racing, if wagering is stopped as the first horse enters the gate - to be applied uniformly at all North American race tracks – please see my earlier post on this subject.)

Until next time...

-- Vic

For information about Vic Harrison, see Contributors on the About tab.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zenyatta Working at Hollywood Park

Zenyatta works at Hollywood Park, 6/13/09.

I was coming out of the track kitchen with some friends after breakfast on a cool, overcast Saturday morning, when we were stopped dead in our tracks by the sight of a magnificent, black horse being ponied out to the track. I don't often recognize a horse on sight, but at that point I immediately gasped, "Zenyatta!"

It's hard to miss the big, flashy mare -- not so much by looks, but by the way she carries herself, as if she is the Queen of Hollywood Park. And rightly so; the undefeated champion has won half of her races at the track of the lakes and flowers.

After following her to the track, we were able to stand near trainer John Shirreffs and watch her beautiful work. Enjoy the video!

All eyes will be on Zenyatta Saturday when she tries for number six at Hollywood Park -- and number 11 in all -- in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. They will have trouble looking away!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saturday is Zenyatta Day at Hollywood Park

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

The excitement is building for Saturday, June 27 at Hollywood Park, where the legendary Zenyatta will be the center of attention in the Grade I, $300,000 Vanity Handicap. Trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has won ten races and $2,234,580. The undefeated champion mare will be seeking her 11th lifetime victory and sixth at Hollywood Park.

Zenyatta has
been assigned high weight of 129 pounds for the Vanity. She carried 126 pounds in winning the Milady Handicap here on May 23. Only two winners have carried more weight in the 68-year history of the Vanity: Gamely with 131 pounds in 1968 and Silver Spoon with 130 pounds in 1960.

Here's the complete list of Vanity weight assignments:

Zenyatta, 129; Life Is Sweet, 122; Dawn After Dawn, 116; Briecat, 114; Modification, 114; You Lift Me Up, 114; Allicansayis Wow, 113; Forest Melody, 113, and Hot n’ Dusty, 111.

One thing is for certain, Zenyatta knows how to put on a show -- starting in the saddling paddock. I, for one, can hardly wait!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day at Hollywood Park

Although I've been laying low with an ear infection for a couple of days, I will be watching the races today on TVG! The sun has broken through the June gloom here in Southern California, and it promises to be a nice family day at Hollywood Park. Today's feature is the renewal of one of Hollywood Park's longest-run stakes races, the 63rd running of the Cinema Handicap (Grade 3) for three year olds at 1-1/8 miles on the turf.

Here are the horses I will be watching today:

D.C. Tapit in the 1st
Maui Mark in the 5th
Herr Mozart in the 9th (Cinema Handicap)

Good luck to everyone and Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Historic Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park Saturday

Affirmed at Hollywood Park after winning The Californian in 1979.
Jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr.; Owner Harbor View Farm; Trainer L. S. Barrera.

Saturday's Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap is named for the 1978 Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year. Affirmed became the first Thoroughbred to earn $2 million in career purses when he won the 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Known as the Silver Screen Handicap from 1979 to 1992, the Affirmed is for 3-year-olds at 1-1/16 miles and is a steppingstone to the Swaps Stakes, which will be contested at 1-1/8 miles on July 18. Four colts have won both the Affirmed and Swaps: Valdez (1979), Journey At Sea (1982), Old Trieste (1998) and Came Home (2002).

In other historic notes:
  • The 2002 Affirmed provided the final ride for Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, who won by two lengths aboard Came Home. It was career win number 7,141 for McCarron, who retired as the all-time earnings leader with a career total of $264,351,679.

  • Tiznow, who became Horse of the Year, earned his first stakes victory in the 2000 Affirmed -- at odds of 10 to 1.

