Five Rules to Follow

This week will be full of chock-full of how-to and what-to-look-for info. The final works are being tabulated, and the weather channel will be the hottest watched program. The Derby clock is ticking away, and you’re finalizing your wagering plans. Here are some last minute wagering plans that you may want to examine.

 

1. – Last year, is last year = Because the last year’s winner prepped and won a particular race has no bearing on this year’s Derby. – Get this out of your head, and you’ll find yourself looking at the race with a clear field of vision.

2. – It happens = Over the next 5-6 days, someone will undoubtedly will defect, have a small injury causing a scratch, or spike a fever. It happens, and we need to get used to it. I always live in hope my runner won’t be a part of the bad-luck-boogie, but one thing you can count on is it will happen.

3. – The G-1 prep angle = Use runners who were in-the-money in their last (G-1) prep. – It doesn’t matter where it took place, and just eliminate those who haven’t. Give extra credit to those who won their last in one. If it was a (G-2), make sure it was super impressive or just toss the runner.

4. – There is no place like home = You want to keep in mind runners who didn’t have to have their track with them to win. – Pay special attention to those who shipped well, and worked well leading up to the race. Theses notes can be found on the Churchill website.

5. – Don’t be afraid of price = The Derby is always tough, and this year has the feel of one of the toughest in decades. Don’t let the tote board make up your mind. If your hot runner is 12-1, stick to your plan. The race will have a loaded gate draw and everything from weather, post position, last workout, and a crowd of 150,000 screaming fans make a difference. That (2-1) shot may look the best, but is this runner bulletproof? – This is a rare occasion where you can pass the odds board, and not give it a glance.

So what’s a player to do this week? – I would start here, and not miss a beat:

 

1. – Go back and take a look at the video replays here on Winning Ponies. Trip handicapping cannot be beat, and may be the deciding factor for you.

2. – Read the following: The Blood Horse, The Downey Report, the Churchill Downs website, and Horse Race Nation. These publications are good for up-to-the-minute happenings and changes.

3. – Don’t get caught off guard by a new handicapping tool promising the moon and stars. – Part of my job at different tracks was to look over handicapping information and examine the best ones. Simply put, use data that is proven, they post results (good or bad). Download information that allows for up-to-the-minute changes, and doesn’t come out as soon as the post draw takes place. You won’t have to go far, it is right here and they have paid out over $2,706,610 in exotic payouts.

4. – If you don’t play the pick-six, don’t start on this day. Stick to what you do best, and this will help extend your wagering bankroll.

5. – Start a group wager. Grab up three, four, or as many as you can and toss in some money. Have two handicappers handle the wager, and take a shot at one of the guaranteed pools. This way you can have more bang for your buck and still have a shot at big money.

6. – Don’t go crazy on the undercard. It is a long day, and a great weekend. Don’t cut yourself short on cash.

7. – Have fun, and enjoy the weekend. Do your homework, come prepared, and don’t let it overwhelm you. Best of luck this week as we settle in and make final decisions!

The 55-Year-Old Kid

1977-Sports-Illustrated-Steve-Cauthen-Horse-Jockey-q2w3

This is not Benjamin Button, or something out of a Twilight Zone episode. Yes, Virginia. There are 55-year-old kids. – Well, sort of. Time stands still for no one, but there is something magical when you hear a name and transported back in time. You think of that sunny Saturday afternoon, and the electricity in the air at Churchill Downs. It was only 37 years ago when young Steve Cauthen rode into racing history. Affirmed was not only the winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1978, but he’s the last Triple Crown winner in Thoroughbred racing. – Affirmed and Alydar were in complete lockstep at Belmont on that memorable Saturday afternoon, and his gutsy mount bested his rival by four inches to be the victor. That’s a long time between drinks, and it’s this time each year Mr. Cauthen is busier than a bee. Even as he closes in on 55-years-old, he will eternally be “The Kid.”

 

Cauthen was raised on the family farm in Walton, Kentucky. He learned the craft of horsemanship from his parents long before he was given a leg up in the saddle. He was skilled in the art of cleaning stalls, and washing tack. If you look back in time, the great ones learned the game from the ground up. Knowing how to muck a stall and rub a horse was the education anyone who wanted a job in racing had to fulfill. Maybe it was the blue collar work ethic imparted by his parents, or the magic of the cosmos. Either way, a young man from a small farm town began his career by winning aboard Red Pipe at River Downs in nearby southern Ohio.

 

I met Steve Cauthen many moons ago at Turfway Park. He was hired as a vice president, and truth be told his stock was gold a few times a year when the media would blitz the track to speak to him. He wasn’t involved in the track’s planning or development, but what a genius idea it was to have “The Kid” on staff. – He knew everyone’s name, and would be seen talking to valet workers, or the biggest magazine scribes of the day. There wasn’t air of greatness, but just a relaxed Kentucky gent who was glad to be at the races. I still have his bobble head on my bar, and it is signed in gold pen. – “Ed, it’s always great to work with you. -Best of luck, Steve Cauthen.” – I’ll keep it there for as long as it stands, and wouldn’t take a million bucks for it. – He would gladly come on my radio show a few times a year, as you would hear an older kid tell the tale of how it all happened. Not with a sense of “here is how it’s done,” but rather a ” the trainer brought him ready, and with a ton of racing luck, we got pretty lucky.” That’s “The Kid” and how he speaks of one of the greatest moments in racing.

