04/02/2017 10:36AM

Watchmaker: Horseplayers deserve better treatment


Before we get to Saturday’s stakes action, a rant:

Horseplayers put up with a lot, from onerous parimutuel takeouts to an overall lack of understanding and respect for the indispensible role we play in the game.

Purses are funded primarily through the money horseplayers bet. Without that money, purses would be a tiny, tiny fraction of what they are. If purses were a tiny fraction of what they are, really, how many owners of Thoroughbred race horses would continue to own horses? With no chance for owners to recoup their investment, let alone turn a profit, what incentive would there be for the vast majority to participate?

Think about the dominoes that would fall if owners walked away because horseplayer money was no longer there to fund them. Without owners, what market would there be for breeders to breed horses? Without owners, would there be any need for trainers to train, and for jockeys to ride? Would there be any further need for racetracks and simulcast signals?

Simply put, no horseplayers, no game.

I relate this, again, because on two occasions Saturday, Grade 2 stakes races at Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park were run at the same time. The Gulfstream Park Oaks went off moments after the Muniz Memorial Handicap was underway. A little more than an hour later, the Louisiana Derby and the Pan American were run simultaneously.

Horseplayers are forced to tolerate this nonsense all the time. But the fact that this happened twice on Saturday, in the type of races involved and in such a relatively short period of time, really struck a nerve with me. And judging from the visceral reaction I saw on social media, it angered a bunch of other people, too.

I don’t care which party is at fault here. We all know that Gulfstream habitually makes a mockery of scheduled post times. But on Saturday, Fair Grounds brought a stakes field on the track with zero minutes to post. And I don’t really care about the underlying political motivations involved, either. But as a horseplayer, I do care about how I am treated.

The game is doing okay, but it’s not doing so great that tracks can show such a complete disregard for its most important audience. Running two Grade 2 stakes races at the same time twice within an 80-minute window was downright abusive, not only to horseplayers – you know, the people who pick up the damn check – but also to the type of racing fans the industry seems so bent on attracting. Imagine being new to the sport and just wanting to watch good horses perform, and being forced to choose which stakes horses you get to watch because the races are being run at the same time, as if there aren’t enough minutes in a day.

It’s absurd beyond words.

Saturday notes:

** Full disclosure: I was very much against Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby because I didn’t think he was fast enough. It wasn’t that paltry 71 Beyer Figure he earned winning an allowance race on the Fountain of Youth undercard, because that number was obviously dragged way down by a walking pace. It was all about the 88 Beyer Always Dreaming earned in a neck defeat to Blame Will last summer in his second career start, his top fig going into Saturday. Blame Will ran twice before that decision over Always Dreaming, earning Beyers of 66 and 61. Blame Will has run four times since, and his Beyers have been 65, 58, 66, and 71.

In other words, I read that Blame Will/Always Dreaming Beyer of 88 as an aberration. Until Saturday, it stuck out like a sore thumb on the records of both horses.

So I was wrong about Always Dreaming, but I do credit him with a fine effort Saturday, one clearly many lengths better than anything he had done before.

** Don’t, however, rely too much on the final time of the Florida Derby as a means to measure how well Always Dreaming performed. The official Florida Derby chart has a final time of 1:47.47 for the 1 1/8 miles after fractions of 23.28 seconds, 47.08, 1:10.75, and 1:34.94. But there was clearly something up regarding the time of the Florida Derby, which harkens back to the timing issues involved in the other big 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 main track stakes event at the meet, the Pegasus World Cup. Nothing was posted on the video of the Florida Derby after the first quarter mile split, and nothing time-wise was posted on the track video feed after the Florida Derby was over, either. So consider the fractions and final time put out there as best guesstimates.

** Gulfstream and Trakus really need to clean up what appears to be an obvious issue timing 1 1/8-mile main-track races there.

** Unreliable fractions and final times - Add them to the list of things horseplayers are forced to tolerate.

** Despite what fractions appear in the official chart, my sense is the pace of the Florida Derby was not fast. The horses running second and third early wound up running one-two, while the early pacesetter, Three Rules, is obviously not a route horse at this level of competition. And runner-up State of Honor has now lost ground in the final furlong of all six of his career two-turn starts, yet he still managed to clearly hold second over a too-late Gunnevera.

** Girvin is a nice horse. I’d love to own him. He was clearly best winning the Louisiana Derby in what was only his fourth career start, just like he was winning the Risen Star in his prior outing. But Girvin had another smooth trip Saturday. He beat an opponent in Patch who was coming off only a maiden victory and beat him by just 1 1/4 lengths, earning a pedestrian Beyer of only 91. Girvin still has every license to improve, but he’ll have to, and significantly, if he is to be a real contender in the Kentucky Derby.

** The Kentucky Oaks took a blow last week with the injury to the brilliant Unique Bella. But Salty and Farrell suggested with solid stakes scores Saturday that they will try their best to fill the vacuum.

Salty was very good winning the Gulfstream Park Oaks in just her third career start, her first outing after her maiden victory, and her first attempt around two turns. Salty put in a sustained, wide run from off the pace and won off, going away. And she’s only going to get better.

Farrell had the Fair Grounds 3-year-old fillies at her mercy all winter and she walloped them again in the Fair Grounds Oaks, her fourth straight stakes victory, all by substantial win margins.



Ann Maree 25 days ago

Well, Mike, can't wait for you to see this week's lineup. They aren't simultaneous, but they might as well be!

