Jim's Orbit: The First Texas Racing Blog

News, notes, and commentary on Thoroughbred horseracing in the Lone Star State.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Gold Sound...powered to the front

Here's the commentary on the top three in Saturday's Buffalo Bayou Stakes (see below) from Equibase's official race chart...

GOLD SOUND (FR) was well placed in the early going while being settled, saved ground on the far turn then was blocked just coming out of the far turn, split rivals in mid stretch and powered to the front and drew off in late stretch. SILVER HAZE was unhurried early then rallied five wide on the far turn and stayed five wide in the stretch making a strong bid but was no match for the winner in late stretch. SMOOTH BID vied for the early lead while two wide then dueled for the lead from the outside, was in a long drive and faded in the stretch.

Saturday recap: $418 in winnings!!!

Hope you followed my picks in Saturday's Buffalo Bayou Stakes at Sam Houston. It was the only race I handicapped and made selections for this weekend (see below for original post) and I (or we, if you heeded my advice) nailed it, hitting the $20 win bet on Gold Sound, plus the $5 trifecta with Silver Haze in second and the odds-on beaten favorite, Smooth Bid, in third.

Gold Sound paid $8.60 to win as the generously priced second choice. My suggested wager being $20 to win, that was an $86 return, $66 of it for profit.

Meanwhile, I also suggested four $5 trifectas, all with Gold Sound on top. The correct ticket had Silver Haze in second, resulting in a tri that returned $132.80 for $2, or $332 for me since I had it 2 1/2 times! It's also worth noting that all of my suggested trifectas contained the top four finishers, which also included Wild Series in fourth at 14-1. The four horses I used made up a very hittable $644 superfecta. The $20 worth of tri wagers I recommended returned a $312 profit.

In all, my $40 of suggested wagers on this one race cashed out for $418, a $378 profit.

See, you can't afford to NOT be reading Jim's Orbit these days! Saturday's score comes on the heels of our Texas Champions Day winning selection of Alleged Hug ($21.20) in the Richard King Stakes.

For me, this latest streak reinforces my strong belief that I do better in allowance and stakes races (or in this case, allowance races dressed up to look like stakes races!), when the horses are known commodities and the trainers' intentions are more obvious. There's always a chance of correctly predicting any race, but your chances are much better when you know it's likely that every horse is in it to win, not just to be claimed, or not just to gain valuable experience, or not just to get fit for the next one, or not as a favor to the racing office who needs to fill the card, or not to appease a delusional owner, or not to just experiment with an equipment or surface change because nothing else seems to be working, etc. You get the point. There are so many more things going on with claimers that don't show up in the past performances. If you have the patience and really want to keep making money, save the bulk of your bankroll for the good races where the playing field is more level.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Saturday's Hou feature

I've been housebound the past two days thanks to this nasty cold that's going around, so I might as well do something useful and handicap Saturday's card at Sam Houston.

The feature is one of the many $25,000 overnight stakes that will stand in for the real stakes races they can't afford. On a totally, completely, not-at-all related note, did you notice that they're running about $1.5 million worth of stakes a few hours east at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., this weekend? Bill Mott's running a colt, and name riders like Patrick Valenzuela and Rafael Bejarano will be there too. Now that sounds like fun. I wonder where they get all that money for such a great stakes program. Could it be slot machines?

But who cares about the richest juvenile race of the year outside the Breeders' Cup? Not me. This is a blog about Texas racing, dammit, so that's what you're going to get, like it or not. Now listen up, this here $25,000 Buffalo Bayou is an interesting race, and we're going to figure out how to make some money off of it.

The standout in this 8.5-furlong turf event for older horses is Smooth Bid, a Maryland-bred son of Rubaiano with more than $320k in earnings. His last win came over the summer at Lone Star, in a solid allowance race where he beat some tough turf veterans like stakes winners Wishingitwas (remember when that old guy won the first race on Breeders' Cup Day at Lone Star for Bart Evans? I still can't believe that one.), and Nobodywantmetilnow. Smmoth Bid then hit the board in three Remington Park stakes, making him the class of this field.

But wait a minute, you says, I can't make any money betting an odds-on favorite from the Steve Asmussen barn. You're right about that.

So instead let's take a look at Gold Sound, the French-bred making his second start in the U.S. for trainer Michael Stidham. The gelding nearly won a one-mile stakes race at Longchamp in April, then just missed as the favorite in his next two, both allowance races. He turned in a horribly dull effort at Churchill in a high-priced claimer last month, which apparently told Stidham he needed to face some softer company. There must not have been any physical excuse for the last effort, or Stidham wouldn't run him back in two weeks after vanning in from Kentucky. As long as he gets a firm turf course, I'll look for this guy to pull of the mild upset.

