11/25/2007 2:18PM

Squandering Our Lives


The worst part of the disgraceful editorial in Saturday's New York Times about New York City OTB wasn't its gullibility in believing (and endorsing) Mayor Bloomberg's false claims of unprofitability and his empty threat to shutter the company. The lowest of many low points came in these two sentences:

"Shutting down the city's more than 60 OTB offices appeals to Mr. Bloomberg on both financial and moral grounds. Put simply, he believes that the city should not be asked to sustain a system that encourages people to squander the rent money or, worse, their lives."

It's no surprise that the priggish Times turns up its nose at gambling, but it is still astounding to see the so-called national newspaper of record dismiss hundreds of thousands of racing fans and OTB customers as deadbeats and judge their lives as worthless. Someday someone will explain to me why playing the horses is any different from speculating in financial and real-estate markets, pursuits that the Times routinely encourages its readers to sustain.

--Saturday's three consecutive nine-furlong stakes races at Aqueduct provided a study in pace contrasts and their effect on final time. Here were the fractional and final times:

25.08 49.11 1:12.88 1:37.21 1:50.15

23.35 47.81 1:13.23 1:38.85 1:51.61

24.33 49.15 1:14.49 1:39.85 1:52.48

The Discovery earned a Beyer of 96, in line with Now a Victor's previous efforts, and the slow opening half-mile certainly aided the early leaders. The Demoiselle got an 84, consistent with Mushka's two previous 82's on different surfaces, and the quick early fractions set the stage for her looping victory from far back.

The roughly-run Remsen gets only a 76, which might at first seem highly counterintuitive, given that the 1-2 finishers, Court Vision and Atoned, ran Beyers of 90 and 82 in their previous starts. Both, however, had rough trips in the slow-paced, bunched-up race, with Atoned stumbling on the backstretch and Court Vision having to bull his way through traffic.

Despite the glacial figure, I thought Court Vision was impressive in victory. He had absolutely no running room when he needed it and seemed to have an impossible task to run down Atoned in the final furlong. He not only got up but also did it with the fastest final furlong of any of the three winners. All three of these lightly-raced winners appear to have very bright futures.

So, obviously, does Daaher, who earned a stellar 114 for his 2 1/2-length victory over Midnight Lute in the Cigar Mile. As David Grening pointed out, Daaher concluded his campaign with the identical three-race pattern that Discreet Cat did last year -- a Saratoga allowance victory, the Jerome and the Cigar Mile. Here's hoping Daaher fares better than Discreet Cat did from here on in. He's being pointed for the Donn Handicap Feb. 2 and then either the Godolphin Mile or Dubai World Cup March 29.

As for Midnight Lute, there's no disgrace in running second to Daaher but the performance cast some doubt on his stretching out in top-level company next year. He has now failed in all three of his starts beyond seven furlongs, and he looked to me like he was slightly rank and fighting Garrett Gomez most of the way yesterday. That left him without his locomotive late punch, though it would have been tough for anyone to catch Daaher after a moderate opening half in 46.32 en route to a spakling final time of 1:33.79 for the mile.

--Today's only graded stakes races are the two Grade 1's concluding Hollywood's holiday-weekend Turf Festival:

5:38 pm EST: Hollywood race 5, G1 $500k Matriarch S., 3+F, 1m-T
This small but accomplished field of six might be a little trickier than its billing as a showdown between 8-5 Wait a While and 9-5 Precious Kitten. Wait a While's best race would drown them, and two of her best races have come in claifornia, where she was smashing winning the american Oaks and Yellow Ribbon last year. This year, though, you can't ever be sure which Wait a While is going to show up. She's been erratic. At least she'll get some pace today and maybe it's coincidence, but in her last 10 starts, she's 0-for-4 when the opening half in 49 or slower, 6-for-6 when it's faster. Precious Kitten always fires, and you can draw a line through her BC F&M Turf fiasco, but she really had no escuse getting run down late by Vacare in the First Lady the time before that. At 7-2, Lady of Venice might be the play. She wqas hampered by the slow pace as the favorite in the First Lady, but her other one-mile races have been her best efforts.

7:08 pm EST: Hollywood race 8, G1 Hollywood Derby, 3yo, 1 1/4m-T
Nobiz Like Shobiz couldn't handle 10 furlongs in that other Derby earlier this year, but gets a second chance at the distance now that he's found a new home on the grass. He's clearly the fastest horse in the race up to a mile and an eighth, and the question is whether he can now handle a 10th furlong or if a confirmed stayer such as Bold Hawk can close the gap. The only other plausible win candidates are Daytona(Ire), also questionable at the distance but coming off a huge 9f win in the Oak Tree Derby, and Twilight Meteor, who lost photos to both Nobiz and Bold Hawk earlier this year.