  • Trainer Vladimir Cerin saddled both the winner (Boomzeeboom) and runner-up (Twice as Bad) in the 2004 Affirmed.
The Affirmed Handicap will run as the 9th race Saturday, with an approximate post time of 5:08 p.m. (pst).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sales Tax Rate to 9.75%: Final Nail in the Claiming Coffin?

by Jerry McMahon

For a variety of reasons nearly every U.S. racing secretary will say that claiming is the heart of the racing industry in this country. That’s why alarm bells are ringing as a result of significant (as much as 66%) declines in claiming activity at the current Hollywood Park meet. The downturn in Southern California has generally been attributed to the weak economy, and with the indicators being what they are, no one can really dispute that conclusion. I for one, however, think that the 1% state-wide sales tax increase that went into effect April 1, 2009 is a major contributing factor to the decline. And if that’s the case, what happens when the L.A. County rate rises to 9.75%, as it is set to do on July 1st?

I have to admit that my concern on the subject began years ago while running local auction companies and watching almost every expensive horse purchased being sent out of state. The reason? Nobody wanted to write a check to the state for $8,250 for every $100,000 horse that they bought. Because of this, local owners with top-tier tastes are usually out-bid by foreign and out-of-state buyers. After July 1st, L.A. County auction buyers wanting to keep their purchases in California will effectively be 9.75% behind their out-of-state competitors during the bidding process. The only way for local owners to get around this is to immediately ship their purchases out-of-state, and to make sure that they remain there for at least 60 days. The problem with that loophole for local racing secretaries is that many of these horses never make it back to California.

Now let’s get back to the issue as it relates to the claiming business. Let’s say a claiming stable begins the year with a $200,000 pot to finance claims. During the course of the year, they make 10 claims for an average price of $40,000, while of course losing several of their horses to other claiming stables along the way. That amounts to $400,000, times 9.75% for a total tax of $39,000. The stable claiming pot has been reduced to $161,000, WITHOUT paying one bill or losing a horse to injury! Disturbingly, and unlike procedures in some other racing states, you could claim the SAME horse three times, and still pay the full tax each time! As one prominent claiming owner told me, “The financial model here is already broken, and the sales tax rise will only make it worse.”

During the past few decades, the sales tax issue has been brought up by industry leaders on numerous occasions, only to have political consultants call any reform ideas D.O.A. with respect to California lawmakers. Not surprisingly, the California boating industry has effectively preserved more favorable sales tax rules during the same time period, despite the fact that relatively few boats are actually built in the Golden State.

From time to time the industry has had opportunities for legislative relief in various categories. This was recently evidenced earlier in the year during the tense budget negotiations that that resulted in significant racing license relief, as well as purse benefits for horsemen. I would strongly suggest that industry sales tax relief be thrown in the hopper in the unlikely event that a similar opportunity comes along again.

For the record, it should be noted that the additional 1% tax instituted in April is scheduled to sunset in 2011. Given the state of the state, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that actually happening.

Previous posts by McMahon: Stud Fees, Auction Prices Good Handicapping Tools, and Commercial Bloodstock Markets: Supply's the Key.

For information about Jerry McMahon, see Contributors on the About tab.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Well Monied Pointing for American Oaks

Well Monied on the track
Well Monied at Santa Anita, 6/16/09.

Well Monied, impressive winner of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on May 31, looked fit and relaxed coming off the track at Santa Anita after a morning gallop with exercise rider Patrice Roux. According to trainer Howard Zucker, she is pointing for the Grade I American Oaks on Sunday, July 5 at Hollywood Park.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sekmet Schooling at Hollywood Park

Sekmet schooling at Hollywood Park, 6/13/09.

Sekmet, a lovely 4-year-old filly by Empire Maker, enjoyed a snack during schooling in the grassy paddock at Hollywood Park. Trained by John Shirreffs for Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Moss, Sekmet is entered in today's 3rd race at Hollywood Park -- a maiden event at 7 furlongs for fillies and mares three years old and up.

She's Cheeky Faces Indian Blessing in Today's Desert Stormer Handicap

She's Cheeky schooling at Hollywood Park, 6/13/09.

