January 30-Turf Paradise

Posted: January 30, 2011 in Horse Racing

After watching the riding performance of Kent Desormeaux aboard First Dude in yesterday’s Sunshine Classic, I would much rather put my fist through pane glass than handicap the races. Therefore I merely give you today’s play of the day; a horse on my stable list. May your Sunday be filled with moments not determined by small people wearing colorful clothes.

Turf Paradise Race 1

#3 Commander Evil-The trainer Thad Keller is as cold as ice, but the jockey Scot Stevens is  as steady as they come. Encouragingly, he keeps the mount again, as the connections try for a fourth time to take a field gate to wire. The gelding cut wicked fractions from his inside draw last time out, but only gave in late. The team returns on short notice, but even that stat bears positive results with a short sample. Never easy to tell if this will be the day, as Commander Evil has had a tough time finishing the job on more than one occasion. This, however, looks like a great chance to dive in and take the worthy risk. With the price likely to be no less than 7-1, we make this the ONLY PLAY OF THE DAY!

The Play: $50 win #3 Commander Evil


January 29-RedRock!

Posted: January 29, 2011 in Horse Racing

The first of two year-end handicapping contests (DRF) began yesterday at the Red Rock Resort in Vegas, giving 301 qualified contestants a chance to take home a first prize of $500,000. Not too shabby.

I’ve  yet to qualify in the 12-year existence of this event–which frankly makes me sick–but mostly, I believe, it speaks to the difficulty of winning these tournaments no matter how talented you perceive yourself.

This is–without a doubt–a tournament where skill, luck, and a few timely blessings from the his holiness, need to work in total harmony. On that day, at that moment, the horse you HOPED would perform big, actually races without mishap; no clipped heels, no unfortunate miscalculations by the jockey; and a trip as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

These things you need just to qualify!

It certainly helps if you can enter more than a handful of qualifiers along the way. Talent in the long run can prevail,  but I’ve seen more than a fair share of exceptional  horse players FAIL to win a spot in the finals. Let’s use yesterday’s third race at Gulfstream Park as a prime example of what HAS to happen for a tournament player to have a chance–either to qualify or to  win the grand prize.

It would have been fair to look at that 3rd race and WANT to get involved. On paper it appeared to be a wide-open event with any number of horses labeled legitimate win possibilities. Personally, I liked #2 Almuraad,  but when this horse was bet down to 7-2 it would have become a tough contest play. (Quick note: The contest format consists of 30 separate $2 win and place bets in two days. The player with the highest bankroll wins.) So, either I would have passed on the race (this race was not a required play) or merely HOPED another one of the possible contenders (at a price) gave you that Kumbaya moment…and that’s what happened.

The gentleman who played the #5 Dug In and who is now in the lead after the first day, was HOPING  that Dug In would, a: improve off the claim, b: appreciate the return to the grass, and c: be the right one–on the right day–at the right time.  Also, to be fair, Dug In did possess one other handicapping angle I use quite often. Shockingly in a full field of older runners, Dug In was the ONLY horse who had EVER won on the Gulfstream lawn. Now, that’s a pretty freaky stat considering the body of the field had well-over 400 lifetime starts combined. Anyway, Dug In got the trip, held off a few deep closers and won. His payoff: $42 to win, $13.80 to place.

I can almost guarantee you, they run this race ten more times, Dug In wins maybe once….maybe. But such is the life of a tournament player, where problem-solving skill is relevant…but fate, so much more.

Gulfstream Race 10

#1-First Dude-I’m expecting a really big year out of this newly turned 4-year-old, as he attempts to finally get back to the winners circle after a bunch of near misses last season. Obviously he was facing the best sophomores in the land for most of the year and he returns today with blinkers off and a new jockey-Kent Desormeaux. Maybe he gets derailed today, but with his speed and class, I just don’t see it happening. So we’ll take the likely short price (8-5) and make this the play of the day.