--Wave a fond farewell until March or April to seven-furlong and one-turn mile races in New York after today: The Aqueduct main track closes for the season and racing moves to the inner track starting Wednesday.

Christine More than 1 year ago
In answer to a post above...the "takeout" for a trade in the market really depends on how big a fish you are and where you do your business. You can make or break your own business depending on where you call home. I am always amazed to find the immense predjudice however when folks always want to give me 50-100K or MORE to trade in the market without question but are scared to death over $500.00 for a pony account. The market is a much darker place...believe me...
jim More than 1 year ago
its not what we think..what do the owners/breeders think of bloombergs comments. thats what i want to know!
Dennis More than 1 year ago
Steve, I would be interested in your thoughts about the Plonk article (espn.com) on the pick six http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/horse/columns/story?columnist=plonk_jeremy&id=3122184 In summary, he recommends a weekly guaranteed pool with a carryover to the following week if no one hits. He also makes some good points about racing secretaries manipulating the race order to not have heavy favorites in the pick 6. I know you have mentioned this practice before, but what is wrong with leaving a 1-5 shot in the sequence and making it a pick five once in a while. I think more people would play on those days. Thanks. Dennis
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
Rich_HF said, "FINALLY: To the comment who wanted real track prices, thus that's why the OTB's don't work - you have to pay a price for convience (sic). If you don't want to travel all the way to the track and play there, you should have to pay a small percentage for the convience (sic) of a company bringing the races closer to you." Um, no.
Mike More than 1 year ago
To the point that the stock market doesn't have a take out I don't think that's entirely correct. Unless I'm mistaken, I have to pay a brokerage fee if I want to buy a stock. Depending on how much money I have to invest, that fee could be fairly significant. In fact, these fees can pretty much encourage small investors not to get involved in the market. Someone who wants to invest $100 or $200 a month into stocks would not be wise to do that given that the fees would probably eat away at their gains. Mutual funds all have administrative fees attached to them which makes it important to research those investments so that you know how much of your money is going to pay fund managers. While these "takeouts" might not reach the 15-20% level that we see at the track they can still be high considering that the probable "payout" is generally not as significant as at the track although it probably has less risk.
Tony More than 1 year ago
I have no sympathy for the point of view expressed by the NY Times article, but defense of the handicapping game as being akin to stock market investing doesn't hold water. The most obvious fundamental difference is that the stock market has no takeout. The average horseplayer loses money at the rate of the takeout, 15-20%. The exceptional horseplayer makes money by overcoming the takeout handicap. In contrast, the average investor gains capital at roughly the rate of appreciation of the market as a whole. While only exceptionally bad stock market players have lost money over the past 10 years, only exceptionally good handicappers have made money. For the serious player, the pleasure of playing the horses is in realizing that although it DOES take extraordinary skill to beat the odds, it can be done, and to strive for the knowledge and discipline that it takes to achieve that lofty goal. And, at the same time, to marvel at the human and equine athletes that make every race, in some way, such a wonderful spectacle.
Flip Dawson More than 1 year ago
Clean up the OTB shops, and bar all drunks, touts, etc. anyone undesirable. These people do not raise the daily handle at all. They are just keeping warm in the winter at an OTB outlet. There is a good base of horse-players who do not golf on the weekends. (loved the comparison--$100.00 spent on golf is the same as $100.00 spent at Woodbine.) However, with golf, you have no mutuels to fiddle with. You are going to be out $100.00 at the golf course, no matter what you do. With racing, there is the chance that you can take out a withdrawal. I dislike golf--too many claims of foul to my liking. Now, where did I put that book, EXOTIC BETTING?
Wayne More than 1 year ago
PS - If the times or blomberg ever bothered to actually speak to the OTB folks, they will find that most are more intelligent than the average population. Not as eductated at as the erudite Times readership, but intelligent and especially analytical. You have to be to understand the game.
wayne More than 1 year ago
I would prefer to hang with the folks outside my local OTB (most of whom are out there due to Blomberg's smoking law, btw, ironic heh?) than with the folks hanging around outside my local supermarket offering to carry bags, load cars or clean windshields.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Steve -- I believe Wednesday's the 25th anniversary of Landaluce's passing. I know that you had filed a number of stories on her in your time at the Times. Any thoughts on her career, however brief yet brilliant it was, and any favorite stories about her? Thanks.