Let's check the Equibase morning line. They've got Smooth Bid at 3-1 and Gold Soundz at 7-2. I expect Smooth Bid to be much shorter than that. If they really are both that generous, I'd box them in a fat exacta and watch them run away from the field and who cares which one finishes first. But since I predict Smooth Bid to be pretty heavily bet, let's go with win money on Gold Sound and trifectas with Gold Sound on top, Smooth Bid second, and two others in third, then another ticket with Gold Sound on top, the two others in second, and Smooth Bid in third.

For the two others I'll use Wild Series, wheeling back for his 19th start of the year (!) after a non-effort on Texas Champions Day/Night, and Silver haze, who handled some decent turf horses at Remington this fall.

So it's $20 to win on (Go back to those) Gold Soundz, plus $5 trifectas 5/6/2,3 and 5/2,3/6.

Best of luck!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chamberlain on racingdispatch.com

I just noticed that the aforementioned Michael Chamberlain, who picked Ms Classic Seneca ($29.60) on top in the Bara Lass Stakes on Saturday, is providing picks to racingdispatch.com, the excellent website that is like a clearing house for racing news, with a smattering of interesting original content as well. We all know there aren't many places to get good Texas racing info online so this is a good website to bookmark and visit often.

By the way, Chamberlain picked three of eight winners in the Texas Champions Day stakes, the same stellar showing as Jim's Orbit on an extremely difficult night to pick more than two winners.

Join Our Mailing List

Now that we're up and running again here at Jim's Orbit, we need to grow our e-mail list. You can sign up by e-mailing me at yourfriendjimbo@gmail.com. Also, please consider e-mailing other Texas racing fans to let them know about the site.

Constructive Criticism

Have you ever tried to find the time for first post on shrp.com? I looked all over on Friday night trying to figure out when the races start and, in the end, I gave up and found the answer at equibase.com. The racing calendar is on several pages, but that only shows the dates for live racing, not the times. If you want to get new folks out to the track, it helps to tell them what time the event starts.

Random thought

Shouldn't it be Texas Champions Night?

Texas Champions Recap: Alleged Hug ($21.20) Saves the Night

I wasn't exactly consistent in my Texas Champions Day handicapping, but keying on Alleged Hug in the Richard King saved my night. I didn't have the right suggested wager on the blog, but did have the $21.20 winner on top and, in my real-life wagers, hit the $113.60 exacta for two bucks. This was a night where you had no chance to grind out a profit, but a good opportunity to make a big score if you came up with the right bomb or middle-priced horse. A lot of short-priced faves went down. It's not easy to go back and look at so many failures in my own picks, but that's how we learn, and that's also how you see that I don't mind being accountable for my handicapping. So here's a review of the picks I posted on Friday...

The Spirit of Texas
Mystery Classic came through as the odds-on favorite, as I predicted, but nearly got caught at the finish by a fast-closing Rain On Monday. The colt I had honed in on to complete the exacta, Nuttyboom, ran a dull fourth.

The Bara Lass
I was nowhere near this, as Ms Classic Seneca wheeled back on one-week's rest to post a $29.60 upset. My pick, the short-priced Valid Lilly, led into mid-stretch but tired badly the final furlong and checked in third. I have to give a huge shout-out to Sam Houston track announcer Michael Chamberlain, who picked the winner on top in his on-track tip sheet, From the Mike, and gave out this filly in the pre-race seminar. He also had the second- and third-place finishers in his top three to round out an incredible $2,400 trifecta. I have never in my life paid for a tip sheet before last night, when I got to the track and the nice lady selling the form asked, as if working the drive-thru at Jack in the Box, "Would you like to add a tip sheet for one dollar more?" I asked her who did it and she told me, "Michael Chamberlain, the announcer." I respect Michael as a handicapper, and I admired the effort to up the sales by the nice lady, so I figured what the hell, I'll check out the tip sheet. Not that I bet the horse, even after getting pushed on the filly a second time by another press box denizen, but I thought I'd relay the story just because I couldn't believe Chamberlain gave that one out. Nice hit, Michael. You can bet I'll be buying From the Mike next time I make it out.

The Groovy
This is another I one I was nowhere close on, but neither was anyone else. The $105.40 winner, Crook's Bodgit, was coming off an eight-length loss in a fist-level allowance at Delta Downs. Value seekers who really looked deep into the past performances, however, might have dismissed his last two efforts--one in the slop and one a poor turf debut. His maiden win at Louisiana Downs wasn't anything special, but at 50-1 an attentive bettor (which I'm not always, especially when I'mat the track drinking beer and socializing) might have seen an overlay worth throwing into the mix.

