10/30/2008 3:54PM

HG 107 post mortem, Donnaguska, questions


Dan, in the Meadowlands 6th race on October 20, Aqab won a 40K maiden claimer.  It was his first race for a tag after racing six times in Md Sp Wt company, with only one second to his credit.  Aqab was purchased at the Keeneland yearling sale in September 2006 for $1.45 million (!).

Of course the drastically reduced price of $40K indicates Aqab has physical problems, but still, I found it curious that Aqab was not claimed for less than 3 pennies on the dollar of his 9/06 purchase price.  Plus, he's listed as a colt, so wouldn't a $1.45 million colt have some stud potential?

So I'm wondering why nobody would taken a shot here for forty grand -- maybe the answer is obvious but I don't know what it is.      Do horsemen know about the physical problems of another trainer's horse?  Or can it be detected by the way a horse walks or runs? 
terry f

It's possible that the horse has physical problems, but I think it's more probable that Aqab doesn't have a lot of ability, was a terrible seven-figure purchase, and is worth $40,000 in the current market.  I don't think anyone is looking at claiming this soon-to-be 4-year-old in the hope of making him a stakes horses.  He's not that good.  The question is whether he could be a marketable stallion.  I'm saying that he isn't.  His dam, Top Rung, was a multiple Grade 2 winner, and has foaled two blacktype earners in the Grade 3-placed router Consistency, and stakes-placed turf runner Tremendous One.  But Aqab is by Empire Maker, a sire of slow-developing horses, and not a proven sire of sires (he's still too young to be one).  There's not enough pedigree on the bottom to indicate that the Aqabs would sell at auction.  He would have to be a regional sire at best and, in the current oversaturated stallion market, would likely be lost in the shuffle. 
I'm sure horsemen are looking at Aqab, and the fact that he wasn't claimed for $40,000 may be because of his physical condition.  Horsemen, for the most part, have keen eyes, and they aren't going to take damaged goods. 
I was more surprised that no one took the stakes-winning Papi Chullo for $16,000 on October 21 at Delaware.  He's an intact horse that had some ability early on in his career.


Someone (I think katieattherail) asked a similar question a day or two ago, and didn't get any responses that I saw.  Anybody know of any upcoming free handicapping contests?


What is PublicHandicapper for $200? Sorry, too much Jeopardy!

http://www.publichandicapper.com   has a free contest from Dec. - Jan.

For those who live near the track, Churchill Downs has a free 'capping contest with money prizes and a chance to visit Sharon in Las Vegas...er..compete in the National 'Capping contest in January.

Here's the info: http://www.churchilldowns.com/sites/churchilldowns.com/files/WhosTheChamp-Rules.pdf

Those are the only free contests that I'm aware of.

Here's the NHC page from drf.com.  They have the full schedule of NHC qualifiers.  I would assume that some are free to enter:



Any clue what BSF she got Dan and have you ever seen anything like that race?

Watch the number three in this race, and tell me what you think.


Here's the past performance line with Beyer Speed Figure:

Download Donnaguska.pdf

A racing fan sent me an e-mail a few days ago concerning this race, and the late kick exhibited by Donnaguska was one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen.  Of course, it's nice to get validation from the clock, and the 59 Beyer Speed Figure is pretty light, but still...that's not something you see every day.

How do you account for that performance, and is she playable coming back?
Ross B

I don't think you can account for the performance other to say it was freakish.  I have serious questions as to what she beat that day, and the Beyer came back light.  I wonder if winning that way was the worst possible outcome for her long-term career.  Her connections certainly can't put her in for a tag after that race - everyone will be climbing over themselves to claim her.  The number indicates she isn't ready for a stakes just yet.  The Beyer par for a six furlong  'n1x'  allowance at Hawthorne over the past five years is a 75 so she may not be ready for that just yet.  I hate to be cliche, but she's a "wait-and-see" for me next time.


Dan - Perhaps I am just plain ole' dumb, but I'm just baffled that the BC Filly and Mare Sprint received "only" a 105. A 105?!? They went 1:19.3! I've never seen a 7F race run under 1:20. So how does that equate to a 105 when it seems like it should be about a 120? Similarly the Sprint in 1:07 and change - "only" a 112. Seems low. Can you "educate" me? I thought I was a pretty good handicapper...Thanks - and keep up your stellar work!
Michael M

I'm guessing that the Beyer folks believe that the track was much faster than usual on the two Breeders' Cup days.  The "raw" number for the Breeders' Cup Sprint was something like a 148.  After measuring the speed of the track versus the par, they deducted points (track variant). 


