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The Timetable 4/5/08
Here's the timetable for Saturday's frenetic lineup of 14 graded stakes worth a combined $5 million:
Note that 8 of the 14 races, including all five Grade 1's, will be run during the 45-minute window from 5:15 to 6:00 Eastern Daylight Time. Typically brilliant scheduling, and of course the races are divvied up among NBC (a 5-to-6 p.m. broadcast being listed and promoted solely as a "Santa Anita Derby" program), HRTV and TVG. So you're just about guaranteed to miss something you wanted to see, whether it's War Pass's return, Colonel John vs. El Gato Malo, Proud Spell vs. Country Star or Ginger Punch vs. Zenyatta. That's a lot of good racing.
Nobody is putting these races together with any kind of cross-track multiple wagers, and the Magna 5 apparently ended for the year last week, so I'll probably focus on the all-stakes (Bay Shore/Excelsior/Wood/Carter) pick-four close to home at Aqueduct.
If I get as far as the Carter, I'll be playing against undefeated Bustin Stones, who ran his record to 5-for-5 wiring a slow-paced General George last time out. The first four finishers from that race are all back and the only one I'll use is stone closer Lord Snowdon. The whole quartet is suspect at the Grade 1 level and I'll lean most heavily on Spring at Last and King of the Roxy.
[Update 6:30 pm: I wish I hadn't gotten that far. Got alive through J Be K ($5.10), Temporary Saint ($24.20) and Tale of Ekati ($19.00) to massively overlaid pick-fours to Lord Snowdon ($12,573), King of the Roxy ($18,511) and Spring at Last ($2,982). Which was worse -- my opinion or their performances? Bustin Stones and Executive Fleet ran 1-2 around the track dueling through honest fractions, while Lord Snowdon clunked up for a non-threatening 4th, King of the Roxy faded to sixth after sitting in the garden spot behind the two leaders, and Spring at Last struggled home 8th. The $5,512 pick-four to Bustin Stones was more than double the parlay. Hats off to the undefeated winner and his connections, including commenter Steve V, who tried this morning (see comments below) to talk me into him.]
--The notice announcing the cancellation of Aqueduct's Friday racing that appeared on simulcast monitors from coast to coast said the card had been scrapped due to "heavy rains," but just for the record, there weren't any. The forecast was grim, but Friday turned out to be an almost entirely dry day in these parts and there could have been racing on a fast track. The current prediction is for some Saturday morning rain but the chance of precipitation decreases to 10 percent between 1 and 6 p.m.
--Keeneland's opening-day card looked like it might have been fun if you landed on the right longshots but otherwise was another inscrutable chapter in the Polytrack era. While sprint times were a little quicker and more dirt-like than Keeneland's previous Poly meets, including a front-running last-race victory by the 3-year-old St. Joe in 22.53/44.92/1:09.23/1:21.86, route races continued to be run oddly and slowly. The first six furlongs of the day's three nine-furlong races were run in 1:15.36, 1:15.50 and 1:16.02, with every winner then scooting home in about 12 seconds flat. In the featured Transylvania, moved from grass to Poly, favored Prussian (all previous starts on grass) and second choice Barrier Reef (all previous starts on dirt) both tired over the surface to finish fourth and seventh.
The Super High Five had an inauspicious debut, handling only $20,137. Unlike Santa Anita, Keeneland has not eliminated its last-race superfecta, which handled $128,937 on the same race. No one hit the SHF, which has a $1 minimum, so there's a $16,272 carryover into Saturday's finale. The super, with a 10-cent minimum, was hit on a payoff announced as $138,434 for $2, which meant something like $1.60 worth of winning tickets were sold.
The wackiest exotic of opening day had to be the pick six, where there was a pool of just $10, 741. That should have meant a one-day carryover of $6,516, given the tiny pool and six winners that parlayed out to around $60k, but someone actually hit it. Given that there were only four winning 5-of-6 consos, I'm assuming that the winner had those too on one very small ticket that was either a historic handicapping achievement -- and one of the worst underlays in pick-six annals -- or just someone's lucky numbers.
The schedule for Saturday is another compelling why racing needs a "league office". I was at Keeneland trying to enjoy the live product and still catch the Derby preps on TV, while placing a wager or two. No dice. Multiple races going off at exactly the same time, or within a few minutes of each other, conspired to make the 5:00 hour hectic and unpleasant. Put a real horseplayer in charge of a national racing office with some autonomy and... Interested Steve?????