The Yellow Rose
Everybody (by everybody I guess I mean myself and the three handicappers in the pre-race seminar, plus the bettors whose feelings could be gauged by the prices on the tote board) seemed to think this was a two-horse race between Wrenice and Valid Lil. But Wrenice was done after a half-mile and finished last, and Valid Lil never made any kind of run. Annie Savoy, overlooked at 14-1 despite winning a stakes here last season, came charging in the stretch to win it by a nose over 13-1 Stealth Cat from the Steve Asmusseun barn. I had picked Wrenice with great confidence and will be eager to hear what happened to her.

The Richard King
I named Alleged Hug my "upset special of the day" on Friday, and lo and behold, look who won and paid $21.20! I didn't like General Charley as the favorite, but was still surprised he didn't even hit the board (he checked in seventh). My goofball suggested wager had counted on General Charley finishing second, but in real life that bet was too expensive for me by this point, so I played a 5-6-7 exacta box and cashed for $113.60. Nonetheless, I'm proud to have touted this live longshot on top and hope that some of you had it. If so, remember that you read it here on Jim's Orbit.

The Martanza
You can't blame me for this one, as my top choice went off at 6-1, stalked the leaders in fourth through the opening half-mile, started moving up between rivals on the far turn, then clipped heels and fell. That's a tough way to get beat, when you don't even get to find out whether you picked the best horse in the race or not. I'm at least happy to report that the horse got up and was walked off. I had recommended an exacta with two longshots over the favorite Sweet Idea, who did, in fact, finish second. The other longshot I liked, Sweet Appeal, set a pressured pace at 22-1 and faded to finish fifth. The 11-1 winner, Hollye Lynne, has now won three in a row since joining the barn of John Locke.

The Star of Texas
I'm not surprised that defending champion Sandburr repeated, I just wish I had done the logical thing and bet on it. I had convinced myself on Thursday that it was too risky to bet him coming back off a six-month layoff, but I started to have second thoughts after reading Martha Claussen's reporting in the Chronicle on Friday, which quoted trainer Michael Stidham as saying he was really working well. I should have known then to back off my initial thought, but I was too stubborn and stuck to my opinion, only to watch the favorite roll to a nearly two-length win. That Sandburr's a great Texas-bred, and I hereby vow to start giving him the proper respect. My pick, Goosey Moose, had a no-excuse trip and just came up short, checking in third.

The San Jacinto
My choice, Wild Encounter, finished a disappointing seventh, but in the wagering you would still be a winner, as entrymate Jenz Benz got the job done. I'll count that one in the victory column (paid $5.60), especially since my suggested wager was to bet "everything you have on Wild Encounter to win." So if you took that advice, um, you're welcome!

So, if you count Jenz Benz, this handicapper went three-for-eight in the stakes on a night when the average winner paid $28.25, not a bad record at all. Keep checking back as the season continues for more stakes previews, plus other random tidbits.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Texas Champions Day Selections

It's kind of a shame that the best night of racing at Sam Houston is so early in the meet. After this there isn't another real stakes race until the MAXXAM on January 26, and no big day again until the Connally on April 5. Feels like we're just getting started, but after this the next few months are kind of anticlimactic. Not that it's the track's fault there's no money for a more robust stakes program, but it's still a sad reflection of where Texas racing is at. In my mind if you don't at least have a stakes race every week then it's hard to pretend your big-league.

But hey, let's not dwell on the negative. I'm just thankful there are thoroughbreds back in Houston. We've got eight stakes on Saturday with 74 horses entered (that's a respectable 9.25 per race), which means good betting all around. Early forecasts call for perfect racing weather, so I'm handicapping for fast and firm.

Below you'll find my take on each race, featuring top-three selections, brief analysis, and a suggested wager. I'm not handicapping with the benefit of a morning line, so any estimates of prices are my own guesses.

The Spirit of Texas (3&up at 6f)
Mystery Classic/Nuttyboom/Snuck By
I hate starting my blog up again after a six-month hiatus and picking a heavy favorite in my first race back, but there's no way around the defending race champion, Mystery Classic, in this spot. He dominated open company in his last two stakes, at Retama and Remington, and he's back in here off the same kind of lengthy layoff he had before last year's easy score. In the race for second, Snuck By will separate from the field with Mystery Classic early on, but my hope is that Nuttyboom will offer more value because of his relatively spotty record this year. He loves Sam Houston and I love him for second.
Suggested wager: $50,000 straight exacta Mystery Classic-Nuttyboom