DAN, if you wouldn't mind, could i get a little help finding the chart for this?

Here's the Reverently race from Woodbine.  You could probably find the video footage for free on calracing.com.

Download Reverently.pdf


Did Street Cry do it, and was he the first one?

I'm pretty sure that Street Cry is the first stallion with two Breeders' Cup winners in his first crop (Zenyatta, Street Sense)


Santa Anita stewards also fined jockey Frankie Dettori $500 for failing to ride in Saturday's Damascus Stakes. Dettori won Saturday's ninth race, the Breeders' Cup Classic with Raven's Pass, and took off his mount in the Damascus Stakes, the 10th race, without sufficient notice, the stewards said.

Now, we'll ban the endzone celebrations as well.  From our friends at The Racing Post:

FRANKIE DETTORI yesterday expressed his surprise at hearing he may be in for a second reprimand from the Santa Anita stewards, this time for throwing his whip away in jubilation following his success aboard Raven's Pass in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Dettori, who has made post-race celebrations his trademark, threw his whip into the air shortly after crossing the line before returning to the winner's enclosure and obliging the 55,000-strong crowd with a flying dismount.
The eight-time Breeders' Cup winning jockey has already been handed a ¿500 fine for failing to fulfil his riding engagements following Raven's Pass's victory on Saturday afternoon, but is now facing a further fine or even a suspension.
Dettori was due to partner Master Daniel in the subsequent Damascus Stakes but gave up the ride, with the three-year-old going on to finish ninth under Tyler Baze.
Although Santa Anita steward Albert Christiansen said the whip had not hit any of the 11 Classic rivals as they trailed home in Dettori's wake, officials are considering disciplinary action.
The whip was found 50 yards from the post and Christiansen added that he was uncertain when a decision regarding action may be made.
"First time I've ever seen it," the steward said. "Why would he throw a ¿100 whip away? To tell you the truth, I don't know if he got it back or not."
Dettori was unfazed by this latest slap on the wrist, explaining that no penalty detracted from winning the meeting's richest race.
"I got fined ¿500 for not riding in the race after the Classic and I spoke to the stewards then and that's all they said. I haven't heard anything else. I don't know what to say - I won the Classic and I'm very happy."
The Santa Anita stewards' reaction contrasts strongly with those of their French counterparts after Christophe Soumillon's extravagant celebrations following his Arc victory aboard Zarkava.
Also renowned for his line-crossing behaviour, Soumillon jubilantly threw his hat to the crowd following his two-length success, a gesture which would have been dimly viewed in any other country.
Christiansen stated that the stewards delayed post time for the Damascus to allow Dettori to participate in the post-Classic ceremonies but emotions might have played a role in his choosing not to ride again.
"He just was too excited would be a guess. He really didn't say anything,"
Christiansen said. "He accepted the fine very graciously and left it at that."


Someone please tell me that the gelding El Gato Malo is hitting the tracks again shortly!

"The Bad Cat" breezed three furlongs on October 26, and may be back for the Malibu in December.


Question for Dan about his new DVD.  Please forward to him.
I would like to purchase your DVD for my father who really enjoys handicapping yet doesn't go to the track that much. 
I think he would find it interesting being an old greyhound handicapper who use to watch replays on local tv.
What is the most efficient mechanism (service) for him to access race replays?

Thanks for the interest.  I would try calracing.com for free replays of selected tracks.  While the Churchill-owned tracks won't be available, races from California, Keeneland, Gulfstream, New York, Canada, and elsewhere are free with a painless registration.  If you have an account wagering provider (twinspires, youbet), you should be able to access race replays from them as well.


Next time, let's talk about the wagering debacle in California and elsewhere, and my selection for Horse of the Year.