Flip, Let's take a look see at how the California nags did this weekend when they went to dirt: Zenyatta - Crushed Ginger Punch like a cheap beer can in a geared down hand ride. When was the last time you saw a run like that - Ashado, Azeri, Ouija Board? Tiago/Heatseeker - there sure seemed to be a lot of daylight behind them. Looks like we just need to realize they are grossly overmatched and keep them on Polycrap... I hope Winstar doesn't make a mistake and actually run Colonel John in the Derby. My point? Bitch about the surface all you want, lay off the horses - they deserve the respect.
I like many of you detest the polytrack surfaces, especially the ones out in Cali. My dislike grows from the misrepresentations these surfaces were adopted as being "safer" for the horses. The implication was that dirt surfaces were a significant factor to horses being injured or worse yet, being destroyed. The blame for the "unsafe" tracks goes to the managements/superintendents who continually prepared the surfaces to yield ridiculously fast times. I don't know where it started but fast times became synonymous with quality and to that end I argue that tracks would create surfaces to enable horses to run faster. Being continually exposed to such surfaces I believe has contributed to horses developing injuries which are then being masked by the use of medications. The push to have horses going so fast needs to be abolished. Create surfaces that promote safety rather than fast times and all parties, including the fans would be greatly rewarded.
Jen I live 40 minutes from Arlington Park but I haven`t felt obligated to bet Illinois tracks since the advent of the simulcast era.You always have a choice.Try the pick 4 at Ellis this summer,it`s an easy track to learn and you should already be familiar with some of the trainers.
Sunday at the races. (OTB) So, spent a lousy day listening to all the excuses and how all jockeys are crooked. Laurel (sloppy) bet $20.00 to win on the mud caulks-ran 2nd. Laurel again (still sloppy)played the only 2 horses wearing mud stickers plus 7-5 fav. into a $1.00 trifecta (fave not to win) Back came $120.00 when 7-1 mudder won, 7-5 fave was 2nd, and 16-1 mudlark ran third. Played superfecta at WO in last race for 20 cents--lost $21.60.Winner paid $14.00 and change -- was picked on top as best longshot by DRF.I had winner on top, but no fave who ran 2nd. Filled up my attache case when nobody was looking with discarded tickets. Checked about 50 when I got home--return was $15.00. Still have lots to do, but will use machine. So, without doing the math, won some money, but this was cancelled out by everyone playing each race, losing, then yelling to all who would listen about how crooked the races are.
I was at Aqueduct on Saturday and thought it was a very good card for once. But the thing that annoyed a few of us was it was very difficult to find a simulcast tv with the Illinois Derby on. Not only were all the big races packed within a half hour window, but the tracks make it difficult to find the major derby preps. Kudos to NBC for broadcasting Santa Anita and the Wood plus showing the stretch run of the Illinois. It's important for the non everyday racing fan to get to know these horses before 5pm on May 3rd.
Reply to o_crunk: This info came Mary Scollay association vet at Calder and Gulfstream Park. Her survey was comprised from 42 track vets across the country fron June 07 to Current, The fatality rates for horses run on dirt track were 1.96 deaths per 1000 starts compared to 1.95 death on synthentic surfaces.Now the report also says that the numbers from Jun 07 to Nov 07 were 1.79 deaths on dirt to 1.19 on Synthethic. It does not say what the tracks were, or if the horseshad any kind of medical histories or any other pertinant information. I'm the first to tell you I still don't know the difference from Synthetic, Polytrack, Tapeta or what else they will come up with next. Now I know the data is still in the very early stages, but from everything I have read it can only help the horses, out handicapping is something else. One more thing I noticed, the death rate went up significantly in the winter months, maybe the horses are trying to tell us something.
With , 5 different surfaces how do we pick a horse for course, not only do we have 5 different types of surfaces,but some have been modified due to trouble not draining , cold or heat, now factions within surfaces, is this NUTTS, and you wonder why people are turning away from horse racing? I love horse racing but the game keeps throwing more more curve-balls!
Suffolk Downs new owner spent tons of money on the plan and has slightly improved racing. We will see if he does based upon getting slots as casinos have failed. The Mass polititions just want the gambling dollar going to Lincoln Greyhound Park as well as foxwoods and Mohegan
i watched zenyatta break her maiden and knew right then that she was something special. that was the first time i had such an experience as i'm a young handicapper that has only been doing this for 2-3 years. i've made some nice money on her every race since. now the secret's out...grrrr. steve: my only question is what do you think of the so-called handicapping "experts" who all did extremely poorly this past weekend now that i've gone back and read their pre-saturday blogs. i was actually quite surprised at how poorly everyone's picks were. does that tell me something about the difficulty of the game in general, the 3-yo class this year (for 3yo races) or the handicapping experts themselves? i couldn't find anyone that had Tiago, Tale of Ekati, Little Belle and Colonel John (with strong convictions).