She's Cheeky looked absolutely regal as she posed for a photo in the paddock at Hollywood Park, where she was schooling for trainer Peter Eurton in preparation for today's Desert Stormer Handicap.

She's obviously unconcerned about taking on Grade 1 stakes winner Indian Blessing in the 6-furlong event. After all, She's Cheeky ran a very creditable third, behind Ventura and Jibboom, in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap in January. A 4-year-old daughter of Black Minnaloushe, She's Cheeky has never been worse than third in 10 career starts. Go Cheeky!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jungle Prince Schools at Hollywood Park

Jungle Prince Schooling at Hollywood Park, 6/13/09.

Jungle Prince was on his toes this afternoon schooling for trainer Victor Garcia in the paddock at Hollywood Park during the afternoon races. He will be making his third start back from a 7-month layoff in tomorrow's 5th race at 6 furlongs on the turf. Agapito Delgadillo has the mount for owners Burk or Sciarra or Zamarripa, et al.

You can also see a recent video of Jungle Prince when he worked on 6/3/09 at Santa Anita with jockey Agapito Delgadillo up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

An Objective (and Humorous) Look at Starting Gates

Fourth in a series of guest posts on the business of horse racing.

By Vic Harrison

We’ve discussed video displays, breakage and outs issues and past posting. This week we turn an objective eye on starting gates:

• Thoroughbred
• Standardbred, and
• Greyhound Starting Boxes and … Rusty!

Thoroughbred Racing
The scene is perfect, idyllic. The early afternoon sun is washing over the graceful thoroughbreds warming up for the upcoming race on the historic racetrack. Time seems to be standing still and then – What’s this - A tractor pull? Yes, a tractor is pulling a long metal contraption across the racetrack. When the horses break from the gate…another tractor pull. Whoopee, two tractor pulls per race! Is there not a better way to begin a thoroughbred race?

Padding notwithstanding, the starting gate is a metal monstrosity – jockeys are hurt being thrown against the tops and sides; horses are rearing up, falling beneath it and getting cast or otherwise entangled. Horses are prematurely bursting through it. All kinds of labor is being thrown at it in the form of assistant starters. And the shouting; there’s always lots and lots of shouting. Watch the replay of the 2009 Belmont Stakes – the shouting is of a high caliber and rowdier than usual – I think the pre-race Belmont Stakes shouting earned a Beyer figure of 97.

We prosecute trainers for riling up their steeds on race day with electric shocks – why bother? Just get a message to the starter that you want a little extra shouting before the race. And, how about all the time and energy expended in schooling our horses in the gate? Can’t we come up with an improvement? Is the current starting gate good for horse’s hocks – exploding from a standing start? There was a recent article on the use of strand-starts in Australia jump-racing trials – that may be problematic for us too but, on the surface, it appears to be much less stressful than our current starting procedures. We could begin exploring alternatives.

Standardbred Racing
The scene is perfect, bucolic. The lazy afternoon sun is cascading over the sturdy harness horses warming up for the upcoming race on the historic race track – much like a Courier & Ives print – the drivers in their colors steering their powerful animals. And then… What’s this? A car is out on the track with the horses! Not just any car but a Plymouth Reliant K Car…Station Wagon…with wings…and advertising.

The ten horses run up to their allotted slots on the wings, which at this point are swaying with the stability of a Slinky. As the race begins, the 10 horse is a quarter of a mile from the rail – if this isn’t illegal it’s probably a disadvantage (something you wise guys should make part of your handicapping criteria – you can thank me later). The car-with-wings races away while retracting its appendages and then tracks the horses all the way around the racing oval which, let’s face it, makes for a distraction on the video display. The same can be said for the ambulance following the thoroughbreds around the track – a reassuring sight for the participants but unsettling to some viewers.