The Play: $100 win #1 First Dude

January 28-Jackpot!

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Horse Racing

They have a really neat little bet at Gulfstream Park called the Rainbow 6 Jackpot, where for the price of a dime (a phone call, right?) you might be lucky enough to come away with, say, $221,677 (yesterday’s bonanza).  Or maybe, if you’re like me, and you place your bets through TVG or any other wagering facility that uses Scientific Games Research as their tote, you get to READ about it online.

I pledged that I would stay positive this year and reduce the amount of venom that spews from my mouth and fingers. But man, come on! Why the hell do I have to put money into a Twin Spires account because my ADW company (for those not familiar: Advance Deposit Wagering) doesn’t accept the wager. When pressed on this issue, customer service at TVG responded, “sorry, but our tote company doesn’t offer that bet.” HEH?  At at time when racing is  suffering, from among other things–a lack of coherence–this is truly a prime example.

Since I didn’t investigate this further, I’m unsure if Gulfstream can be exonerated either.  One would hope that months before introducing the Rainbow 6, they would have contacted ALL the tote companies that handle the nation’s off-track wagers, and given them the ample time to calibrate–or whatever the heck they do–their programs to allow all of us to participate in the latest gimmick.

On a positive note: Although Gulfstream borrowed (being kind) this idea from Beaulah Park  (The great Beaulah Park!), it is still to be commended for coddling to today’s society. Or, in other words: giving players the chance to make a whole lot of money, for a teeny-weeny investment.

TVG still has time to fix this blunder. In fact, I’ll give them until the pool reaches $100,000 again, before I finally pull the plug on my account. (Can you see them just quaking in their boots?) If enough players stand up and say “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!,” then maybe, just maybe…Ah, who am I kidding. They don’t give a shit!

Gulfstream Park Race 3

#2-Almuraad-This is a very competitive-looking grass starter allowance, but this ancient runner (he’s 10) has  remained sharp for a long time now. His closing style should fit well in this spot, and you get the added bonus of picking up jockey Edgar Prado. Though Prado has gotten off to a painfully slow start at the meet, he still represents a positive change of riders.  Another one we’ll play for value, too, as we see this horse going off at around his morning line odds of 5-1.  There are other surer things on today’s card, but none (that I see) with this potential value…so, this is our play of the day.

The Play: $25 win and place #2 Almuraad

After my original play-of-the-day was scratched because of the surface change from grass to dirt, another play-of-the-day emerged for the same reason. Main-track-only entrant, Pulsion was now entered into the body of the featured 8th race at Gulfstream, originally carded for the grass. Now,  it doesn’t take too much for me to sniff out substitute “best bets,” but in this case I can look you in the font and write, I really liked this horse for all the right reasons.

I won’t get into all the characteristics of what a “best bet” or “play-of-the-day” need to possess, but suffice to say, it should stand out in the race, either for value or dominating talent. In this case Pulsion represented the latter of the two,  having come off a bang-up second-place finish a few weeks earlier and owning a recency edge over the only other challenger in the race, Day of Destiny (also a main-track-only participant).

The only reason I DIDN’T real comfortable playing Pulsion was because of what occurred just one race earlier. In the 7th race,  the team of trainer Patrick Biancone and apprentice  jockey Ryan Curatolo combined to win with a first-time starter name Veloce Canzone (translates to “swift singing” for those who read my blog for educational purposes). That same combination were the connections behind Pulsion. Who cares you ask? Most horseplayers will tell you that if you look at them the wrong way before a race, nothing short of the apocalypse will occur. Still, that doesn’t explain what gave me that “oh no!” kind of feeling following that 7th race win.

Here’s what happened: When Curatolo crossed the finish line with his winning mount, this jockey who’s won all of seven races in his entire career, raised his index finger clearly indicating the symbol for “ONE.”  Yep, this little hot-shot wise-ass, tiny fellow was telling the racing world there was one more win to come. Gee, can you figure out where that win was supposed to come from? He had only more mount left on the card: PULSION.