Take care,


tinky More than 1 year ago
TBTA – Thanks for the kind comments. I'm glad to hear that some are finding these (sometimes lengthy) discussions to be useful. More to the point, though, I have long maintained that the lack of serious public criticism has contributed greatly to the decline of the U.S. Thoroughbred industry. And the parallels between our political landscape and the racing industry are sometimes remarkably close. There were, for example, many eloquent voices of dissent during the lead-up to the disastrous Iraq war, yet virtually none were given air-time on mainstream media outlets as it was deemed by those in power to be unpatriotic, and corporate sponsors might have been offended. The main reason that the U.S. economy is in shambles is a lack of transparency, and it is no coincidence that the Thoroughbred industry is in dire straights, given the behavior of those in power.
todd saunders More than 1 year ago
to those who have replied, thanks very much. i wanted to add a few thoughts: i have been to the races in Melbourne and Sydney, both flats and harness, and it is great. very exciting with the bookmakers out, and they genuinely seem to love racing. it gets attention in the papers, the tracks are generally quite nice, and the "punters" are considered important. i have been at at the trots in sydney when a driver was called out about his drive, and made to explain to the judges and the public what happened. they freely give days to their top jocks and drivers, and definitely seem to care about the welfare of their animals. like japan, and hong kong, their racing is not as often, but the focus is more on big fields, with better runners. it would be a worthwhile exercise to try and emulate at least some of their methods and approach to racing. IMHO todd
Van Savant More than 1 year ago
What a spectacular race! I was SCREAMING for Bauer (Ire) as they dueled down the stretch, and the race caller left me with the impression that Bauer (Ire) may have won this darn-thing (and I only had a mythical wager on him)! What a hoot. The winner, Viewed, appeared to me to be un-playable based on his recent form. I never fancied Septimus (Ire) or Mad Rush (USA) for this race, and apparently they both ran poorly. That was quite the experience. And quite the challenge. I am hopeless on turf racing, and even-more-so at 16-freaking-furlongs!!! Did anyone correctly select the winner, or any exotics?
Blue Horseshoe More than 1 year ago
ChicagoGerry, I completely agree with your opinions regarding the Iraq war and the current difficult economic environment and I know that these positions can be backed up with substantial evidence, reason and logic. I strongly disagree with Tinky's repeated political opinions but have resisted a rebuttal because I think that clearly this forum should not be tainted by such a spirited digression.
Dale More than 1 year ago
A submariner, eh Steve???? Some might say that explains a lot!!! Seriously, though, thank you for your service to our country. Dale
Peter Vescovo More than 1 year ago
Dan, I think that HG is a blast. Even though I blew out of HG106 trying a HI-5 strategy it came in handy on Sunday when I decided to chase the Hi-5 carryover at Churchill. Money management 2 $16 tickets one chalkly one not. Missed the carryover on race three but that one carried over to Calder race 6. Same strategy better result hit with my chalky ticket for a nice payout. HG gives me a chance to tryout tactics that I have thought about but because I limit my daily plays to certain dollar amount haven't been willing to try. Looking forward to continuing participation in this exercise. I guess we got lucky here in San Antonio our live racing season has been extended til Feb. because of the Sam Houston shutdown. Bad thing is our racing commission is totally ineffective and we are surrounded by racino states that off double to triple the purse amounts that are offered in Texas. I won't rant much but it drives me crazy that many TX $$$ are wagered in the surrounding states with no return to us.
Blue Horseshoe More than 1 year ago
RE: Breeder's Cup positive drug test It appears that Breeder's Cup Filly and Mare Turf 3rd place finisher Wait A While has tested positive for Procaine. It has seemed to many observers that Todd Pletcher has been clean since about the time of the Biancone bust in July 2007. This could be a trace residual amount from an antibiotic treatment of an illness or the drug could have been used as a local anesthetic or nerve/joint block. It would seem unusual to me to run the filly in such a difficult and demanding race shortly after having an illness that required antibiotic treatment. But, who knows... Does anyone know if there has ever been a reported positive drug test out of the Breeder's Cup in the past???
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