 

I was having a quick bite yesterday when I bought a newspaper. Racing coverage is non-existent, but this time of year everyone is a fan. In the USA Today Sports there was a nice article written by Gary Mihoces. Well written, and it was sure to capture the attention of the new to average fan. Not that I didn’t enjoy reading about racing, but there was a quote where Steve was asked what he felt about the Derby and Triple Crown. He was quoted as saying; ” I think any horse could win the Triple Crown, and this could be the year.” Now, I guess that gets the once in awhile fan riled, but for everyday players. The Triple Crown is like finding Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. The field is filled with some real tough guys. There are more than one you could make a case for, and it would be easier to hit the lottery twice in a week than finding tough colts bringing their “A” game. The game hasn’t changed it theory, but the money is so damn good that everyone is shooting for the gold. Remember last year when the connections of California Chrome loved the game when their colt won the first two legs, and responded in public will a negative post race interview? They felt horses that run in the Derby should be the only ones who can run in all three Triple Crown events. I know, right about now you’re saying; “that’s not the way the game was made, and it’s the reason it’s so hard to pull off.” I agree, 100%, and the man who last completed the task favors the historical format.

 

Playing devil’s advocate, does Mr. Cauthen want the Triple Crown taken down? I have two feelings on this, and if it we’re you, how would you feel? – First, Steve Cauthen is a class act. He did this a long time ago, and forever he’ll be mentioned in the pantheon of the greats. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, and he’s the only rider to win the Kentucky Derby, Epsom, Irish, French, and Italian Derbies. I don’t think he’ll be forgotten anytime soon. – On the other hand, he is the man of the hour, and his name gets mentioned more times in the spring than the Dogwood blooms. You would have to think that he gets quite a bit of attention. Even the coolest of cucumbers gets a little warm when you think about losing what you’re known for. What about the ability to help the sport by having the soapbox? The end result for me is he’ll always be “The Kid,” as this small town country guy is no actor. He’s as genuine as they come, and that’s why the people love him. As far as the Triple Crown, Steve. I couldn’t see one in a hundred miles of here. They are just too talented in 2015, and it would take an act of the Racing Gods. But who knows? I once saw a young kid from Walton, Kentucky shock the world riding like a house on fire!

 

 

 

 

The Start of a New Week

The past seven days have surprised, enlightened, and made me happy. There is something magical about this time of year. I’ve read about the runners who are heading to Louisville and there is a new wind a blowing. We have family, friends, and those who fit in between. Today I heard a voice from the past. Oh, I talk to him quite a bit, but this was the first time in a long time I’ve heard from him. The Derby for racing fans is like Christmas, your birthday, and your first kiss. I don’t know if it’s the race, the action, or the interactions with people you’ll never forget.

 

This time last week the world had bought all the stock in American Pharoah. Dortmund was thought of as the 1A from the Bob Baffert powerhouse. The Arkansas Derby victory by AP all but cancelled the first Saturday in May. There was no need to run the Derby, as we already know who was going to win. Just give him the garland of roses, and we’ll start talking Triple Crown. But one week later the winds of Derby-Doubt are swirling. AP was all but crowned after the Arkansas Derby win, but has he been tested enough? Does he have enough road work bumping with the tough guys? His races are super impressive, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a chink in his armor. But hold the presses. Dortmund is undefeated in six starts, and has faced some bumps and bruises. Add in the most important factor for this gambler. When Team Baffert has a double-trouble combo, the bigger price or overlooked runner takes it to the winner’s circle. This week, Dortmund is the talk of the town. I noticed last week not many capper’s liked Mubtaahij, and even a top-shelf handicapper was talking about what a waste it was to make the flight. No Lasix, he has run and won at the longest distances of the field, and the trainer Mike De Kock doesn’t send many to the states, but when he does. They run lights out. This next week should give us plenty to think about.

 

People go to work everyday. You see them get in their cars, and count the minutes until the day is done. That is only part of the work world. How about the folks who love what they do ? I know it’s rare, but it really does happen. Some do extremely well and live a lavish lifestyle. I guess that’s all good, and I’d sure like to give it try. Sometimes the reward is loving where your going, and enjoying what you’ll do when you get there. I have a good friend who has worked in racing. There isn’t a day he hated the drive, or wanted to call in sick. Everyone at the track knows him, and he loves to get out and about. After the races he would drive a golf cart to the backside where he has created the best friendships in the world. You can count on him to get the word out for special projects; he’ll take your photo with the new runner in your barn, or just enjoy a cold beer and talk. Yeah, it’s fair to say he loves racing. We have spoke at least once a week since closing day last October, and sometimes even more. His voice was always filled with interest in what you’re doing.” How is your son? Are you getting to the gym? How is your handicapping?” At the end of the season, many of us are laid-off until racing returns. That is a tough day for the ones who love this part of their life, but one that is understood. As soon as they pull from the parking lot, they start counting the minutes until they return. The grass is growing, the flowers sprouting, and racing is days away. I waited until the work day was over, and I dialed my old pal. The voice that answered made my heart smile. He never really left, but this extra pep in his step was easy to recognize. I haven’t seen too many days where he was down, but there are times where it really stood out how happy he was. Today was one for the books. He is doing what he loves, and truth be told he doesn’t do it for the money. “People who shine from within, don’t need a spotlight.” Good luck, John Engelhardt. I’ll see you next week.