I had the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks scared out of me last fall by the mobile starting gate. It’s moving at 30+ miles per hour, faster really because it follows a path around the outer perimeter of the race track. This is fine at the far and desolate stretches of the race track, but not at the finish line, where families and children (and, worse, me!) are draped at the rail. While the historical driving record of the starting car may be immaculate, whizzing past the finish line at the outside rail is a recipe for disaster – in this instance an exception from the norm, I’m sure, and likely done with good reason… but scary nonetheless.

I acknowledge there is benefit from having the starter, as an extra judge, eyeballing the horses closely during the course of the race and being first to the scene of any mishap, but I believe there may be another better way to start and track harness races. Let’s give it some thought.

Greyhound Starting Box
First Sidebar Greyhound Question: Why are greyhound races run on ovals? Wouldn’t we be all happier with a long gradual curve like a Forrest Gump smiley face? Wouldn’t bettors be more likely to part with their money knowing that their selection won’t be sent rollin’ and tumblin’ (blues reference) away in the first, sharp, turn?

Second Sidebar Question: Why the electronic rabbit? People have been killed and maimed by the third-rail nature of “Rusty.” And…why “Rusty?” It’s no longer funny or cute, and it’s a too real metaphor for the deteriorating state of the greyhound industry. Doesn’t the technology exist to run a harmless but realistic holographic rabbit around the track? Only the smartest dogs will conclude it’s an image, but you could gently persuade those dogs over dinner and a glass of wine and, more often than not, convince them to “pretend” for the good of racing.

Third Sidebar Question: Why don’t we hear about greyhound purses? The purse formula is guarded more closely than the recipe for Coca-Cola. Can someone shed a little light, literally and finally, on this subject?

Original Greyhound Question: Why start greyhound races in wooden boxes? Can’t we use something clear – plexi-glass, say? If they get smeared and opaque we can break out the Scrubbin’ Bubbles. I thought, once in Florida, I saw my dog being put into the box backwards – backwards! Somewhat of a handicap to be sure. Is it too much to ask that, if thoroughbreds can be trained to relax in a claustrophobic metal-starting-gate-with-shouting, and harness horses can win from the penalty-like-10-hole, greyhounds could be trained to start from boxes where they can see out and we can see in.

This entry has more humor (I hope) than usual but, perhaps, there is a kernel of truth to be found here or there, a germ of an idea that may gain traction sometime.

Until next time...

-- Vic

For information about Vic Harrison, see Contributors on the About tab.

Aticho Seeks First Stakes Win in The Californian

Aitcho schooling at Hollywood Park

Aitcho looked very classy schooling in the Hollywood Park paddock yesterday in preparation for Saturday's feature. Trained by John Shirreffs for Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss, Aitcho will be looking for his first stakes win in The Californian at 1-1/8 miles.

The 4-year-old colt by Stormy Atlantic comes off an allowance win here on Apr. 26 at 1-1/16 miles. He is out of Few Choice Words, the dam of stakes winners Silent Valor and Miss Jeanne Cat.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Californian: Historic Race Features Strong Field Including Rail Trip

Rail Trip

Rail Trip, a 4-year-old son of Jump Start owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Ron Ellis, will take on an impressive field in The Californian – including Ball Four, who provided Rail Trip’s first defeat in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 9. Rail Trip has won five of six career starts and earned $197,790.

The Californian, a Grade II event at 1 1/8 miles, is the final major prep for the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11. The Californian, which will be run for the 56th time on Saturday, boasts an impressive history. It has been won by ten champions: Swaps (1955), Porterhouse (1956), Dr. Fager (1968), Cougar II (1971 and 1972), J.O. Tobin (1978), Affirmed (1979), Spectacular Bid (1980), Precisionist (1986), Sunday Silence (1990) and The Wicked North (1994).

Four winners of the Mervyn LeRoy have won The Californian in their next start: Spectacular Bid (1980) Eleven Stitches (1981), Another Review (1992) and Even the Score (2004). The only horse to sweep the Mervyn LeRoy, The Californian, and the Gold Cup was Eleven Stitches.