Cayman01, Thanks for the explanation of the term "Dead" for turf course condition. James Mc., I enjoyed watching the way the Flemington stewards handled the inquiry last evening as well. It did take a long time. I am not sure we have the patience to let our stewards perform their job in this manner. I also thought they made the right call. And what's the deal with John Murtagh? Has every race become a 5 furlong all out sprint? He employed similar tactics in the Breeders Cup Turf with no success. I must confess that I enjoyed the whole card from Flemington. I wish we could card some turf marathons with overflow fields here in the US. We have several turf courses that could handle 18 runners or so including Belmont, Colonial Downs, Laurel and perhaps Arlington. But I would understand the reluctance of a trainer and an owner to run in such a large field. Perhaps if the purses were large enough there might be some interest. I love watching the races from England and Ireland on TVG with the large fields and long distances. They are also fun to wager on. And with the field size you can bet a small sum on an exacta and make a pretty nice score.
Steve T. More than 1 year ago
*** WARNING Rant Ahead – Part 5: Track Operators *** Part 2 of Track Operators - The issue of track operators has come to the forefront since the aggregation and conglomeration of tracks by Magna Entertainment and Churchill Downs, Inc. They have since proven that bigger is not better, and that using standard business practices makes for a lessened customer experience. But there is a HUGE difference between the operations – CDI continues to operate in the black, with little debt on the books. Magna on the other hand is bleeding like a stuck pig, their margins are a third of CDI’s, their cash flow is in the red, they have almost $600M in debt and their earnings per share is a catastrophic negative 29.21 per share. Let’s see how the two track monsters shake out financially: Churchill Downs, Inc. (NASDAQ – CHDN) Tracks Arlington Park (Arlington Heights, IL) Calder Race Course (Miami Gardens, FL) Churchill Downs (Louisville, KY) Fair Grounds (New Orleans, LA) Financial Statements Income $437.98M Gross Profit $84.33M EBIDTA $62.88M Gross Margin 20.60% Operating Margin 8.21% EPS $1.77 per share Total Cash $18.63M Total Debt $24.44M Book Value $29.24 per share Operating Cash Flow $83.57M Current Share Price $39.31 (11-03-2008) Market Capitalization $537.49M Magna Entertainment Corporation (NASDAQ – MECA) Tracks Golden Gate Fields (Albany, CA) Gulfstream Park (Hallandale, FL) Laurel Park (Laurel, MD) Lone Star Park (Grand Prairie, TX) Magna Racino (Vienna, Austria) Pimlico (Baltimore, MD) Portland Meadows (Portland, OR) Remington Park (Oklahoma City, OK) Santa Anita Park (Arcadia, CA) The Meadows (Meadow Lands, PA) Thistledown (North Randall, OH) Financial Statements Income $601.36M Gross Profit $59.28M EBIDTA -$16.80M Gross Margin 8.77% Operating Margin -10.57% EPS -$29.21 per share Total Cash $29.41M Total Debt $591.47M Book Value $54.97 per share Operating Cash Flow -$74.70M Current Share Price $3.50 (11-03-2008) Market Capitalization $20.48M One company makes money and the other loses it hand over fist. One of the problems in analyzing these two companies is that you can’t tell which of the tracks is making or losing money. For Magna, it appears that the big money maker is Santa Anita, which they may well have to sell to reduce their debt load. Here is a recent article describing the possible sale: Magna May Sell Controlling Stake In Santa Anita To Offset Debt Magna Entertainment Corp. (MEC) Chair Frank Stronach yesterday said that he is "prepared to pay down debt by selling a controlling stake" in Santa Anita Park, according to Steve Ladurantaye of the GLOBE & MAIL. The track, which Stronach had previously said he would not sell, is worth an estimated $500M (all figures U.S.). Stronach during MEC's Q2 conference call said, "We do have high debt and we may find that we have to sell 50 or 60[%] of Santa Anita." MEC owes $577.8M, and a Santa Anita sale "could appease disgruntled investors, who have suggested a sale would be the easiest way to balance the books." Ladurantaye notes the sale would allow MEC to "focus on its core holdings," including Gulfstream Park and Pimlico Race Course (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/7). Gulfstream and Pimlico are your core holdings?? Boy are you guys up the creek. There seems to be a new plan every week with proposed sales of the Maryland Tracks, Gulfstream (so much for core holdings), Santa Anita, Portland Meadows and Thistledown. If they had a brain in their head they would keep Santa Anita, Golden Gate and Gulfstream and sell off the rest. Did I mention a brain? Huh, could be the problem here. Distribution of the Take This is disturbing at best – Churchill runs a tidy little profitable operation, but the horsemen collect 46¢ for every dollar of cost, meaning they are losing their ass. The current war between the horsemen and the tracks (via the ADW’s) seems to target CDI more than the others. If I saw that they were profitable while I was losing my shirt, I think I would be more than a little resentful. Magna on the other hand is a basket case and they are under water, good luck getting anything from them, which probably does not bode well for the California tracks. How can a business in good conscience operate knowing that a critical component of their business (the horsemen) are drowning? One of the major issues in this rant series is the fact that many pieces of the puzzle are economically hitting the wall at Mach 3 with their hair on fire. The entire industry needs