 

Working at the track has been a joy. I’m not going to be rich, or buy my own island. But the rewards of getting to know the people have been a pleasure. I’m not trying to nominate myself for being Mr. Sunshine, and there are many times I’m a pretty low key guy. Over the years you’ve read about some of the best people. They may not make Forbes, but some of them could. But the one-and_only is a tough act to follow. Robert “Spivey” Cliff tops the list. Papa Wallenda once said; “Life is on the wire, the rest is just waiting.” Spivey lived his life as a gambler like this. He didn’t put on silly hats and act the fool for the Kentucky Derby. He viewed it as a rare occasion where gamblers had an edge betting against the unprepared public. The odds could take a huge wager, and not even wiggle a digit. Spivey would come strolling in quickly. He wasn’t running, but his walk was one of purpose. You would know it was the man as he dressed to the nines. You wouldn’t see him in shorts or sweatpants. That was not his way. Looking good, being there early, and holding court with the biggest players at the track. His words held sway with their wagers. These were men of the business world, men of success, men who would not be going broke anytime. Spivey would put together tickets for the big carryovers, giant guaranteed pools, and anytime there was an edge. He would only leave the plush private room to have a cup of coffee. He could have had anything on the menu at the wave of a finger, but I think he cleared his head for a few minutes and came back stronger. Old time players knew him from the bookie days, and others got to be close enough just in passing. He didn’t go around talking the talk, and handled gambling like a business. It was, it was his calling in life. He kept to himself, and when he would come to me for something at the track. It was how many, and where do you want them? He had a lingo all to his own. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack would have sat back and listened. I’ve seen the pretenders, the contenders, and the throngs of wanna-be’s. The Spive was not in this league. – He’s been gone for more than I’d like to remember. I think back to the days when millionaire players would be jumping and rooting like $2 show players. Spivey brought energy to the room. He didn’t have to do anything to garner the attention, it just attracted to him like a moth to the light. One time I was mad at something at work, and it had nothing to do with him. He watched me from a distance, and when I quieted down a bit he came up and whispered sage like words I’ll never forget. “Save your breath kid, you’ll last ten years longer.” – That was Spivey. Playing it easy, and knowing the secrets that most will never know.

Never Been to the Derby?

As you walk in the gates, you’ll see throngs of fans dressed in the finery of the day. The sights and smells fill the air as fans walk every which way possible. “Let’s get a drink; get me a program, where do we go, and the words you’ll hear more than any. Who do you like?” That’s an idea of the Kentucky Derby. Racing is the melting pot where a guy in a $1,000 suit is drinking a beer with a shirtless gent. There are homemade hats that have been passed down to the next generation, and every year it is your duty to attach a piece of your trip. Something that is close to your heart. That’s an idea of the Kentucky Derby.

After a cocktail or two, and a South Carolina BBQ sandwich. You make your way to the seats. No matter where you sit, it’s the best seat in the house about 5:30 p.m. When the University of Louisville band strikes up My Old Kentucky Home, it’s OK to cry. Just look around, you won’t see a dry eye in the house. It all culminates with a building whirl of sound that only a crowd of 150,000 can make. As the horses pass during the post parade, the crowd starts picking up their pace. When the horses are loading into the gate, the talking and chatter disappear until you hear the announcer say; “they’re at the post for the Kentucky Derby!” You’ll feel chills running down your arms until the ring of the starting gate bell and the announcer’s voice shrill; “and they’re off!”  An explosion of sound erupts, and for two minutes everyone one in the world is a racing fan. That’s an idea of the Kentucky Derby.

If it’s your first trip, be sure to get there early. Parking is not as usual. You pull up and park in someone’s yard. They’ll watch your car, and prices range from $30 – $50 depending on how close you are. No worries, there have been folks parking in the same yards for years. You’ll smell the wafting aroma of fresh BBQ grilling, and ice cold soda and beer being sold as you leave your car. If you’re a mile or so away, no worries. You’ll see large six seat golf carts driving fans to the gates. Be sure to tip the driver, and make arrangements for them to pick you up at a certain time and place. I found this out the hard way when my gal broke her high heal in the pouring rain. It was right about then I noticed the golf carts with every seat filled.

Don’t bring the silly stuff. Think of as going to the airport. If this doesn’t do the trick, be sure to check the website for the list of prohibited items. It’s always a good idea to lock it in the car if you’re in doubt. We all have snuck in an airport size bottle of our favorite adult beverage, but I wouldn’t advise doing this at Churchill. They have a wanding station, and ladies count on being asked to open your purse. Here is the award for being the “world’s smartest dumb guy.” My doctor had never been to the Derby and he was really excited. When I was in for a wellness visit, he told me about his plans. So, I gave him the quick 1-2-3, and then realized I’m telling a doctor what to do, so I stopped. My next visit some months later was a story filled as well. He told me the miserable people at Churchill would not let him bring in his gun. Well, Doc. There are only 150,000 people, and you can count on quite a bit of bumping around. Maybe I should have continued our 1-2-3 talk.