Long story short, Pulsion ridden too confidently by the little shit, got caught up in a protracted speed duel and eventually succumbed to Day of Destiny in the final sixteenth of the mile race. Was it because of  THE FINGER?

HELL YEAH!…Isn’t it always?

Santa Anita Race 8

#1a-Intentional-This is the part of the entry I hope sticks around, but unfortunately at the time of this post, the scratches are many hours away. Got stuck in plenty of traffic in his last start, steadying off heels before losing interest the final quarter-mile. Takes a serious plunge in class–normally a drop to be wary of– for owners who simply like to win races. While the other half of the entry is also capable of winning this race, I’ll void the play if Intentional doesn’t get to run. For now, we’ll make this the play of the day.

The Play: $50 win #1a Intentional

Janurary 26-A New Calendar!

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Horse Racing


I received my brand-spanking new calendar from the kind people at TVG last week and wow was I relieved! For the first time in a really, really, really long time, Hanukkah will take the year off. PHEW! That’s a hell of a savings for us Jewish folk. Between the gambling and the Christmas gifts, Hanukkah was beginning to be a monumental burden anyway, so we thank you, TVG,  for the calendar-imposed savings in 2011.

I was assured, however, that Hanukkah will return in 2012. TVG will decide what day it will be (they’re thinking of keeping it in December), and that any future omissions of Jewish Holidays will need to come from the lord himself.

Customer service at TVG, to be honest, is quite good. So I would expect them to stick to the promise they made me: review the calendar BEFORE they send it out to their customers next year, and to send me a box of colorful Hanukkah candles…man they’re  hard to find!

Gulfstream Park- Race 3

#4-Star Zapper-From the barn of Juan Vasquez, this sophomore colt by Ghostzapper was a forward presence in his last start, his turf debut. He tired a little late, but the effort came following a brief freshening.  He should be much sharper today and has a chance to find himself all alone on the engine, a nice place to be under any conditions. A decent-enough breeze since the last race and the fact that Maragh sticks , all help make this the play of the day.

The Play: $25 win and place #4 Star Zapper

Hey folks: The following is an archived “confession” from sometime late in 2007. It’s theme is still relevant–and always will be. Learn to manage your money and your pride. It’s just not possible to succeed at this game without mastering both. What you are about to read is true, the humor added to hide the tears.

If given preference, I would think that most of us would like to be a big fish in a small pond.  In such a situation, the big fish control the environment, consume the weak and swim unperturbed in the calmest of waters.

      But let’s face it, in case you were wondering, we’re not fish, we are gamblers…err..humans, and we base most of our decisions on impulse and impossible pipe dreams.  Occasionally we enjoy floating in the neighbor’s pool but usually we prefer swimming with the sharks, where peril is abound, and survival highly unlikely.

      Say hello to the Hollywood Park pick six…and my ego.

      With a carryover of more than $200,000 on their Sunday card, I faced a very usual dilemma. After astutely handicapping races four through nine, I had come to the conclusion that to have a reasonable chance to win, I would need $8,820. No sweat. I’ll simply put on my ski mask, shoot a few wealthy looking people, and proceed to the SAM machine. There was no logical way to play the gimmick otherwise.

     However I had many crime-free alternatives and a whopping $100 to invest. When faced with a small bankroll and large dreams, one needs to look beyond the immediate and remember such sage expressions as “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “You have to walk before you can run.” No, if I wanted to be a big fish in a small pond I needed to take my money and find smaller pools in which to play.

         The fourth race at Hollywood began the pick six, but it also started a daily double and a pick three, two betting options that allow the smaller fish to prosper. I even liked the race from a handicapping perspective, a two year old maiden race running a distance of 4 ½ furlongs.

      Knowing I would only have limited resources at my disposal, I allowed myself only three selections for this first leg of the pick six. With so many first time starters in the race, it became a best guess scenario. My best guesses were Premier Issue, Sky Cape and Booted.  It wasn’t until I further examined the card, that I realized that this pick six was that much beyond my means.