Nine winners of The Californian have gone on to win the Gold Cup, the most recent being Lava Man in 2005.

Larry Zap caught some excellent footage of Rail Trip in early April, marking him as one of the talented Thoroughbreds to follow and noting: "Rail Trip -- a 4 year old gelding by Jump Start -- has as much upside as any horse we have seen in some time and has the makings of a superstar. He is 4 for 4 and will extend that to 5 for 5 this weekend in the Santana Mile." Enjoy the video!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Giant Donut Near Hollywood Park

Kindle's Drive-In Donuts at Century and Normandie, Los Angeles, CA.

Those who recall my post on Santa Anita's Yummy Donuts may think I am a bit obsessed with the scrumptious little circular treats. Actually, I couldn't resist snapping a photo of the giant donut as I headed along Century Boulevard on my way to the track last weekend.

Kindle’s was the first location in a chain of ten Big Donut Drive-Ins built in Los Angeles in the early 1950s by donut machine salesman Russell C. Wendell. Sitting atop the building and visible for blocks is a 32-foot donut made of rolled steel bars and gunnite.

It’s a wonderful example of the architectural movement of the period known as “programmatic” architecture – including restaurants designed around larger-than-life representations of the food they sold. Other examples include the giant hot dog of the Tail O’ the Pup, and the famous Brown Derby restaurant built in the shape of an enormous hat. Southern California boasted a good number of examples of programmatic style architecture, thanks to its burgeoning car culture and concentration of movie and television studios in the mid-20th Century.

Early advertisements for the Big Donut Drive-Ins announced “You don’t have to get out of your car!” Motorists could simply drive through and grab a cup of coffee and their choice of glazed, jelly, twist, or old fashion cake donuts. Sounds like the perfect stop on the way to the morning workouts!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Irish Filly Meydan Princess Schools at Hollywood Park

Meydan Princess schooling at Hollywood Park for trainer Jim Cassidy.

Here's a gorgeous filly who caught my eye while she was schooling in the Hollywood Park paddock Saturday afternoon. Meydan Princess, a 4-year-old Irish-bred trained by Jim Cassidy, is entered in an allowance race at one mile on the turf today.

On April 15, Meydan Princess ran second in her United States debut in Santa Anita's Linda Eder Purse at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Previously, she was well regarded in England, where she had three wins including the 2008 October Stakes at Ascot.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Frank Mirahmadi Adds Interest to Belmont Stakes Day at Hollywood Park

Frank Mirahmadi interviewing trainer John Sadler in the paddock at Hollywood Park.

Frank Mirahmadi
was at Hollywood Park this weekend, where he was doing the on-air interviews for TVG from the paddock. I had the pleasure of hearing his race calls live at a couple of the Northern California racing fairs last summer, and it was a treat to catch up with him today between interviews.

Mirahmadi is well known for calling races in the voice of various celebrities – including Rodney Dangerfield, Marlon Brando and Andy Rooney. He provided the voice of the Santa Anita track announcer in the movie Seabiscuit and the voice of the Monmouth Park announcer in Ruffian. Currently, he calls races for the California Authority of Racing Fairs, in addition to working as a racing analyst on TVG.

Mirahmadi, a native of Los Angeles, called his first race at Hollywood Park on December 24, 1992, closing day of the fall meet, filling in for Trevor Denman who was on vacation. He was subsequently invited back as a guest announcer on closing day of the 1994 and 1995 meets.

In 1996 he was named track announcer at Hialeah Park, where he served until the track closed in 2001. He was track announcer and racing publicity manager at Louisiana Downs from 2000-2005, and has also been a guest announcer at several tracks across the country.

Mirahmadi will be back on the Northern California fair circuit this summer, beginning with the San Joaquin Fair in Stockton on June 18.

Belmont Stakes: I Want Candy!