If your a handicapper, do some work in advance. If you’re not, have a drink or two and enjoy the best people watching. I like to get there early and make some bets on the undercard. If you’re in the grandstand, infield, or a location without private windows. Bet a few early races in advance. This will allow you to enjoy your day, and stay ahead of your wagering. Slim down your data, and come prepared. For players of all levels, you’re in the right place for the best handicapping material. You get full past performances, handicapping icons to alert you, and the one-of-a-kind tiered predictions. If you’re new, you’ll love the ease of use. If your use to downloading the Winning Ponies E-Z Win Forms, you don’t start your day without them. The E-Z Win Forms allow you more flexibility. If it rains, just change the track condition tab, and print out a whole new set of updated information. There is no other data provider that allows you to change. They usually post selections 48-72 hours in advance, and just tell you who to bet. The E-Z Win Forms inform you in color coded easy- to- read tier levels, and show you how the race shapes up. The Last Race Ratings, the Composite Ratings which cover the horse’s last three races, and the Turf Class Ratings for the races carded on the greensward. Put this all together and you have a full arsenal of handicapping. Winning Ponies is an ultra-effective tool paying out this year over $2,406,765 in exotic predictions. In 2008, I stumbled across the site. I heard some good things from players, and took a look for myself. Well, I’ve been a part of Winning Ponies team ever since. I haven’t lost on a marquee day with the E-Z Win’s, as they allow me more time to use the info to find maximum value. Go ahead, take a look for yourself. I think you’ll like what you find.

Most importantly, enjoy the day. There are many who will watch the race, but it is a rare treat to be a part of history. You’ll be there, and there is no telling what you’ll see. Just a reminder, get there early, come prepared, and don’t forget to download your E-Z Win Forms. See you in the winner’s circle!

Round #1

Every handicapper is clawing to get started. Derby fever hasn’t hit full-stride, but it’s picking up speed as runners begin arriving at Churchill Downs. This is the time to watch, wait, and listen. Go ahead and start watching the prep replays on Winning Ponies. Was it a good trip? A tough fight? Settled in nicely, or as cool as the other side of the pillow. There are sites putting out morning line estimations, and this can be the toughest job in the world as they all look good. Take it all in stride, and use their hard work as fuel to begin the journey.

 

Longshots are only good if you have them on your ticket. How many horseplayers were glad to see Mine that Bird come storming up the rail? Me neither. Here is my first stab for a longshot runner to watch as the works begin. Using the morning line odds from Horse Racing Nation’s Brian Zipse, here is that tough guy who could pay boxcars. Remember, everything is subject to change and our handicapping is in a fluid state.

 

War Story (30-1) = This son of Northern Afleet won at first asking over the CD strip and won going two turns in his 2-yr-old year. Thom Amoss knows more about training a horse to a race than many, and if you go back and watch the Louisiana Derby. He was 4-5 wide all the way around. He made a swift move just past the 3/8th’s, and went by the winner who had a perfect trip along the rail. Loooch Racing Stable will be bringing a real player who needs a little help. Lightly raced with only five starts and was 2/2 as a baby. Fair Grounds is a deep oval that gets runners legged up. Take a look at the Keeneland meet and see how many FG runners are doing well. A clean trip and some racing luck puts him in the mix.

 

In racing, post time favorites win around 30% of the time. You can toss that right our the window from 2000- 2014 with the average hovering around $23. Just another reason to dig deep and find your golden nugget.

 

Frosted (15-1) = Here comes a son of Tapit for Kiaran McLaughlin who is white-hot coming into Churchill Downs. Whatever happened in the FOY can be tossed as he had the lead and tossed out the anchor. He went back to Aqueduct and scored nicely in the Wood Memorial. He was four wide all the way around and was dragging the rider nearing the 3/8th’s. The tempo was slow and that makes it even more impressive for a closer to do his bidding. The old rule of thumb of having to hit the board in a G-1 applies, and well need to keep a close eye on how he takes to CD.

 

This is definitely one of the best days to wager all year. The pools are swelled and you can discount much of the public money from the one-day-players. No disrespect, but they may not follow all year long like many handicappers. The average exacta from the same time frame pays around $300, and the trifecta around $3,000. I guess you’ll want to start thinking about some price runners now.

 

Mubtaahij (12-1) = Here is a son of Dubawi for the mad-genius Mike De Kock. His race in the Dubai World Cup was so impressive that if I can get 12-1, I’ll bet early and often. Once they took him off of the greensward, his dirt races have been impressive. He is maturing at a quick rate and comes into Louisville peaking at the right time. The only thing I don’t like is the long flight as it can zap a horse for quite a long time. If your not sold on Dubai horses in the Derby, I have take your side for years. But this guy is special, and if the trip goes well and he takes to CD. I’ll be a big backer in the Derby.

 

 

If you’ve ever watched the poker network, you’ll see players show their hole cards to the camera. Having an ace-king, or a high pocket pair is what your looking for. But what do you do when a trainer is holding pocket aces as the top two potential favorites? You call Mr. Baffert and wish him well.

 

Dortmund (4-1) = This son of Big Brown is undefeated in six lifetime starts. He had three in his two-yr-old season and will be a major player on the hook. At 4-1, you could consider that value. He has won over the CD oval, and even though all of the “talk” is about AP. I really like this guy over the other. In the Santa Anita Derby he was off a step slow, recovered professionally, and received some work down the lane. I’ve never been a fan of a runner who didn’t get some bruises along the way, and his last made him ultra-attractive.

American Pharoah (3-1) = Here is a son of Pioneer of the Nile and his victory in the Arkansas Derby has the world looking his way. You have to love his long stride and nasty way of delivering the goods. Baffert has two diamonds, but which one does he love more? Easy, you don’t have to choose. He arrived at CD, and looked like he has arrived. Some horses just have that stare that captures your attention, and he had ours.