SATURDAY, 4-8-17

3:25 ET  Bay Shore S G3  Aqu  $250k  3yo  7f R6 

3:53 ET  Commonwealth S G3  Kee  $250k  4+  7f 6 

4:28 ET  Shakertown SG2  Kee $200k  3+  5.5f T R7 

4:30 ET  EveningJewel S  SA  $200k  3yo f S 6.5f  R4 

4:40 ET  Excelsior SG3 Aqu  $150k  4+  10f  R8

5:00 ET  RoyalHeroine S G2T  SA  $200k 4+ f/m 8f T R5  

5:03 ET  Madison S G1  Kee $300k  4+ f/m  7f R8 

5:15 ET  CARTER H G1 Aqu  $400k  4+ 7f  R9 

5:30 ET  SAOAKS  # G1   SA $400k  3yo f  8.5f R6  

5:38 ET  Arkansas Breeders'  OP  $100k  3+ S 8.5f  R8 

5:52 ET  WOODMEM'L S * G2  Aqu  $750k  3yo 9f R10   

5:40 ET  ASHLANDS # G1 Kee  $500k  3yof 8.5f  R9 

6:09 ET  Carousel HL  OP $150k  4+ f/m  6f R9 

6:17 ET  BLUE GRASS S *G2  Kee  $1M 3yo  9f R10 

6:25 ET  Gazelle S G2 Aqu  $300k  3yof  9f  R11 

6:30 ET  SA DERBY *  G1 SA  $1M  3yo  9f R8 

7:00 ET  Providencia S G3T  SA  $150k  3yof  9f T R9 

7:30 ET  Echo Eddie S SA  $200k  3yoS  6.5f   R10 

Jack Armstead 26 days ago
Mike... why are you the only one who gets to rant?  You have pulled my posts twice now.

I brought up points that are far more important and impact horse-players much worse... and you delete them?  Now, I can list the 4th Estate (that's DRF reporting) as an enabler as well. 

You couldn't take the abuse that we have to endure here, out West. Why are you so afraid of me telling the truth?  It's the only thing that "counts."
john gardner 26 days ago
Mike, you are dead on in the coverage of Saturday's big two Derby prep races. It was pitiful. In my area we had to depend on TVG to watch the races, and for some unknown reason TVG puts up a split screen during a major Ky Derby prep and a G-2 turf race. I was so disgusted I even emailed TVG, of course, received no response. If a good horse racing network ever comes along they will put TVG out of business very quickly. Their coverage is pathetic, and we do deserve better. Immediately after the two prep races, Todd Schrupp even went out on a limb to predict the next Derby winner would come out of the Bluegrass Stakes next Saturday, not sure how small the limb was though, what a dork. 
Richard 26 days ago
John, TVG network has two channels. TVG and TVG2. The Ky Derby Prep was shown live on TVG2. 
Wayne Haehner 27 days ago
purses are NOT funded by handle--they are funded by casinos /racinos in every state but NJ and California

stop pretending the betting dollar is that important
Dick Fiscus 27 days ago
You are right Mike. In this day and age, we have enough tech to help  these situations. And another thing, TVG has done a horrible job showing races. They own 2 TV channels and still show the same race on both while another is going on. Especially showing a race with 5 horses from Golden Gate instead of 12 horses from Oaklawn. Ridiculous! Lets get better
Rogelio 27 days ago
Yawn.......same old tune here in the US. If you want to be spoiled go to the races in Hong Kong, Japan, and even Korea. Pizza here at the US tracks is like cardboard, bettors read the form at the betting machines while lines of people claim they want to bet but do exactly the same as the fool they are complaining about. Races are hoopla based with commentators on TVG making their so called "expert" pics which usually is either the chalk or a 2 to 1 in a field of 5. So tired of the racing here.
Thomas 27 days ago
Guess what people, it's not going to change. As long as Gulfstream keeps raking in the money things will stay the same. Horse players will not walk away because it's what we do---we play the horses. As far as attracting new players, this will not affect that. A new player won't come back because they rarely cash a ticket because of all the gimmick wagers. If beer drinkers have to wait in line a bit longer to pay for their alcohol, they'll do it. You know GP will not get their races off on time. Just deal with it.
Michael 27 days ago
Don't get me wrong, I love this game and always will.  But I have noticed that they are starting to stretch-out time between races too much and many times post-time is scheduled for say 5:21 and it ends-up going-off at 5:28, especially in big stakes races.  This part of horseracing is becoming boring....it's become a long, drawn-out waiting game.  A day at the track has become part of the early evening as well.  The NFL has realized this and is making changes because it was hurting the game.  I hope T Racing realizes it as well.  JMHO.
Tony Kiriakidis 28 days ago
Here u go again hating on a pletcher horse. If that was mastery and he was on a 23 pace and kicked away to win by 5 in 1.47 ud say derby favorite. Horse of a lifetime
Dahorsecapper 28 days ago
i agree that MAJOR RACES should not go off at the same time or even within 3 minutes of each other. Tracks should work together and or separate to make sure of this. It is pretty simple as you just have someone pay attention across the country on Saturday and or Sunday and push back a race a couple of minutes.
Now as for being angry about delayed post times , Who Cares? More $ in the pools  equals more losing tickets and dead $. If you win you should relish the bigger and larger pools that happen.
Stop being in a rush and just go with the flow. Smoke a cigar, have a drink, go use the bathroom or something else as your waiting for the next race to go off.
Hey and who has even gotten in a bet on a race that probably should have gone off at a scheduled post time but was delayed ? Probably a lot of us including myself. Its not that big of a deal but running Grad 1,s ,2,s ,3s etc is.

Good luck to all!
Darrell Peck 28 days ago
Post time means post time.  What's the point in saying 5 minutes to post and it ended up being 15 minutes.  Sure now that more tracks are doing this delay stuff it become a expected thing and a lot of people will wait until the horses actually go to the starting gate to make their wager.  It's a lot easier to plan what races you are going to watch when racetracks stick to their post times.