Best of luck in today's Belmont Stakes to Chocolate Candy and his California connections: trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, jockey Garrett Gomez, and owners Craig Family Trust.

Hollendorfer is expecting improvement by Chocolate Candy, who ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby. He will break from the number 1 post position, and is 10 to 1 morning line odds.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Misremembered, a Promising 3-Year-Old by Candy Ride

Zap of the Week

Here's one you'll definitely want to remember! Larry Zap wants you to check out another top 3-year-old of 2009.

is by Superstar horse and sire Candy Ride, sire of Chocolate Candy. This lovely chestnut colt is out of the nice racemare Beyond Perfection, bred by his trainer Bob Baffert, who also owns the colt with George Jacobs. Now two for two on the main track at Hollywood Park, Misremembered could show up in the Swaps Stakes late in the Hollywood Park meet. Narrated by Larry Zap... Enjoy!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Past Posting and In-Race Betting

Third in a series of guest posts on the business of horse racing.

By Vic Harrison

Previously we discussed video displays and then, last week, breakage and outs issues. This week we focus on:

o Past Posting – Betting after the start of the race.
o The Start of the Race – When does it start?
o In-race Betting – Let’s legalize it.

Past Posting – betting after the start of a race – is just awful when it occurs and newsworthy too. Recently, when pools have been so breached, the handle has been refunded to the bettors – a good option – a boon to those who had losing wagers, but cold comfort indeed to those who selected the winners.

The track, the state, breeders, et al, are hurt by the loss of handle and accompanying churn for that race. But, in fairness, bettors usually will bet their wagering allotment by the end of the performance whether or not there are seven or ten races.

At one point in time, when certain state lotteries closed wagering on, say, a lotto pool, the state lottery would further verify the lotto pool closing by attempting to punch tickets on a lottery terminal; they had instant confirmation that the pools had closed, or not. What a simple low-tech solution. The pari-mutuel industry might explore this solution until such time that broader wagering monitoring systems are fully implemented.

Interesting related food for thought: For those among us who loudly criticize the tote companies for falling behind with respect to technology: I issue this challenge to the three major tote companies: publish your accounts receivables. Tote contracts usually call for payment within 7 days – right, 7 days. In reality, some racetracks do pay their tote invoice within 30 days; some pay within 60 days, some within 90 days, and some wait 120 days - or longer - to pay their tote company. Totes are as a rule treated as second class corporate citizens. If a racetrack treated its phone or utility company this way it would be out of business. Perspective: tote companies are paid in basis points; simulcast fees are paid in whole percentage points.

I think legal past posting occurs everyday. I commend Trackmaster for publishing run-up distances – good info, long overdue, for serious handicappers. But, starting poles and the attendant uncertainty surrounding the actual start of a race should be eliminated. The horses breaking from the gate represent the beginning of a race. Too many salient race-shaping events occur between the time the gate opens and the time the horses pass the start pole.

Harness Racing also suffers in the widely differing application of recall-enforcement and there is too much time for technology-savvy bettors to alter (usually cancel) their wagers between the time the gate pulls away and the time betting closes. Too many bettors have had an unfair advantage for far too long over the casual player, mostly with respect to canceling.

Here's an example: Vic attends the harness races with his family. Before the next race, Vic takes his son down to the grandstand for soda and popcorn. He bets $10 win and $10 place on the number 5 horse. He takes his food and tickets upstairs or out to the rail and settles down to watch the trotters as they line up behind the gate. Vic is nowhere near a teller or self-serve machine. As the gate picks up speed, three of the young horses break stride and are hopelessly distanced by the more sure-gaited trotters. This breaking group includes Vic’s selection, the number 5 horse. He watches the race despondently with no shot of cashing his ticket.

Attending the same race is Neo, who has his own betting terminal or his favorite teller. He also bet the number 5 horse. But, due to his proximity to his favorite teller or self-serve betting terminal he had set up his bet on the number 5 to CANCEL. When the horse broke stride before the start of the race he canceled his bet. Is this fair? Is this how we capture new players and turn them into fans? Is this how we protect our odds and win prices?