 

 

 

 

Remember the Star?

They say you’ll never forget your first. You know, your first big score? – I don’t know if it was my biggest as a horse-player, but it surely goes down as one to remember. This past Saturday was the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

The Lexington Stakes is contested at 1-1/16 miles over the new dirt surface at Keeneland. The race is for three-year-old colts and geldings but is also an option for fillies if they are targeting the Kentucky Derby. The race was first run in 1936 for two-year-old’s, and from 1938 to 1941, the race was listed as an overnight handicap for three-year-old’s and up at a distance of 1-¼ miles over the main track. Then, in 1986, the race was listed as a Grade III event before holding status as a Grade II from 1988 until 2010. In 2011, the race was downgraded to a Grade III and is now considered to be the final Kentucky Derby prep race.

The race is named after the famed stallion Lexington who lived from 1850 to 1875. Lexington was a bay colt bred in Kentucky and was described as a shorter horse, standing a mere 15.3 hands, and as a horse with an excellent disposition. Originally named “Darley,” the colt was trained by Dr. Warfield and “Burbridge’s Harry,” a former slave. In 1853, the colt was sold to and renamed Lexington by Richard Ten Broeck.

The weather couldn’t have been better, and whatever deal that was made with the Racing Gods should be extended for the entire month. After reading a great article in the Lady and the Track, I was magically transported to a simpler time. I was a younger racing fan and asked my brother to tag along for a trip to beautiful Keeneland. As we pulled in, you were treated to the springtime splendor of blooming trees, rolling hills, and tailgate parties taking place in the parking lot. There was a festive environment embracing the day and celebrating the Thoroughbred. I had done all of my homework, and the crowds at Keeneland were legendary. For each big day, you’ll hear Curt Becker announce ” ladies and gentleman, thank you for coming out to watch the Lexington Stakes as Keeneland celebrates another attendance record.” – Back in the day, Keeneland had no simulcast at the time. You had eight races which eventually became nine, and no exotic wagering outside of the first daily double. Parking was tight, and it seemed like the pearl of central Kentucky wasn’t worried about changing to suit the player. “Why fix perfection?”

Mutuel lines were long, and you had to get right back in as soon as the race was over. You would see “Blue-Bloods” in line with a $2 show ticket, or a regular Joe with $100 across. It was the great melting pot, and I believe the track is one of the only places where you’ll see a bank president handicapping with a dusty barn groom. The year was 1988, and two brothers were having the day of their wagering lives. The Lexington Stakes was coming up with 40 minutes to post, and I suggested to my brother Don, we go “all-in” and make a sweet exacta box in the race. “We’ll tune into WLAP and catch the pre-race and race call, and we’ll beat the crowds and traffic.” He agreed, and to this day I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fun listening to a race.

 

It was a man-size bet from two youngsters. A $100 exacta box, and $100 to win on Risen Star. Hearing Mike Battaglia call the race for WLAP was the only outside call as there was no announcer at the time. “Mike saw some incredible races over the years bringing them to life, and when he said he couldn’t call the winner. I knew out $100 win bet on Risen Star was golden. We laughed all the way home, and had to return to cash the ticket the next week. Times were simpler. No simulcast outlets, and if you wanted to catch the race you had to make the trek or wager with your bookie. This was a day that I’ll remember forever.

 

If you happened to download your E-Z Win Forms you had to be pretty happy this past weekend. Winning Ponies was dialed in with the Lexington Stakes with the top two selections finishing 1-2. The exacta paid a solid $25.80, and the winner paid $7.80 to win. As the Kentucky Derby preps are in the books, now is a great time to go back and refresh yourself on the preps along the way. You have them right at your finger tips as all prep races for the Oaks and Derby can be seen by taking a look at the replay section. As you’re reading this, there are just 19 days and 8 hours until the Run for the Roses. – Be sure to tune into the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show with John Englehardt live on Thursday, or catch it on podcast as he’ll be having the best in racing handicappers and industry professionals as we count down to Derby. You’ll be able to read stories, blogs, and in-depth handicapping as the days get closer. Any handicapper that has a mint julep in hand and bankroll ready for the windows only needs to download their E-Z Win Forms for the 141st running of the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. There are incredible undercards and for this handicapper I have never had a losing weekend since having this tool in my arsenal. With over $2,372,300 in exotic payouts, I’m looking forward to another big weekend at the windows. So, start looking over the preps! Check back for news, stories, and free selections, and most of all be sure to download your E-Z Win Forms for the biggest weekend in racing. Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies!

 

The Man’s Day

by Ed Meyer

posted on April 9, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, WinningPonies.com | No Comments >>

Fred and Barney driving in Fred Flintstone's car Not to sound like fool or a sexist jerk, but an old friend of mine and I coined this back in college. It was not for the faint of heart, and one had to build a bankroll to do it right. At the end of the day, if you broke even you were probably doing pretty well all things considered. These days can bring a smile, or make you long for simpler times. Either way, they were a right of spring and side note of our friendship.