The Bara Lass (2yo fillies at 7f)
Valid Lilly/Shedoesrock/Soar Above
After winning the two richest races in her division it's hard not to like Valid Lilly. For some more imaginitive picks you'll have to keep reading. The peculiarly named Shedoesrock, who has proven able to run respectably against the likes of the favorite, will round out an exacta that can buy all you addicts enough crack to keep you wasted through 2009.
Suggested wager: $100,000 to win on Valid Lilly

The Groovy (2yo at 7f)
Namesake/Moody Jones/Ferdinand's Flyer
It's hard to see how Namesake can turn the tables and make up more than eight lengths on the favorite, but I'm going to bet on it based off the works. Although we can't tell from the PPs who worked with whom, I would bet that Namesake worked with Valid Lilly in a set on the 25th, probably with Steve Asmussen's other two-year-old stakes entrants. Namesake finished 1/5 behind the fillies, so keep an eye on how they finish in the race before. Meanwhile, Ferdinand's Flyer didn't post an official work for a month after the last race and breezed in :52 1/5 for Cheryl Asmussen the same day that Namesake was out for Steve.
Suggested Wager: $5,000 tri wheel Namesake-ALL-Ferdinand's Flyer

The Yellow Rose (F&M 3&up at 6f)
Wrenice/Valid Lil/Ryan's Inheritance
Last year's Horse of the Meet couldn't get her footing on the turf last out, so don't kid yourself into thinking that one off-the-board finish means she's vulnerable. She ain't. Among Texas-bred fillies racing in Texas, there is Wrenice and there is everyone else. That said, I can't wait to see Valid Lil run with her early on. She's a real racehorse to, but Wrenice is going to break her heart in her first matchup on dirt against a better filly. Ryan's Inheritance is likely to impove in her first start for the Breeders' Cup Classic-winning trainer.
Suggested wager: $1,000,000,000 to win on Wrenice

The Richard King (3&up at 9f on turf)
Alleged Hug/General Charley/Man Named Sue
Here's my upset special of the day, on a card that doesn't offer many obvious opportunities to bet against the chalk. These horses are closer together than the Beyer Figures suggest. General Charley won easy at Retama and figures to be a short price, which I'm not willing to take on a horse that lost here a year ago against lesser horses than these. With Spiffy Agenda in here to push the favorite early on it won't be an easy task to win back to back. Alleged Hug will get a comfortable stalking trip behind the pacesetters and, although I can't be certain of his ability to get this distance, he should be ready to run his best race for a trainer that has long excelled at getting his horses ready for the big days.
Suggested wager: $2 trifecta wheel Alleged Hug-General Chuck-ALL

The Martanza (F&M 3&up at 8f)
Party of One/Sweet Idea/Sweet Appeal
This is a race where I really want to bet against what I expect to be a heavy favorite in Sweet Idea, but the alternatives are bleak. I'm not crazy about Party of One, or any of these other fillies who don't really deserve to be stakes winners, but I see an opportunity here. Sweet Idea looks to me like a filly that must be really messed up. Why would you keep running her on turf when she's proven to prefer the dirt, and why all the slow, conservative works? It's all a little too fishy for my tastes. Party of One looks to have a lot of heart, ran a fast mile on soft turf at Lone Star, and ran a decent mile at Evengeline considering it's a bullring. Somebody has to run third and Sweet Appeal is at least familiar with the course and seems to like it.
Suggested wager: $100 exactas Party of One and Sweet Appeal to Sweet Idea

The Star of Texas (3&up at 8.5f)
Goosey Moose/Sandburr/Dreamsandvisions
The main event brings out some of our favorite old Texas campaigners, including Goosey Moose and Dreamsandvisions. The defending champion Sandburr will be favored again, but that's a risky proposition for an eight-year-old coming back from a six-month layoff. Instead, my money will be on the hard-trying Goosey Moose, who has been overachieving for years now and has won races like this before. If there will ever be a time for him to get the best of Sandburr, now is it. I'll still take Sandburr for second based on my memory of his win against open stakes company at Fairgrounds last winter, an achievement out of the realm of possibility for most Texas-breds. In third it's Dreamsandvisions, rounding out a perfect trifecta of the best older horses we have around here to end the year.
Suggested wager: $2,944 trifecta Goosey Moose and Dreamsandvisions with ALL with Goosey and Dreams and Sand

The San Jacinto (3&up F&M at 8.5f on turf)
Wild Encounter/Durrymane/Boundus
If you bet every race up to this one and still show a profit then you should probably count your blessings and go home...but we all know that's no fun. Roll it all into Wild Encounter, who made a big impression here last winter but couldn't replicate her Sam Houston form elsewhere in Texas. Now it's back to her favorite track as the defending race champion and you might get a fair price if she ends up third or fourth choice behind some of those exiting the Fiesta Mile.
Suggested wager: Go out with a bang! Everything you have on Wild Encounter to win (but don't bet too much because I don't want you to kill my price!)