This is not unique to harness racing. At some Thoroughbred tracks you can infer much from the break from the gate before the betting is stopped. On a related matter, the bet-cancel delay, ostensibly still in place in some jurisdictions to protect tellers from being stuck with a large ticket at post time, needs to disappear entirely.

Late cancel issues and bet-cancel-delay disputes can be eradicated by stopping betting when the first horse loads into the gate in flat racing. Stopping betting when the first horse loads buys us time. We’d pick up about a minute – a minute to take responsible action. In some past posting cases, tote and mutuels are instantly aware that betting did not close. Yet it still takes precious time to takes the steps necessary to close the pools. A minute’s head-start would be priceless. On the Standardbred side there’s got to be a similar answer. Let’s put our heads together.

Can we start thinking about regulating in-race betting? Let’s legalize it. Think of the intensity, the excitement. Offer up a new, say, win pool at the start of a race and keep it open to the halfway point or three-quarters. Let’s start with baby steps – on-track in-race betting only as there may be video and communications lag times engendered by the simulcasting of in-race betting pools that would be magnified by the dynamics of in-the-moment-wagering.

And, circling back, as I like to do, to the ever looming issue of pari-mutuel take-out and state regs, we should begin brainstorming about retooling the minimum payout requirements and minus pool formulas. Over-simplifying this issue: on a nickel slot machine we hit MAX BET at a cost of $.45 and we win a minor reward: $.20. We win but we lose. (I know, one of the nine $.05 bets paid off at $.20. I’m oversimplifying for example purposes only.) I am totally confident that these issues can be addressed by the brighter minds in the industry. Even then, the crucial piece of successful implementation is across-the-board consistency – there can only be unanimity for this to work.

Until next time...

-- Vic

For information about Vic Harrison, see Contributors on the About tab.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jungle Prince Works at Santa Anita

Jungle Prince with jockey Agapito Delgadillo

Jungle Prince looked great returning from his work this morning at Santa Anita with jockey Agapito Delgadillo. He was clocked in :59.60 for the 5-furlong work for trainer Victor Garcia. It was the third fastest of 25 works at the distance.

An 8-year-old stakes-winning gelding by Sir Cat, Jungle Prince ran 3rd to Street Boss and In Summation in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar last summer. In his most recent start -- the second back from a 7-month layoff -- he finished 6th in the El Segundo Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 21.

According to co-owner Joe Sciarra, who watched this morning's work at Santa Anita, Jungle Prince is "pointing for a turf race at Hollywood Park in the next couple of weeks."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Beyer Figures Formula Tweaked for Synthetic Tracks

I KNEW The Pamplemousse ran at least a 107 Beyer in the Sham Stakes! Now it's official. Seriously, though... this is welcome news for handicappers and horsemen attempting to evaluate a horse's performance on synthetic tracks.

According to a Daily Racing Form release by Andrew Beyer, the method for calculating the Beyer Speed Figure -- a system for rating the performance of Thoroughbred racehorses in North America designed in the early 1970s by Beyer and introduced into the Daily Racing Form in 1992 -- has been adjusted to incorporate the differences between synthetic and dirt tracks.

Synthetic tracks are generally considered less speed-favoring than traditional dirt, prompting a change in the mathemetical underpinnings of the Beyer Speed Figures. The new calculations go into effect Wednesday, June 3, and will be applied retroactively to Jan. 1, 2009.

"The speed chart was first published in my book Picking Winners in 1975, and it has stood the test of time," said Beyer. "Its accuracy has been almost magical -- for dirt races. But synthetic tracks have proved to be a new game. Accordingly, we have revised the chart for synthetic tracks, expanding the range of numbers so they are higher at the top and lower at the bottom." The changes in calculation will generally raise the figures for higher-class horses and decrease those for lower-level horses.

Read the full story here.