We had M-W-F classes with a Monday night tossed in for good measure. This allowed for Tuesday and Thursday off, and one could do homework, study, or hit Keeneland four more times each season. We loved to hear the phone ring about 10pm the night before, and one of us would be the president of the university. We would rant and rave about how much we were working and how a well deserved day off would be the tonic. You know, take a nice drive to pretty place and enjoy nature. – Lexington, Kentucky was pretty all of the year, but there was something spectacular in April. The trees in bloom, the grass turning a bluish-green, and the beer icy-cold from sitting in the cooler all night. “Yes sir, I agree. A daytrip is in order, sir. Thank you.”

Closing day of the April meet was chock full of turf racing, and you could always count on some prices as it was “get-away-day” for the smaller outfits who stuck around. But just as the curtain closed for one, the Racing Gods opened another. The one mile red clay oval better known as The Red Mile opened that night for 12 harness races. Now, just add up the 9 live Thoroughbred and the 12 live harness and you have what is known in certain circles as “Man’s Day.” – The drinking would begin about 9 am, and we would meet at his house. He always drove, as we could fit the cooler into the back seat of his car. No need for breakfast as Keeneland served the best corned beef sandwiches on the planet. The 75 mile drive was about a 12-pack jaunt, and we would pull over and ice down another 12-pack to cool in the Lexington breeze for the next leg of our journey. One could expect a beer per race and a mountain of a sandwich that served as fuel.

Tim was the kind of guy who would have taken a bullet versus missing our big day. One time he was in a bit of a pickle. He had a mid-term rescheduled for a Friday afternoon. There couldn’t have been worse news and there was no joy in Mudville. Normally I reserve the “big fibs” for monumental events, and this was one for him. He was torn and didn’t know what to do. But when the University president called to extend his condolences for his dearly departed Uncle, the picture became crystal clear. The “big fib” was churning, and when he informed his prof about this incredible loss. The professor allowed him to come in two hours early and take the test. Man’s Day comes once a year, and you have to have your priorities in order.

We would bet and guzzle adult beverages, and dream about the big score. Over the course of one day I was short stacked and had to borrow $50 half-way through the card. I had a sweet winner that paid $28, and with $20 to win, my $280 was enough to pay him back and stay in action. My winning continued, and by the end of the card he borrowed $100 from me. Well, after he hit the trifecta for $900, he gave me back $150 and took us to the big buffet. That may have been one of the best trips we ever made. There was something magical for two race fans to dodge classes and make the run. U.K. students do it everyday, but when you live in Northern Kentucky, that 75 mile drive took a little planning.

The trips continued, but The Red Mile changed racing dates. We continued going to Keeneland on the closing day, and turned right back home and drove 45 minutes North to Lebanon Raceway. It was fun, but by the end of the day we were tuckered. That lasted two years, and we started missing the yearly event.  There were marriages, kids, and life started getting in the way. Funny thing how our priorities change. If I live to be 100, I’ll remember the surprise trip we once made. It was mid-week and there was no thought of driving the one hour trek. I was making my way out to my car to call it a day. There he was standing with two Daily Racing Forms smiling. ” You ready?” – ” I can’t make it brother, I’m tapped and that would be torture for a horse player.” – “Did I tell you about my big hit last yesterday?  I took down the pick-three for a little over two thousand! I’ll give you two hundred, no payback, and the beer is in the car.” Normally common sense would have taken over, but the one hour trek was made in 40 minutes! It was one of our last trips, and one that will last in my mind forever. As I sit here watching the Keeneland signal on TVG, I think back to the trips. They were not for the faint of heart, and there is something about this time of year that makes me smile when I hear the bugler.

How Much Is Enough?

I sure hope this question doesn’t appear on Jeopardy, as my answer would be easy. “There is never enough.”  – Many moons ago, I watched double-headers. There would be an afternoon card followed by an hour or so break, and ten more incredible races. – Life couldn’t get any better for this gambler, and I thought we would see more and more. The sport has seen better days, and increased competition has made it tough to gather a second wind. But after seeing many tracks go the way of the dinosaur. The writing is officially on the wall. Less is more.

If you’re up in the middle of the night, or an early riser. Take a look at the ADW races available. Australian racing rule the night, and European action starts up with morning coffee. Now, I admit playing some of both, and lean more to the early Euro-action. Here we are wagering on hurdles, flats, and synthetic runners. The best part is focusing on one track at a time. You get full attention with commentators, and track handicappers talking about the ground and footing. We don’t have to be there, as we’re getting more detailed info on-line. As some tracks go to post and running on top of each other is inevitable. There is a split screen with both tracks. As soon as one ends, it shifts to the next without missing a beat. One would think the handle would only keep growing, and there is no driving force to overshadow the other track. I love the idea, and it seems like it’s working.

One of my favorite sites to peruse the history of racing is Colin’s Ghost. From an article in March, 2009, it is states from 1909 – 2009 there were 115 tracks built or re-established. At the time of publication, approximately 75 were still conducting racing. Consider this: In 1909, gambling on racing was illegal in most states. Tracks in New York – the very place that modernized and popularized the sport – were less than a year away from shutting their doors. If racing was going to die, it would have happened then. For the many that have written the obituary of Thoroughbred racing; Mark Twain would like to have a Mint Julep with you in the clubhouse.