So there you have it. Don't forget to show up early and get some extra expert insight from the astute DRF handicapper and reporter Mary Rampellini, plus Sam Houston's Michael Chamberlain and the Chronicle's Martha Claussen. If you see me there come say hi!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jim's Orbit On Leave

Hello racing fans!

I just wanted you to know that I'm alive and well, even if this blog is barely breathing these days. I'm sorry to say that circumstances have prevented me from giving this blog the attention it deserves. The reasons are many, but they are boring so I won't get too much into them. From about the time I was promoted at my day job early this past spring, free time became scarce. And the free time I do have has been going into wedding planning (no, I'm not a wedding planner, I mean planning my own wedding in November).

However, this site will stay up in hopes that I find some time to post this summer. I'll be at Saratoga during Travers week to write for the Saratoga Special, so maybe I'll track down some of the Texas connections up there.

I just returned from a very nice weekend in Dallas, spent mostly at Lone Star Park. Hit a nice Pick Four on Saturday that included 8-1 Alleged Hug, as well as 9-2 Bob Johnson Memorial winner Sing Baby Sing, who this handicapper had picked on top in that day's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In any case, please continue to check in every month or so. It's just not possible for me to stay quiet for long stretches, so I'll be back eventually.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

3,000 Hits and Counting!

Somehow, during the time I was AWOL, this site managed to pass the 3,000-visitor mark. Thanks to everyone who checked in during my absence.

I can't wait to get back into the swing of things and talk about what's happening up at Lone Star Park.

If you're in the North Texas area, check out my daily picks in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And then send me an e-mail to let me know how I'm doing compared to Gary West, Larry Barnes, and Bill Gann. I always keep track of my own results, but I have no way of following their selections, so I don't always know how I'm stacking up against the competition.

Also, if my S-T picks ever win you any money, send me an e-mail so I know whether anyone out there actually refers to those things.

Kentucky Derby 133 Selections

Apologies for my long absence. You don't want to know where I've been or where I'm filing this from.

I couldn't let the greatest race of them all go by without weighing in. Here are my Derby picks, in order...

1. GREAT HUNTER - I've had him on top in the www.racingdispatch.com Derby poll since January and I ain't backing off now. At that time I loved his breeding, his connections, and his potential. At this point potential doesn't help anymore, but he's still got those exceptional bloodlines, a trainer who does exceptional things with racehorses (which is different from an "exceptional trainer," but often produces the same result), and a competent jock. But most importantly, and the reason I didn't back off after a fourth in the Blue Grass, he has trained well recently and reports from Churchill have been positive regarding his appearance. Outside post is a bummer, but not impossile to overcome if he can tuck in. It's a very long run to the first turn, so I don't regard post 20 as a dealbreaker.

2. CURLIN - There's a part of me that wonders is I'm brainwashed from too many years in Texas watching Steve Asmussen win anything he sets his mind to. But I think I would be on this horse regardless based on the Arkansas Derby win. It was beautiful. I'm surprised he's the fave, because these Arkansas Derby horses always receive less respect than they deserve, but maybe folks have finally figured it out after seeing Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex. After interviewing Asmussen more times than I'd like to remember, I also know that he's not one to heavily tout his horses in the media. But some of his recent comments have been very strong and oozing with confidence, shocking from a man who understands from experience how difficult a race the Derby is to win. Reports on Curlin's appearance at Churchill this week have been nothing but positive. He's extremely professional, but with only three starts there's also the potential for a bigger race than we've seen yet. If I hadn't followed Great Hunter all year and just looked at this race for the first time today like it was the fifth at Lone Star, here would be the obvious choice.

3. TEUFLESBERG - The classiest 50-1 shot ever. I've loved him since he showed so much heart nearly upsetting Scat Daddy in the Sanford at Saratoga last summer. Then I watched him win a first-level allowance at Churchill in November that showed both an affinity for the surface, and an ability to come from off the pace. This horse is being misidentified by many as part of the early speed, but I believe he can sit in the second flight (which might just mean three lengths behind Hard Spun, but even if there are others contesting it) and move to the lead around the turn. Others will be coming, of course, and a few might pass him, but he has the ability to be in the right position, and the fight to hold on to it to the wire. He has had some rough starts, but in this race a slow start could work in his favor in case he does feel a little fresh. I love him, and I love that hardly anybody else is giving him a second look.