      Flash forward about four hours and the fourth race at Hollywood is moments away. As it turns out Booted is the overwhelming 4-5 favorite, Premier Issue, one of the few with previous experience is bet down to 9-2 and Sky Cape is completely and utterly ignored at 71-1.  Do long odds intimidate me? Not a bit. They can, however, make a normally solid horse player, real stupid. Suddenly thinking that if Sky Cape wins, I would have a chance at a six figure pay day, I concoct a pick six ticket at a cost of $72.00.  I play a $1.00 exacta box using the three horses highlighted, and play a pick three using my three horses in the fourth with the #6 horse in the fifth race and three horses in the sixth. Total investment $87.00.  I have $13.00 left but I save that for some gas and a smoothie.

      I have now become a small fish in a big pond.

      Serious, deep pocket horse players invest thousands of dollars in a pick six carryover of this size, but me and my pea shooter, as usual, attempt to beat the odds and show everyone who’s who.

      To just about everyone’s surprise but my own, Sky Cape wins the maiden race, holding off Booted by a diminishing head, returning $145.60 to win. The exacta pays $200.50. I am pumped!  I ask you who is better than me?  I just made over $100 and I have a chance for gazillions more!

      Thirty minutes later I punched two walls cursed the planet for my existence.

      Needless to say, I lost the following race, rendering my pick three and pick six tickets worthless. I have been eaten by the sharks yet again. If I had only used the $72.00 in a wiser fashion maybe I wouldn’t have turned 71-1 into even money.  A lousy $20 win bet on all three horses in the fourth race would have netted me more than $1400.

      I shot for the moon and I misfired.  I swam in the ocean and I drowned. I knew playing the pick six was wrong, yet I insisted on playing with the big boys. Lesson learned? Sure, but it will happen again, it always does. I do know, however, where to be a big fish in a small pond.  I think I’ll start the bath.

January 24-Monday!

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Horse Racing

Not sure why Mondays get such a bad rap. But for obvious reasons, myself and many others looks to Monday as the beginning of a five-day grind, void of fun, and seemingly light years away from the weekend. This particular Monday also happens to be my birthday, so I’m a bit melancholy as I fully immerse myself in middle age.

 My goal for this year is to make Monday a day to look forward to; to find fulfillment in every day of my life, no matter the day of the week. The key for me is remembering that “fulfillment” does not mean attacking bettable races. It means wrapping myself up in something creative and meaningful, and embracing it with the same passion I’ve given to handicapping.

At this stage, I’m not sure what that is…just being honest. But I can tell you what it won’t be:  It WON’T be working at something that’s ALL about the money; it WON’T be something that doesn’t provide me an opportunity to be helpful to others; and it WON’T be something that will cause my son to one day ask his dad “why did you do THAT?”

I have SO many passions, but racing keeps most of them in check. Need to change that, and change it in a hurry! And while it takes time to be good at playing-the-races, I’m approaching that point where just knowing there’s more out there isn’t enough anymore–it’s time to go get it.

When the Boomtown Rats wrote “I Don’t Like Mondays” over 30 years ago, the song resonated with me (good tune, also), even though the song wasn’t really about just any Monday. No need for anyone to tell me “why I don’t like Mondays,” but I’m tired of trying to shoot the whole day down. It’s time to be better than that.

Play of the Day: Fair Grounds Race 2

#6-Kells Blues-The likely second choice behind Grove Park, makes first start for Mike Stidham, who’s had a tremendous start to the meet. With a reputation as a terrific grass trainer, and the possibility of improvement, it’s not much of a stretch to think, Kells Blues might be better than the choice. Long layoff certainly a concern, but trainer good with that angle also. Not sure you get more than 2-1, but we’ll make this the play of the day.

The Play: $25 win and place #6 Kells Blues