As we get back to the task at hand, how can we catch our breath for the next 50 years? As tracks are being “re-established” by the world of casino gambling. There needs to be a long range plan for the survival, and promotion of Thoroughbred racing. With any new entity that steps up and buys away history with a bottomless check book, there has to be direct language that holds the new business to keeping racing alive. – As you start drifting in belief, why would the casino corporation have wanted the land in the first place? They have existing gambling, a fan base, and the area has been primed for action. Glitzy operations stepped up, and minimized the horses as an after thought. I was watching a commercial the other night and saw a new “Racino” opening. You would have no idea there was any pari-mutuel wagering until you saw a 2 second blip of race horses. This is where the wheels are coming off. Why not have the new operation step up and keep racing live with a full-scale advertising schedule, and utilize the existing form of gambling ? – If we put the pressure on the new operation to focus on racing as well as other forms of gaming. There will be no leaning on the state for financial help, or crying to legislators for new forms of gaming. If they want to buy the track property, racing must remain.

The new companies that keep racing alive and growing will receive a tax incentive fitting the act. State coffers will overflow, and everyone stays happy. You won’t read about mass layoffs, or how stables will be having a going out of business sale. You’ll keep horsemen in state, and the purses will eventually reflect the growth. The talk of racing dates will be a mix of horsemen, the new owners, and state officials. To let one form of gambling die so that you’ll see a 9% increase in slot revenue is insane. How many “new” companies that bought up tracks are on the ropes? They started off like a house on fire, and now there are cutbacks and reductions. – The added of work of keeping racing alive will keep racino growth in check. Not many will be willing to lay out the big money, and then have to work their ass off to make it. As a gambler, fan, player, and guest. I have watched as casino / racino wars are taking a toll.

Long ago, there was a sharp horse player who taught me many lessons as a gambler. “Have patience, keep your head, and don’t jump in too heavy.” – “The Fox” was a sharpie. A long time bookmaker who put his kids through college taking just enough action to make his 10% vig worth the venture. “Eddie, there’s only so much money to go around. If you have too much gambling in the area, it will choke each other out in time.” He grew up in the shadow of Newport, Kentucky which was thought of as the Las Vegas of the mid-west. He watched greed and the lure of easy money break down the system. “People will only stand by so long before they get tired of problems.” At the time I laughed and dismissed him, but now I look back on his words as getting the advance edition of a newspaper.

 

 

The Racing Gods Speak

On Easter Sunday, there is a meeting taking place. The pantheon of greats convene about what is going in the world of sports. Our Lord designates the best in their area to oversee games on Earth. He has plenty on his plate taking care of all of His children. These professional have some things to say today, and it may be worth a listen to get yourself in check.

The Racing Gods have all seated, and you may know some of the members. Seated to the far left is Bobby Frankel, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Ben Jones, Henry Cecil, and the newest member, H. Allen Jerkins. “I’m your warm and fuzzy chairman, Charlie Whittingham. So with out further delay, and wasting more time. Sit back, shut-up, and let’s get moving. Here are a list of things we want fixed right now, or there won’t be a Triple Crown winner for 100 years.”

 

Social Madness

We know this is waste of time, but a needed waste of time. The future of the sport depends on getting out the message in real-time and not reading it weeks later. The “Eagle” stands up and speaks to a room which could hear a pin drop. “Now, what the hell is all of this comparison stuff? People guise their stance as a “debate,” and act as if they are the judge. What the hell are you thinking? Every runner did what they had to do to win, and you can’t tear them down. No more of this crap, or we’ll banish Facebook from the forum.” It’s fair to ask a question of who you liked and why, but not to be slammed by a know-it-all? Everyone sees it different, and give me a call when you can tell by bloodlines what horse will enjoy the kick back, the 100,000 fans, the noise, getting cut off at the half, or being trapped on the rail. Racing is a world within a world, and there are no wrong answers, unless Richard Dutrow starts talking.

 

Guess Who’s Back?

There are people who make things happen, watch things happen, and wonder what happened. Then there are the few who stand up and do their thing. They couldn’t care what you think, and they get results. I once heard about a New York tough guy setting a record of pissing people off. Welcome back, John Parisella. No matter how he does is irrelevant. He’ll bring color and enthusiasm. “Kick things up a notch, John. The sport needs a little action.”

 

How do you say his name?

Muumuu? Mustafa? Mama Mia? Naaah. How about Mubtaahijj? Trainer Mike de Kock is a genius. He doesn’t take crap, and only brings them ready. I don’t know what to make of this desert runner, but if the UAE Derby is any indication. I think we have our hands full while we’re arguing about a bunch a talented runners yet to be tested. The way he kicked off the rail and opened up by daylight took me back. Ever since they took him off the turf, he found his way. Winning easily going 1 3/16, wrapped up the last 1/8th is good enough to take seriously.

 

If you’ve been under a rock

Keeneland has gone back to dirt after the ‘poly experiment” that began in 2006. With the dirt oval in full effect, you can use the following on your tickets and thank me later:

Trainers

Ken McPeek

Wesley Ward

Chad Brown

Todd Pletcher

Al Stall

Mike Maker

Kellyn Gorder

Dale Romans

D. Wayne Lukas (Good for a bomb or two)

Nick Zito (Same as Mr. Lukas)

 

Riders

James Graham

Jose Lezcano

John Velasquez

Rajiv Maragh

Julien Leparoux

Shawn Bridgmohan

Corey Lanerie (claimers)

Paco Lopez

Cisco Torres

B.J. Hernandez

 

“That is all we have right now. Oh, don’t worry. If I need to take you aside and have a meeting. Rest assured I’ll be there. Just treat everyone fairly, and let’s not get in the habit of judging the outcome of races on paper. That’s why they run them. Keep an open mind these next weeks, or that Derby Fever bug will bite like a rattler. Read all you can, but don’t get caught up in what happened last year, or the last ten as a barometer of finding winners. Each year is different, records are meant to be broken, three-yr.-olds with no two-yr.-old season can win, and horses can’t read. They don’t know where they were foaled. Just don’t let the bright lights get in your eyes this close to the race.” Best of luck, and we’ll be watching.