4. STREET SENSE - Not one that I liked very much until reading about his impressive works and appearance at Churchill this week. Nafzger knows how to get one ready for the main event, and it apears he's right on schedule with the juvenile champion. In recent years the Derby winner always makes an impression in his training, but whether the public cares is another matter. Monarchos, Fusaichi, Smarty, Barbaro. This colt is all class, and right now he's at his very best. He scares me.

5. SCAT DADDY - All he did was win the two most important preps at Gulfstream Park, and against legit Grade I horses. It's difficult to separate the Pletcher posse, but they're all capable of winning and all seem to be peaking at the right time. It's probably stupid to not have one of his five in my superfecta, but that's how competitive this group is.

6. NOBIZ LIKE SHOBIZ - Everyone jumped off the formidable bandwagon after the Fountain of Youth loss, but there's no reason to think that was anything more than a schooling session. He had enough graded earnings to make the Derby before the end of 06, and Tagg was just taking his time gearing him up for this race. Like he did masterfully with that Funy Cide character.

7. CIRCULAR QUAY - Not only unraced since early March, like a few others, but also unraced over 8.5 furlongs. Closers are never glamorous, and they need a lot to go the right way. He'll get the pace, but will he be so far back that it's a lost cause by the time he gets rolling? Or will he have to give up too much ground circling such a large field? A very possible winner, but I don't like his style here.

8. ANY GIVEN SATURDAY / 9. COWTOWN CAT / 10. SAM P. - The final three Pletchers are the last of those I think can win. Which means I believe half the field is capable. Which means my exotics are going to be kind of expensive.

11. TIAGO - When I first started following racing as a teenager in the mid-nineties, it was impossible to imagine a Santa Anita Derby winner being as cold in the wagering as this colt will be.

12. DOMINICAN - Ditto the Blue Grass winner. Remember a few years ago when two longshots came in and everyone said, damn, all you had to do was box Baffert and Lukas (it was War Emblem and Proud Citizen)? Well imagine if this year all you had to do was box the longshot Santa Anita, Wood, and Blue Grass winners. But it's never that easy, is it?

13. STORMELLO - Hasn't really done anything wrong, running respectably time and again versus legit Grade I horses. Couldn't blame anyone for taking a flyer here or keying him in some exotics at a nice price. And I'm saying that about the horse I have 13th. This is one competitive Derby, moreso than any I can recall offhand.

14. ZANJERO - Another who is eliciting positive reports about his appearance, but just hasn't shown he belongs. A third in that impossibly slow Blue Grass doesn't tell me anything.

That's it for horseS I believe can make the Superfecta. Which means the only definite tosses are...







I believe my wagering is going to focus on Teuflesberg, who I'll play in a variety of exotics with as many of the possible winners as I can afford to include (well, OK, if I limited to the ones I could afford, it would be a three-horse box, but this is the Derby, so I'm willing to go a little beyond what I can afford!).

Good luck to all!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

E-mail Breeders' Cup

If you think it would be great to have a Breeders' Cup in Houston, send an e-mail to the Breeders' Cup and tell them why. And suggest to your friends and colleagues that they do the same.

Here's the general address from their website: breederscup@breederscup.com.

If you can't think of any of your own reasons why but you still sense it's a good idea, feel free to copy any of the points listed in the post below this one.


I practically fell out of my chair today when I read the astounding and exhilarating news that Sam Houston Race Park is putting together a bid for the 2009 or 2010 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships!

Much to my dismay, this development has aroused almost no interest from the media, both locally and within the racing publications. The Houston Chronicle buried it deep in a short item about the new management appointments at the track, mentioning it practically as an afterthought. Let's be frank here, most racing fans, and certainly most general sports fans, could give a darn who the new execs are. But the biggest event in the sport possibly coming to your town's racetrack, THAT'S A BIG FREAKIN' DEAL!

To read the local coverage about the new executives at Sam Houston, with a passing mention of the really big news, click here.

As an aside, I have to mention how great it is to see the track taking a chance on a young, female, entertainment-oriented executive. Everything about her and her experience is the opposite of what you would expect of a racetrack exec, which is why I like her already. It so happens that I got to hang out with some folks from the Houston Comets organization a few weeks ago, and that is a really great, well-run franchise.

Now back to the Breeders' Cup news. Mary Rampellini of Daily Racing Form naturally recognized the significance of a Breeders' cup bid and mentioned it in the first paragraph of her article about changes at Sam Houston...

Bork taking on new duties at Sam Houston

But there has yet to be one in-depth report on this announcement. There was a press release from the track today, which I'll post at the end of this entry.

The release lists several compelling points in support of their bid, which I will now address individually. In case it's not abundantly clear, I am overwhelmingly in favor of Sam Houston hosting a Breeders' Cup and believe they could do a great job of it.

The statments in quotes are from the track news release, and all the comments are mine...

"Houston is the fourth largest city in America, a very international city with all the necessary infrastructure to make a Houston a highly successful host site"

Couldn't agree more. This place has world-class everything. Tonight I was at a meeting for the Houston Greeters, a group I'm on the volunteer committee for that pairs up visitors with residents who have very specific interests so people can see this incrdible city with a native to guide them. The meeting tonight brought together all the volunteers, a group that includes people from every walk of life. They offer greets in more than 20 languages, and tonight's gathering was like a UN session, but more interesting. Cowboys, Indians, Asians, Mexicans, Euros, we have it all here and everyone loves it.

Did you know this is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with equal populations of whites, blacks, and Latinos, not to mention some of the largest Vietnamese and Korean populations in the country?

Restaurants, hotels, sports, museums, galleries, performing arts, parks, universities, medical centers, science, industry, and on and on, Houston is home to some of the best in every category. It's probably the most dynamic and unusual city I've ever lived in.

"The weather in late October/ early November is ideally suited for both the equine participants and racing fans"

I can confirm this because when Lone Star was preparing for its Breeders' Cup a few years back, I helped prepare a report on the weather in Texas in late October and early November. I researched 100 years worth of weather data, which showed an ideal average daytime temperature that was in the upper sixties, with little chance of rain. There ended up being some rain the week of Lone Star's Breeders' Cup, but by the big day it was gone and the weather was absolutely perfect.

"Sam Houston Race Park is conveniently located fifteen minutes from George Bush International Airport and has an abundance of hotels, restaurants and other attractions in northwest Houston"

The distance from the airport is accurate, and an important point for horsemen concerned about shipping. It's an easy flight here from almost anywhere in the world (has anyone noticed that Houston is one of two American cities with daily non-stop flights to and from Dubai?), and it would be an easy trip from the airport to the track.

The part where the track is stretching here is with the supposed attractions in Northwest Houston. There really aren't any, especially not any that would impress any sophisticated international visitors. If people come to visit Houston, don't encourage them to stay out there, make sure they stay at one of several fabulous boutique hotels in the city. If visitors to Houston don't actually come and see life "inside the loop," where the action is, they'll never want to come back.

But that shouldn't be a hindrance. Because of the amount of land necessary, almost no tracks are in highly desirable areas. Lone Star showcased everything that was great about Dallas and Fort Worth, but also managed to do it without slighting Grand Prairie and Arlington, where they packed the hotels.

Sam Houston shouldn't feel pressured to make Northwest Houston sound like something it isn't. Belmont is a pain to get to from Manhattan, and the other Triple Crown venues are bordered by some pretty sketchy neighborhoods. Who cares? It's about showcasing the whole metropolitan area. Instead of boostering for Northwest Houston, just promise you'll fill their hotels, but concentrate the publicity efforts on all that is amazing and beautiful, and genuinely impressive, throughout the city.

"The City of Houston has hosted a multitude of top sporting events including Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, MLB All-Star Game, Shell Open PGA Tournament, the year-ending Masters Tennis Event and the Houston Grand Prix races."

I went to that MLB All-Star Game and, man, the hospitality and events were awesome. Everything was centered downtown, there was a great press party with Los Lonely Boys at the Convention Center (right before they really blew up and I was one of about 10 people even paying attention to their incredible live show), another lavish affair the night before at the Aquarium. It was a blast, and Houston knows how to throw a party.

As long as you have the right venues, which Houston does, everything else falls into place. Even if much of the city is ugly, the VIPs will never see it anyway, as they spend the whole weekend tooling around in shuttle busses from one perfectly choreographed event to the next.

"Sam Houston Race Park boasts a solid management team led by Robert L. Bork, current president of Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA)"

As far as I can tell they do everything they can in a very tough market. While a typical evening at Sam Houston leaves much to be desired, I have rarely felt like any of the shortcomings were a reflection of the management. If you put great horses and an interested crowd out there, which the Breeders' Cup would undoubtedly attract, it can be as good as most anywhere.

"Texas is home to many prominent members of the racing community including Robert McNair, William Heiligbrodt, Leland Ackerley, W. Temple Webber and William Farish, who operates a Texas breeding farm, Lane’s End Texas"

They forgot to mention me.

Now here are some other points they could add in later materials...

A quote in the release by Bob Bork touches on the racing surfaces, which will be a huge selling point. As long as I've been in Texas the horsemen have raved about both surfaces at Sam Houston. They are safe and fair. And that turf course is a sight to behold. The importance of the surfaces can not be underestimated, especially when you're a track that many top trainers have never been to.

The stable area. Relatively new, neat, spacious stalls. Most horsemen don't seem to care whether a stable area is aesthetically pleasing, they just want large stalls and lots of water.

How about the history in Texas? From King Ranch to the Asmussen family, Assault to Todd Pletcher, this state is steeped in racing tradition. And, of course, it wouldn't hurt to point to the success of Lone Star's Breeders' Cup as a model of what a mid-size track in Texas can do. And Sam Houston has its own history of course, as Bork also mentions, having hosted the NTRA Great State Challenge and the MBNA Challenge Championships. Yes, this is a different league than those events, but it says something that the NTRA and AQHA were willing to trust Sam Houston to host those. I came down from Dallas for that Great State Challenge and had an awesome time. Take Charge Lady was there and one of my favorite mares ever, Coastalota, ran second to her.

The suites. A big thing that the new and recently renovated racetracks have to offer over the older ones is the suites. They are huge revenue generators on a big day, when owners and corporations will pay obscene amounts of money for one. And the suites level at Houston, which is the same level as the press box, is right on top of the track, a perfect view. Just high enough to see over the tote board onto the backstretch, but close enough you could maybe toss a quarter onto the dirt.

The access. Tons of parking (pretty easy when you're surrounded by parking lots, open fields, and warehouses) and easy access to the highway adjacent to the property. Makes life a breeze for everyone. Right now Cirque du Soleil is using the track parking lot as its home for an extended multi-week run of its touring show. Why? Because there's a ton of space, a ton of parking, and easy access for people from all over the region to come in for the evening.

The media. I don't mean because they love horseracing, because they don't. But they love big events and this is a key market. In New York or LA the Breeders' Cup is like a blip on the radar in the midst of all the events happening there every day, but in Houston it would be like 2004 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which had wall-to-wall Breeders' Cup coverage. Everywhere you turned there was some local tv news reporter who didn't know a thing about racing asking who they could interview and when. There were special sections in both newspapers the weekend of the races, to cap off what was months of intense horseracing coverage. Of course, both the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram employed full-time turfwriters then, which sounds like a fantasy in this century, but I'm sure it was true. Nonetheless, in a place like Houston, it doens't matter if they love racing, you just tell them it's a big event and there will be a stampede of tv trucks, as well as ticket buyers.

I'm sure I'll think of more reasons in the coming weeks why this should happen. I'm beside myself at the possibility.

Here's the full release from Sam Houston...

Sam Houston Race Park Preparing a Bid for the Breeders' Cup Board of Directors

SAM HOUSTON RACE PARK (Thursday, March 29, 2007) - The 2006/2007 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred Meeting is winding down and will conclude on Saturday, April 7 with the running of the Grade III Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf.

However, officials at Sam Houston Race Park are hard at work on another major racing project and want to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 2009 or 2010. With the assistance of Bryan Pettigrew of Affinity Sports Marketing, Sam Houston Race Park has submitted a bid to Greg Avioli, president of Breeders’ Cup Limited and the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors to host the biggest Thoroughbred racing event in the country.

The compelling points for consideration of Sam Houston Race Park as a host site include:

Houston is the fourth largest city in America, a very international city with all the necessary infrastructure to make a Houston a highly successful host site

The weather in late October/ early November is ideally suited for both the equine participants and racing fans

Sam Houston Race Park is conveniently located fifteen minutes from George Bush International Airport and has an abundance of hotels, restaurants and other attractions in northwest Houston

The City of Houston has hosted a multitude of top sporting events including Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, MLB All-Star Game, Shell Open PGA Tournament, the year-ending Masters Tennis Event and the Houston Grand Prix races.

Sam Houston Race Park boasts a solid management team led by Robert L. Bork, current president of Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA)

Texas is home to many prominent members of the racing community including Robert McNair, William Heiligbrodt, Leland Ackerley, W. Temple Webber and William Farish, who operates a Texas breeding farm, Lane’s End Texas

"Sam Houston Race Park has accomplished a great deal since its opening in 1994," said Robert L. Bork, the track's Vice Chairman. "We were proud to host the NTRA Great State Challenge in 2002 and the MBNA Challenge Championships in 2004 and received many compliments from horsemen regarding our excellent surfaces. In addition, we are confident of our ability to entertain and create first-class hospitality for both the racing fans and VIPs. It will be our goal to make the Breeders’ Cup World Championships an unqualified success."

Pettigrew has been working with major sports and event consultants planning for a crowd of 60,000 fans at Sam Houston Race Park attending the two-day Breeders’ Cup racing and festivities.