to be healthy to effect a win. We Want ALL the money Another trend that clashes with any appearance of corporate morality was the decision by both groups to start their own online wagering services – TwinSpires and Xpress Bet. Neither side has any competence in technology, they also have no history of successfully operating on the Internet, yet both pushed the original online shops over the cliff (or bought them out) in their attempt to get an even bigger share of the pie. I haven’t used Xpress Bet, but TwinSpires is the most clunky, counterintuitive piece of software I have run into. Look at the sleek interface and operability of YouBet, now take a look at TwinSpires. And as owners of the online wager sites they have exposed themselves to the horsemen who consider the take by the services as part of the overall pie. Does Anyone Do It Right? The two best tracks in terms of financial and plant condition in the U.S. appear to be Del Mar and Keeneland, both operated by non-profit corporations. This is not surprising as both tracks are organized as trusts and operate almost identically. The priority for any profits are to maintain and upgrade the physical plant (which is why both are 70+ years old and immaculate), then to increase purses, and finally to make charitable donations. All of which they do year after year. Ironically both have the same surface, PolyTrack, which really isn’t surprising as they HAVE to invest back into the facility as non-profits. Del Mar is unique in that its facilities are owned by the State of California and controlled by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, operators of the Southern California Exposition, which annually attracts more than a million visitors from mid-June through the 4th of July holiday to what is commonly called the “Del Mar Fair.” Since 1970, Del Mar racing has been operated by a corporation of prominent California owners, breeders and community leaders known as the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Its original—and continuing— mission was to conduct the sport for the sport's gain and to channel profits back into the facility. Under a non-dividend-paying arrangement, neither directors nor stockholders receive individual remuneration. Keeneland is actually owned by the Keeneland Association and is managed by a three person set of Trustees. But its mandate is almost identical to Del Mar’s. The Bottom Line There are too many tracks in the United States, with only a select few making a profit, and that profit is often on the backs of the other stakeholders. The demise of Magna would actually reduce the supply of tracks, most of which are not profitable. If they sell Santa Anita, there is really not much left. Golden Gate is sitting on some of the most expensive real estate in the country, but it is highly unlikely that the local and state government would allow the sale of the property for development. Portland Meadows is a dump (literally, it is a hazardous waste site), Pimlico and Laurel are better suited to holding crackhead conventions than horse races and the others are too small to make much of an impact. Gulfstream is a weird one, it has the slots that everybody was dying for, but it hasn’t seemed to have helped. CDI on the other hand did get slots at the Fair Grounds and so far is significantly above their revenue expectations. The most “profitable” tracks seem to be non-profits; they have short meets and they keep their facilities spotless. They also as a whole dodge the rage of the horsemen, and have readily turned their signal loose to whoever wants to carry (and pay for) it. Our tact has to be that horse tracks are businesses, and if they don’t have the market or are mismanaged, they go down. Period. I think the other immediate solution is to only allow tracks to operate four days a week (days of their choice). There is way more supply than demand, and we have to reduce the supply. Do we really need to place a bet on Tuesday?? Wouldn’t you rather NOT have 6 horse fields? Is this going to put people out of a job? Yes it will, but this is a case of amputating a limb to save the patient. Mr. de Kock was absolutely right – whoever makes this happen will be reviled as a villain, when in actuality they are saving the sport. How can two non-profit tracks be at the top of the heap every year? We need to look at them to figure out why. My gut says it is because they treat their customers well and they keep their tracks up. One has an economic incentive to wait another year before painting, while the other (non-profits) has an economic incentive to invest heavily in their facility. The other issue that needs change is that you can be a horse track, or you can be an online wagering service, but not both. The distribution of take from the handle (all sources) should be uniform across the country and be fair to all parties, a “Uniform Horse Racing Code." Next Up: Horseplayers
PGM More than 1 year ago
Vicstu, Not sure about the Melbourne Cup purse, but the purse of the Japan Cup is approximately $4-$5 Million (US), despite the devalued US dollar. I'd say that the Melbourne Cup is more a side-door prep to the Japan Cup, with the Autumn Tenno Sho serving as a front-door prep. Ed, Why not check Twinspires or Bodog?