 

 

 

Weekend Preview

Crank up your old “Rocky” cassette and begin shadow boxing. The sweat starts running down your back, and your hard work is beginning to pay off. That’s exactly the mindset needed for this weekend. Think of this one as one of the last opportunities for the runners to stamp their card for Louisville, and that’s easy, because it’s true. Here is a breakdown of the marquee races that await our wagering dollars.

 

The Wood Memorial/Aqueduct

At the time of this writing, weather was the focus for handicappers. The forecast calls for 51 degrees and partly cloudy, and a field of seven three-year-olds go to post.

 

Race #10 – The 91st running of the Wood Memorial – 1 1/8 – 5:30 ET

#6 – Daredevil (9-5) = If there was a runner who looked to fit, this guy would be the poster boy. A son of More than Ready is trained by Todd Pletcher and has the services of Javier Castellano. His three starts at two were excellent, and just toss out the Breeders’ Cup race and you’ll bet early and often. he has that versatile style that is pretty effective the first Saturday in May, but let’s take one race at a time. #5 – El Kabeir is a nice runner and has shown up-close action. That was until his last where he broke 9th by 12 lengths, and closed weaving through traffic. I just don’t think he’ll be able to pull that act again as the price of poker I going up. #4 – Frosted (5-2) = Kiaran McLaughlin brings this son of Tapit with new rider Joel Rosario. His last effort looked like gold until he hit the top of the lane. He tossed out the anchor and his Tapit bloodline showed quickly. I love he is 5/6 ITM lifetime and is a gamer. He may be able to shake off the traffic making his third off the shelf. – If your still not sold on Daredevil, just watch his Evil Knievel like performance on 10/4/14 in the Champagne.

 

 

Keeneland / The Bluegrass Stakes

The 91st Running of the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes – 1 1/8 – 6:00 ET

Keeneland cancelled live racing for the first time in 78-years due to torrential rains. Kentucky has had flooding since the heavy snows, and this didn’t help matters. The track crew is excellent, and you can bet they’ll have the track in the best shape possible. After going back to dirt and tossing out the poly track, handicappers have been waiting for quite sometime. The track may be off, and you’ll be able to utilize your E-Z Win Forms to change the track condition tab if the surface tightens up. The forecast calls for 58 degrees and sunny.

#5 – Carpe Diem (1-1) = John Velasquez in the irons for Todd Pletcher, and this son of Giant’s Causeway won the Breeders’ Futurity at two-years-old over the oval. His last race in the Tampa Bay Derby was ultra impressive, and the TBD oval gets runners “legged up.” – He’ll benefit from the big win and has two solid works at Palm Beach Downs. He has the top dog rider, loves the track, and is hard to slight. But, there are a few that can offer a challenge of he’s not up-to-snuff. – #1 – Ocho Ocho Ocho (6-1) = Up and coming rider Santiago Gonzalez is coming to town for James Cassidy. This is the second off the shelf for the son of Street Sense and was brutalized last against the West Coast monster Dortmund. He was only (4-1) and you can toss that race. He draws the rail today and should be forwardly placed. – #2 – Gorgeous Bird (8-1) = B.J. Hernandez in the irons for Ian Wilkes.  He made up some nice ground last out, and if Carpe Diem doesn’t seize the race, he could be a player.

 

Santa Anita/The Santa Anita Derby

Race #8 – The (G-1) $1,000,000 Santa Anita Derby – 1 1/8 – 6:38 ET

I guess the world is chanting this by now, but here goes anyway. Dortmund doesn’t have to win or run the race of his undefeated life. He’ll be forwardly placed along the rail and don’t look for him to get in a knockdown drag-out fight. If left alone, he’ll roll. If there are any tough guys taking shots, here are a couple of names that could take down the cheese. Look for him to get some points at worst, but at (3-5) maybe a little hard racing is what the doctor ordered.

#4 – Bolo (4-1) = Mike Smith in the saddle, and that alone is worth a bet. Carla Gaines brings this son of Temple City to post, and he has looked great on the turf. His only dirt effort last out was pretty good, and he’ll push the pace as he did against Dortmund in the San Felipe. 2nd time out in 2015, and if he improves off his last, Smith will find his best game.

#5 – Prospect Park (7-2) = Kent D for Clifford Sise, and this son of Tapit should be in the second flight looking for a meltdown. He ran a good closing effort against Dortmund, and it is starting to look like there will be pace, and stalkers waiting for Dortmund to get caught napping.

 

There are excellent undercards, and plenty of solid players all day long. Also, with all due respect to the fillies, there will be four races that are the last to offer points for the Kentucky Oaks. Keeneland is offering a $300,000 guaranteed all-stakes pick-four and pick-five. Santa Anita is shelling out a sweet $750,000 late pick-four guarantee and $300,000 pick-six pool. Winning Ponies will be all dialed in and you can go back and take a look at the prep replays on the site before you download your E-Z Win Forms. Enjoy this incredible day and racing and best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies!